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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Apple’s Website Promotes ‘Closing Your Rings’ as Fun Way to Maintain Active Lifestyle With Apple Watch

Apple has added a new “Close Your Rings” page to its website that highlights how the Activity app works on Apple Watch.

The page details how Apple Watch users can close the Move ring by hitting their personal goal of active calories burned, close the Exercise ring by completing at least 30 minutes of activity, and close the Stand ring by getting up and moving around for at least one minute during 12 different hours in the day.

Three rings: Move, Exercise, Stand. One goal: Close them every day. It’s such a simple and fun way to live a healthier day that you’ll want to do it all the time. That’s the idea behind the Activity app on Apple Watch.

Apple also provides tips about how to use and customize certain fitness-related features of the Apple Watch, and highlights Achievements and Monthly Challenges that can be earned by closing the rings in the Activity app.

While the page doesn’t provide any brand new information, it should be useful for people who are considering purchasing the Apple Watch. Apple has been highlighting individual features on its website more often lately, including a new page that promotes augmented reality use cases powered by its ARKit platform.

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Develop a Healthier Lifestyle with Lifesum (plus, Image Recognition for Food Tracking!)

It’s the time of the year when we could all use a little help staying healthy. Between winter, the holidays, and New Year’s, the parties are plenty and the food is too good to turn down. But simply keeping track of what you’re eating makes staying (at least somewhat) on track easier. Or if you’re hoping to adopt healthier choices in 2018, set yourself up for success with Lifesum. The beautiful user experience and plethora of features, from tracking to recipes, makes developing a healthier lifestyle enjoyable. Check our what Lifesum does and why we love it below.

Related: Best Apps for Diet, Exercise & Cultivating Well-Being

Lifesum (Free)

What It Does

Lifesum is the most fully-featured health and fitness app I’ve ever tried (and they just added more features! But we’ll cover that later). The free version of the app allows you to set goals, track your food intake and exercise, and add friends for fitness inspiration. Aside from the differences in UI, the free version of Lifesum is pretty comparable to other popular health and fitness apps. But the premium offerings really catapult Lifesum to the next level. It goes from being a beautiful tracking app to an awesome one-stop shop for tracking, meal plans, recipes, nutritional advice, macronutrient tracking, and more. The only piece I wish they would add is the ability to plan meals in advance and compile a grocery list from the plan. I’m the type of person that would prefer to have all of my needs for a category taken care of in a single app, and Lifesum is incredibly close to being that holy grail of apps for the health world.

The Lifesum app focuses on more than just calories. For each food and meal, the app will give you a face, which may be grinning, smiling, deadpan, frowning, and more. At a glance, you can see how on-track your choices are. The app also includes places where you can track your vegetables, fruit, and water intake. Each week, you’ll get a Lifescore, which will let you know how healthy you were overall and offer suggestions for how to improve in the coming week. For fitness, you can sync Lifesum with a multitude of fitness apps (Moves, Withings, FitBit, Jawbone, Endomondo, and Runkeeper, etc) and allow the app to automatically track your activity and steps.

Why We Love It

Lifesum recently added a dream of a new feature: image recognition. Yeah, you read that correctly. You can now take a picture of your food and have the app recognize what you’re eating, confirm it with you, and track the nutritional info without you ever having to look anything up. I’m writing this before the new feature is released; although, if you’re reading this, it’s available in the app now. I tell you this to say that I haven’t had a chance to test this new feature’s accuracy; however, if that it works with even 85 percent accuracy, it’s going to make tracking food way easier.

Lifesum is an app that’s easy to love. The design of the interface makes it really lovely to view and interact with. And I think we can only expect things to get better and better with Lifesum. The company is clearly dedicated to constantly improving and providing a better and better experience for its users, making tracking health easier and achieving goals natural.

You can try the premium free for a week; regardless, even the free version of Lifesum is a dream to use. And the features available to premium members are far more than I can fully capture in one article. If you’re looking for an app that will help you develop sustainable, healthy life choices, I highly recommend giving Lifesum a try.

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