Five automation ideas to improve your smart home lifestyle

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We often talk or write about our smart homes without realizing that some folks don’t understand what it is that a smart home can actually do. That’s partially because there’s such a wide range of things we can automate or control by voice in our homes, that there’s no simple answer: The automations and smart devices I have are likely very different than the ones you have.

Still, there’s merit in laying out some examples for two reasons. First, we might actually be able to better answer the “what is a smart home” question with some practical, real world solutions. And second, sharing a few examples here will (hopefully!) inspire you to add to the list through our comments.

Collectively, we’ll all have nice group of ideas to make life easier in our smart homes. Keep in mind that these are less a set of step-by-step instructions and more of a conceptual list that you can implement or tweak based on your devices and software.

Don’t leave the door unlocked

I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s and extremely effective solution to a problem I had: My young adult children sometimes come home at night after I’ve gone to bed. That’s not the problem though. The issue is that they don’t always remember to lock the door. Since I have a Z-Wave deadbolt installed in my front door, I decided to have my smart home hub automatically lock the door if it’s been open for five minutes. If you decide to do this, make sure you don’t lock yourself out though. My lock can be opened by my phone or watch, but it also has a keypad entry system.

Start the morning right

For a while I had my downstairs kitchen light go on at a specific time so that my wife wouldn’t walk down to a dark room. Scheduling this by the time is pretty easy but there are some days she sleeps in and some days she wakes up earlier. What she always does before going downstairs, however, is take a shower with the bathroom exhaust fan on. The last thing she does, without fail, is turn that fan off before heading downstairs.

A smart switch for the fan is a simple trigger event for home automation and once that switch hits the off position, the kitchen smart light — not to mention my coffee maker with a smart plug — can be enabled at exactly the right time, every time.

Keep an eye on the kids or pets as needed

We walk our dog so this doesn’t apply to me but Stacey has a small pet door in her home so the dog can go outside. With a webcam in a nearby window, she can keep an eye on the dog, but it may not make sense to have that camera on all the time. Adding a tilt sensor, similar to ones you find with smart garage controllers, to the pet door can trigger a webcam to power on. The same approach could be used for kids going out the back door: Add a magnetic sensor to the door and fire up the webcam to make sure playtime is safe.

Sundown is a great trigger for indoor lighting

One of the first automations I ever set up was to turn on the outdoor lights at or just before sundown. It’s easy to do and although the sun sets at a slightly different time every day, most smart home hub software can adjust for this. It took me months to realize it but sundown is a perfect event trigger for indoor lights too. Sure, you can keep some or all of the  house lights off until you get home and have them light up based on geofencing, a garage door opening or some other mechanism. But why not use the sun instead of some other hardware or device?

Trigger routines and scenes based on calendar events

Stacey had mentioned a routine / scene she created for doing yoga. When asking Alexa or Google Assistant to run the “Yoga” scene, her TV turns on, the downstairs temp lowers to 75 degrees, a Lutron fan and Philips Hue lights both turn on. That’s useful but I took it a step further, and you can too for your own scenes.

Try connecting IFTTT to your Google Calendar and a supported home automation shortcut or scene. I created a 9am Yoga event as a trigger on my calendar to fire up a similar routine. Lights were dimmed and relaxing music was fired up at nine on the dot, but sadly, I didn’t do the yoga part. Not only does this alleviate the voice command, but it makes more likely you’ll actually do the yoga, or whatever event you want to carve time out for.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is a time-travel adventure full to the brim with ideas

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Time travel is a classic trope in science fiction, posing questions about fixing the past, paradoxes, or simply spectating in a time long before your own. In her new book, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, author Kelly Robson spins out a fantastic story that neatly sidesteps the inherent problems that come along with messing with your past. Instead, she tells a sharp story about how looking to the past can help with the future and some of the pitfalls that come with a world without consequences.

By the 2260s, Earth is in tough shape, and humanity has burrowed under its surface to survive. Massive cities kept the species alive, and in the six decades before the story begins, new generations of humans have emerged, set on fixing what…

Continue reading…

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How new technologies and ideas are taking football beyond the game

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WIRED follows the Audi Summer Tour 2017 to explore the new technologies, fanbases and ideas changing the ways we experience football.
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Apple Sends Out Invite for ‘Creative New Ideas for Teachers and Students’ Event on March 27

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Apple has sent out an invite to the media for an event on March 27. Continue reading
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Apple to host educational event on March 27: “creative new ideas for teachers and students”

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Apple on Friday sent out invitations to select members of the press for a March 27 event…. Read the rest of this post here

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Apple to Host March 27 Event in Chicago: ‘Creative New Ideas for Teachers and Students’

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Apple today invited the media to an event on Tuesday, March 27 at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. The keynote will commence at 10:00 a.m. Central Time and will be focused on “creative new ideas for teachers and students.”

Apple’s invite for March 27 event via The Verge’s Nilay Patel

Apple’s tagline suggests the event will be focused on education, and there are several rumored products in the pipeline that could fit within those plans. Here’s a recap of everything that could be announced at the March 27 event:

  • 9.7-inch iPad for $259: Taiwanese websites DigiTimes and the Economic Daily News reported that Apple is considering releasing a cheaper 9.7-inch iPad for $259—perhaps this will be education pricing. The current 9.7-inch iPad was released in March 2017 for $329.
  • MacBook Air for $799 to $899: KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple will launch a more affordable MacBook Air in the second quarter of 2018. The estimated $799-$899 price range comes from WitsView researcher Yubin Qiu. The current MacBook Air starts at $999.
  • AirPower charging mat: A trio of reports claim Apple will launch AirPower in March. The mat can inductively charge multiple Apple devices at once, including the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, and Apple Watch Series 3. It will also be able to charge AirPods placed in an optional charging case.
  • Wild card — a second-generation iPhone SE: Rumors have been swirling about an iPhone SE refresh, with speculated features ranging from a larger 4.2-inch display to an iPhone X-like design, but Kuo recently cast doubt on the device launching in the first half of 2018.
  • iOS 11.3 availability with ClassKit

Apple recently announced that its Everyone Can Code program will see a citywide expansion in Chicago’s public schools and city colleges this spring. The curriculum will bring coding opportunities to Chicago’s nearly 500,000 students. It’s likely we’ll learn more details about this initiative at the March 27 event.

