Smart Appliances Keep Seniors Safe at Home

“I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” This catch phrase was a famous commercial in the 1980’s played millions of times that showed an elderly lady who had fallen in her home and could not reach the phone for help. This issue of keeping senior safe at home through technology is now a reality as hundreds of game changing devices have been invented to do just that.

I was watching Fox Business the other day and a hybrid long term care insurance commercial was played showing the benefits on how hybrid long term care insurance can act as an investment, life insurance and pay for care in the seniors homes if they need help. This caused me to do some research on the topic of hybrid long term care insurance for my parents as my grandmother had one fallen in her house and ended up dying as a result because she could not get the the phone just like in the commercial.

I did some research and discovered that this hybrid long term care insurance product that I saw on TV will pay for anything the person needs to keep themself safe at home. That includes any appliance or any smart appliance like an Apple Watch which has an accelerometer and can detect if a person falls and send a text message for help or even phone 911! I was really amazed that the hybrid long term care insurance would pay for that kind of thing.

Seniors are preyed upon all the time, so security is important. There are appliances and devices one can install in your home to alert the police if someone is trying to break in. The Ring Video Doorbell can alert you on your phone of even the screen on your smart refrigerator if someone is at the door.

Keeping all this technology working can be a challenge and that why we partnered with the hybrid long term care insurance companies to allow for AnyAppliancePart.com to come fix and replace any part in your smart home that breaks. You can even use the cash value from your hybrid long term care insurance to pay for these repairs.

Read our latest article on how autonomous cars can driver Mom and Dad to their doctor appointments!

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2018’s Best Smart Home Devices for Every American Home

As the Internet of Things and related technologies becomes mainstream, more Americans are engaging on a new type of project – starting a smart home. Central to this project is the search for new intelligent home gadgets. In this article, we highlight the 12 best home connections devices and smart gadgets available for American homeowners in 2018.

We focused on devices that are within affordable reach for most American homeowners. All smart home devices included in our list are valued between $50 and $250.

1.     Smart Home Hub – Amazon Echo [$99]

A hub is essentially the a device that serves as a communication platform to link to all your smart home accessories. This is the first gadget you should get as you work to make your home intelligent. Going for just $99, Amazon Echo is arguably the best smart hub you’ll ever find for your new smart home. The new Echo looks better than the minimal original version, and is a lot cheaper. This device allows you to control your smart accessories by simply using your voice to issue commands.

The new Echo allows you to change the outer shell to match the look and feel of your home. You can choose a design/shell (fabrics, woods, veneers, etc.) that’s to your liking as you purchase the Echo on Amazon.com. This device also comes with ports for connecting to external speakers. Other than that, everything else is pretty much the way it was with the primary model. Although Google is working hard with their Home, and Apple now has HomePod, Amazon Echo is still the industry champion.

Speak out to ask Echo to play music, make calls, set alarms, and control home devices. You can also ask questions (instead of typing them out on Google.com), check weather and traffic alerts, manage shopping lists, and more. There’s simply no end to the possibilities that this device offers to you. The rich and robust sound quality makes it fun to use this device, whether your sending text messages or enquiring for sports updates.

2.     Smart Plugs -TP-Link HS105 [$24]

Best Smart Plugs

Not ready to replace all the bulbs and thermostats in your home yet? You might be able to make your traditional ‘dumb’ devices a little smarter using smart plugs. A smart plug serves as an interface between your power outlet and the device. This way, you can use Amazon Echo or the specific smart plug app to turn your lights on and off. Think about your bedtime routine. You have to turn on the security lights, switch off the TV and other appliances. Wouldn’t it be better if you can achieve that without raising a finger? Smart plugs are just that good. You could even turn on the coffee maker immediately you wake up so you have your steaming morning cup ready by the time you are done with the shower.

Smart plugs are the cheapest intelligent home devices available in the market right now. If you do not have the budget for a full-scale upgrade, this is the way to go.

The TP-Link HS105 is no doubt the best plug device available. It looks elegant and is feature packed. You’ll be able to monitor the energy usage of all your devices. You can use this smart plug via Amazon Echo integration, or download it’s standalone Android/iOS app.

