Control your home security via an app

Action24 intruder alarm app
The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought about a fundamental change in the way we use technology. There are many potential benefits of the IoT for people with disabilities.
For example, someone who is blind or has a mobility-related disability can monitor and control their home heating thermostat through an accessible smartphone interface, or they can have their door automatically unlock when they approach it.
Managing intruder alarms has typically been quite inaccessible as they tend to be installed in inaccessible areas and have inaccessible touch panels. A Dublin-based company, Action24 has bucked this trend by designing an intruder alarm which can be accessed via an app installed on their Tablet or Smartphone.

Action24 HomeTouch panel intruder alarm
The main part of the intruder alarm is the HomeTouch™ panel which controls all devices. Once the panel has been installed, further devices can be included such as IP CCTV cameras, smoke detectors and wireless carbon monoxide detectors for enhanced protection of your home. Any activations will be reacted upon in Action24’s monitoring centre and the devices are viewable also on the Action24 app.

Man approaching house
It is also possible to integrate the control of your lights or other electrical devices from your Action24 App. You can pair a Z-wave plug with the panel and you will be able to control the lamp or other electronic device connected to the Z-wave plug. The connected devices will then appear on your App and are controllable at all times, whether you are at home or away. A very useful option when you’re on holidays!

table lamp switched on

How much does it cost?

€500 for the panel, €200 for the smoke detector and wireless carbon monoxide detector, €100 for IP camera, €35/month for monitoring.

 How do you control alarm and home devices?

Active24 have partnered with alarm.com to bring together home security and automation app for your home.   Their App is available for iPhoneiPad, Apple Watch and any Android device.

What is monitoring?

Monitoring is done by trained operators in a 24/7 Alarm Receiving Centre.  Nominated keyholders/emergency services will receive a call from operators when activations occur. The monitoring fee is a requirement for this company.

 

The good: It’s an intruder alarm that’s accessible.

The not so good: A bit expensive if you are looking for the full array of additional features and extras.

The verdict: A good option for anyone who wants security and smart home control from the one app.

Alternatives: Considering the relatively high cost of this system and the monthly cost of monitoring it may be beyond the budget for some users.  Monitoring will definitely enhance the security of your home or premises, however, there are other alternatives that avoid the monitoring fees.

An alternative without a monitoring fee is to use a Z-Wave controller such as the VeraPlus advanced home controller for €190.  You can have similar Z-Wave window €50 and motion €60 sensors and cameras, carbon monoxide (CO) €85 and smoke detectors €70 which can be configured when activated to sound a siren or send a customized Text message to three mobile numbers using a SMS Controlled Switch €145.  You also have the options to control heating systems and lighting.  The full control of the alarm and smart home devices in a similar way as the Activate24 is available via an app.

A Free 24-Hour Online Community Event On Accessibility

calendar date 9th June

Part of keyboard with Access label on one key

 

 

 

 

 

Inclusive Design 24 celebrates efforts worldwide to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal access to the web.

They will be holding 24 free one-hour webinars on all things accessibility. The sessions range from beginner to advanced and are aimed at everyone from executives to web developers.

 How to join:

 No sign-up. No registration. All sessions will be streamed live and publicly on YouTube – see the entire playlist for the event. Live captions for each session will be available.

Have a question for a presenter? No problem! Tweet your questions to @paciellogroup using the #ID24 hashtag and moderators will make sure they get them answered for you.

Visit the ID24 website to learn more!

Sponsored by The Paciello Group

 

Boardmaker Online now launched in Ireland

Tobii Dynavox have recently launched their new Boardmaker Online product in Ireland through SafeCare Technologies. It has all the functionalities of previous versions of Boardmaker, except now that it’s web-based you don’t need any disks and multiple users can access it from any PC.

Instructor showing students how to use Boardmaker Online

You can purchase a Personal, Professional or District account and the amount you pay depends on the type of account, the amount of “instructors” and how many years you want to sign up for. You can also get a discount for any old Boardmaker disks that you want to trade in.

You get all the symbols that have been available in past versions, as well as some new symbol sets and any new ones that are created in the future will also be given to you. Because it’s web-based, you have access to previously created activities via the online community and you can upload activities you create yourself to that community and share them with other people in your district or all over the world.

Because it’s no longer tied to one device, you can create activities on your PC and assign them to your “students” who can use them either in school and/or at home. You no longer need to have a user’s device in your possession to update their activities and they don’t need to have a period without their device while you do this.

You (and the other instructors in your district if you have a district licence) can also assign the same activity to many students and by having different accessibility options set up for different students, the activity is automatically accessible for their individual needs. For example, you could create an activity and assign it to a student who uses eye gaze and to a student who uses switches and that activity will show up on their device in the format that’s accessible for them.

Picture shows how instructors can assign Boardmaker Online activities to multiple students

The results of students’ work can be tracked against IEP or educational goals which then helps you decide what activities would be suitable to assign next. You can also track staff and student usage.

One limitation is that you can only create activities on a Windows PC or Mac. You can play activities on an iPad using the free app but not create them on it, and you can’t use Boardmaker Online to either create or play activities on an Android or Windows-based tablet.