More details to follow…

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Brilliant Ideas That Buy Us Time Before Cape Town Reaches Day Zero

In just over 100 days, researchers expect Cape Town to run out of water. The South African megacity has traditionally enjoyed abundant rains during winter and a warm, pleasant climate during summer, but after three years of drought, experts now expect the city’s water system to collapse on June 4, 2018.

Currently, Cape Town’s citizens have access to 13.2 gallons of water per day, about a quarter of what the average American uses daily and equivalent to little more than a six-minute shower. Experts predict water levels in the six dams that feed the city will fall below 13.5 percent of their capacity on June 4, effectively leaving the city dry. On that “Day Zero,” nearly four million residents could see their water rationed to 6.6 gallons per day per person.

As time runs out for Cape Town, the brightest minds in Africa and beyond are scrambling for last-ditch solutions to stave off the crisis. Here are some of the most ambitious ideas that may buy time while the city sets up desalination plants and hopes for rain.

Image Credit: Creative Commons

Proposed solution: Drag an iceberg down to Western Cape

What is it? As wild as it sounds, computer simulations have shown we could transport a mammoth clump of ice thousands of miles while retaining more than half its mass during the journey. A 2009 study by French software firm Dassault Systemes showed that it is possible to tow an iceberg with a weight of seven metric tons from the Canary Islands to the northwest coast of Africa in under five months and with a loss of only 38 percent of its mass.

With a budget of approximately $ 10 million, engineers could fit the iceberg with an insulating skirt to reduce melting and then tether it to a boat traveling at a speed of about one knot (1.1 miles per hour).

How will it help? After docking, the water would have to be distributed across the city, which would presumably add to the staggering costs of the operation. However, with Day Zero looming, the investment may be worth it. The Abu Dhabi-based National Adviser Bureau told Gulf News that the average iceberg could provide up to 20 billion gallons of fresh water. The Daily Maverick did the math: If such a wild idea were to come true, it could solve Cape Town’s water crisis for almost half a year.

Image Credit: I-Drop Water

Proposed solution: I-Drop Water

What is it? Launched in 2015, this South African nonprofit distributes water purification systems to shops and grocery stores as a way to reach the most people while keeping water affordable. The filters remove viruses, bacteria, and sediments from the water, and a central station monitors the distribution units through an embedded SIM card, so shopkeepers pay for each gallon of dirty water they purify and sell.

How will it help? In the wake of the Cape Town crisis, Swedish group Bluewater, which also produces water purifiers, teamed up with I-Drop to distribute more systems across southern Africa. The goal is to keep the price of water lower compared to single-use bottles, while also tackling the growing problem of plastic pollution in the continent’s main urban centers. When Day Zero hits Cape Town and people are left with less than seven gallons a day, recycled dirty water could provide a life-saving top up.

Image Credit: Greenchain Engineering

Proposed solution: Greenchain Engineering

What is it? The South African startup targets the entire water supply chain, providing rain harvesting systems as well as improving the management of gray water, which is not drinkable but can be used to wash dishes, run a washing machine, or take a shower. Although a lack of rain is currently Cape Town’s main problem, citizens could harvest rain from short showers from their roofs. The system filters and distributes water collected this way.

How will it help? The startup has started a conversation with the Cape Town municipality to roll out their services on a large scale. While equipping every roof with a water harvesting system may not stop Day Zero from arriving, it could help the city manage the limited resources left and potentially prevent future crises once the rain comes back.

Image Credit: Warka Water

Proposed solution: Fog catchers

What is it? They come in various forms, from a simple square sail stretched between two poles to a complex tent-like structure, but their goal is the same: capture every droplet of moisture in the air and turn it into drinkable water.

The intricate fabric of a fog catcher traps condensation, be it from post-rain humidity or morning mist, and channels it into a container. The devices are designed to meet the needs of remote communities that have to rely on erratic rains for their daily water supply, and they’ve proven so popular people now use them everywhere in the world, from South America to Africa.

How will it help? Innovator Grant Vanderwagen is piloting a simple version of fog catchers in Cape Town. Although the idea is still little more than a proof of concept, the entrepreneur told VentureBurn that a single unit could produce up to 10,000 liters (2,200 gallons) of water per month, depending on the weather.

Image Credit: Creative Commons

Proposed solution: #defeatdayzero

What is it? While the H2O (Hack Two Day Zero) hackathon held in Cape Town on February 9 and 10 was not a solution in itself, the array of fresh ideas generated could help the city get through the crisis.

How will it help? The participants had two days to work together and come up with a prototype that addresses short and long term implications of severe drought. The winning team created Tiny Loop, a battery-operated shower to prolong showers while using less water. They now have a cash prize to use to bring their project to life, and it could help citizens maintain proper hygiene during the crisis.

Image Credit: Tiny Eco / @TinyLoopSA

The post Brilliant Ideas That Buy Us Time Before Cape Town Reaches Day Zero appeared first on Futurism.


Hands On: OmniOutliner 3 for iPad organizes everything from text to ideas

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OmniOutliner 3 is a brainstorming app as well as a writer’s tool, and with Wednesday’s update brings a pared down Essentials options to the iPad. AppleInsider delves into what’s good and bad about the new release.
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