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Coldwell Banker and CNET Set Definition for “Smart Home”

Smart Home Control System

As more Americans integrate smart-home technology into their lives, it brings up a valid question: When it comes to buying or selling a house, what determines whether a home is truly smart, or if it has just learned some cool tricks?

Coldwell Banker Real Estate and CNET recently joined forces to create a working definition for the term “smart home.” The idea was to outline a consistent and clear set of criteria to help eliminate confusion for real estate agents, as well as buyers and sellers.

Lindsey Turrentine, editor-in-chief of CNET.com, said the project is a major step toward quantifying a concept that even the most savvy technology followers have a hard time agreeing on. Smart-home technology is still fragmented, she said, and taking a stab at an “official” definition is a step in the right direction.

“Eighty-seven percent of Americans acknowledge the value of smart-home technology,” Turrentine said. “We want to make it easy for everyone to better understand what a smart home is in order to simplify the process in helping them choose the right devices for their homes.”

The detailed information is on Coldwell Banker’s website, but here’s a quick overview:

  • A smart home should have an internet connection along with network-connected products (via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, Zigbee or other protocols) that control various home functions either remotely (by a phone, tablet or computer) or by a separate system within the home.
  • The property must have either a smart security feature that either controls or monitors the property; or a smart temperature control function.
  • It also must include at least two additional features from a specific list of smart options such as security, lighting, sensors, appliances, entertainment, or safety detectors.

It isn’t the first time Coldwell Banker and CNET have teamed up on the topic of the smart home. In 2015, they joined forces for a survey of approximately 4,000 adults and found:

  • More than 1 in 4 adults (28 percent) have a smart-home product in their home.
  • Among so-called “Millennials,” ages 18-34, almost half had a smart-home product.
  • More than three-quarters (76 percent) of adopters controlled one or more smart-home products with a mobile device.
  • More than half (57 percent) estimated that smart-home technology saves them an average of 30 minutes each day, while 45 percent said that smart-home technology saves them about $98 a month.

That definition seems to be a solid foundation, although it’s likely to continue evolving as features like voice control or geo-fencing become more mainstream. At Monitronics, we have steadily grown our smart-home capabilities to match any of our competitors. Our network of more than 600 authorized dealers can offer security systems, locks, lights, thermostats, sensors and other devices that will make your home smart by anyone’s definition.

Lawn Care 101 – Plants and Shrubs Can Help Protect Your Home

It’s easy to take landscaping for granted as just another way to make your home look great. But there are a number of ways to thoughtfully use natural vegetation to your advantage, particularly when it comes to energy conservation and home security.

Lawn Care 101 - Infographic

Take Simple Steps to Protect Yourself Online

online

Doing any kind of business online can put you at risk, especially since Internet-related crimes and hacking are now more common than ever. Consumers owe it to themselves and their families to be extra diligent in order to minimize the risks of being victimized.

According to 2015 statistics, there are now more than 3.17 billion internet users worldwide. If just one-half of 1 percent of those users goes online with criminal intent, that will work out to as many as 15 million people just looking for victims.

Consumers need to be just as diligent about protecting themselves online as they are about preventing burglary, property crimes, and the like. In fact, anyone with a home security system or home automation that depends on a wireless network also needs to engage in safe practices to avoid being compromised. Home security and home automation systems from Monitronics authorized dealers are designed to be secure, but you can take positive steps to help keep them that way.

Guard Personal Information

We hear warnings all the time, yet the importance of guarding personal information is still lost on far too many people.

  • Never transmit information online unless you are positive you are working with a reputable merchant with adequate security policies. That means credit card numbers, social security numbers or any other personal information.
  • Never share your passwords with anyone, even your best friends or family members. This especially applies to your network and any smartphone apps you use for your home.
  • Be sure to change all of your passwords on a regular basis, and use a combination of capital and small characters, numbers, and punctuation marks. The more complicated the password, the more difficult it is to hack.
  • Should you receive unsolicited e-mails from any company, even if you trust that company, take a minute to hover your cursor over all of the links in that e-mail to see where they lead. This is a good way to tell if an unsolicited e-mail is a scam. Also be aware of “phishing scams” that try to convince you to provide sensitive information online.
  • When it comes to doing business with websites or answering emails that you’re unsure about, the simple rule is: If you’re in doubt, don’t.

Keep an Eye on Your Monthly Bill

Credit card hackers love people who simply leave their monthly bank or credit card statement unopened on the desk or countertop each month. It takes time to go through it, and it’s easy to put it off. But just a cursory glance at your statement can show you potential trouble spots. If there’s a charge that you’re not sure about, it means you may have been hacked. Often, hackers will try a small charge with a well-known company – just to see if you’re paying attention – before trying a big transaction.

Only Use Secured Websites

Any websites that require you to enter personal information should be encrypted and secure. Look at the web address in your browser. If the address begins with “https,” the site is secure and encrypted. If it starts with “http,” the site is not secure.

Use Social Media Wisely

When you use social media to tell the world you are on vacation, or you have just checked in at a café downtown, you’re also telling criminals that you are not home. It’s tempting to think that your social media “friends” would never take advantage of the situation, but it’s more common than you think. You’re also susceptible if your social media account (or one of your friends) is hacked. The less information you make publicly available, the more secure you will be.