The other point to mention is that because it’s a subscription-based product, the payment you have to make is recurring every year rather than being a one-off payment, which may not suit everyone.

However, with the new features it’s definitely worth getting the free 30-day trial and deciding for yourself if you’d like to trade in your old Boardmaker disks for the new online version!

Controlling your home appliances with you voice

You know a particular technology is fast approaching mainstream when every manufacturer seems to be developing add-ons to make their products work with it.

From Samsung’s SmartThings to August Smart Home Locks, 3rd-party developed skills are voice experiences that add to the capabilities of any Alexa-enabled device (such as the Echo). For example “Alexa, set the Living Room lights to warm white” or “Alexa, lock the front door.” These skills are available for free download. Skills are continuously being added to increase the capabilities available to the user.smart controlled lock on a door

smart controlled lighting in a living room

he Amazon Echo is a smart speaker developed by Amazon. It is tall cylinder speaker with a built-in microphone. The device connects to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa, which answers to the name “Alexa”. The device is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real-time information
However, it can also control many smart devices using itself as a home automation hub.
The videos below give an example of using your voice with smart home products.
https://youtu.be/V7WfxI3ecVI
https://youtu.be/pH8fg1noIj0

The good: As far as price goes, the Amazon Echo comes in various forms, the
Amazon Echo Dot costs £44.99 which seems affordable. All the Amazon skills that add to the capabilities of any Alexa-enabled device are free.

The not so good: Requires internet connection to work. If your internet goes down then your ability to control the devices around you also does too.

The verdict: A good way to dip your toe in the Internet of Things waters, more capabilities on the way.

Accessibility Checker for Word Tutorial

The Accessibility Checker feature has been part of Microsoft Office for the last few iterations of the software package. It provides a fast and easy way to check whether the content you are producing is accessible to users of assistive technology. By making accessibility accessible Microsoft have left no room for excuses like “I didn’t know how…” or “I didn’t have time..”. You wouldn’t send a document to all your colleagues full of misspellings because you were in a hurry would you? The one criticism that could have been leveled at Microsoft was perhaps they didn’t provide enough support to new users of the tool. As I said above it’s easy to use but sometimes users need a little extra support, especially when you are introducing them to something that may be perceived as additional work. Thankfully Microsoft have filled that gap with a 6 part tutorial video which clearly explains why and how to get started using Accessibility Checker. Part 1 is a short introduction (embedded below) followed by a video on each important accessibility practice; Alternative Text, Heading Styles, Hyperlinks, File naming and Tables. Each video is accompanied by a short exercise to allow you put your new skill into practice immediately. The whole tutorial can be completed in under 20 minutes. This tutorial should be a requirement for anybody producing documents for circulation to the public. Have a look at the introduction video below.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day – Apple Accessibility – Designed for everyone Videos

Today May 18th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day and to mark the occasion Apple have produced a series of 7 videos (also available with audio description) highlighting how their products are being used in innovative ways by people with disabilities. All the videos are available in a playlist here and I guarantee you, if you haven’t seen them and you are interested in accessibility and AT, it’ll be the best 15 minutes you have spent today! Okay the cynical among you will point out this is self promotion by Apple, a marketing exercise. Certainly on one level of course it is, they are a company and like any company their very existence depends on generating profit for their shareholders. These videos promote more than Apple however, they promote independence, creativity and inclusion through technology. Viewed in this light these videos will illustrate to people with disabilities how far technology has moved on in recent years and make them aware of the potential benefits to their own lives. Hopefully the knock on effect of this increased awareness will be increased demand. Demand these technologies people, it’s your right!

As far as a favorite video from this series goes, everyone will have their own. In terms of the technology on show, to me Todd “The Quadfather” below was possibly the most interesting.

This video showcases Apple’s HomeKit range of associated products and how they can be integrated with Siri.

My overall favorite video however is Patrick, musician, DJ and cooking enthusiast. Patrick’s video is an ode to independence and creativity. The technologies he illustrates are Logic Pro (Digital Audio Workstation software) with VoiceOver (Apple’s inbuilt screen-reader) and the object recognizer app TapTapSee which although has been around for several years now, is still an amazing use of technology. It’s Patrick’s personality that makes the video though, this guy is going places, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had his own prime time TV show this time next year.

ATEC (Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference) – London June 6th

ATEC written in front of a blue solid circle

This conference may be of interest,  it is aimed at disability professionals involved in post education and the workplace, ATEC is a one-day event that allows you to listen to and meet with experts, solution providers, and other like-minded people.

40 organizations from the world of assistive technology attending and 150 professionals from the workplace and post education.

