OpenHAB is a free and open source solution for the smart home. In the quickly growing smart home market, the industry has come up with a vast number of standards, protocols and products, for example, Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo or Google Home. They usually don’t integrate well together as there is hardly any interoperability across vendors. Also, the only thing they connect to is their respective cloud service, which could mean a typical smart home may depend on many remote servers. The openHAB project has attracted a large developer community, which looks at the smart home from a user perspective: This makes features like offline capability, data privacy and customisability top priorities for a smart home solution.
The good: The openHAB project makes features like offline capability, data privacy and customisability top priorities for a smart home solution.
The not so good: complicated initial setup with a steep learning curve. It presumes a level of technical competence to allow for successful setup.
The verdict: This solution for the smart home has clear benefits over current smart home solutions with regard to reliability, latency (that is, the time it takes for a signal to reach and turn on/off a device) and data privacy.
Claro MagX is an app that converts your iPhone, iPad or Android device into a visual magnifier. It basically makes small items bigger such as small text in a book or newspaper. Just hold your phone up to whatever you want to magnify.
As the app can use the devices in-built flash, it can be used in a dimly lit area. Advanced visual features include full-colour mode, two colour mode and grey scale mode. The app features 16 levels of magnification, high contrast and colour viewing options to make the text easier on your eyes. Freeze mode option – tap the viewfinder to freeze the image for closer viewing. Tap the screen to release the freeze.
Do you use or could benefit from assistive technology?
You are invited to participate in a research study entitled ‘ENABLE: Educational eNgagement, Assistive technologies, well-being and quality of Life of students with disabilities in Higher Education.
The overall aim of this study is to examine the experience and effects of assistive technology use among students with disabilities in higher education. Assistive technology can be described as any device which enables individuals to complete or engage with tasks more easily. Participation will involve completing an online survey which will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. You are eligible to participate in this research if you are aged 18 years or older, have a disability, use or could potentially benefit from assistive technology and are a current student in a higher education institution in Ireland.
Don’t miss on this opportunity to contribute to valuable research into AT use by students in Higher Education. If you wish to take part or would like more information, you can access the plain language statement and the survey through the following link:
The next CHAT event run by FreedomTech will be hosted at University College Cork, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Monday 3rd December at 11.00am. This December CHAT will be themed “AT in Education”.
CHAT (Community Hub for Accessible Technology) is a Community of Practice of Assistive Technology Service Providers, Assistive Technology Users, Researchers, Funders, Suppliers and Makers that connects the Assistive Technology sector in Ireland. CHAT is run by FreedomTech, a partnership between Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland.
CHAT is your place to share, listen, learn and build partnerships with others who are interested in supporting independence through the use of technology. The Disability Federation of Ireland and Enable Ireland have produced an AT Discussion Paper to prompt discussion and action on a more comprehensive national Assistive Technology ecosystem.
If there is anything you think should be added to the programme that would be of interest, please get in touch. Don’t forget the Shout Outs as this gives you the opportunity to share or make any announcements on the day. Contact the organiser: Sarah Boland: Sarah@freedomtech.ie
Have you ever considered controlling your computer or mobile devices with your wheelchair joystick?
As well as the basic wheelchair functions such as driving, the CJSM2 –BT also enables control of a computer or mobile devices and so the integration of environmental controls is possible. The same controls that the user drives the power wheelchair with, typically a joystick, can also be used to control an appliance within their environment.
For example for chairs with R-net controls you can replace the old joystick with a CJSM2 –BT as seen in the video below. This R-net Joystick Module has Infra-Red (IR) capabilities included. IR technology is widely used to remotely control household devices such as TVs, DVD players, and multi-media systems, as well as some home-automation equipment. Individual IR commands can be learned from an appliance’s remote handset and stored in the CJSM2.
Integrated Bluetooth technology is also an option, to enable control of computers, Android tablets, iPads, iPhones and other smart devices from a powered wheelchair. To switch between the devices, the user simply navigates the menu and selects the device they wish to control. The R-net’s CJSM2 can easily replace an existing R-net joystick module, with no system re-configuration or programming required.
As well as Curtiss-Wright’s R-net controls, other wheelchair controller manufacturers have Bluetooth mouse options too, including Dynamics Controls with their Linx controller and Curtis instrument’s quantum q-logic controller.
It is easy for someone to assume that their wheelchair can only be used for driving. However, wheelchair manufacturers have developed their products in recent years and considered the needs of the user such as the need to also interact with their mobile phone, PC or even a TV. As well as the basic chair functions such as driving or controlling the actuators these electronic systems can also enable control of a computer or portable devices and so the integration of environmental controls is possible on most power wheelchairs. The same controls that the user drives the power wheelchair with, typically a joystick, can also be used to control an appliance within their environment. Another benefit of integrating control of other devices within the wheelchair joystick is that it may help to ensure the user maintains a good posture while operating other devices.