Other mentionable smart plugs that you may want to consider include the ConnectSense Smart Outlet, the Belkin Wemo Insight, and the iDevices Switch.

3.     Smart Light Bulbs – Philips Hue [$160]

Smart lights are the most popular of all smart home accessories. It’s the first thing people think of when considering starting a smart home. With a smart light bulb, you’ll be able to turn your lights on and off using a voice command. So you don’t have to fumble with the hallway light switch in the middle of the night when you’re half-asleep but still need to use the bathroom.

phillips smart bulbs

Although a little bit more expensive than alternative devices, Philips Hue provides the best smart light bulbs available. The starter kit comes with two bulbs and a hub to interconnect them with other home devices. You’ll be able to change the lighting colors and adjust the brightness. Philips Hue is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s HomeKit, and many other smart hubs.

Cheaper alternatives to Philips Hue include the C by GE Starter Pack, the Cree Connected LED Bulb, and the GE Link Connected LED.

4.     Smart Light Strip – Philips Hue [$84]

Smart Light Strips Connected Home

Smart LED light strips are a must have if you’re looking to make your doorway, bathroom wall, or any other space in your room more exciting. Think about the music-synched lights under a disco ball. If you decided to purchase the Philips Hue smart light bulbs, it makes sense that you should get the Philips Hue Lightstrip as well. You’ll be able to change the color and create some ambience with this smart light strip.

Qube, a San Francisco-based Startup, also launched their Wi-Fi Smart LightStrip on IndieGogo last year. Although still in the production stages, this lightstrip might also be a great idea to give your home some extra aesthetic appeal.

5.     Outdoor Security Camera – Netgear Arlo Pro [$180]

Smart Outdoor Cam

The Arlo Pro outdoor security camera offers outstanding video quality day and night. You get motion detection, a week’s worth of video storage for free, and a flexible scheduling feature. Although this camera seems to be a little bit more expensive than other alternatives (such as the Nest Outdoor Cam) there are no subscription hidden costs. You can pay $170 to add one more Netgear Arlo security camera to your security setup.

Compared to other smart security cameras, the Netgear comes with a base station that connects directly to your router and facilitates a very decent connection. A very loud siren will work to scare off any intruder when you are away.

If you’d like to get a little better video quality, a scrollable timeline, and are willing to pay up to $300 more in annual subscription costs, the Nest Camera may be the best alternative.

6.     Best Smart Thermostat – Ecobee4 [$235]

Smart Thermostats let you control the cooling and heating of your home using a voice command, or a smartphone app. You can change the temperature in your home depending on the time of day, and optimize energy usage.

ecobee 4 smart thermostat

There are many reasons why the Ecobee 4 is the best smart thermostat for your intelligent home. It has a touchscreen interface, and comes with a remote sensor to make sure all your rooms have the right temperature. Since Ecobee 4 has Alexa built-in, you won’t even need to buy/use Echo to control your other smart home appliances. You’ll be able to ask questions, check out weather and traffic updates, and do anything else you could do with Amazon voice assistant right here. The motion and proximity sensors will tell Ecobee 4 whether you are home or not, and it’ll adjust the temperature setting accordingly.

If you’re not keen on the best smart thermostat in the market and are instead looking for a cheaper alternative, 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat will suffice.

7.     Video doorbell – August Doorbell Cam Pro [$200]

Video owners can finally turn to smart video doorbells to find out who’s at the door before opening. There already are various video doorbell models out there and things are just getting better. If you’d like to feel a little more secure before letting people into your home, smart video doorbell is the way to go.

August smart home video doorbell

While there are at least 5 popular video doorbell brands out there, the August Doorbell Cam Pro is a game-changer. You get to know who’s at your door, and you can see and speak to them via full color HD. There are 3 brightness levels so you can adjust appropriately, and you’ll be able to get decent-quality footage regardless the time of day. There’s a motion detection feature in case you’d like to know whenever there’s a weirdo lurking around in the street. And that’s not all…The hindsight feature on this smart doorbell will capture footage even if the visitor doesn’t press the doorbell. August Video Doorbell Cam Pro integrates with Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant among many other system to give you added flexibility. If you have kids, a spouse or elderly parent who’s always forgetting the keys, consider using this with the August Smart lock so you can remotely let them in.

