Smart Home Ideas That Will Improve Your Home in 2022

There’s no place like home – especially if it’s smart! You don’t need to be a tech enthusiast to entertain these smart home ideas. On the contrary: many devices and appliances are incredibly easy to set up. All you need is a reliable wifi connection to the internet, and you’re good to go.

Since there are so many smart home devices on the market, it’s sometimes hard to decide which one to go with. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you – today, we’re bringing you the very best smart home ideas for 2022!

What is a Smart Home?

A smart home is a home, equipped with appliances that can be controlled via virtual assistant technology, mobile apps, or remotes, and can be used to automate various tasks around your residence. 

You can manage your house remotely and automate tasks: lock doors, set the thermostat, turn the lights on or off, and much more. There are many perks to having a smart home, from making your life more comfortable to enhancing safety and security.

But gadgets alone won’t make your home smart. Most of these technologies rely on the internet, so it’s crucial you have a good connection. FIber internet is considered the cream of the crop of high-quality internet, so consider having it installed if you’re browsing smart home ideas. Alternatively, you can check out what type of internet best suits your needs.

Set The Mood with Smart Lighting 

smart home ideas - Philips Hue smart lighting

Source: Philips Hue 

Price: Starter packs start at $69;

Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Microsoft

As far as smart home ideas go, smart lighting takes the cake as the most exciting and versatile one. Philips Hue smart lights can be controlled with voice, smartphone, or watch. Set the right mood for the occasion by choosing one of the built-in options, such as ‘Relax’ or ‘Energize’, or create your own atmospheric lighting and name it yourself. 

And it’s not just productivity tools that make work from home more efficient, Philips Hue lights also have a ‘Concentrate’ setting that helps you stay focused when working from home. But there’s even more to this smart home idea: with the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box ($299.99), you can sync the lights with music, home theater, your PC, or other smart home devices, such as smart locks. 

Never Need a Key Again with Smart Locks

smart home ideas - August Smart Lock

Source: August

Price: Starting from $149.99

Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant

Those who keep misplacing their keys and forget to lock the door are going to love this particular smart home idea. Smart locks don’t require keys or your physical presence to work. You can lock and unlock the door even when you’re not there! 

The August Smart Lock Pro is one of many smart locks on the market. For example, you can set it up to automatically lock the doors after you close them and unlock them when it senses you coming. Additionally, you can give access to your house to other family members with virtual keys. Activity feed allows you to see who came and went at particular times. 

Keep Your Home Safe with Smart Security 

smart home ideas - Simplisafe

Source: SimpliSafe

Price: packages starting from $244.96

Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, August Smart Lock

Similar to smart locks, smart security systems make your home a safer place. One of the best on the market is SimpliSafe, which was recognized as “Best Home Security overall” by US News & World Report, and awarded by The Verge, Popular Mechanics, and many more. 

Easy to install, SimpliSafe comes with a base station, a wireless keypad, a motion detector, and an entry sensor. On top of that, you can purchase cameras, a smoke detector, a panic button, and other additional hardware.

Answer Your Door From Anywhere

smart home ideas - nest doorbell

Source: Google

Price: starting at $179.99

Compatibility: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Google Play, Apple 

No more guessing who’s at the front door! Nest Doorbell allows you to see everything going on at your front door with its 3:4 ratio that will enable you to see people head to toe and packages left on the ground. In addition, HDR helps with bright, high-contrast light at all times a day, and night vision gives you a clear picture of what is going on after dark. 

Beyond the basics, you can answer your door from anywhere in the world from your phone. Nest Doorbell also offers intelligent alerts sent right to your phone and is smart enough to determine what type of activity it has seen, such as a person, package delivered, or vehicle was seen. Nest doorbell can even detect familiar faces with its Nest Aware add-on! 

There’s More to Smart Speakers Than Listening to Music

smart home ideas - sonos smart speaker

Source: Sonos

Price: $219

Compatibility: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2

Smart speakers can do so much more than your regular Bluetooth speaker. You can use your streaming services, listen to the radio, and check the news with a simple voice command. But there are even more things smart speakers can do. For example, you can use them as the central hub through which you manage other smart home gadgets, such as lights and locks.