For example for chairs with R-net controls you can replace the old joystick with a CJSM2 –BT as seen in the picture here. This R-net Joystick Module has Infra-Red (IR) capabilities included. IR technology is widely used to remotely control household devices such as TVs, DVD players, and multi-media systems, as well as some home-automation equipment. Individual IR commands can be learned from an appliance’s remote handset and stored in the CJSM2. Also Integrated Bluetooth technology is an option, to enable control of computers, Android tablets, iPads, iPhones and other smart devices from a powered wheelchair. To switch between the devices, the user simply navigates the menu and selects the device they wish to control. The R-net’s CJSM2 can easily replace the existing rnet joystick module, with no system re-configuration or programming required.
Although not all power wheelchairs can be fitted with Bluetooth mouse-enabled joysticks, there are some good alternatives that may still work. The BJoy ring is a sensor that can be fitted to most wheelchair joysticks where deflections of the joystick can be translated to mouse movements picked up on a Bluetooth mouse receiver placed on a tablet or PC.
The good: Users can do many daily tasks using one device
The not so good: This capability is only available on high spec wheelchair systems.
The verdict: Using a wheelchair joystick that is Bluetooth enabled will ensure the user maintains a good posture while operating their other devices.
Automatic window openers were design to meet the need of inaccessible windows that are out of reach such as skylights on roofs. Using a wireless remote to activate the window opener we can open and close the window at ease. For people with a mobility restriction window openers can give independence to control ventilation in their living space. The ACK4 Window Opener is suitable for aluminium and timber windows. It has an anti-crush control board to prevent trapped fingers. To control the window, you can either use a wall switch, an infrared remote control or a 433 Mhz radio control transmitter. The window actuator with remote costs about £240.
Using a Broadlink RM Pro could make a window opener become part of your smart home setup and hence then possibly voice controlled.
Motorised blinds and curtains have been around for many years, providing easy access to control blinds and curtain rails. Control of these motorised devices was usually with the use of a radio remote control, which made such devices particularly of interest for people with mobility issues. Internet of Things (IoT) has now extended its internet connectivity to these everyday objects. Embedded with technology, these devices can communicate and interact over the internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled.
An example of this is Somfy motorization systems. These systems consist of a range of motorised blinds, curtains and roller shutters. The Somfy myLink™ is a device that turns your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for motorized products featuring Somfy Radio Technology. For voice control, Alexa now works with myLink!
Purchasing new blinds or curtains rails could work out to be quite expensive, and possible wasteful if you already have good blinds in place, however, there are a number of options available to retrofit existing blinds to also consider. They are able to transform your standard home blinds into smart electric blinds and do so at an affordable price. Like the Somfy blinds, they also provide a way to raise, lower and choose an intermediate position of the blind.
The Brunt Blind Engine can motorize your existing blinds and connect to your smartphone, allowing remote control and scheduling of your blinds anywhere, anytime.
It is designed to be compatible with most roll-type blinds available on the market,
allowing blinds of all different shapes and sizes to be successfully fitted.
The Blind Engine comes with two different gears designed to accommodate string cords and ball chains. With the Brunt App, you can raise and lower multiple blinds at the same time. (No extra monthly charge for the Brunt application)
You can use the Brunt Blind Engine with various voice recognition speakers. Cost online $129
AXIS Gear is an affordable and easy way to motorize your window shades. Gear is a smart device that lets you easily control and schedule when your shades open and close. Axis say the install and setup of Gear takes minutes and guarantees to fit your shades or your money back.
Included are a solar panel and backup AA batteries. The App allows the creation of schedules and smart home integration.
The SOMA Smart Shades is designed to fit your existing shades and curtains with a continuous-cord. Continuous-cord shades have one looped string or beaded chain that allows you to raise and lower the bottom of the shades. Attach the device to your shades or blinds with a beaded chain or string, download the mobile app, follow the instructions and you’re ready to go. Automated schedules can be created and it is possible to control multiple windows from one mobile app. It is Android & iOS supported. Smart Shades are solar powered with a built-in lithium battery. By installing the SOMA Connect, you can control your shades with your voice, as it works with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit.
Most smart locks are installed on mechanical locks such as deadbolts. They typically upgrade the ordinary lock. Recently, there have been a number of smart locks that have appeared on the market that provide the convenience of being able to lock and unlock your door from anywhere, or passing on to people you trust a passcode to open the door.