If you’re not in the ‘August’ mood and would like to purchase a smart video doorbell that’s a little bit cheaper, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the go-to option. This doorbell lets you see, hear and speak to anyone who’s on your front door. You get instant notifications on your smartphone whenever someone physically presses on the doorbell. This device is battery powered (which means no messy wiring work) and a single full charge can last up to 3 months!

8.     Best Smart Smoke/CO Detector – Nest Protect [$100]

Old fashioned smoke detectors have always served as a useful fire warning system, but they can get a little annoying – thanks to that persistent low battery chirping and countless false alarms. Smart home detectors can add a layer of safety to your home, albeit with increased reliability.

Smart Smoke Detector

The Nest Protect smart home device detects smoke and carbon monoxide as well. It is equipped with precision sensors that pick both slow and fast burning fires. This smart smoke detector will tell you where the fire is suspected to be, and can be interlinked with other smart devices. Because you can learn about a fire breakout via your smartphone whether you’re at work, at the community shopping mall and elsewhere, you can take immediate action (call the fire department). The Nest Protect will also blare a loud silence to alert anyone within the premises.

And in the case you’re cooking are embroiled in a steak-cooking competition with other family members on a lazy Saturday afternoon, use your smartphone to temporarily silence the Nest Protect.

If you already have multiple traditional smoke alarms and would like to make smart, the Roost Battery 2.0 is the way to go. The battery sets alerts to your smartphone whenever the sirens go off. Their app allows you silence alarms for up to 2 minutes, and can be programmed (let’s say to turn the lights on whenever the fire alarm goes off) through IFTTT.

9.     Best Smart Lock – August Smart Lock Pro [$150]

Smart lock connected home

The August Smart Lock Pro is easy to install, connectible with other smart home devices, and will even let you know when your door is ajar. You don’t need to replace your entire lock – just the inside part of your deadbolt – with this accessory. This way, you can keep using the same key. Use the automatic lock/unlock feature to get in whenever your hands are full of groceries or shopping. Perhaps the only downside to this smart lock is that it doesn’t have an in-built alarm, and only integrates with the HomeKit, Xfinity and Nest smart home hubs.

The Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt offers a more affordable alternative to August Smart Lock Pro. It is compatible with Amazon Alexa, and comes with an alarm that sounds a piercing siren whenever to send away intruders. The lock has a very high security rating. It comes with a touchscreen that’s fingerprint resistant. On the flip side this, smart home lock doesn’t have its own app. You can still connect to via your smart home hub.

10. Best Smart Garage Door Opener – Chamberlain MYQ Garage [$80]

Chamberlain Smart Garage Opener

The Chamberlain MYQ Garage is a must-have if you’d like to make your garage door smart. You are able to set custom alerts, check whether your door is open or closed. An internet connection is all you need to issue commands to open or close the door. Simply tap a button on your smartphone and the door will open when you’re headed home. Geofencing capabilities means that it can sense when you’re close to the driveway and automatically opener. This smart garage door opener is widely compatible with existing garage door hardware (it can control most – if not all – garage door openers from major brands manufactured after 1993). It works with Google Assistant, IFTTT, HomeKit, and more. Another pro for this smart garage door opener ease of installation.

11. Indoor Home Security Camera – Amazon Cloud Cam [$120]

Cloud Cam Amazon

Amazon’s Cloud Cam gives you a Full HD (1080p) live feed, motion notifications, and a 24-hour clip storage. With its ease of use and reliable performance, this is arguably the best indoor home security camera available in the market. Configuring this smart security device takes less than 5 minutes. You’ll need to download the respective app for Android and iPhone, and login with existing Amazon details (you could create a new account as well). You can set custom alerts (for instance, you may get a motion alert every time a person-sized object is detected). You can automatically turn the camera off when you’re at home and then have it switch on whenever you are away.

You may purchase an Amazon Key enabled power cable so that this camera works with the Amazon Key-in-home delivery to allow couriers to deliver your amazon packages in your home.

If you’re looking for a domestic security camera that just keeps things simple, the Amazon Cloud Cam will suffice.

