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.

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.

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.

2016 – Technology Trends and Assistive Technology (AT) Highlights

As we approach the end of 2016 it’s an appropriate time to look back and take stock of the year from an AT perspective. A lot happened in 2016, not all good. Socially, humanity seems to have regressed over the past year. Maybe this short term, inward looking protectionist sentiment has been brewing longer but 2016 brought the opportunity to express politically, you know the rest. While society steps and looks back technology continues to leap and bound forward and 2016 has seen massive progress in many areas but particularly areas associated with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Smart Homes. This is the first in a series of posts examining some technology trends of 2016 and a look at how they affect the field of Assistive Technology. The links will become active as the posts are added. If I’m missing something please add it to the comments section.

Dawn of the Personal Digital Assistants

Game Accessibility

Inbuilt Accessibility – AT in mainstream technology 

Software of the Year – The Grid 3

Open Source AT Hardware and Software

The Big Life Fix

So although 2016 is unlikely to be looked on kindly by future historians… you know why; it has been a great year for Assistive Technology, perhaps one of promise rather than realisation however. One major technology trend of 2016 missing from this series posts is Virtual (or Augmented) Reality. While VR was everywhere this year with products coming from Sony, Samsung, Oculus and Microsoft its usefulness beyond gaming is only beginning to be explored (particularly within Education).

So what are the goals for next year? Well harnessing some of these innovations in a way where they can be made accessible and usable by people with disabilities at an affordable price. If in 2017 we can start putting some of this tech into the hands of those who stand to benefit most from its use, then next year will be even better.

Now Amazon Alexa can be used with Harmony hub remote

Amazon Echo is a smart speaker developed by Amazon.com. The device consists of a 9.25-inch (23.5 cm) tall cylinder speakerNow Amazon Alexa can be used with any Harmony hub-based remote, such as Harmony Elite or Harmony Companion. You can say “Alexa, turn on the TV”

Amazon have three products, the Echo, Dot, and Tap that all have Alexa Voice Service. Users access music, information, news, sports scores, weather, and more. There is a growing number of smart home devices and applications that work with these devices that will enable greater access, especially for people with physical disabilities. One new product Echo works with is Logitech’s Harmony Hub. The Harmony Hub and app allows users to control multiple appliances on one digital device. People can use their smartphone, tablet, or Echo to control lights, stereos, the television, and more.
To use the Echo and Harmony Hub as a hands-free remote users must link the two devices together. One way to link the two devices is through the use of IFTTT, a free web-based service. Once all of these components are linked together, users can control devices, such as a television, with their voice.
Here is a quick video demonstrating the two devices and IFTTT working together.
https://youtu.be/l7BE7lNkVPY

Google’s plan to address accessibility challenges

girl in wheelchair using communication aid

The “Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities” initiative have pledged $20M in grants to 29 non-profit organizations.  These organisations will use technology to expand opportunity and independence for people with disabilities.  The grants are to help address accessibility challenges all over the world by bringing their projects to life.  Each organization has also committed to open sourcing their technology.

Interesting projects such as solution to allow people with limited mobility to operate smartphones and 3D-printed custom footwear to allow people maintain the ability to walk.

Further details on projects

User-friendly electronics enables anyone to create projects

littleBits Electronics sells various electronic kits that enable anyone—kids, parents, teachers, therapists, entrepreneurs, experts and amateurs to create solutions and innovative technologies.

No soldering, no programing, and no in depth knowledge of circuitry required. Parts are color coded by function (green-power, blue-output, pink-input, orange-wire) and connect via magnets to make it easy to build and create solutions and technologies.

There are various kits available including gizmos and gadgets, base kit, student set, hardware development kit, workshop kit, space kit, Arduino coding, cloudbit, smart home, as well as many others. Individual parts are also available for purchase to expand existing kit or replace parts.

