New year, new smart home innovations
(BPT) - Smart home products made major strides in 2018. More people than ever now use connected devices in their homes, and smart home hubs are constantly adding new integrations and capabilities. Research from Statista predicts that by the end of 2018, more than 45 million smart home devices will be installed in U.S. homes, fueling an exciting new phase for the smart home industry, offering consumers new and improved smart technologies and giving rise to a totally interconnected, easy-to-control environment termed the “smart home.”
This innovation looks to continue in the new year with increasingly intuitive products that make life more enjoyable and interconnected. Here are the new smart home products ready to change the way we live in the new year, coming out of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Laundry made easy
The calendar might have changed, but your laundry needs haven’t gone anywhere. Thankfully, smart home technology is making the chore a little easier with LG’s Ultimate Laundry Room.
The LG Styler is a first-of-its-kind steam clothing care system certified as asthma and allergy friendly(R) by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The Wi-Fi enabled smart LG Styler reduces wrinkles and odor and refreshes garments with the fastest cycle on the market today — as little as 20 minutes — thanks to the gentle power of pure steam technology. Furthermore, LG TWINWash(TM) with SideKick(TM) pedestal washer, an industry-first innovation for laundry, allows users to tackle small loads that are a big deal and can’t wait or wash two loads at the same time.
With LG Styler for daily refreshes, the innovative LG SideKick(TM) mini washer for small loads that can't wait, and LG's award-winning top and front load washers and dryers, the LG Ultimate Laundry Room suite of products can be started, stopped or monitored from anywhere using LG’s SmartThinQ(R) app. Users will receive notifications when a cycle has finished, or they can download new cycles, check energy usage and quickly troubleshoot minor issues using Smart Diagnosis. For added convenience, these home solutions can also be controlled with simple voice commands using the Google Assistant.
Smarter home with smart displays
Laundry is just one example of how smart home technology is making life easier. By adding other connected appliances and devices, you can develop a true smart home ecosystem in which seamless integrations produce valuable efficiency. One of the best ways to anchor your ecosystem is with a smart display like the new LG XBOOM AI ThinQ WK9 Smart Display. The advanced smart display builds on the capabilities of a Google Assistant speaker with the added convenience of a touchscreen display and, in partnership with Meridian Audio, delivers high-fidelity sound, precise vocal definition and accurate bass, despite its compact size.
In addition to its audio and video capabilities, the WK9 enables control of other LG ThinQ products such as LG TVs and home appliances, plus more than 10,000 smart devices from over 1,000 brands that work with Google Assistant. By establishing a go-to hub for all your smart home devices, you can increase connectivity and create a fully integrated smart home environment.
Stay connected on-the-go
As innovation continues, smart home technology is branching outside of the home itself. With new products, you can receive notifications regarding your home from anywhere, making sure you never lose touch with the most important things in your life. The first full-screen smartwatch with mechanical hands, the LG Watch W7 allows you to connect and control your smart devices. With two mechanical hands and a micro gearbox, users can enjoy the full WearOS smartwatch experience with the essence and mechanism of a true timepiece. With mobile connectivity, your life becomes easier no matter where you are.
Smart home technology is all about making our lives easier and more comfortable. Whether you’re just doing laundry, looking to power your whole home, or even taking that control on the road, new smart home products provide a level of convenience that’s changing the way we live.
If you’re considering upgrades to your home, smart technology is a savvy way to add value and function.
Tech upgrades to improve home function
(Family Features) When smart home technologies first emerged, their purpose was largely for convenience and operating the devices was often clunky. Today, smart devices seamlessly integrate into connected home systems to make living more efficient, improve home security and even offer advantages for your health.
If you’re considering upgrades to your home, smart technology is a savvy way to add value and function.
Smart lighting is among the most prevalent of smart functions on the market, largely because of the multiple benefits it offers. It’s handy to be able to set regular lighting patterns throughout the home so you’re never left in the dark. You can also manage those lights from your smartphone, so forgetting to turn off a light is no longer an issue and you can fool would-be-thieves into thinking the house is inhabited when you’re away.
Fingertip controls offer plenty of advantages, but another consideration is energy management. Dimming features and sensors that turn lights off and on through various detection methods (such as movement or recognizing a connected Bluetooth device) help minimize wasted energy. The lights are typically constructed to use less energy, and most models last substantially longer than their traditional counterparts; some brands claim a lifespan of 20 years or more.