12. Best Smart Flood Sensor – Roost Smart Detector [$50]

Smart Flood Detector

The Roost Smart Water Leak and Freeze Detector has emerged as the top accessory in a market that’s flooded with devices. Not only does it have an intriguing design, it also works great than most other leak detectors available in the market. It users two parallel probes to detect water in case there’s flooding or a leak in your home. What more…it also tracks humidity and the temperature in your home. Unlike some of its more expensive competitors (D-Link and Honeywell), Roost smart flood sensor doesn’t integrate with any smart hub. This means you’ll need to install their app on your smartphone in order to monitor.

How is your smart home project going? Are you using any of the devices above? Let us know what you like (or dislike) about them in the comments section below.

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5 Great Green Energy Innovations on Indiegogo 2018

Innovations in clean energy will impact every aspect of the source-to-consumer supply chain. Experts agree that green energy is improving public health, reducing global warming, fostering economic benefit and promoting energy resilience. It’s no wonder governments are igniting policies and launching programs to promote clean energy initiatives.

As the BIG players focus on mega solar plants and expansive wind turbines, small scale innovators are also coming up with their own breed of green energy products. Here are the 5 best renewable energy products introduced on Indiegogo in 2018.

1.     The Sonic Soak

Sonic Soak

Created by Sonic Soak, a startup based on Los Angeles, California, this is a fantastic clean energy device by all measures. It’s no wonder the project – which was launched on global crowdfunding site Indiegogo, has been overfunded by a whopping 9543%.

The Sonic Soak provides an ingenious solution to clean dirt, mud, pollen and other contaminants from clothes, fruits, bags, and just about anything else. The device simply uses ultrasonic technology to remove dirt particles at the microscopic levels. It is quiet and can clean baby bottles, razors, or any other product that is tough to clean using soap and water, rags, or your bare hands. It’s incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is soak the item you need to clean in soap and water, set the timer on sonic soap, and you’re good to go within no time. This $230 device offers deeper cleaning, while at the save time saving time, water and energy.

2.     Solar Paper

Solar Paper Indiegogo

Portable solar chargers have become very popular in recent years. But solar paper takes mobile clean energy generation to the next level. Designed by a Chicago startup, Solar Paper can charge your smartphone, tablet or iPad on-the-go. You’ll be able to know the exact power amount streaming into your device, and the panel is extremely thin and lightweight.

It takes just 2.5 to fully charge an iPhone. On a clear day, a tablet PC will fully charge in just 4.5 hours. This makes it one of the fastest mobile solar chargers in the market. Solar paper can juice any product that has a USB port, and can be attached to backpacks or any other surface while out there.

Going for just $148 on the Indiegogo marketplace right now, Solar Paper is definitely a great green energy innovation to keep your devices powered up at all times.

3.     Flow Hive 2

Flow Hive 2

How hard is it to find pure, raw honey in local stores?

Flow Hive 2 is a brilliant innovation on Indiegogo that aims to make natural honey accessible in your garden without the messy process of beekeeping and honey harvesting. Flow Hive 2 is a project by Cedar and Stuart Anderson, who are based in Byron Bay, Australia. The project was so popular on the crowdfunding platform that it had been overfunded by a staggering 18983% by March 5th 2018.

Flow Hive 2 makes the process of rearing bees and harvesting honey bliss. There are no squashed bees during harvesting. Simply open a tap and watch as 3Kg of pure honey pours into a jar.

Each hive goes for $749. This amazing, bee-friendly product currently ONLY ships to locations in Australia and the United States. If you’d like to harvest unprocessed honey in your backyard garden without having to go through a whole lot of trouble, this is definitely a must-have.

4.     PlantHive

Planthive

Plant Hive is marketed as “the first AI-assisted smart garden”. It is the next generation of smart gardens that allows you to grow your favorite crops from the comfort of your living room. It includes climate sensors and control modules. Although the project startup is based in Brussels, Belgium, it is based on MIT’s Personal Food Computer Design. You can choose to grow your plants in either soil, or hydroponics, and monitor your garden from anyplace.

