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Smart Home Blog

Smart Home Blog

UK criminologist advises use of smart home technology

Lee Curran, a lecturer in criminal justice and the Deputy Head at University Centre St Helens, Merseyside, recently offered homeowners expert advice on how to [...]

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How to earn trust as an approved installer

Whether you are a CCTV and security alarm installer or an expert at setting up network cabling and satellite broadband, any professional tradesperson with [...]

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Energy company set to offer smart home solutions

Energy provider Scottish Power has become the first firm in its field to provide smart home solutions to households wherever they are based.

The forward-thinking firm is [...]

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What are the pros and cons of installing a TV aerial outdoors?

Installing an outdoor TV aerial is more work than fitting one indoors or in your loft, but the results are well worth the trouble. Read on for some useful tips on [...]

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What features should every home CCTV camera have?

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are an invaluable option for property owners keen to beef up their security. However, with [...]

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Top four benefits of smart lighting for homes

Smart lighting involves long-lasting LED bulbs that can be customised and controlled remotely via smart technology, including [...]

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Remember you can still view TV for free

There are so many streaming services available giving you access to a whole host of programmes and films.  It can almost look like paying to watch is the only option that you have – but it isn’t, and it is important to remember this and ensure you understand what is available to you for free.

This is where Freeview comes in.  With Freeview you will find all your favourite shows and films all in one place and it’s free.  They have a great service called Freeview Play where you get: –

  • Over 30,000 hours of TV on demand – all free
  • Gain access to 95% of the nations most loved TV
  • You can search for what you are looking for and recommendations
  • Provided with access to over 700 Boxsets
  • Don’t forget all this is free

You can easily check to see what channels are available via the Freeview service for your address – use this simple Freeview Checker.

Freeview as part of their service gives you the ability to watch your favourite shows when you are out and about on your mobile phone on tablet – all you need to do is download their app, available for Android or iOS and away you go.

It is simple to be able to use the Freeview service, you will need: –

A TV with Freeview built in – don’t worry, if you have purchased your TV after 2010 it will have it built in – just connect it to your TV aerial.

If no Freeview built into your TV – you will need a Freeview box or recorder – available at many supermarkets and electrical stores – look at their products page where you can opt for HD and the Freeview Play recorder.

Aerial – to be able to receive the service you will need an aerial in good working order which is pointing in the right direction of the transmitter for your area – located on the roof will provide you with the best signal. If you don’t have one or want to get your aerial checked out – get in touch with an Approved Installer.

TV Licence – this is a requirement for anyone watching TV in the UK – check out the details here.

Internet Connection – you will only need this if you want Freeview Play where you want to access on-demand content or use the catch-up service.

So before you opt for a monthly or annual subscription for a streaming service, check out Freeview and see what you can access for free.

Smart Lighting in your Garden

Can Smart Lighting help me reduce my bills?

When buying replacement light bulbs, it can still be tempting to opt for the cheaper classic incandescent bulbs, but unfortunately these bulbs are massively inefficient.  There is no doubt that energy-efficient LED bulbs save you money on your bulbs, so don’t be put off by their higher price.

On top of these, you can now opt for smart bulbs – the next era of the smart home which can help even more with cost savings.  However, as these bulbs never turn off as they need to be on in some form to recognise voice commands, do they actually save you money?

What is a Smart Bulb – In simple terms, it is an LED bulb that has technology built in which enables it to connect to your network or WiFi which allows you to control it remotely.  This is usually done via voice command using an Alexa device or Google Assist.  Always check the specifications to ensure compatibility with your chosen device.

Do they waste money when they are off – smart bulbs are in a class of devices called vampire devices, meaning electricity is still being used when they are off.  This is because even when the bulb is off, it still needs to be connected to your WiFi or network to enable to operate with voice commands.  It is reported that each smart bulb when off uses a lot less than a penny which when you have a couple, you will hardly notice.  Multiply this by 30-40 across your home, it will make some difference.

