Has Nest done it again?

The Nest Learning Thermostat is cool, so when Nest announced their new Smoke + CO Alarm it was a bit underwhelming for some. Perhaps the perception was that the Nest folks were going to introduce something spectacular. Let’s face it – a thermostat isn’t usually really exciting, but Nest managed to make it interesting. Maybe they can repeat with a smoke alarm.

The Nest thermostat is a very nice looking design with an Apple pedigree. Simple, smart thermostatIts also really easy to learn how to program. Actually, it just learns from you as you use it over several days – they call it a ‘learning thermostat’. If you’ve ever fought with a programable thermostat, you’ll appreciate that. The other reason its cool is its an easy and reliable way to get into home automation. They have mobile and tablet apps that allow you to easily setup more complex schedules and even control it when you’re not at home. Didn’t know you could master the ‘Internet of things’ so easy, did you?

Nest Smoke + CO AlarmPerhaps they can take home safety to the next level as well. Their Smoke + CO alarm (carbon monoxide is toxic) will tell you with a voice what the alarm is, plus a green, amber or red lighting to show the threat level. They claim it will also take care of the mundane and test it every night and let you know well in advance if the battery is low (goodbye annoying chirp!). If you set it off with something like burnt toast, you can forget frantically swatting it with a towel.  Instead, just wave at it to settle it down before it gets really loud. For a real issue, it will also tell your Nest Thermostat to turn off the furnace in case the furnace is part of the problem.

The Nest Smoke + CO Alarm is only available for pre-oder at this time, so it will be a bit before we will know if its worth the hype. With features like self testing and manageable false alarms, they may be on their way to making safety interesting too.

Case Study: PNE Waterfront Townhouse Gets Savvy

This fun and hip urban couple wanted seamless home tech in their new townhome.  As often is the case, although the home was recently built, it wasn’t well thought out for home tech. The plan was to smarten up the home while maintaining a modest budget. For this project, we worked with Tamara of Philosophy Design to realize the couple’s vision.

The tech updates had three focus areas; the living room, master bedroom and office/spare room. The overarching principles for this update were simplicity, clean lines and minimized tech footprint. As with any update, it was also important to provide a home network to connect all the gear.

The home’s living room is an ideal entertaining hub as it flows from the dining room and
Living Room - TV & sound barkitchen. Here we mounted an awesome and affordable Panasonic 58” TV and Harman Kardon sound bar over the fireplace. The other gear was discretely tucked away in the funky console and the wireless subwoofer hidden. This was nicely tied together with a Harmony remote. Now the homeowners can watch TV, stream from their Apple TV or listen to music from their smartphones throughout the ‘great room’.

Master bedroom - mounted TV & sound barThe master bedroom has similar functionality. A Panasonic 42” TV is tidy on the wall with a matching sound bar. Again the TV set top box and Apple TV were hidden away, but this time on a tiny shelf in the walk-in closet behind the TV.

The office space, which also doubles as a spare room, has similar touches with another Panasonic TV and sound bar. A PS3 was desired instead of an Apple TV, so the PS3 and TV set top box were again tucked away in the closet.

We used the office as the hub for wired and wireless networking. The building developer had put the TV, phone and networking panel in the ground floor entry room. This would have been fine, but unfortunately only one networking wire was installed when originally built! Luckily it went to the office/spare room, so we used this to branch out the Internet connection. Desk power & EthernetPhysical network wiring in the office maximized performance there, and we put an excellent Wi-Fi access point to ensure solid Internet access for all the homeowners’ wireless gadgets through the living area. When it’s time to get some work done, a handy grommet is built into the office desk providing power and wired Internet.

Nest learning thermostat & Power2U AC/USB wall outlet A few thoughtful touches round out the home. A Nest Learning Thermostat provides simple temperature home automation including smartphone control while away. Combination USB and power outlets were installed in the kitchen and bedroom for i-device charging convenience

This home tech update provides streamlined TV, music and Internet experiences the savvy couple wanted without breaking the bank. As they just welcomed twin girls into the world, it will also provide a solid base to grow as their digital demands expand.

Five Fav Home Tech Trends for Vancouver

At Simpleer we’re obviously big fans of simple, useful home technology that fits for Vancouverites, and we get particularly excited when things get to the price point where you don’t have to be a Monty Moneybags to afford these luxuries.  With no further ado, here are our current favourites:

Simple, smart thermostat1) Nest thermostat – Who knew a programmable thermostat could be so cool?  This thermostat learns as you use it, so you don’t have to actually figure out how to program the thing.  It also makes it really easy set your home to ‘away’ to save energy when you’re not around, and equally easy to use its smart phone app to heat things up as you’re heading home.

USB Outlet2) Wall outlets with USB outlets – Since USB has become the standard for charging devices, it’s handy that manufacturers are coming out with wall outlets with built in USB outlets.  This will help with clutter in our right sized Vancouver and lower mainland homes.  Many manufactures have them including Leviton and Cooper, but Newer Technology gets props, as it turns off the charger to save power when nothing is plugged in.

Philips hue3) Philips hue – These light bulbs allow the usual scheduling and control of your lights from your smartphone or tablet, but they also allow colour control!  Perhaps you just need to set the right mood that only colour control can do.  Fittingly you start with the Starter Kit that comes with the wireless bridge and then can add bulbs from there.

Cloud Storage4) Cloud storage – Cloud storage services have been around for quite a while now including Box, Google, iCloud, Dropbox and SkyDrive. You usually get some storage for free, and adding more storage is reasonably priced.  Microsoft’s SkyDrive gets extra points though, as it works seamlessly for files on Mac and Windows and all smartphones and tablets.  We’d like to see seamless automatic cloud backups, but we’ll come back to that in the future.

Solid State Hard Drive5) Solid State Drives – Computers are usually a part of the home experience, so its best to ensure your focus is on enjoying your music or video and not a Mac pinwheel or Windows hourglass.  Solid state hard drives like Crucial or Samsung have been around for a long time, but now they’re getting affordable for the rest of us who aren’t high end users.  They are a reasonable splurge that will greatly improve the speed of a new or existing computer.

These are some great ideas to consider, and we’ll keep our eyes out for more to keep you posted.