190501scl SmartHome

Alison Jacobson, a safety expert and motivational speaker, talks about the voice-enabled device on the wall in Cox Communication's Connected Independence Smart Home in North Kingstown during an open-house event showcasing new technology designed to allow seniors to live independently while staying connected in case they need assistance. The VED is voice activated and can signal for help in the event of an emergency.

A wave of new technology, from headsets that let users experience a virtual version of the real world to smart phone applications that control when and how much food to give a pet, is making its way into homes.

These ‘smart homes’ have been around at a basic level for years, giving homeowners the ability to control functions, such as lighting, security, heat and cooling remotely.

But Cox Communications is taking the experience to the next level with its Connected Independence smart homes, capable of being equipped with more than 60 connected smart devices throughout a house.

It’s part of an effort by Cox to use its technology to improve the lives of older adults and those with limited mobility by giving them greater independence at home. Cox recently gave a demonstration of its smart home technology at Kingstowne Ridge at Reynolds Farm, a growing residential development in North Kingstown. The builder of the new homes is h.a. Fisher Homes, Rhode Island’s exclusively licensed woman-centric homebuilder.

“It’s not just seniors, it’s any of us,” said Alison Jacobson, author of The Safety Mom blog. “There’s smart devices for the kitchen, so we can cook while we’re away. But I think the biggest thing for seniors is, they want to stay in their homes.”

In addition to convenience, Cox is also selling peace of mind.

Jacobson is a user of the Cox Homelife technology, which allowed her to put motion sensors in a bedroom where an elderly aunt was staying.

“If there was no motion by 9 a.m., I could get an alert and make sure everything was OK,” she said.

The Homelife system also lets seniors stay connected to family members at all times using a voice-controlled app, and includes devices such as a fall detection pendant.

That voice activation technology also extends to other areas, such as controlling the lights, temperature and even making sure a home’s doors are locked each night.

Smart home entertainment options abound as well.

Amazon offers the Echo and Echo Spot to make hands-free video calls, watch videos and sort photos, among other tasks.

The Cox Contour TV includes a voice remote control to watch live TV or recorded shows, and the system includes other features, like TV caller ID and readable voice mail.

And a Samsung Gear virtual reality headset system lets anyone experience a lifelike version of the world from the comfort and safety of their home. The unit can also connect to a Samsung phone to have access to a plethora of games, with new titles added regularly.  

Want a pet without the hassle of feeding and cleaning? There’s CHiP, the robotic dog programmed with artificial intelligence that learns and adapts to the voices and gestures of his human companions. He’s able to learn new tricks, play and show affection.

A little creepy? Maybe. A true substitute for the real thing? No, but CHiP has his place.

“For people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it works. It calms them down and gives them that comfort,” Jacobson said.   

In the kitchen, an Anova Precision Cooker lets seniors choose what they’re cooking on the Anova app, decide how they want it cooked and when they want it ready and waiting. Meals can be started from anywhere with the app.

And the Behmor Brewer makes preparing coffee a breeze. It creates a personal brew profile by adjusting the pre-soak time, temperature and brewing time. Keep the coffee hot in an Ember brand intelligent mug, which monitors and adjusts the heat level according to specs set in an app.

Amazon’s Dash Button lets users shop by pressing the button to re-order products. Running low on paper towels? Press the button, and a new order is placed and delivery is scheduled.

The Roomba, a voice-activated robot, takes care of vacuum-cleaning chores, freeing family members up for other activities.

Almost all of the simple tasks in a smart home have phone apps to control and automate them. The Petnet Feeder automatically schedules feedings for pets, adjusts portion sizes and sends alerts when a pet is fed.

“If I’m running late for work, I can literally tap a button and have him fed,” Jacobson said.

The Tricella app monitors a person’s medication use and tells family members which pills were taken and how much. The Parrot Pot automatically monitors plants and waters them when it’s appropriate.

For safety, motion sensors around the house can let others know remotely if a family member has left or arrived.

The devices in the smart home are connected and controlled through a high-speed internet line. The main component is a Wi-Fi hub or access point.

“What matters for seniors, and everyone really, is that they don’t have to be tech-savvy. This just works,” Jacobson said.

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