The beta version of Plant Hive goes for just 199 Euros, which makes it affordable for most people. At this time, Plant Hives only ship to Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. You might have to wait a little longer to get this smart technology if you’re in the United States.

5.     Sparkbox

Sparkbox

Sparkbox is an eco-portable energy battery that eliminates the need to use those cumbersome fuel-based generators in the event of a power loss. This portable battery comes with 2 powerful AC and USB ports. It can charge an electric car for up to 10 miles, but is compact enough to fit in your trunk. You can also power up your bikes and any other appliances n outdoor environments. There’s a mobile app for monitoring your battery level, charging rate, and charge time remaining.

Able to recharge in just 3 hours, the Sparkbox is designed to take care of all your power needs while outdoors, or at home in the event of a power blackout.

This portable generator goes for $649.

Everywhere you look – green energy is the future. As governments work to connect more sun-tapped or wind-tapped power to the grid, you can arm yourself with these innovative solutions. If you are using other green energy innovations not on this list, let us know in the comments section below.

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Keep your Lawn Green – 6 Best Smart Lawn Sprinkler Controllers

If you love keeping your lawn green, smart lawn sprinkler systems can be a savior. They bring convenience to the entire process of irrigating your lawn and even better save on the water bills. A good sprinkler controller should help you put the entire process on autopilot. But with so many different brands out there, the process of choosing a great smart sprinkler can be confusing. This article highlights the 6 best smart controllers to keep your lawn healthy and beautiful.

1.     Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller – Most Popular Smart Wifi Lawn Sprinkler

Rachio Smart Lawn Sprinkler Systme

The Rachio system provides a sound alternative to ordinary, complicated smart lawn sprinklers. The system maps your garden into separate zones and lets you create a plan for keeping the plants hydrated. One thing you notice during the onboarding process of this system (when you install the Rachio irrigation app and connect it to your controller) is that it’s very thorough. The app asks all sorts of questions related to what plants grow to what zone of your lawn, what type of soil is there, is the ground slowing or not. All this helps the system figure out a better watering routine to keep the lawn looking beautiful.

The Rachio irrigation app and sprinkler controller system is the ease of use. You can set up the system all by your own without any outside help in just 30 minutes. There are no complicated manuals to read – just a simple set of instructions that seem to work fine.

The smart sprinkler controller also works great with Amazon Echo and Google Home smart devices. This way, you can simply issue a voice command on the Echo to activate irrigation. It is also connectible with IFTTT so you can set up an If This Then That recipe.

What’s more, the Rachio smart gardener will automatically skip a scheduled watering when rain is predicted. It monitors local weather and responds appropriately so you minimize your water bills.

Note: You’ll need the weatherproofing casing to protect the controller.

Pricing: $197 – $238

Summary: this is the most popular smart lawn sprinker system in the market right now. It offers decent functionality and tends to work well for a lot of people. It’ll most likely do for you too.

2.     RainMachine – Excellent Functionality with a Touchscreen Display

RainMachine

RainMachine is another useful smart sprinkler to keep your lawn green. This device goes a step beyond the Rachio and offers a touchscreen interface via which you can set up your lawn watering. And that’s not all? There’s a mobile app for Android and iOS if you want to control everything via your smartphone. If you’d like a smart electronic gardener that’s convenient with a hi-tech touchscreen display, RainMachine won’t disappoint.

The device displays shows all sorts of relevant information, from environmental conditions such as humidity to the current weather and your irrigation needs. In terms of functionality, this smart sprinkler system gets the upper hand. You get a lot of flexibility for configuring your irrigation. You can disable watering during winter and automate the entire process months ahead. This cloud-dependent smart sprinkler controller system also has open integration so you can integrate with Amazon Alexa, WINK, Nest, and IFTTT.

Pricing: $239 – $279

Summary: if you’re looking for something that works satisfactorily and offers great functionality, the RainMachine smart sprinkler system is just that.

3.     Orbit 57946 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor Wifi Smart Sprinkler – Cheap and Reliable

Orbit Smart Lawn Sprinkler System

I still don’t understand why they couldn’t give this smart wifi sprinkler system an easier name (maybe something mouthable like LawnKing). Nonetheless, this is a pretty decent smart sprinkler controller system for anyone who’s on a tight budget.