  • Choose to attend 4 seminars from a range of 16, and gain a CPD certificate for each session attended.
  • Lunchtime speed dating sessions – 3 back-to-back 15-minute presentations.
    Two parallel panel debate sessions covering the themes of Education and the Workplace.
  • Network with disability professionals from post education and the workplace.
  • Two topical keynote speeches.
  • DSA (Disabled Students’ Allowance) update.

http://www.ateconference.com/

FlipMouse – Powerful, open and low cost computer access solution

The FLipMouse (Finger- and Lip mouse) is a computer input device intended to offer an alternative for people with access difficulties that prevent them using a regular mouse, keyboard or touchscreen. It is designed and supported by the Assistive Technology group at the UAS Technikum Wien (Department of Embedded Systems) and funded by the City of Vienna (ToRaDes project and AsTeRICS Academy project). The device itself consists of a low force (requires minimal effort to operate) joystick that can be controlled with either the lips, finger or toe. The lips are probably the preferred access method as the FlipMouse also allows sip and puff input.

man using a mounted flipmouse to access a laptop computer

Sip and Puff is an access method which is not as common in Europe as it is in the US however it is an ideal way to increase the functionality of a joystick controlled by lip movement. See the above link to learn more about sip and puff but to give a brief explanation, it uses a sensor that monitors the air pressure coming from a tube. A threshold can be set (depending on the user’s ability) for high pressure (puff) and low pressure (sip). Once this threshold is passed it can act as an input signal like a mouse click, switch input or keyboard press among other things. The Flipmouse also has two jack inputs for standard ability switches as well as Infrared in (for learning commands) and out (for controlling TV or other environmental controls). All these features alone make the Flipmouse stand out against similar solutions however that’s not what makes the Flipmouse special.

Open Source

The Flipmouse is the first of a new kind of assistive technology (AT) solution, not because of what it does but because of how it’s made. It is completely Open Source which means that everything you need to make this solution for yourself is freely available. The source code for the GUI (Graphical User Interface) which is used to configure the device and the code for the microcontroller (TeensyLC), bill of materials listing all the components and design files for the enclosure are all available on their GitHub page. The quality of the documentation distinguishes it from previous Open Source AT devices. The IKEA style assembly guide clearly outlines the steps required to put the device together making the build not only as simple as some of the more advanced Lego kits available but also as enjoyable. That said, unlike Lego this project does require reasonable soldering skills and a steady hand, some parts are tricky enough to keep you interested. The process of constructing the device also gives much better insight into how it works which is something that will undoubtedly come in handy should you need to troubleshoot problems at a later date. Although as stated above Asterics Academy provide a list of all components a much better option in my opinion would be to purchase the construction kit which contains everything you need to build your own FlipMouse, right down to the glue for the laser cut enclosure, all neatly packed into a little box (pictured below). The kit costs €150 and all details are available from the FlipMouse page on the Asterics Academy site. Next week I will post some video demonstrations of the device and look at the GUI which allows you program the FlipMouse as a computer input device, accessible game controller or remote control.

FlipMouse construction kit in box

I can’t overstate how important a development the FlipMouse could be to the future of Assistive Technology. Giving communities the ability to build and support complex AT solutions locally not only makes them more affordable but also strengthens the connection between those who have a greater requirement for technology in their daily life and those with the creativity, passion and in-depth knowledge of emerging technologies, the makers. Here’s hoping the FlipMouse is the first of many projects to take this approach.

Mounting Assistive Technology Documentation (MAT-DOC)

Mount'n Mover, wheelchair mounting system holding a camera

To use technology effectively it needs to be at an optimal position for our use. Whether it’s a computer display, tablet computer, or even the chair we sit on, the position of items we use is important for ease of use and comfort. For someone with a physical disability this is even more important as their ability to reach, grasp, hold or interact with physical objects may be limited. Mounting can improve the overall view and the ability to manipulate the controls of the device.

There is now a range of mounting solutions available from mounting arms to modular mounting kits.

We need to consider a range of things when mounting assistive technology, to ensure technology can be used effectively in a range of environments and contexts to meet the lifestyle needs of the user.

Some very useful documentation is now available. It is designed for service providers and others who are involved with attaching one piece of assistive technology, such as a communication device to another, such as a wheelchair. It’s designed to help ensure all relevant aspects have been considered to ensure the best solution is reached.

This best practice guidelines documentation is available for general use at http://mat-doc.org/

MAT-doc also includes Best Practice Guidelines which have been developed by a team of people who are all actively involved with mounting assistive technology.

These guidelines are intended to promote and facilitate independence and participation and not as a mechanism to find barriers to the provision of equipment.

It is based on the Mounting Assistive Technology Documentation (MAT-DOC)

Eye gaze controlled Power wheelchair

eye controlled wheelchair via tablet mounted on wheelchair

EyeTech Digital Systems, has partnered with Quantum Rehab to bring eye controlled wheel chairs to individuals who are unable to use hand controls. EyeTech’s eye tracking technology mounts directly to a tablet PC and allows the user to control the entire computer using eye movements. The system then mounts to the wheelchair. An eye control driving app gives the user the ability to drive hands-free. The driving controls are overlaid on the scene camera.  Simply looking at the driving controls activates them to control the basic directions and movements of the chair.

Quantum Rehab® products, including a range of rehab mobility technologies such as the Q6 Edge® 2.0 and Quantum Series of power bases. www.QuantumRehab.com.

EyeTech Digital Systems products include eye tracking technology for a variety of markets such as medical, transportation, entertainment, and augmentative communication http://www.eyetechds.com/

Irish suppliers

LC Seating and MMS Medical.