Thrive At Home with Smart Home Tech and the Sharing Economy
Adopting smart home technology and various services in the sharing economy can not only help you on your aging in place journey but it may also help you pad your purse.
Let’s start by checking out some popular choices for various smart home gadgets and how they can help you to thrive at home. Later we will have a look at the sharing economy and learn about how we can use these services, in some cases as both a user and a service provider. Finally, we will close with a few other noteworthy services that will make thriving at home a joyous ride! (note: we are not affiliated with any of these brands)
What is smart home technology?
Smart home technology is sometimes achieved by adopting a fancy integrated home automation system that requires a closet full of components that will control anything and everything from lighting to HVAC to security to stereos and home theater rooms. These days we have what has been coined ‘the Internet of things’. These are gizmos and gadgets that are connected to the internet via wi-fi and are meant to make your life more convenient. Most of these gizmos pair with an app on your tablet or smartphone.
Voice Activated Personal Assistants:
Amazon Echo enabled with Alexa: Alexa sparks to life when she hears her name. She can do a lot, but on a basic level she will play music for you, tell you the news and weather, sync with your digital calendar, and read your kindle to you. You can also enable her to dial calls for you and transcribe text messages. And though she is not yet enabled to call 911, the calling feature can still at least get you in touch with a loved one or caretaker if you’ve “fallen and can’t get up.” – that certainly alleviates stigma of wearing a LifeAlert fob…
Home Security and Safety Devices:
Fire & Co2 Alarms: Nest Protect Fire and CO2 Alarm This is a more calming take on the traditional fire alarm systems. It uses a woman’s voice to alert you to trouble before sounding the beeping alarm. If you have kitchen smoke that is under control, no need to fan the device, simply use your smartphone app to tell the device that there is no danger. Alerts will also show on your app so that you know if the alarm has sounded even while you are not home.
Video Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell – See who is at your door whether you are at home or basking in the tropical sun. When the doorbell camera senses motion, the app on your smartphone alerts you and shows you a live video of who is at the door even if they have not rung the bell. Use the app to speak through the doorbell to the person who is at the door.
Other similar devices: Nest Camera, Nest Doorbell, Nest Home Security
Special Mention: GrandCare Systems – This family of products takes a holistic approach to the health and safety of older people. Basically, the resident gets a touchscreen monitor installed in their home that allows them to see the weather, news, appointments, medication reminders, and use web apps like youtube. They can also call family and friends and caretakers with a video call feature. Caretakers have access to an online portal where they can view reports and set notifications. Features such as motion and contact sensors can be added to the home so that caregivers know if the resident has been moving about the house. Smart wellness gadgets can also be added to the system. Things like a glucose monitor, blood pressure cuff, oximeter, ear thermometer, and scale will report directly to the caregiver portal.
Nest Learning Thermostat – This thermostat has been on the scene for several years now. It learns your schedule and adjusts the temperature of your home accordingly. You can override the schedule by setting the device manually or with the smartphone app. The newest models of this thermostat now work with Alexa which means you can ask Alexa to set the temperature to 75 degrees.
Other Similar Devices: Ecobee is also enabled to work with Alexa
Lets not just talk about light switches here, controlling natural light through your windows is also important for energy. Read that as heating and cooling energy, as well as your own human energy and circadian rhythm.
Philips Hue offers a holistic approach to artificial lighting. Unlike other smart lighting companies, Philips sells both high-quality, long-lasting LED bulbs as well as the devices and apps for controlling them. Schedules can be created to control light whether you are home or not. There are features to set light color temperature in tune to the time of day to help you keep your circadian rhythm regulated, and just for fun because they are LED bulbs, you can set the room lights to any color that you want to. The Hue system can be controlled by app, manual wall switch, or smartphone/tablet app.
Other similar devices: WeMo Smart Lighting
Natural Light: Motorized window coverings by Hunter Douglas PowerView puts daylighting on a schedule. Use the app to set the shades at certain positions depending on the way that the daylight moves through your home. The system also comes with a remote control.
Other similar devices: Serena Smart Shades by Lutron
Roomba is a vacuuming robot, Braava is a mopping robot, Landroid is a mowing robot. They all roam about your home or yard looking for messes to clean or grasses to clip. When they are low in power or cleaning solution, they will return back to their charging hub and alert you. The Landroid will return to the power hub if it starts raining.
