Tech Sense: Internet of Household Things
Everybody seems to be talking about the "Internet of things" or IoT. The Internet of things has many definitions but conceptually it is the idea that we can attach devices, some with limited intelligence, to a network that eventually connects to the Internet. If you have a smart phone for example, (like an Android Phone or an iPhone) it is a thing on the Internet and is a part of the Internet of Things. This month we will look at IoT devices in your home that you may not even realize are part of the IoT. The Router If you have the internet in your home you are almost certain to have a router. A router is the device that directs internet traffic and allows multiple devices to connect to the internet at the same time. Many routers also provide wireless access to the internet. Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon or Comcast provide a router to their customers. The router is configured through a web page that can be accessed using a web browser on your home network. Some of these routers can be configured to be accessed remotely or through the wireless network. Your Phone Ok, the mobile phone is not a "Household Device" as much as it is a "Mobile Device" but I have included it here because the phone is like a computer that fits into your pocket and it is the tool used commonly to communicate with your own Internet of Things. Most modern phones connect to your home wireless when you are home and to the mobile internet when you are away. Since it is connected to the internet you can often use it to "phone home" and talk to the devices back at home. Voice Devices A new and popular class of IoT devices is the Voice Assistant. These devices include the Amazon Echo and Dot and Google Home. A Voice Assistant allows you to speak to it to accomplish tasks like ordering pizza, play music, or turn the lights on or off. They connect to the internet, usually through a wireless connection to execute your commands. Light Bulbs Smart light bulbs made by Phillips and other companies can be found at stores like Home Depot and Ikea. These devices allow the light, brightness, and color to be controlled through a wireless internet connection and/or Bluetooth. This means you can control them with an app on your phone or using your favorite Voice Assistant. Now you never need to worry about forgetting to turn your lights off when you are away. Some of these bulbs need a control station to coordinate with the network but others have all of the intelligence built right into the bulb. The bulbs seem to be ordinary; they screw into standard sockets and do not require any changes to the home wiring to work. If you have a Voice Assistant, make sure the bulb you buy can respond commands from the Voice device you own. Thermostats Another popular home automation device is the smart thermostat. Nest popularized these several years ago before the company was purchased by Google. The Nest thermostat learns your preferred settings and allows you to view the current temperature and change the settings through your mobile phone. Now there are several devices on the market that work with phone apps and the Voice Assistants.