Not sure what to do with a kit? No problem. There are hundreds of free, online electronic modules with step-by-step directions to create products including: holiday decorations, arcade games, classroom activities, child’s play, etc.

littlebits2

One particular kit with practical projects is the smart home kit, with many project modules including: SMS doorbell/answering machine, coffee control, laundry done alert, don’t leave home without it machine, wireless lighting, and remote pet feeding. Another useful kit is the gadget and gizmos or student kit that can provide teacher-friendly materials to engage students in creating, inventing and working with electronics/science.

In addition to kits to purchase, littleBits has created the bitLab that allows anyone that has an idea for hardware to submit their innovation for review. If a submission receives more than 1,000 votes, littleBits will actually prototype and produce the prototype for feasibility and manufacture product for purchase.

For more information on littleBits or to purchase a kit, visit http://littlebits.cc/.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is a voice command device from Amazon

Amazon Echo is a voice command device from Amazon.com with functions including question answering, playing music and controlling smart devices.  It has got mixed reviews from gadget reviewers such as Gizmodo and CNET but overall it’s quite good.  For someone who requires an always on, handfree device to look up information, play their favourite music or control lights this could be a solution.

The device contains a microphone array that responds to the name “Alexa”.  It works in a similar way to other voice assistants such as Siri, Google Now or Cortana and has good voice recognition according to the reviewers.  Unfortunately the Amazon Echo can’t control Infra-Red devices yet, however recently, it is now able to control a number of Wink-compatible lighting products which brings it now into the Smart homes area.

Accessible Remotes

TV remotes can be hard to see, hard to understand and hard to access.  They often contain a large array of buttons to control features that are rarely used with symbols that are sometimes obscure. If you are challenged in any way, they will be even more difficult to use.

TV remotes

A number of manufactures have luckily tried to solve this problem by producing remotes such as this one from Sony with a larger button size and a more ergonomically designed layout.  It can be configured to control a particular TV.  Even the AV enthusiast will appreciate its clear layout.

Sony large button remote

Going further with this to suit individuals who have difficulties in accessing remotes a few manufacturers have design accessible remotes that enable even the most challenged to control their devices within the home.

The following three remotes the Pico8, HousemateLite and Relax are all remotes that will learn the signal directly from another remote, which means that any infrared controlled device can be control by the these remotes.  These remotes could be setup to control some features of a TV and maybe also open a window or door opener.

To make access easier, these remotes are also switch accessible.  External switches can be plugged into a 3.5mm jack on the side of the device which activates the scanning of each button in turn.

Pico8

Pico 8 accessible remote

  • The Pico 8 comes with 8 keys.
  • Learnable remote.
  • Single switch control.
  • There are 2 levels for new signals to be stored.
  • Is programed via web interface or Android App.
  • Size: W54-L120-H21 [mm], weight: 80 gram.
  • Internal rechargeable battery

http://www.picomed.no/products/ir-transmitters/1067.html

 

HousemateLite

Housemate Lite accessible remote

  • Learnable remote.
  • Single switch control.
  • Auditory feedback using recorded speech.
  • Single or two level operation
  • Slide-in pocket for keypad label
  • Runs on 3 x AA batteries

http://www.click2go.ie/blog/housemate-lite/

 

Relax

Ablenet relax accessible remote

  • Learnable remote.
  • Single switch control.
  • Control up to eight functions
  • Weight:  213-g
  • 187 L x 74 W x 27-mm
  • Internal rechargeable battery

https://www.ablenetinc.com/technology/connected-home/relax

Smarthome Technologies and Telecare exhibition: Maximizing independent living

Are you interested in learning about the latest Smart Home Technologies and Telecare options for people with disabilities?

5th November 2014, 9:30am – 4:30pm Smart home controls

Dublin City Council, Wod Quay, Dublin 8.

This event is hosted by Enable Ireland’s National Assistive Technology Training Service.  For further information contact sdeakin@enableireland.ie or Tel: (01) 2184100.

There is no charge to attend.   Pendent to call for assistance

Booking: Complete the online booking form at http://www.atandme.com/?page_id=514