Smart locks, like the traditional locks, need two main parts to work: the lock and the key. In the case of these electronic locks, the key is a smartphone or a special key fob configured explicitly for this purpose which wirelessly performs the authentication needed to automatically unlock the door. With some smart locks, the physical key may still be used in case the batteries of the lock have run too low. Generally, the smart door locks operate with 4 AA batteries, so no hard wiring is required.
Most smart locks will feature access by entering a code, instead of fumbling for keys. It is easy to share access with trusted friends/family. They are battery-operated and so should still accept access codes on the touchscreen during home power outages. They all claim to be easy to install with just a screwdriver (providing holes for the lock are already installed in the door).
Smart Lock manufacturers generally have their own app to set up and control the door locks but can often be controlled by other smartphone apps such as Samsung Smartthings or will work with Apple HomeKit, which is software on Apple iOS devices that lets users configure and control smart-home appliances.
Some locks you can use hands-free voice control with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices or Google Assistant-enabled devices. This includes verbally locking or checking the status of the front door. This may require the addition of a wifi adaptor for the lock.
Smart locks can be used with a smart doorbell to allow the user to see or communicate with someone at a door before unlocking. These are now mainstream products, available in computer and online stores. These types of products can help support independent living for people with disabilities.
Below is a range of the newer smart door locks.
Nest x Yale Lock
With Yale known for their locks and Nest known for their connected home, they have come together to make a key‑free deadbolt that connects to the Nest app. As with many smart locks you can lock and unlock your door from anywhere or give people you trust a passcode, instead of a key.
When the Nest/Yale Lock is connected to the Nest app, you can unlock your door from your phone or create passcodes for family and guests. Even set times when passcodes expire. You can get alerts whenever someone unlocks and locks the door. And when Nest knows you’re away, your door can lock automatically.
Yale Real Living® Touchscreen Deadbolt
The absence of the cylinder provides a “clean” appearance and means that lock picking will be difficult. It eliminates the need to manage keys for your door.
In the event the batteries die – a 9V battery provides enough power to enter the code and gain access to the lock.
The touchscreen keypad illuminates for night time access.
It is available in ZigBee® or Z-Wave® configurations
As with all the smart locks, the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt claims to be easily installed with just a screwdriver. It has a pre-set, unique 6 digit programming code, and a capacity for 30 access code (4-8 digits)
What makes it different from the other smart locks is that it features a built-in alarm to sense potential door attacks.
It works with Apple HomeKit. With the Schlage Sense Wi-Fi Adapter plugged into an outlet within the home and connected to the home Wi-Fi, you can lock/unlock from anywhere using an iPhone or Android smartphone.
You can use your lock hands-free, through voice control with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices like Amazon Echo and Dot if you pair your Schlage Sense WiFi Adapter with your Schlage Sense lock. Learn more about Alexa features here and similar to Alexa, you’ll be able to use hands-free voice control with Google Assistant-enabled devices like Google Home.
This electronic lock features a battery-operated keypad or touchscreen, eliminating the need for keys. Enter your home with a unique access code or lock your door with the touch of a button.
Kwikset’s SmartCode electronic locks offer a touchscreen and touchpad for a keyless entry that fits on any standard door. Z-wave and ZigBee options available. The touchpad with buttons may have the advantage that it consists of raised buttons for someone with a visual impairment. The back-lit keypad provides increased visibility.
The SmartCode touchpad smart lock with Home Connect technology enables the lock to wirelessly communicate with other devices in the home. The lock allows the user (through a third-party smart home controller) to remotely check the door lock status, lock or unlock the door and receive notifications via email or text. Kwikset say SmartCode is easy to install, program and use. It operates on 4 AA batteries. It also features SmartKey Security as the back-up keyway.
Video doorbells bring both convenience and security to your home by streaming a live view of the doorstep to your smartphone, whether you are on the other side of the door or the other side of the world. For someone with a disability, these could be quite useful products as they let you check who is there before answering. Your smartphone is notified the moment motion is detected or the doorbell is pressed. You can speak to visitors through the doorbell’s microphone and speaker.
Used in combination with a smart lock they could replace older technologies such as a video door intercom for door entry. There are now a number of smart video doorbells products available, as can be seen below.
Ring video doorbell
Nest video doorbell
Blink Video Doorbell
The good: You wont miss another call on the door whether you are on the other side of the door, or the other side of the world.
The not so good: If your home Wi-Fi stops working so does your doorbell.
The verdict: Promotes living independently for people with disabilities by providing a secure door entry system.