Imagine being able to control all the lights in your home with the swipe of a smartphone? Or turning on the central heating with a simple voice command? We’re living in the digital age and smart technology isn’t just changing the way we work, shop and surf the internet – it’s changing the home.
By Anna Taylor
Smart homes, stuffed with futuristic gizmos and gadgets that can be controlled remotely, are currently ‘the big thing’ in the world of technology. And they’re also something of a game-changer for disabled people.
At ﬁrst, ‘Smart Tech’ might sound more like ‘Star Trek’, but it’s happening right now as advances in technology are changing our homes and increasing the amount of automation within them. Disabled people will realise that this trend could be used to support independence and enable people to live in their homes more easily.
Although not originally engineered with speciﬁc disabilities in mind, smartphone and motion operated devices are already making a massive difference in the lives of disabled people, and you don’t have to be a tech-savvy teenager to beneﬁt from them. We promise you, within a short time, these products are easy to use and could radically change the way you live.
One of our favourites is a voice-controlled speaker called the Amazon Echo (From £89.99, Amazon) that comes with its own virtual assistant called ‘Alexa’. All you have to do, for example, is ask it: “Alexa, turn up the heating in the lounge please” and if you have the right thermostat like the British Gas Hive, then your new best friend, Alexa, will lovingly oblige. Internet-connected lighting can also be turned on and off with Alexa in a similar way and as an added bonus, the Echo can also be used to play music, or even to interact with the outside world. Alexa can be tasked, for instance, with ordering a pizza.
For some, answering the door can be a struggle (and a security concern), which is where automated door systems can help. Yes, now you can even choose to open your door (or keep it locked) digitally, thanks to WiFi and smartphone technology, otherwise known as a smart door lock. The keyless August Lock (£99 from safe.co.uk) enables people to operate their front door from the comfort of the sofa, via a smartphone, avoiding having to get to the front door or struggle with keys. You could even combine this with a device like the Ring Smart 2 doorbell – a video doorbell available at John Lewis for £149 – which is also equipped with WiFi and camera. The device allows you to see and speak with visitors through your smartphone, whenever the doorbell is rung or whenever your visitor triggers its motion sensor outside your front door.
If you’re looking for something super simple to start off with, the smart power switch is one of the most straightforward ways to dip your toe into home automation. The Elgato Eve Energy Wireless Power Switch (£44.95 from Argos) plugs into your wall socket. Simply plug in your light, fan, kettle or whichever appliance you like and start turning the attached electrical device on and off remotely via your smartphone, without having to deal with ﬁddly switches, plugs or dials.
There are a host of other internet-connected products that can be operated via smartphone. These include WiFi motorised blinds and curtains (rollerblind prices starting from £137 at controlissblinds.co.uk) TV, thermostats and lights (with free trials available via Google and the App Store). The Simple Control app meanwhile, enables you to control a whole range of domestic appliances, again, all from your tablet or smartphone.
Some of the smart technology available can genuinely help to take away some of the domestic drudgery. The days of lugging around a hefty upright cleaner, for example, are ﬁrmly consigned to the history books, thanks to an automated vacuum cleaner. The Dyson 360 Eye comes in at an eye wateringly pricey £799.99 but it does a sterling job of moving around the home, cleaning the ﬂoor surfaces and nimbly working its way around mats, rugs and furniture. The cleaner is operated by an app that allows you to schedule cleaning times and is brilliant for people who may not be as mobile (or enthusiastic about vacuuming) as they once were.
There’s no doubt that connected (or ‘smart’) technology is becoming increasingly part of our lives. The trend offers independence, empowerment and a way to take more control of the home.
You don’t have to be a tech-savvy teenager to benefit from the available technology.