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:
Home technology devices have come a long way, and many homeowners are discovering that their features aren’t just for convenience and comfort. A growing number of technology-enabled home features promote a healthier living space for you and your family. From boosting indoor air quality to cutting back on dust, dirt and germs, these ideas are the perfect way to add functional upgrades that improve your quality of life.
7 Ways to Create a High-Tech, Healthy Home
(Family Features) Home technology devices have come a long way, and many homeowners are discovering that their features aren’t just for convenience and comfort. A growing number of technology-enabled home features promote a healthier living space for you and your family.
From boosting indoor air quality to cutting back on dust, dirt and germs, these ideas are the perfect way to add functional upgrades that improve your quality of life.
1. Minimize floor debris.
2. Create climate zones.
3. Wash away germs.
4. Monitor for danger.
5. Reduce ductwork.
In fact, Mitsubishi Electric ducted air systems use less ductwork than traditional systems. Less ductwork results in less chance of air leakage, which reduces energy loss, and less contaminants building up in the ductwork. For homeowners looking to go the ductless route, the simplicity of an option like the MLZ One-Way Ceiling Cassette indoor unit is an aesthetically friendly solution that blends into the ceiling. This system easily slides between standard 16-inch joists.
6. Let there be light.
7. Don’t overlook the outdoors.
Explore more health-conscious solutions for your home at MitsubishiComfort.com.SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating
There are obvious benefits to shopping online. You can skip the lines and congested parking lots all while taking your time and enjoying the comfort of shopping in your pajamas. One of the biggest draws, however, is the potential money savings. Learn how to make the most of your online shopping and nab the best digital deals with these tips.
How to Get the Best Deals Online
(Family Features) There are obvious benefits to shopping online. You can skip the lines and congested parking lots all while taking your time and enjoying the comfort of shopping in your pajamas. One of the biggest draws, however, is the potential money savings.
Learn how to make the most of your online shopping and nab the best digital deals with these tips:
Subscribe to email lists. In the past, most people avoided email lists like the plague. However, email subscribers get some of the best deals that retailers offer, so if you can tolerate a few more messages in your inbox, it’s a good way to stay in-the-know about sales and promotions.
Combine membership benefits. Many member-based programs are expanding their partnerships with other retailers to offer enhanced benefits. Keeping tabs on the latest offers can ensure you’re maximizing your membership. One example is Woot.com, which features daily deals on items ranging from top tech gadgets to kitchen gizmos to sporting goods, and now offers free shipping for Amazon Prime members. Visit woot.com/prime to learn more.
Seek out discount codes. Whether you subscribe to a site that aggregates codes, rely on a browser extension or even do a manual search, wait to confirm an order until first checking to see if there are any discount codes available. Some retailers make it easier than others by having a code tool built into their checkout screen, but even if they don’t, it can be worth the extra time to verify the current offers.
Check in on daily deals. Many online retailers specialize in daily deals and site-wide offers, which you can explore by visiting the individual sites or, in some cases, registering for notifications. Be aware that many of these deals are available for a limited time and in limited quantities, such as on Woot.com, which launches new deals every 30 minutes on select days. It’s to your advantage to understand how often your favorite sites post new deals and the flash sales they offer. Some of the best ways to stay connected are by subscribing to the site’s newsletter or following the site’s social media channels.
Use your shopping cart. Retailers have become quite sophisticated at monitoring shoppers’ habits and behaviors, and while it may feel a little invasive, it can pay off to your advantage. For example, if you place items in your shopping cart then close out of your browser, it’s possible you’ll receive an email within the next day or two with an offer to incentivize you to complete your purchase.
Take advantage of free shipping. If your purchase isn’t time-sensitive or you have some flexibility, take advantage of free shipping offers. Look for sites that provide free shipping for shoppers, or those that don’t offer free shipping every day but regularly run free shipping promotions. Check shipping thresholds to see when free shipping becomes available (often based on the price of the order) and consider combining purchases to take advantage of free shipping offers.