Smart speakers are among the most popular smart home appliances. Sonos One, can do all of the above things and customizes the sound based on the room. In addition, it can be controlled through supported apps, such as Spotify and TIDAL, AirPlay 2, the Sonos app, and by controls on the speaker itself.

Open Your Smart Garage Door Wherever You Are

smart home ideas - garage door opener

Source: myQ/Smart Garage Hub 

Price: $29.99

Compatibility: Amazon Key, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit

A smart garage door is pretty self-explanatory – it’s essentially a smart lock for your garage. With the help of smart garage doors, such as Smart Garage™ Control, you can check on your door wherever you are and even open and close the garage doors remotely. All you need is a smart device to manage the door from a distance. That’s right you’ll never circle the block again!

A smart garage door can also come in handy when you’re traveling and you need somebody to access your home to deliver packages, for example. You can give access to your smart garage door to up to five people.

Smart Cleaning Will Make You Forget About Vacuuming

smart home ideas - roomba smart vacuum

Source: iRobot

Price: $399.99

Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

Smart home ideas each have their own set of benefits, but smart cleaning appliances are considered the best by many happy customers. No wonder they’re among the most popular ones: they save you time and energy by vacuuming and even mopping all by themselves. 

iRobot Roomba i3+ is one such smart cleaning device. When you first bring it home, it maps your floor plan and therefore never misses a spot while vacuuming. You can even check that; digital mapping shows you exactly what route your Roomba took.

You can schedule your iRobot Roomba to clean while you’re not at home and check battery levels through an app. iRobot Roomba i3+ is among the most advanced smart cleaning devices. It comes with a self-emptying dust bin – that’s what sets it apart from iRobot Roomba i3.

Stay Warm & Cozy with a Smart Thermostat

smart home ideas - ecobee thermostat

Source: Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control

Price: $249.99

Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings

Do you wake up too hot or too cold or love all things eco-friendly? Then this smart home idea is the perfect one for you! Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control was awarded the “best overall Smart Thermostat” by CNET in 2021. Like most other smart home appliances, it can be controlled with voice commands and regulates temperature according to your schedule. 

Similar to smart speakers, smart thermostats have perks beyond their primary function. For example, you can set timers and alarms, notify your family members, and find out weather information. 

But the benefits of smart thermostats go beyond enhanced comfort. They also save you energy and therefore money. This smart gadget learns the comings and goings of your household and cools/heats your home when electricity is cheaper.

Our Favorite Smart Home Ideas for 2022

If you’re considering smartening up your home, start with some of these smart home ideas. Of course, the more devices you have, the more creative you can get. In addition, most appliances can work together, which means even more amazing home automation! 

IFTTT is a tool that connects various smart home devices so they work together. For example, you can have your smart lights blink once your iRobot Roomba is done vacuuming or turn on when your smart lock is activated. Your options are truly endless. Which are your favorite smart home ideas, and which ones would you sync up? Comment below and share!

Cable Vs. Streaming, What’s the Real Difference? 

What is the difference between Cable TV and streaming? Are you wondering which is the best for your needs? Then, you’re in the right place! While both services provide a platform to watch your favorite shows and movies, they’re built on different foundations. So let’s explore their history and how they work below. 

cable vs. streaming - how do they work

How do they work? 

Cable TV is a well-established form of television going back to the 1950s. Cable broadcasts networks onto the provider’s dedicated networks. Cable TV uses coaxial cables, or in some cases fiber optic cables to transmit your shows in the form of data. Because of its infrastructure, cable TV is often more reliable. 

On the other hand, streaming is a newer format for watching TV. There are no cables needed to access it. As long as you have WiFi, you can access streaming services from anywhere nationwide. Typically streaming services have a more affordable starting cost but offer fewer channels than your traditional cable packages. 

Now that you have a bit of history and a basic understanding of how they work let’s compare critical categories! 

cable vs. streaming - cost

Cable Vs. Streaming: Cost 

Cutting the cord started as a way to save money, but now you might be paying more for streaming services. Premium experiences and add-ons raise the price significantly. 