For a lowly $95 – $118, you get a monochrome-screen wifi sprinkler system for outdoor use. However basic the Orbit 57946 smart sprinkler system looks, it still synchronizes with the weather forecast and allows you to configure all the settings (frequency of irrigation, amount of water, necessary to keep your lawn watered and green. Even better, there’s a water saving mode that allows you to manually configure the water flow threshold. This turns out to be an excellent feature for anyone who’s wary about the water bills getting over the roof.

You can still control this smart sprinkler system from your smartphone via the  Android or iOS app. It also works with Amazon Alexa so you can use voice commands. Save on the water bill by skipping watering during rain days and create custom schedules for your lawn.

Pricing: $95 – $118

Summary: If you’re on a budget, this is definitely smart landscape sprinkler controller system to go for.

4.     RainMachine Mini 8 – Moderate Smart Lawn Sprinkler System

RainMachine Mini 8 Smart Lawn Sprinkler

This is one of the best irrigation controllers that offers the middle ground between cost and quality. It is easy to install and comes with an illuminated touch keypad and bright LED display. You’ll like the simplistic and clean sprinkler irrigation app – very easy to use.  The app is designed to take care of the irrigation while optimizing water usage.

Like the other irrigation apps on this list, it is also integrated with real time weather data from the NOAA and other bodies. The controller uses this information to refine the watering schedule. This smart sprinkler controller will also connect to smart devices, and you can monitor the watering from anywhere using your Android or iPhone smartphone. In case you have the Amazon Alexa or NEST IoT gadgets, you can easily integrate.

Pricing: $139

Summary: The RainMachine Mini is the smaller cousin of the RainMachine HD. It supports just 8 zones so it might be just what you need if you have a smaller lawn. RainMachine offers reliable and accurate performance.

5.     RainBird – Tried & Tested Small Lawn Sprinkler

RainBird Smart Lawn Sprinkler Controller

Rain Bird smart irrigation controller is a professional kit with a simple, practical 5-step installation process. The system can be attached to any outdoor faucet.

There’s a heavy duty timer that will help you customize the watering patterns without breaking a sweat. The fairly large screen comes with a simplistic scroll setting for automatic setting. Homeowners can learn all the controllers in no time.

Allows for multiple users to access via the irrigation app and self-adjusts to weather conditions just like the other smart sprinkler systems in this list. You can enable notifications to stay on top of what’s happening in your lawn. There’s also a delay feature where you can stop watering for up to 2 weeks (i.e. when it is raining).

Use the Rain Bird smartphone app on your Android or iOS device to monitor everything. It also works with Amazon Alexa.

Pricing: $117

Summary: the RainBird smart irrigation timer has been around for quite a while and has been tried and tested. It’s rather simple and supports a total of 8 zones – making it ideal for the smaller landscape. The pricing is also on the lower end so it might be a better option for those who are on a budget.

6.     Sky Drop 8 Zone – New, Low-Budget Option

Skydrop Smart Lawn Sprinkler System

This is one elegant irrigation automation system that uses weather data to take keep your lawn green and flourishing at all times. The Sky drop is an 8-zone device so it might not be a good fit for lawns that are very large.

The only complaint about this sprinkler smart controller is that it automates most things – thus wrestling control out of the user’s hands. It’s still not as established as the other smart sprinkler systems on this list so they might need some time to streamline it.

It is easy to install and works with IoT gadgets. It users important information about your landscape (soil type, sprinkler type, etc.) to automate the irrigation for each zone. It can also be accessed via a smartphone app.

Pricing: $70+

Summary: although fair new to the market, this is indeed the cheapest smart sprinkler controller in the market right now. If you’re really looking to spend less than $100 on your first irrigation automation, this might be your only option.

Conclusion

How much time do you spend watering your lawn? We all want to see that lush green, but gardening can easily become a frustrating task when you are doing the watering work manually. A smart sprinkler controller eliminates the hassle and keeps your lawn beautiful all-year round.

