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Next Step in Home Automation

Larry has bought and sold numerous properties and has learned a few things that help get a better deal, whichever side of the table he is on

We have been adding items to our homes for many years that have made our lives easier. Garage door openers, motion sensing porch lights and programable thermostats were just beginning. For those of us rehabbing houses for resale adding such devices sweeten and help close deals. Why is this? The techies find the gadgets fascinating, but everyone likes the idea of an easier life.


Tying the Gadgets Together

In recent years, using WiFi or hardwiring, many of these useful devices have been connected, sometimes into really useful networks and other times, it seems, just for the novelty. I find internet enabled refrigerators interesting, but have not brought myself to feel the need to get one. Granted, the price tag alone puts them beyond the reach of many consumers and leaves them in the domain of the die hard gadgeteer or the practitioner of conspicuous consumption.

Other things have actual practical uses, like video door bells and internet capable dead bolts. Working mothers get a sense of security when they see their children arrive home after school. The more affluent can unlock the door when the cleaning people come to their home. This approach is much more secure than leaving the key under the door mat.

These networks can pretty much run the whole house. My neighbor can sit in his living room and turn on lights in different parts of his house. He can adjust the temperature. He can lock and unlock his front door. And he does this by just talking to the system. And there is so much more. You can connect security lights and cameras, security systems, robotic vacuums... and the list goes on and on.

For myself, I'm happy controlling some lights and talking to my Google Mini. When I am traveling, I can let the family know I am thinking about them by flipping some lights on and off from my cell phone app.

A word of caution accompanies this capability, just like with your computer and phone. It is fairly easy to tie all these gadgets together. So easy, that the recommended security protocols may just be skipped over in haste to see the new creation working. This is something that is often overlooked because who wants to mess with your lights and AC unit? Your network is visible to your neighbors or that van parked across the street. You have teenagers living nearby? It may be innocent fun – or it may not be.

Ready For Prime Time?

These things have been around for several years now. Time for most of the bugs to have been found and squashed. This is more than just nice to see. It is essential. I have never wanted to be the first to try any new technology – with good reason.

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Many years ago, during the early years of personal computing, I was at the largest MicroAge computer store in the country. The place had such a large volume that it sold AT&T computers to AT&T offices cheaper than they could get them from internal channels. Yes, AT&T made computers at one time and they were pretty decent units. However, the pervasive utility company thinking kept them from being responsive to changes in the market and they are no longer in that business.

This was about the time IBM was promoting the PS2, and Lotus 123 was the dominant spreadsheet program – prior to Micro$oft gaining control of the office workspace. The first version of DOS was being replaced by DOS 2.0 and all the techies jumped on this new and improved operating system.

It was not long before it was discovered Lotus 123 would not work on the new operating system. Of course DOS 2.1 came out shortly thereafter, followed by other revisions that would run the required Lotus program.

Lesson learned, and confirmed many times since. I am happy to let others work in the bleeding edge of technology. I recommend this for any technology. New stuff is cool but it is not possible for everything to be tested completely in every situation before releasing to the eagerly awaiting public. Self driving Tesla's are a current example.

This is why I am perfectly content to let others be the final testers of the product. Beyond that, prices usually drop after the initial introduction. That way I save time, aggravation and money.

Mature Technology

While are always new additions to the automated home, many things have been around for a while – long enough to have discovered most of the holes in the systems. Nothing is completely secure or foolproof, but in the years these things have been on the market, vendors have learned much.

It's a never ending game. Security holes are discovered and patched. Intruders don't just quit an look for other activities. They find new holes, and when discovered, those holes are patched. Ad infinitum!

Will you be perfectly secure with your whole house system? Total security is not possible, but you can reduce the possibility of intrusion by taking recommended precautions. Just consider the small chance of issues as the price for the convenience of the automated and connected home. It's really no worse than your internet connection.

Too Big a Price Tag?

If you like the idea of the automated home but find the checkbook a little thin for the entire system. You can put up motion sensing lights economically. If you like the idea of video monitoring but find the cost a little steep. You can give intruders the sobering impression they are being watched with dummy cameras for about twenty dollars each. Often that is enough, along with some kind of security system sign to keep them moving down the block. Your neighbors may not be happy if their home gets robbed, but it won't be yours.

So the automated home may be the ideal, but if you don't want to deal with the connection or security issues or you don't want to spend the money, sometimes the appearance will just about as good.

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