Once you have a few tricks in place, scoring savings online can be more lucrative and easier than old-school coupon clipping. Combine that with the convenience of shopping from home and you’ve got one smart deal.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Often, aging can be accompanied by a change in your ability to manage and move around in your home. That’s where assistive technology – better known as AT – comes in. No matter your age or what type of disability you may have, chances are there is an AT device out there that can help you with everyday tasks. In fact, most people have probably used an assistive device without realizing it. Smartphones, voice command technology and certain types of software all fall under the AT umbrella. AT also includes plenty of low-tech devices, like adapted pencil grips for students with disabilities.
Tools to improve the everyday
(Family Features) Most Americans want to stay in their homes as they age. Not a bad plan, but what if your home doesn’t fit you as well as it once did?
Often, aging can be accompanied by a change in your ability to manage and move around in your home. That’s where assistive technology – better known as AT – comes in. No matter your age or what type of disability you may have, chances are there is an AT device out there that can help you with everyday tasks.
AT isn’t a new concept. In fact, most people have probably used an assistive device without realizing it. Smartphones, voice command technology and certain types of software all fall under the AT umbrella. AT also includes plenty of low-tech devices, like adapted pencil grips for students with disabilities.
There’s an ever-growing variety of AT tools available to help with household chores, work functions, getting around, seeing, hearing, learning and living independently in general. These devices and technologies are designed to help older adults and people with disabilities, but you may find that these tools can make life easier for anyone.
Examples of AT devices and tools include:
The right AT for you
These programs offer:
You can find the AT Act Program in your state or territory at acl.gov/AT. You’ll also find additional information on state AT programs, data about the network of state AT programs and additional resources to help you find and obtain AT that fits your needs.
With more research and awareness around the importance of AT, the future possibilities for living independently in the place of your choosing are almost limitless.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Administration for Community Living
(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) - Modern technology has revolutionized many aspects of our day-to-day lives. While it is hard for some to imagine a day without social media, smartphones and Wi-Fi, these were not available a mere 20 years ago. Technology has revolutionized the way we order food, purchase clothes and read books.
“Technology used to be considered a separate entity from arts and crafts,” said Stephanie Leichtweis, CEO of Fibre-Craft, a leader in creative activities. “We believe it is vital to incorporate these together, and are working to meld tech innovations with artistic expression to provide a nuanced version of online and offline activities.”
To see the full influence of technology on arts and crafts, Fibre-Craft has outlined some ways that classic crafts have been redefined by technology:
Art projects used to be inspired by books, classes and our own imagination. The world we found ourselves in dictated our crafts of necessity and the ones for fun. With the advent of social media, inspiration and creation are driven from many different platforms.
The way that we participate in arts and crafts has changed as we garner ideas from others and share ours with those not only in our neighborhood but around the world. "DIY and crafts" is one of the top three most-pinned and most-browsed categories on Pinterest, one of the leading platforms for inspiration, along with YouTube.
A recent survey found that nearly 40 percent of adults who worked on an arts and crafts project found inspiration on YouTube, and one in three turned to Pinterest. And when complete, individuals can also share their own finished pieces to inspire others as well!
Coloring + painting redefined
Coloring has been a pastime for decades; the first coloring book was published in the 1880s. It is a great activity for children, as it can provide hours of entertainment and is easy to take on-the-go. Just as painting “by numbers” updated a classic art form in the 1950s, newer technologies are giving coloring and painting a 21st-century twist.
The newest way to color has arrived with the launch of an art/tech hybrid — DabitZ. The latest series from Fibre-Craft, DabitZ merges the artistic spirit with innovative technology to take classic coloring to new heights with “dabbing.” Starter sets come with everything you need to try this photomosaic art form and to make your own masterpiece. DabitZ is inspired by the painting technique called Pointillism, so users don’t need to be talented artists to “dab it up.” Starter sets include templates called DabDesignZ, and the free DabitZ app can transform any picture into a template design as well. Simply take a photo, create a template, print it and dab it up, connecting technology to offline play and the world around us.
