Turn Your Home into a Smart Home in 5 Ways.

Do you know that virtually everything in your home can be controlled by your remotely? No really. Lights, thermostats, TV, radio, CCTV even your oven can be connected to the internet and controlled by a mobile device or smart speaker. Most people think turning their home into a smart home would be a difficult process, best left to technophiles. The reality is that it is easy to do. Read on for our tips.

1. Hello Alexa, Siri, GA

To get the best our of your smart devices, we recommend that you get a  virtual voiced controlled assistant (VVCA) like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. Whilst you don’t need this, it makes it easier for you to run a smart home as all your devices can be controlled from one unit. If you decide to get a virtual assistant, you will also need a smart home controller which will help you control your devices. For Amazon this will be the Echo / Echo Dot, Apple Siri can be controlled using an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch and Google Assistant is controlled by Android Smartphones or Google Home.

2. Control Your Lights

Use light bulbs that connect to your Wi-Fi connection. You can adjust your lighting system to turn on and off whenever you want. Since these light bulbs are typically energy-efficient, you won’t be hit with a surprise bill in the mail.

A wide variety of smart lighting is on the market. While some systems require a VVCA to operate, there are also smart light bulbs with built-in Wi-Fi connection allowing you to connect direct to the device. Lifx is one such device so its setup is relatively simple. The bulbs are multi-colored and dimmable, but because they rely on Wi-Fi, their reliability will depend on your Wi-Fi router.

3. Turn up (or down) the heat

Your home can be set to the right temperature every time and you don’t have to be in your home to do this. Smart thermostats, like Nest, connect to the internet via Wi-Fi so they can be controlled with a smartphone or VVCA. The main benefit of a smart thermostat is that it can detect when you aren’t home and determine when to shut off the heat or air-conditioning to preserve energy.

Setting up a smart thermostat with a VVCA gives you the extra perk of being able to set the temperature just by speaking a voice command.

4. Smart Security Cameras

For added home security, invest in a smart security camera. There are a wide variety of smart security cameras on the market such as outdoor motion sensors, smart locks, and surveillance devices. Most smart security cameras store hours of footage on a cloud-based storage, which means you can save it for the police.

You can even live-stream footage to your smartphone or tablet, so you watch your home while you’re away. Some of the larger systems require professional installation, but there are plenty of DIY options. The only thing you’ll need is a Wi-Fi password, the smartphone app, the security camera, and tools to place the camera wherever you want in your home.

5. Do your laundry and cook dinner Smart-ly

A smart washing machine like this one will let you control your laundry from your phone and VVCA. Smart washing machines look like other washers but come with lots of useful extra features that set them apart. You can turn the washing machine on or off – perfect if you forgot to press start, receive notifications when the wash cycle has ended and get the machine to diagnose its own faults!

You can also cook in a smart way too. You can control your oven from wherever you are. Turn it on, switch off, increase the heat and even view your dinner. Now you never have to miss a second of your favourite TV show. And if you have a VVCA even better, “Alexa, start dinner please”

Moving? Well Get Planning!

Gone are the days when an office relocation involved a couple of moving vans and a redirection notice to the post office. Nowadays, there can be an entire IT infrastructure and business network configuration to shift, as well.

Moving can be a stressful time and it can be easy to overlook things. To avoid this, we have provided you with a checklist to make your office relocation smooth and problem-free. Don’t forget that we are always happy to assist with moving your IT and network equipment as well as telecoms and connectivity. Give Julian a call on 0121 309 0126 to see how we can help.


Planning & Preliminaries

  • Establish a time-frame and schedule for the overall process and any high-level projects or resources that need specific attention.
  • Take a comparative look at your existing premises. What provisions are in place for power, water, internet connectivity and telecoms
  • Make a more detailed blueprint of your new office space, including where workstations, IT infrastructure, offices, conference facilities, equipment stores, fixtures and auxiliary spaces should be located.
  • Engage an architect and/or building contractors for any new construction, additions or upgrades to existing structures.
  • Assemble cost estimates and contingency funding levels, to get an overall budget for the move.

Equipment & Technology

  • Make an inventory of all your existing IT assets, prior to your office relocation.
  • Make a comparative assessment of the IT infrastructure at your present location and at your new premises.
  • Determine the positioning requirements for network equipment, IT infrastructure connections, power, cooling and air conditioning.
  • Assess your existing network cabling and what needs to be done at the new location to bring it up to current industry and best practices standards. Structured cabling solutions are now recommended as the norm, along with fibre optic cable networksto maximise data throughput and internet connection speeds.
  • If you have IT acquisitions or equipment upgrades already scheduled, the process of office relocation may give you the opportunity to rationalise or consolidate some or all of these projects into smaller, less complex and more cost-effective packages.
  • Develop a strategy for the selling of or disposal of unused or obsolete equipment, furniture and fittings.
  • Make a list of all your business-critical applications and the software required to support them.
  • Consider business continuity and your available options for handling network downtime. These may include the provision of redundant hardware, offline software or mobile apps.


Telecommunications

  • Make an assessment of what (if anything) needs to be done to give priority to voice data on your network. This provision will ensure that your IP (Internet Protocol) telephony has the bandwidth it requires for high-volume and high-speed business communications.
  • Take an inventory of your personnel, business divisions and the number and type of communication devices that you’ll need to cater for: desktop handsets, softphones linked to computer systems, smartphones, other mobile devices, etc. This will not only clarify who’s using what but will also establish the kind of network strength and enterprise telephony package that you’ll need at your new premises.
  • Arrange to transfer all the existing phone numbers that you wish to keep. Whether they’re landline, virtual (cloud-based), or mobile, there are options available for retaining your established and recognised business telephone numbers.
  • If new phone lines are required, this is the time to determine how many you want and what kind of telephony features should be assigned to each. Adding new lines, managing accounts and provisioning your lines with features and tools are all straightforward procedures under a VoIP system.


Network Access & Security

While it’s easy for administrative details to get overlooked in the confusion of moving, an office relocation also provides you with an opportunity to re-evaluate and potentially improve your network security and access control measures. Your checklist for this section should include:

  • Make an inventory of protected assets and resources – including any new ones generated by your business expansion or office relocation.
  • Develop a plan for protecting confidential information and intellectual property while you’re in transit, or in the transitional phase between systems at your old and new premises.
  • Make a detailed list of your employees, business units, administrators and the network access rights and privileges that they currently enjoy.
  • Create or update your company’s security policy, setting out all the relevant access and verification procedures (passwords, security tokens, biometrics, etc.), individual or group network rights and the penalties for violation or abuse.
  • Establish the tools and procedures that you’ll need for monitoring your IT infrastructure, network hardware, databases and application software.
  • Renew any existing contracts with relevant security vendors or providers and negotiate new ones as required.