For example, Hulu starts at $6.99/month, but if you want to watch live TV, you’ll need Hulu +, which raises the price to $69.99/month. That’s a BIG difference, so be sure you understand which package you need. In addition, that is only having one streaming service, most American households have at least three streaming services, and with three, it’s likely you are paying more than you would with cable.

If you bundle your cable TV with your home internet and phone service, you may save more. Often, there will be a basic cable package and a more premium offering which will be more money. Understand which one you will need to determine if cable or streaming is your best choice if the price is a big concern. 

Cable Vs. Streaming: Channels

Cable has the most comprehensive channel list. More channels allow for greater choice in what you watch. This can be a huge benefit when you have a family who likes a variety of entertainment. The abundance of channels is partially due to how long cable TV has been around. In addition, strong relationships with networks allow the cable to provide more content.

On the other hand, streaming services will include many major networks but have a smaller range of channels overall. Typically to match the cable experience, you’ll need more than one service to make it happen, such as a streaming service for kids and another option for adults. Adding another service makes your price increase, and then you’ll have to determine if you’re truly saving anymore. 

Cable Vs. Streaming: Contracts 

Depending on your cable service provider, you may find yourself in a contract. Check with the provider before signing up to find out if you will be locked into a contract (at Race, we offer contractless cable). If you want to stick with the service for at least a year, you can often enter a contract to save money and take advantage of special offers. 

Streaming services offer month-to-month services. However, many streaming providers are now offering full-year contracts upfront for a discounted price. For example, Hulu offers up to 16% off if you sign up for yearly billing instead of month to month. 

cable vs streaming - quality

Cable Vs. Streaming: Quality 

Watching cable is a reliable experience since it’s a broadcast medium and uses coaxial or fiber cables to transport data. So unless there is a power outage, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a high-quality experience. 

On the other hand, streaming services depend heavily on the type of internet connection you have. You’ll need a fast connection like fiber internet. If you have a slow connection, you might experience lagging or freezing. Even with a strong internet connection, the quality is slightly lower, though most people wouldn’t notice. 

Cable Vs. Streaming: Experience 

You can watch most streaming services anywhere from your personal devices. All you need is an internet connection and the service app. Cable TV is catching up, and most providers are offering dedicated apps to stream your service on the go. 

Both services allow users to access content on-demand, pause shows, and more, so this category is really a tie! 

Conclusion Cable Vs. Streaming

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both cable and streaming services. This is not one size fits all. Below are some key takeaways. 

  •  If you like a lot of options or have a family with many interests, cable TV might be the right choice for you.
  • On the other hand, if you have an extremely tight budget and don’t mind significantly fewer channels, streaming might be your best bet! Use this as a guide to determine the right fit for you so you can watch your favorite shows and more! 
  • The Internet impacts your streaming experience. If you don’t have access to a solid high-speed connection, cable TV will be a better option.

Ready to make the jump to cable? Call Race today, contact our specialists at 877-722-3833, or submit an inquiry, and we will help you pick the right service for you. 

A Kids Guide to the Internet: How Parents Can Help Navigate the Digital World

Today’s kids are incredibly tech-savvy, they’ve grown up in a digital world. If you give your kid your phone or tablet, you’d be surprised how quickly they can navigate it. 

This digital world brings both enormous benefits and dangers. Kids have access to a wealth of information with a quick search and a couple of clicks. They can ask your smart assistant about the weather, gain access to their favorite games, and connect with their friends instantly. Unfortunately, it’s equally easy to get into trouble. There are many problems a kid can get into on the internet from sharing personal data, to connecting with strangers. And you need to ask yourself, do your kids know what to do if they find themselves in a dangerous or sticky situation? 

Being a parent is hard, parenting with the digital world is even harder. We know you want the best for your kids, so we’re providing information on keeping kids safe on the internet. With these tips, you’ll gain an understanding of the dangers and learn how to guide your child on internet best practices that will keep them safe.

Understand Why Internet Safety Matters

Before you can keep your kids safe, you need to understand what dangers are out there. Do your homework to understand the everyday dangers of the internet. There is much to tackle from creating strong passwords, data privacy, social networks, and gaming. To create a good foundation, you’ll need to understand better what you are protecting kids from. 