Let us know what smart sprinkler system you choose to use for your lawn in the comments section below…

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4 Obstacles Facing the Driverless Car Movement

Driverless cars are coming fast. Industry think tanks estimate that by 2020, we’ll have nearly 10 million self-driving vehicles on American roads. But as Google tests their peculiar Panda self-driving cars, and Uber makes more self-driving car tests, challenges remain. Will customer be willing to pass over control to their vehicles? Will people fell safer in roads where conditions can change on a moment’s notice? In this article, we highlight some of the challenges facing the self-driving revolution.

1.     Customer Understanding and Acceptance

Naturally, customers need a better grasp of the technology before they can be comfortable enough to accept it. Self-driving car makers will need to invest more on educating customers how they can take advantage of autonomous vehicles. Already, Tesla, Uber, and other stakeholders are working to make self-driving seem like mainstream. The better this message is reinforced, the easier it’ll be for these companies to make sales as the technology becomes mainstream.

2.     Safety Concerns

Safety and security is still a major concern when it comes to driverless technology. In the recent past, there have been several accidents (some fatal) involving vehicles running on autonomous technology. In May 2016, an Ohio man was killed when his auto-piloted Tesla Model S crashed in a Florida highway. The accident happened because neither the driver nor Tesla’s technology recognized the white-colored trailer that was crossing its path. In March 2018, a 49-year-old woman was hit and killed by an Uber self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona. Still, more needs to be done to re-assure consumers on the safety of the technology

3.     Regulation and Technology

At this point in time, regulation is still a hurdle for self-driving technology. Perhaps it’s this realization that forced Ford, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Uber, Lyft, and Volvo to join up and create the ‘Self Driving Coalition for Safer Streets’. These auto makers want to promote sensible regulation on which they can build their autonomous car autonomous.

4.     Cost

There are many indications that cost will be another major obstacle for self-driving auto technology. Americans spend roughly $30,000 on a new vehicle. According to Fast Company, a self-driving version of Toyota Prius will go for $320,000 (sensors, radar, GPS array and everything included). Of course, this is an estimation based on test cars. When auto-makers are able to mass-produce self-driving vehicles, this cost gap will narrow down. In fact, industry experts say that by 2025, the cost difference between a self-driving car and a regular car will be just 10,000. So while cost might be an issue in the early years of adoption, it won’t be a permanent hurdle.

Despite the challenges, driverless technology will likely have a positive impact on the industry. There are over $30,000 traffic-related accidents in the U.S. every year. With proper safety regulation by the NHTSA, there’s a high probability self-driving cars will help improve road safety.

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Smart Office Solutions

Smart Office Solutions for Small-Medium Businesses

By NICK ROBIN

From automated lighting appliances to hands-free Wi-Fi powered workspaces, this article provides inspiration for the small business smart office.

In Seattle, Washington, the Bullitt Center produces as much energy as it users, harvests and treats rainwater on site, and monitors indoor air quality. It has been touted as one of the greenest commercial building in the world. The Watson IoT Headquarters in Munich Germany, knows who is seated where and adjusts temperatures and ambient lighting to individual preferences. The Intel SRR3 center in Bangalore, India, uses smart interfaces to control air conditioning and improve employee comfort. Deloitte’s recent headquarters office building has earned its place among the smartest office spaces ever constructed. It allocates convenient parking spaces, and allocates working space based on each employees itinerary and preferences.

Smart office building are cropping up all over. Although this revolution is being championed by the world’s largest firms, small to medium-sized enterprises can also join in.

Smart Office Furniture

Although still in the early adoption phase, smart office furniture has been around for a little while now. Technology analysis firm Research Nestor says that demand for smart office furniture will continue to increase sharply up to the next decade, with nearly 26 million IOT devices connected to furniture products by 2024.