Capturing photographs is a treasured tradition that helps keep memories alive long after the moment has passed. As camera phones have become ubiquitous, they have reinvented how photographs are taken, shared and viewed. No longer do you have to wait to return from an adventure to share your activities — you can post on social media in the moment! And with high-quality lenses on phones and filters on apps, you can create images worth 1,000 words — and likes.
“Smartphones have made photographers out of all of us, and opened a range of possibilities,” Leichtweis said. “With the new DabitZ app, everyone can take photography to the next level and create their own personal masterpiece.”
Homemade gifts are one of the most treasured items to receive from a loved one, especially from a child. As they grow, many children provide handcrafted items to relatives, who can treasure these items for years to come.
Handmade items are increasingly trendy in home décor, fashion and foodstuffs. Those with special talents are able to capitalize on their craft, thanks to new online stores and marketplaces. This growing trend is a wonderful way to support artisans and causes whether at home or a world away.
With new updates to technology, how we create arts and crafts will continue to change as well. To try the latest arts update, visit www.DabitZart.com or www.FibreCraft.com.
(BPT) - The pace of business never seems to stop, and thanks to the convenience of cell phones, many people work on the go, even while they’re driving. Yet cell phone use is one of the most common type of distracted driving, and it claims thousands of lives and causes thousands more injuries every year.
More than a quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use, both hand sets and hands-free, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports. In 13 percent of fatal crashes, the drivers were using cellphones, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. The actual number of cell phone-related accidents is likely much higher, since many states don't yet compile and report data on cell phone use following a crash.
Employers take up the issue
Recognizing the ethical and liability issues that arise when employees drive while distracted, employers across the country have begun implementing distracted driving policies. Typically, these policies prohibit employees from using cellphones while driving on company time.
In January 2017, the NSC reported that Cargill was the largest privately held company to prohibit the use of mobile devices, including hands-free technology, while an employee is driving on behalf of the company. The ban also covers work related calls while commuting to and from work, even if employees are driving their own vehicles.
“There is a time and place for doing business, and it’s not while you’re driving,” says Melanie Burke, director of health and safety at Cargill, a Minnesota-based privately held company with 150,000 employees around the world.
Even Cargill’s Chairman and CEO David MacLennan is subject to the ban. In announcing the policy to employees in late 2016, MacLennan noted he was 138 days into cell-phone free motoring. “It’s been liberating,” he told employees.
NSC data shows about 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have instituted cell phone bans, and of those, just 1 percent believe the ban affected productivity.
Replace risk, keep productivity
Taking care of business doesn’t mean you have to risk a crash. Here are six ways to keep up with the pace of business without using your cell phone in the car:
* Use an automated response app to let callers know you’re driving and can’t take their call at the moment. These free apps allow you to personalize the response and set your phone to automatically reply with a text message to incoming calls or texts.
* If you’re driving a vehicle outfitted with communication technology, use its “do not disturb” feature to unplug from calls and texts while behind the wheel.
* Use shared calendars to block off times when you’ll be on the road and unable to answer a call. The calendar item will help alert coworkers and anyone else connected to your calendar when you’ll be out of touch and when they might be able to reach you again.
* Remove temptation. A study by AT&T found 62 percent of drivers keep their phones within reach in the car. Put yours away where you can’t see or reach it. You can place it in your purse, briefcase or messenger bag, and place the bag in the back seat. Further reduce distraction and temptation by turning your device off before stowing it.
* If you absolutely must take a call while on the road, pull over in a safe location. If a call comes in while you’re driving, allow it to go to voicemail until you’re safely pulled over, then return the call.
* Be aware of other dangerously distracting behaviors, such as putting on makeup, tying a necktie or eating while driving. Do all your dressing and personal grooming before you leave home, and if you must snack while driving, choose food that is easy to manage, like a granola bar (unwrap it when you’re stopped), rather than something messy like a burger with all the fixings.
“Before we had cellphones, if you had to take a business call while on the road, you would pull over and find a pay phone,” says Burke. “Productivity was fine and business got done. When it comes to time behind the wheel, safety is everyone’s most important job.”
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