June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Smart Home, Powered by Alexa

Part I

My home was built in 1925, so I am basically trying to implement Jetson technologies in a Flintstone home. But I love every brick, stone and piece of older wiring. I would not “switch” for the world.

Nonetheless, I still face challenges rolling out smart-home automation.

Fear not! To my wife’s chagrin, when I roll out the technology at The Garb IT Consulting group, I always try to be the first one to check out the technology personally. My dining room table looked like a smart-devices flea market. I have tried everything!

Of course, since I work with 25-plus-year-olds, when I shared my Alexa excitement, they all said, “Where have you been?”

But really, DIY smart-home automation has evolved, and most homes have very good wifi. This makes everything much easier and cheaper. On Black Friday there was a sale for the Amazon Ring doorbell and Amazon Echo Show. I was familiar with the Ring hardware/software. I figured it was a fancy doorbell I’d never be able to install, hardwire or hang anyway, due to the age of my home.

I happened to have a handyman at my home doing some work. I asked him if he could properly install the Ring units on my front door and side door. In about an hour or less I had a fully working smartphone-accessible doorbell. That’s not even a sliver of what’s included in the features. The app could be a bit better, but it is really easy to use. For the most part, Ring and Alexa ready-to-use smart products are simple to install.

The biggest news is that my family and I love the Amazon Echo Show!

If you cook and want to watch a movie, as well as see who is at your door, this is a must-have. You say something like, “Alexa, show me my saved recipes,” and you can hear and see step-by-step instructions, send the ingredients to the Alexa app, and of course even order the ingredients from Amazon Fresh.

One thing that is truly great about the Ring doorbell is the added security within the Ring automation family. You can get the garage door opener and give one-time access to a delivery person. Pretty cool. Unsavory types known as porch pirates are, more and more often, coming to a home or office and just steal Amazon packages. This is pretty unstoppable, not a joke and Amazon is looking to federal prosecutors as well as local police. But the Ring is a preventive tool one can use.

When the Ring motion sensor activates your smartphone, your spouse or children will all see and be able to reply. With your own voice. Automated messages can be configured. You can tweak the areas so your Ring doesn’t go off at every truck driving by. Think of the safety of this feature alone.

Think of a homeowners’ association or an apartment building installing a Ring so everyone can share any suspicious activity or a raccoon or lost dog. Wire-free!

Not to pile on Amazon, because Samsung SmartThings and OK Google are really great as well: The Garb IT Consulting Group’s senior engineer, Martin Wierenga from our Netherlands office, suggested a Raspberry Pi with a Zigbee wifi dongle that allows one central management of multiple devices and vendors. This is really next level, called Home Assist; it’s open source.

Martin and I have become close friends. He is not of the Jewish faith, but he wishes all of us Gut Shobbos and is a wealth of knowledge on affordable out-of-the-box solutions. He is also our Microsoft Azure/intune cloud migration Guru.

When I started writing this week’s column I was still new to DIY home automation. This will be a two-part column continued at a later date, so I can share feedback from our readers and announce our raffle winner.

After the Ring, you will get upsell offers to purchase the solar charger,
indoor camera, extra indoor chime, garage
opener/spotlight, and smart-home automation from countless companies. I will admit I drank the Kool-Aid from the first day. As I write this column I am awaiting an electrician to install the GE Cync light switch. I also purchased Sengled, treatlife, Moes, Phillip Hues and Amazon Smartplug. Now my home is a hybrid of smart bulbs, plugs and a few smart light switches.

The routines and hunches are truly amazing. For example, I rarely use my garage light, but when I do, I usually forget to turn it off. Alexa can hunch that if the garage light is on for three hours. Alexa will turn off the garage light.

What I didn’t realize is Ring, Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Firesticks and many compatible home lightning devices are all part of the Amazon Alexa Echo ecosystem. So you can control your Amazon TV, lights and smart switches in one group and use your voice to control them all. Speakers from your TV can be used with an Amazon Echo.

When a visitor comes to your home, it will alert your phone and all your family you decide to share with. Recordings of home traffic are recorded in the cloud. There is a charge to have the footage in the cloud. Also, once you get a ring you can join the my neighbor app, which is kind of a social media app. I love it.

Exciting Raffle!

We are raffling off a few gifts including a new, few-generations-back Amazon Echo Show and Dot to our readers. After we have 300 entries the winner will be chosen, to celebrate Ungarbled Tech’s last eight awesome years. By the way, congratulations to Chaim B. of Teaneck, who won the wifi keyboard I raffled off in my last article.

Email [email protected]. Please include a note about why you want one, or tell me about someone who would benefit from an Echo Show.

We are also beta testing Alexa, Amazon Ring, Amazon Show, routines, smart bulbs and switch installs at homes. For three lucky homeowners, a free install will include a dedicated engineering support person as well as a basic hardware package.

We will be looking for feedback, overhead and cost-benefit. We have a sponsor and are looking to understand how installs work out in local homes. The timeline depends on the home, partnerships with electrical professionals, etc.

Please email [email protected] and why you would benefit from this giveaway.

Shneur Garb is the founder of The Garb I.T. Consulting Group LLC. GCG specializes in migrating EdTech, MedTech, and B2B to Cloud Azure, AWS and other Cloud services.

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