Smart lighting is an easy way to curb energy usage, but another consideration is climate control, which accounts for a big chunk of a typical household’s energy consumption.
The idea of programming your thermostat is nothing new, but smart thermostats take programming to a whole new level. Not only can you schedule temperature changes to coincide with your coming and going (and manage those changes with an app when you’re not even at home), today’s smart thermostats also have sensors that learn your daily habits and can adjust the climate accordingly. Comfort aside, the impact on energy usage is often substantial enough that some electric companies even offer incentives to homeowners who install the devices.
“Few are aware of the impact of indoor air on their health and wellbeing, but the air we breathe is just as important as the food we eat or the water we drink,” said Kent Holm, senior vice president of global product management with the Velux Group. “An average adult breathes in around 4,000 gallons of air every day and spends up to 90 percent of their time indoors. A healthy indoor climate goes way beyond simple convenience.”
Opening skylights in conjunction with vertical windows removes polluted air from the home and promotes an overall healthier lifestyle. An option such as Velux Active with Netatmo is the first smart skylight system that connects with Apple HomeKit, allowing homeowners to manage indoor climate control at home or remotely with the touch of a button.
In addition to manual controls, smart sensor technology monitors carbon dioxide, humidity and temperature in the home and data from local weather station forecasts to automatically open the skylights if fresh air is needed. The system can also automate skylight blinds. Learn more at whyskylights.com.
Peace of Mind
Home security takes numerous forms, from detecting threats like fire or water to physical barriers at the home’s entry points. Smart technology is transforming the way homeowners manage their home’s security and giving them added confidence that their families are safe within those walls.
Anyone who’s ever gotten five miles down the road only to question whether the garage door went down or the front door was locked can appreciate the advantages of smart technology. Smart garage door openers and door locks make it easy for you to program access to guests who may not have a key and even gain access to the house when you’ve forgotten your own key. Other smart security devices like doorbell and flood light cameras help you keep tabs on the traffic around your home.SOURCE:
In today’s connected world, it’s almost unthinkable to function without an internet connection, and for practical purposes most households need wireless connectivity for everyone to fully enjoy their internet-enabled devices. These tips may help boost the quality and speed of your home Wi-Fi network.
5 Ways to Boost Home Wi-Fi
(Family Features) In today’s connected world, it’s almost unthinkable to function without an internet connection, and for practical purposes most households need wireless connectivity for everyone to fully enjoy their internet-enabled devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, televisions, thermostats, security cameras and even refrigerators.
However, with the growing number of devices requiring access to your network, and in some cases even the quality of the connection itself, there can be limitations to your Wi-Fi network’s performance. The problem can be compounded by the reality that increased reliance on Wi-Fi networks isn’t just in your own home or office, it’s around the globe.
Some groups, such as WifiForward, are advocating for increased connectivity across America, including greater access to unlicensed spectrum, which are radio frequencies that consumers can use for a wide range of purposes, including Wi-Fi. Ultimately, greater access to unlicensed spectrum can result in benefits like more reliable connections and super-fast “Gigabit Wi-Fi,” as well as cost-effective wireless broadband for unconnected urban and rural areas.
In the meantime, these tips may help boost the quality and speed of your home Wi-Fi network.
Use up-to-date Wi-Fi technologies. It won’t matter what other steps you take to improve your network performance if you’re using old technology. Be sure your devices and router are all compatible with the latest network capabilities. Equipment that runs the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, is ideal if you’re using multiple devices.
Improve network security. Be sure to regularly update your password and enable WPA2 encryption, which offers greater security.
Know that location matters. Placing your router in an open, centralized area is likely to create a better access point throughout the house. Be wary of walls and other obstructions than can hinder a clear signal transmission throughout the house. An ethernet cable and cable clips are all you need to move your router from its connecting point to a more signal-friendly location.
Reboot your router regularly. Like many devices, an occasional reboot can help improve function. A router that is continually running is processing a great deal of data and even in normal operation some data can become corrupt. A reboot can dump those errors and allow you to resume operations with a clean slate, so to speak.
Update your connected devices. Each device that is actively connected to your network depletes available bandwidth. When a device’s operating system is out-of-date, it can become a data hog, impacting the performance of the other devices you have connected in your home. Check regularly for software and connectivity updates to improve speeds and maximize your experience.
