I’ve talked an awful lot about the fun, interesting, and nifty reasons why automating a smart home is not only a great hobby, but a cool utility. But if you’re not into novelty, and some people aren’t, it might seem like there aren’t a whole lot of reasons to get into smart technology for your home. That’s where you’d be wrong – even if you don’t want silly colored lights and aren’t delighted by the mere act of telling a fan to turn on, and having it happen, smart tech can help some people interact with their homes and lives a little more effectively.
Imagine blindness. Not just the inability to see, but the actual experience, overall, of blindness. It’s incredibly isolating, complicating, and can be quite dangerous. While many visually challenged people have their homes and offices memorized, know their usually-travelled routes pretty well, and develop their own sound, touch, or even smell-based methods of successfully navigating the world, I’d imagine convenience is a luxury in many places. Voice activated technology, as it becomes more and more complex and accessible, can really make a sightless person’s home a little more navigable. While it’s been documented that the blind truly do have lower electricity bills than the sighted, because they don’t need the lights on to get around, there is something slightly dangerous about never turning the lights on, even if you don’t have eyesight.
Burglars and home-invaders often take advantage of vacationers by noting the lights staying off in homes, and an automated system turning lights on and off at regular intervals could protect someone without sight, who might otherwise not bother with lights at all. The threat of burglary aside, I’d be willing to bet that, while getting used to a new residence, or even in an old one, it’s a little more convenient to turn a device like an air conditioner, fan, space-heater, thermostat or coffeemaker with your voice than it would be to find the correct buttons and settings, if you’re someone who can’t see with their eyes. Even having small speakers which, placed on various pieces of furniture, could help to provide an aural picture of a space, could make a home more accessible to someone without sight.
Observing the Sabbath isn’t a disability, but it does disable someone in a number of ways – one being meal preparation. As a single person, eating food cold or ordering in or even skipping a meal isn’t the worst Sabbath situation, but to a parent, or married couple, it can be a much bigger problem. While I don’t encourage cheating on the requirements of your religious beliefs, it’s really now possible to do all the work on Friday and have a hot meal Saturday. The WeMo connected Crock-Pot, and the WeMo Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, or the Firebox smart coffeemaker could combine to make literally effortless Sabbath breakfasts and dinners. A parent could freeze or just prep meals on the Friday preceding the Sabbath, and then set timers to fully automate the cooking process – no Saturday work required. Similarly, schedules set for alarms, lights, meals, and temperature control can make a work-free Sabbath more manageable in the modern world.
Of course, some people aren’t disabled physically, or restricted religiously, but are differently abled for other reasons. For someone living with memory loss, PTSD, dissociative disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, or other mental illnesses, automating the background of their homes can have an enormous effect on quality of life. If loud noises can set off traumatic memories for someone, a white noise generator that turns on automatically when you arrive home could set a calmer tone for each evening. For someone who typically might check a debilitating number of times if their home is locked or not, an automated lock that they can double-check from their phone or computer and a series of smart home security cameras might slightly ease their mind. If somebody can’t always keep track of bills, or obligations, having systems in place to consistently remind them of deadlines, and even help automate some of the processes can minimize negative consequences, like late fees, or missed appointments.
Finally – to someone in a wheelchair, a smarthome might be an indispensable asset. While there have already been mods for the Amazon Echo allowing short vocal commands to literally operate high-tech wheelchairs, there are much simpler ways that smart tech can make a home more wheelchair accessible. Philips Hue bulbs, which I don’t talk about enough, have an amazing strip of LED lights that can now be controlled by Echo or smartphone. Highlighting dark hallways, or clearly demarking safe, obstruction-free paths through the house is easily possible with these smart lights. The voice activation feature of the Amazon Echo would also allow a paralyzed or wheelchair-bound person to turn devices on and off from a bed or chair, even when home alone.
Even allowing automation to take over a few small tasks can have a huge effect on someone’s quality of life, and I think that we’ll continue to see automation not only conveniently helping people who are differently abled, but intentionally geared towards making the average home more accessible.