Smart Office

Some examples of smart office furniture include desks that bring health or wellness benefits to the workspace, as well as furniture that measures office activity, and boosts employee flexibility.

a)    Axia Smart Chair

Take for example the Axia Smart Chair built by Dutch firm BMA Ergonomics. It easier for employees to maintain proper posture while at the office. It monitors user posture and issues a vibration alert when the employee has been sitting too long in an aggravating position. A smart label allows employees to see their current posture, as well as how they have been sitting in the last one hour. By increasing awareness and providing these kinds of alerts, Axia Smart helps employees go home fitter after hours of work. An associated app (Axia Smart Active) available on both Android and iOS platforms encourages users to cultivate a healthy, active working style. Axia Smart Chairs are currently available in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France.

b)    Stir Kinetic Smart Desk

Closer home in the U.S., ergonomics firm Stirworks has designed the Stir Kinetic Smart Desk, which monitors your routine daily and lets you know what is the best time to sit or stand. It also quietly lowers or raises to provide better comfort for users. The desk comes with a 1 GHz CPU, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a 5” screen that runs a Linux operating system. This interactive smart desks help employers cultivate a healthier and more productive work force. Prices start at $3,000 and they have dealers all over the country.

c)    Herman Miller LiveOS

Herman Miller, the Michigan (USA) based furniture company that’s behind iconic designs such as the Aeron chair last year collaborated with renowned designer Yves Béhar to create a smart office furniture suite. The system – known as LiveOS – uses sensors that come with Herman Miller desks but can be fitted on any existing workspace to help companies optimize utilization of space. Although the suite is still in its infancy stages since it was launched in June 2017, the company says that it’s encouraging people to pursue more active work styles. The desks can adjust the height to meet employee preferences, and a mobile app and dashboard provides valuable insights.

These are just a few examples of how smart office furniture is becoming mainstream. Over the next few years, we can expect to see a huge variety of furniture and devices designed to promote health, wellness, and ergonomics in the workplace.

Telepresence Robots

Ever been in a situation where you wanted to be in two places all at once? Telepresence robots are smart office assistants that are designed to make that happen. The mobile telebot is usually fitted with screens, cameras, microphones, and speakers to allow remote workers interact and collaborate with colleagues on-site.

Telepresence bots are still in their early stages, and innovators are working to develop models that are office friendlier (less clumsy and socially acceptable). Nonetheless, telepresence bots are already being used in Corporate America and in educational settings. Employers who have many remote workers can use telebots as body doubles during meetings to minimize travel costs.

A few examples of telepresence robots already in use include Padbot, Double Robotics, and VGo.

a)    Padbot

Padbot started out with an Indiegogo campaign in 2014, and has went on to develop multiple telepresence robots that connect with iPads, tables or smartphones that are mounted on top of the robot via Bluetooth. A PadBot can be remote controlled to move in any direction, so that an employee can videochat with colleagues elsewhere. The Padbot is also significantly more affordable compared to other telepresence bots.

a)    Double Robotics

Double Robotic’s telepresence solutions robots work in a similar way to the Padbot. A tablet or iPad is mounted at the base to allow users to remotely communicate and interact with others. By simply having one of these robots in their office, business managers can schedule meetings, provide instructions and guidance and delegate tasks from just about anywhere. There double 2 model is available on Amazon.com at a price of $2,500.

a)    VGo

The VGo telebot is already being used for remote patient monitoring in healthcare, remote schooling for students with illnesses or disabilities, and remote specializing training. Pricing starts at $4000.

Interactive and Collaboration Tools

Projectors are still useful, but it’s just a matter of time before they are replaced by smart boards and interactive walls.

a)    Video Walls

Video walls are a particular interesting smart office concept. Video walls are essentially large visual displays that occupy a large part (or all) of a designated wall space. Depending on the intended purpose, the video wall could also be touch-sensitive and interactive. Video walls have a powerful visual impact. They allow stakeholders in  the business setting to depict concepts in high-quality imagery. Companies are already using these interactive built-in displays to run promotional videos, showcase portfolios, and roll out specific presentations.

The Multi-User interactive LCD video wall from Planar is perhaps the best example of how video walls can be used as a smart office solution. This ultra-slim, interactive video wall does not require another large layer of glass to be constructed in front of the LCD for added protection. It offers a perfect touch surface

a)    Smart Boards

Smart boards like the one above have been used in the educational setting for years and now they have added functionality that makes them very useful in the corporate setting. The Jamboard from Google and the Spark Board from Cisco are two good examples. They enable multiple users to view the display, give presentations, make notes and host video conferences. Due to them being an immediate utility, smart boards will be very popular in the next few years.