Learn more about constraints of the nation’s current Wi-Fi airwaves and possible solutions at WifiForward.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
(BPT) - Do you think you could live without your mobile phone? What about the navigation and backup camera in your car? Could you drive as well without them? Could you get by without your smartwatch reminding you how often to get up from your desk to keep healthy or weather conditions for the day so you know how to dress?
Our obsession with technology and the information it delivers daily has progressed beyond the point of external mobile phones and smartwatches to implanted heart monitors and Fitbits. At one time, consumers were too paranoid to enter their Social Security or credit card number online, but now, they are willing to implant sensors and other wearable technologies into their bodies. In turn, companies are leveraging these devices to collect as much data about their potential customers as possible.
The latest fashion: Wearing data
Think about it: You’re carrying (and generating) large amounts of data everywhere you go with wearable and implanted technologies. This means 24/7 data collection for the companies that manufacture those devices, which in turn helps them create a 360-degree view of the patients, athletes or customers they serve with the appropriate products, services and marketing campaigns.
According to research by Talend, a cloud and big data integration software company, 33 percent of consumers already own wearables like the Apple Watch or smart clothing, and another 30 percent are expected to make a purchase within the next three years. That’s a lot of new sources of data for companies to utilize — and a plethora of information companies can use to more accurately define the preferences and needs of its customers.
How we’re using wearables
Topping the list of today’s most common consumer-use cases for embedded wearables is healthcare (57 percent), privacy (28 percent) and convenience (20 percent), all contributing to the rapid dissemination and uptake of these devices.
Healthcare is the leading use for implanted technologies, with the introduction of advanced-tracking devices such as Medtronic’s FDA-approved Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor with TruRhythm Detection, introduced in March of this year, which is designed to accurately identify abnormal heartbeats. This life-saving device is implanted just beneath the skin and communicates wirelessly with the patient’s bedside monitor, which uploads device data to the Medtronic CareLink network. Once the data is loaded, algorithms can be run to determine if the patient is experiencing slower than average heart rate, which can deprive the brain and other organs from getting enough oxygen. This advanced use of embedded wearables and machine learning helps physicians find answers for patients at risk of cardiac arrhythmias to better manage a range of patient populations.
Outside of healthcare, the second biggest use for embedded wearables is physical security. Several companies have started utilizing biochip implants to replace card keys and manual entry codes for employees. For example, Three Square Market offered employees implanted chips in July to make purchases in their cafeteria and break rooms, open doors, log in to computers and use the copy machine. Approximately 50 employees underwent the minimally invasive procedure, many of whom believe the chip is worth any potential discomfort, as it helps to streamline their daily processes. Though this may seem like a massive invasion of privacy for many, for others, biochip implants present a way to make life easier.
Establishing trust: Should you be worried about privacy of information?
While the results of Talend’s survey seem to point to the fact that consumers are getting more digitally comfortable, with greater trust from consumers comes greater responsibility for companies to understand the many ways they need to protect customer data.
According to Talend’s survey, the most likely scenario that would drive consumers to break up with a brand and take their business elsewhere is a breach of personal data. In fact, 78 percent of consumers want to be assured they have full visibility into what companies are doing with their data. But as implanted and wearable technology becomes increasingly common and technology improves, the trade-off between data privacy and convenience will only increase.
Consider a future of augmented reality where implanted contacts could allow you to visualize and interact with the world around you in practical ways, or a future with implanted audio wearables that translate languages in real time. Would that convenience and experience move you to adopt wearable technology even if it means relinquishing more of your personal information and privacy?
At what point of technology adoption do we all essentially become cyborgs, guided each day by the obvious and subliminal information being fed to us via embedded and external devices? The day of total automation may be here sooner than you think.
In this digital era, it pays to be just as diligent when it comes to virtual properties as it does physical ones. These seven steps can help you create a more secure environment that protects your family from online attacks.
7 Steps to Better Security Online
(Family Features) Virtually no one would park a car in a busy area, leave the keys in the ignition, roll the windows down and walk away. Yet many people who would take precautions to protect their vehicles leave access to their personal and financial information wide open. In this digital era, it pays to be just as diligent when it comes to virtual properties as it does physical ones.
These seven steps can help you create a more secure environment that protects you from online attacks.