Pill Drill – the smart pill reminder! Add the letter tags to pill bottles and scan the tags at the hub as the dose is taken. Or load the pills into the daily holders and scan the container at the hub as the pills are taken. Tags can also be added to any medication that is not in pill form such as inhalers. When its time to take pills, a light and alarm will sound. Caregivers will get notifications on their phones informing them that dose was taken or missed as the case may be.
Other Similar Devices: MedMinder
Let’s explore two categories in the kitchen; major appliances, and small appliances.
Major Appliances: GE, Whirlpool, and Frigidaire all have their own suite of wi-fi connected appliances, Refridgerator, range, and dishwasher. We will focus on the GE models — which also have Wi-Fi connected laundry machines!
Here is the low-down on the fridge:
The Ranges and Ovens…
Small Appliances: Anova Sous Vide, Drop smart scale and recipe hub, iGrill2 Smart Grill Thermometer, WeMo Enabled CrockPot and Mr. Coffee WeMo Enabled Coffee Maker. Each has their own smartphone app to help you create culinary masterpieces.
Smart home tech is here to stay! More and more gadgets will hit the market every day and each one will be more interesting and sophisticated than the last. It probably won’t be long before we can all have our very own Jetson’s style Rosey Robot!
What is the sharing economy?
The sharing economy refers to (mainly online) services where individuals buy and sell/provide services and goods to other individuals. Big names in the sharing economy are Airbnb for a place to sleep and Uber for a ride to your destination. Both of these services are offered to you by another person who is using their own personal resources; a home or a car to provide service to other people.
Airbnb – a popular home-sharing service. Make some money by renting out an extra bedroom or a whole extra home!
Instacart – get an Instashopper to do your grocery shopping for you or earn some extra cash by being a shopper yourself!
DogVacay – Are you a dog lover? List yourself on the DogVacay app and open your home to furry friends while their humans go on vacation.
Nesterly – An excellent Boston-based service that will pair local grad students with older residents as a roommate. The situation is mutually exclusive in that the homeowner gets a social companion and the student gets a quiet, inexpensive place to focus on their studies.
Turo – Maybe you have a car but you don’t want to taxi people around? Rent it out with Turo!
TaskRabbit – Post handyman tasks, cleaning tasks, errands and more on TaskRabbit and a tasker will step up to get the job done for you for a modest fee!
Other Notable Services:
Netflix – Video streaming services are so robust these days that there isn’t much of a reason to pay for cable TV. They offer a large library of content that is available on your schedule, not theirs.
Jet.com – Everyday household items and groceries delivered to your door! These are great for bulky items but you will still have to use the grocery store (or Instacart!) for your fresh fruits and veggies.
Other Similar Services: Amazon Pantry, Brandless (private labeling saves you money), Thrive Market (organic goods). FYI, if you live in the greater Boston area and want fresh organic fruits and veggies delivered, Check out Boston Organics!
An interesting note on cost:
Does this seem like a lot of services to keep track of? Maybe it’s easier to move to a senior living community where they will provide most of these services for you…
Recently, The MIT AgeLab conducted an analysis that determined that a 75-year-old homeowner in Greater Boston could avoid thousands of dollars in senior living fees by staying in place and using these online services. More than that, they calculated that using online services such as Jet.com and Instacart and Netflix PLUS adding a home security system, personal emergency call system, medication reminder device, laundry service, TaskRabbit for housekeeping and home maintenance, using public transportation while occasionally supplementing with Uber or Lyft, joining a book club, dance class, and the local YMCA. All of this combined with the regular costs of homeownership like utilities, internet, insurance, and taxes still brought the grand total to less than $2000.00
In 2012 (seven years ago!) The MetLife Marketing Institute calculated that, in the US, the average monthly cost of assisted living, where a lot of these needs will be accounted for is more than $3,500.00. Here in Massachusetts, where we are consistently among the top 5 most expensive states to live, I would venture a guess that the assisted living fees fall higher than that $3500.00 national average…especially 7 years after the study.
Introducing some of these products and services into your life can most certainly make staying in place more convenient. However, the best way to really kickstart your Thrive at Home journey is by adapting your environment to fit your needs. At Counterpane Interiors, we partner with you and/or your family to create inspired solutions to your changing lifestyle. We help you Thrive at Home in a space that is uniquely yours.
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