For example, one of the biggest dangers is cyberbullying, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is on the rise, and sadly, 65% of 8-14-year-olds have been involved in a cyberbullying instance. And this is just one of the many problems kids face online. So to help prevent dangers, you must understand what they are. Below are some of the most common risks: 

  • Cyberbullying 
  • Cyber predators 
  • Online Scams 
  • Posting personal information
  • Inappropriate content 

Teach Your Kids To Be Careful What they Share 

The next step to internet safety is to teach your kids about the dangers of the internet. You’ll need to share the research you’ve done above in an age-appropriate way. Start these conversations early. The early they understand this, the better off they will be when it comes to making choices that keep them safe. Ensure that your kids know not to share personal information such as where they live or photos of themselves. Explain that anything posted on the internet is public and not easy to take down. Let your kids know if they encounter problems or have questions to come to you so you can help. 

Age Appropriate Supervision 

Sit with your child as they play their favorite game or watch their favorite videos on kids streaming services. It’s essential to do this when your kids are young. You’ll be able to provide hands-on help and set a good example for how to remain safe while navigating the world wide web. Additionally, you’ll be able to keep a close eye on what type of content they are consuming and activities they are involved in. 

Once your kids are older, they aren’t going to be so welcoming to this concept. Sitting with them as they browse social or engage in conversations will feel like an invasion of privacy. At this point, periodically checking in on browsing history or using parental control apps (more on this later) will be a vital tool to keep your kids safe. 

Familiarize Yourself with Apps and Social Channels 

Do you know what apps and social channels your kids are interacting with? If not, it’s time to find out. As a general rule of thumb, it’s wise to keep up with what current social platforms are out there. 

Unfortunately, there are predators and cyber-bullies on most platforms. However, the better you understand how a platform works, the more you can prevent these interactions. For example, teach your kid how to set their profiles to private, ensure that personal information is not displayed, and create usernames that don’t reveal any confidential information like gender, age, or last names. 

Track Time Online 

Too much screen time is not good for your child’s physical and mental health. So limit your kid’s screentime. But, how much is too much?  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than one or two hours a day. For kids under two, they recommend avoiding screentime altogether when possible. 

To help monitor screentime usage. Set screentime limits on some devices such as Apple’s Screen Time allows you to set boundaries and access real-time reports of how much time your child (or yourself) spends on your iPhone or iPad. 

Source: Calix

Parental Controls Apps

A parental control app will help you with some of the ways to keep kids safe above and so much more. For example, CommandIQ is our app at Race Communications, which allows our customers to manage and control every aspect of their connected home experience. The mobile app will enable parents to gain advanced control of their online experience, including setting online time limits, blocking or the time access to specific content, applications, and websites, and viewing detailed device usage information. 

Create A Safe Place for Conversations

The internet is a tricky place. Even though you are putting in many preventative measures, your kids are human. They’re learning the world, and they might make mistakes along the way. Make sure they are not afraid to come to you if those mistakes happen or find themselves in trouble. To foster this environment, talk to your child regularly about what they’re doing online. If you hear of anything in your discussions that you think are not best practices, talk through it with your kid and reiterate best practices. Explain what was wrong and how to improve usage in the future. The most important thing you can do during these conversations is approach them with empathy. You don’t want your kid to be afraid to come to you should they be in trouble! 

Conclusion

Keeping kids safe on the internet can be a daunting task. But it’s critical as a parent or caretaker that you take these steps to protect your child’s safety and well-being. Every small improvement will help you reach the larger goal of keeping your kid safe! Below are a few actionable takeaways to help you get started. 

  • Take the time to understand the dangers of the internet so you can make a plan to keep your kids safe. Without this knowledge, you’ll only be guessing.
  • Teach your kids not to share any personal information. 
  • Keep open lines of communication with your child. Let them know it’s safe to come to you about anything! 
  • You don’t have to do this alone! Use parental control apps to help you monitor activities, limit screentime, and block certain websites or apps.