Make your device a fortress. Whether you’re using a desktop, laptop or mobile device, taking proper precautions to safeguard the device itself is your first line of defense. Use reliable internet security software, apply firewalls, block pop-ups and prevent sites from logging your location. Make it a habit to log out of websites and regularly delete your history and cookies, especially if you’re using a public system or one that others access regularly.
Shop smart. Only make purchases from encrypted sites and limit purchases to a single credit card that you regularly monitor. It’s a good idea to make online purchases using a card with a clear policy about your liability in the event your card number does get stolen or you unknowingly purchase from a fraudulent seller and need to recoup your funds.
Be wary of strangers. Although social interaction with people you’ve never met is the norm via chat rooms and other internet-enabled sources, it’s still smart to treat those encounters with caution. Never divulge personally identifying information or financial details, and avoid opening emails or following text or message links from unknown senders.
Keep privacy in mind. Know that virtually anything you post online can become public at the hands of someone with ill intentions. This even applies to things you post that you intend only for friends and family to see, as one of them can easily copy and forward on your photos, words, etc. If you’d be worried about the general public seeing it, don’t post or share it.
Go ahead, be vain. Looking for yourself online isn’t really an ego move, it’s a smart one. Periodically searching your own name could reveal information in the public domain that you’d rather keep private or it could point to potential identify fraud.
Monitor your credit and accounts. Particularly if you have an active online life, whether for social, work or practical purposes like banking or shopping, pay close attention to your credit and bank accounts. Hackers find all sorts of ways to get to your identity, but regular monitoring can help you identify a problem before it spirals out of control.
Manage passwords responsibly. If you’re like most people, you probably use the same (or a variation of the same) password across numerous accounts. It’s human; it’s easy to remember. However, once a thief or hacker figures out your log-in credentials, all of your personal information and finances are ripe for the taking. Avoid repeating passwords across multiple sites and change passwords often for better security.
For more tips to protect your family’s privacy and stay safe while online, visit eLivingToday.com.
4 Tips to Make Sense of Cyber Security
It’s no secret that kids have a sense of invincibility. While that trait can bring some endearing reminders of the innocence of childhood, it can also have some highly unfortunately consequences. In the context of cyber security, an action by an unknowing child can impact the entire family.
The majority of U.S. households are filled with devices that pose a potential threat to your personal security. In fact, according to the 2016 Global Consumer Security Survey by Trend Micro, nearly half of households have two or more computers and nearly a third have three or more smartphones.
Despite the many benefits of a highly connected world, the potential for danger is strong. While there are plenty of parental controls and blocks available, they aren’t foolproof. Educating children about potential risks and how to avoid them with these tips from Trend Micro can go a long way toward protecting your family from potential cyber problems.
1. Understand what you’re saying yes to. Be involved, knowledgeable and interested in the devices, apps and sites your children use for school and for fun. For sites they use for school, ask their teachers for more information. For apps they’re using at home, spend 15 minutes trying it yourself.
2. Use privacy settings and features. Make sure you understand what privacy protections your browser or devices offer for your family when your kids are accessing their favorite sites, apps and online services. Many browsers allow you to prevent sites from tracking what you do and where you go online, so spend some time looking at web browser settings to see what privacy options are available to you.
3. Use features and services available within an app or website. Also take a look at the privacy settings available in the specific apps, websites or games your family uses. Most will let you have a private account, which means the whole world won’t be able to see what you post or who you’re connected to.
4. Remember that being online is a public life. Nothing is truly private online. If you and your family keep this in mind, it can help you all think through what you are about to post, like and click on, as well as who you connect with online.
Explore more ideas to keep your kids and family safe online at internetsafety.trendmicro.com.
Photos courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
(BPT) - It's easy to be overwhelmed when it comes to choosing a cellphone provider. Everyone claims to offer the best, cheapest and most comprehensive service. It can be especially baffling for seniors who, despite boundless wisdom elsewhere, may be newcomers to this technology.
When you boil it down, it's actually fairly simple. You need two things: a device that does what you need it to do, and a way to connect that device to a reliable wireless network. And there's no reason you shouldn't get it all at a price you can afford.
It's all about the phone.
The type of phone you choose will determine everything else you need. Will you use it primarily to make and receive calls? Do you want to send and receive text messages? Will you be searching the internet or using social media?