Do Smart Bulbs save me money – yes they do but they also don’t – confusing?  They absolutely save you money compared to the traditional incandescent bulbs due to their efficiency, but when compared to replacing your old bulbs for straight forward LED bulbs, they aren’t as efficient – simply because they cost more upfront in comparison to LED bulbs and that they remain in standby so therefore constantly using energy.

Tip – those other ‘vampire’ appliances that you have around the home which are easy to overlook that they are in standby are:-

  • Computers
  • TV’s
  • Printers
  • Microwaves
  • Security Systems

Don’t overlook them, if easy to turn them off rather than leave in standby, do so as this will save you energy usage.

WiFi is so important for your smart home devices

We have typically thought of gas, electric and water as our main utilities, but with the development of the smart home, WiFi is the now regarded as the fourth utility and is vital for everything to work effectively.  Even the basics of streaming what we want to watch, puts the demand on our WiFi and you certainly know by your viewing experience if your WiFi is any good.

Speed available – it isn’t always down to getting the fastest service and more about what is available in your area.  Not all areas have the fastest speeds or fibre available, so it is about looking for the best and fastest service available for your area.  There will be websites in your area where you will be able to check the providers available and the speeds that they can offer.  Another example for those BT customers waiting for higher speed WiFi is their postcode checker to see when full fibre will be available for your home.

Price – a faster service can quite often come with a higher premium, so you do need to decide what you need versus what you want to pay, plus the length of the contract.

Service – There are more and more companies providing WiFi services so read up on them and their service.  How does it compare to others, is it reliable, what is their customer service like?  All important factors when choosing the best option.  Sometimes you only find out how good a company is when something goes wrong, so make sure you read reviews so you know if this happens, that they will sort it out for you.

Our last suggestion is that while connecting to WiFi within your home for any device could be your only option, where you do have the option to run an ethernet cable from your router to your device, do so – you will get a better and more stable connection. Also, to keep the bandwidth usage to a minimum in your house (and to assist you in achieving better speeds in the rooms you are using) turn off (or put to sleep) any WiFi reliant devices when not using them, such as Amazon Firesticks, Smart TV’s etc…

How your smart home could be at risk from hackers

Our homes are becoming full of smart home devices as we strive for a more efficient and automated life and experience, but are you at risk of being hacked?

The simple answer is ‘yes’.  A typical selection of smart home devices ranges from televisions to security networks through to thermostats and more and more smart appliances around the home – all connected to your internet.

Some devices are more robust than others against hackers, but it only takes one vulnerability to allow you to be hacked and at risk.  A recent experiment by a well-known consumer group, found that a camera purchased from Amazon was easily hacked with the culprit using the camera to spy into the home – scary!  Even we were surprised to learn that in the week of the experiment, 1107 hacks occurred which came from all over the world, 66 of which were malicious and targeted.

A key target was a printer – however the hackers weren’t successful due to the strong default passwords being in place, compared to a wireless camera which didn’t and was therefore easily hacked.  Sophisticated software is used by hackers worldwide to seek out vulnerabilities and weak passwords in our smart home devices, with focus on routers, wireless cameras and connected printers when they come online.

The Government is looking to launch a new standard which will regulate connected products to provide a minimum level of security.  One of the focus areas will be on default passwords, you will often see them as ‘admin’ or ‘12345’ – this new move by Government will in effect make them illegal.  In the experiment done, those devices with the unique default passwords faired better than those who had the standard default passwords in place.

In the meantime you can help to make your smart home more secure:-

Security features – check what is available with each of your smart devices – check the manuals or app and use two-factor authentication if it is available.

Updates – make sure you always run the updates when available so you have the most up to date protection available for the device.

Default passwords – change them, as soon as you set up the device, don’t leave the default password, change it to yours, or a strong password.

Phishing emails – when you first set up your device, be aware and check that any validation emails you receive are valid and not a phishing email.

Return your device – if you don’t feel that is safe and could be easily hacked or the security feature aren’t sufficient, return it.