Familiarize yourself with the types of phones on the market, and decide which is the best fit. Cellphones range from simple models offering basic call-and-text functions to sophisticated smartphones, capable of performing a mind-boggling array of tasks. Make sure you're getting what you really need, and don't tie yourself to something you'll quickly outgrow.
Coverage is key.
Your cellphone is only as good as the network it connects to. Before you sign up for service, you'll want to be sure a provider can deliver coverage to the places you'll be using your phone the most.
While most providers display general coverage maps in their retail stores or on their website, distinctively local things can impact cellphone reception. Your home's building materials may create interference, or tall buildings standing between your neighborhood and the nearest cellphone tower could disrupt the signal.
Rather than relying solely on a map, ask around. Check if your neighbors are happy with the quality of their cellular service. Or have friends make calls from your house to hear what the reception and sound quality are like. This could go a long way toward narrowing your choices.
Minutes, texts and data: Solving the plan puzzle.
The last piece of the puzzle will be deciding what type of monthly service to sign up for. Cellphone plans are packaged in a dizzying array of formats, but there are three basic types.
Contract plans bound you to a carrier for a fixed term, usually two years. This means if you're dissatisfied, there's no opportunity to change until the contract expires without paying a significant penalty. Prepaid plans allow you to buy a fixed amount of minutes, texts and data, and use them until they run out. At that point you'll have no service until you purchase more.
No contract, post-paid plans offer a nice mix of both. There's no long-term agreement, so you can make changes without penalties. Unless you cancel, your plan renews month-to-month, so there's no worry about running out of minutes and losing your service. There are even special rates just for seniors: Consumer Cellular, who specialize in wireless service for users over 50, offers exclusive discounts to AARP members.
Avoid surprises on your bill.
Before you sign up, ask about any penalties or hidden fees that may apply. Some carriers charge a fee just to activate your service. On contract plans, you're required to pay a hefty "early termination fee" if you cancel your service early. Find out up front to avoid being ambushed later on.
Whatever you choose, your monthly bill should be straightforward and understandable. You should be able to tell at a glance what period of time the bill covers, what your monthly charge is for accessing the carriers network, the cost of your monthly plan (and what it includes), plus any applicable taxes or fees.
Put yourself in charge.
Shopping for the best deal on your cellphone service is no different than shopping for a dishwasher or an automobile. No one knows better than you do what your needs are.
Just remember: there's no shortage of wireless carriers in the market, and they're all vying for your business. Use this advantage wisely - do your homework, ask questions and don't be afraid to walk away if you don't get the answers you want.
Tech Transforms Dining Out Experience
(Family Features) Satisfying a craving has become easier than ever with the growing menu of interactive tools available at restaurants. From ordering to entertaining to rewarding, these resources make it simple to enjoy visiting your favorite eateries.
With technology transforming nearly every other aspect of life, it should come as no surprise that mobile and electronic tools, such as Outback Steakhouse’s new mobile app, are fast-growing restaurant trends.
Other enhancements make it faster and more entertaining to dine away from home. To make the most of your next meal out, find out which of the following services your favorite restaurants is offering:
Mobile apps. You use your smartphone for everything else, so why not at your favorite restaurant? Mobile apps give customers more control over their dining experience, allowing them to choose how and when they want to pay the bill, receive exclusive offers, join the wait list and check in. Using the new Outback Steakhouse mobile app, you can peruse the menu ahead of time and when the meal is done, there’s no need to wait for the bill; you can pay right from your phone, split the check, add a tip and even securely store payment details for future visits. To learn more, visit outback.com/app.
Call ahead seating. While you used to have to physically go to a restaurant and wait in line, you can now call ahead to find out the estimated wait time and put your party on the list for now or a later time, before walking out your door. Some restaurants even allow you to view the current wait times and join the list on their websites.
Online ordering. When restaurants first began offering carry out menus, you had to physically go to the restaurant, place your order and wait while it was prepared. Today, you can either call your order in or with a few clicks, place your order online and have it delivered or ready for carry out at the time you choose. Some restaurants even allow you to save favorite orders for future use.
Interactive table kiosks. This trend started with tableside games for simple entertainment while you waited for your order, but quickly evolved into much more. Now, not only can you pass the time playing games solo or with table mates, you can peruse the menu, place orders and pay your bill all on your own schedule.
Through technology, restaurant service has evolved into an uber-personal affair. Interacting with the special features available through your favorite restaurants lets you customize nearly every aspect of your culinary experience.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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