Take Advantage of Credit Monitoring

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to provide you with a free credit report at your request once every 12 months. There are other sources of credit reporting as well, including banks, credit card companies, and other providers, though they may include hidden charges or upsell opportunities. Consider enrolling in an ongoing credit monitoring service, which keeps track of your accounts and warns you if someone is trying to use your information fraudulently.

Don’t take your online security for granted. Being careful and diligent will help to keep you one step ahead of the hackers.

Sources:

1. Satista – http://www.statista.com/statistics/273018/number-of-internet-users-worldwide/

5 Pieces of Helpful Advice for First-Time Moms

Mother_Child_7-22

Being a first-time mom is an incredible experience. There’s nothing quite like caring for and nurturing a newborn, but being a first-time mother brings a wide variety of stresses and challenges.

We offer smart-home solutions that can make life easier for all moms, whether their kids are newborn or college-bound. But there are a ton of online resources where you can find the most common tips for first-time moms. Here are five things that first-time moms can keep in mind that will make it a little easier, especially in the early days.

Good is Good Enough; Perfect is Impossible

First-time moms have a tendency to want to make sure they are doing everything perfectly. And when they don’t reach whatever model of perfection they have created in their minds, discouragement may start to creep in. Just remember that being a first-time mother is a learning process, requiring on-the-job training. There’s no “owner’s manual.”

Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to be a “great” mom. Just being “good” is a noble goal. Any lack of perfection won’t condemn your child to a life of misery – even though you may feel like it some days. Just try to relax and embrace the learning process.

Your Baby is Unique

From the moment a baby is born, it’s tempting to start comparing him or her to others. For example, an obstetrician will chart the length and weight, assigning a percentile to let parents know how their baby compares to others. That comparison continues in the months following with well-child visits, and even more comparisons are applied once your child is old enough to start school.

How your baby measures up to so-called “standards” downplays the fact that each newborn is unique. Don’t put so much importance on comparisons. Understand what makes your baby special, and spend your time figuring out their specific needs rather than comparing them to others. Treat your baby as an individual and he or she is likely to grow up acting like one.

You Don’t Have to Buy Everything

First-time moms get lots of advice about what they should buy for their babies. Guess what? You don’t need most of it. Raising a baby is more about what you do than the tools you use to do it. Spending a lot of money buying what everyone else says you need doesn’t necessarily make you a better parent, but it definitely will make you a parent with less money.

Give Yourself Some Help

It’s a stressful time, so take advantage of help from family and friends. They can give you time to yourself so you can recharge your batteries; they can bring pre-cooked meals that will take the burden off you to be both mommy and head cook; or they can just keep you company when you need some adult conversation. But remember when to say no: If help isn’t wanted, or you don’t want company, don’t be afraid to speak up.

When you’re counting your best friends, include your smartphone. Smart-home technology lets you take advantage of video to keep an eye on your infant in the nursery while you’re in another room. A video doorbell lets you see who’s at the door when you’re taking care of business on the other side of the house. And if it’s somebody you’d prefer to avoid, so much the better. Whatever the case, let your smartphone be an extra set of eyes.

Enjoy This Time

You’ve probably heard this one a million times: Enjoy the precious time you have with your child, not just as a newborn but at every stage of development. The time goes more quickly than you can imagine, and you don’t want to be looking back later regretting that you got so wrapped up in the day-to-day routine that you didn’t enjoy the time with your baby.

A Smart Garage Door Opener Makes Your Life Easier

garage-door

The automatic garage door opener is probably one of the least appreciated – and least complicated – devices in your home. Press a button and the door opens; press it again and the door closes. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Smart-home technology extends the capabilities of the latest garage door openers without making them more complicated. At Monitronics, we’re finding that homeowners are getting excited about the notion of not even having to press a button, or of being able to control it with a smartphone. Smart-home technology makes it possible, and our network of authorized dealers offers trained professionals who are the experts.

Here are some things to think about if you’ve ever considered upgrading a tired old model that sounds like a tractor to a new one that’s quiet, dependable and downright smart thanks to home automation.

Don’t Wait for it to Break

You may be in the market for a new one sooner than you think. The average garage door opener opens and shuts 1,500 times a year, but the mechanism is typically built to withstand 10,000 cycles. Do the math and an automatic garage door opener is grinding its life away after 10 years or so, especially when homeowners have been lax about maintenance. And when the mechanism breaks, it’s not unusual for other parts to be damaged.

Pick the Right Unit

Do some homework about the differences between motors that use chains, screw-drives or belts to open your garage door. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages, and choose the unit that’s right for you. Since you’re going to be using it for at least the next 10 years, pick one that can take advantage of smart home technology to give you a greater level of control.

DIY Sounds Like a Good Idea, But…

First, be sure to set aside a few hours out of your busy weekend. Now grab a drill, a level, a screwdriver, a couple of wrenches, a hammer and a tape measure. Climb up a six-foot ladder and hold the motor over your head while trying to attach it to a load bearing beam in your garage.

Then again, you could find someone who makes a living selling and installing the latest garage door openers. Sit back, relax, and let the pros take over. In the end, you’ll find that any installation charge greatly outweighs the hassle of doing it yourself.

Check the Door from Almost Anywhere

It’s not uncommon to become distracted and drive away from the house without closing the garage door. That’s where smart-home technology takes center stage. It’s no fun turning around and doing a drive-by, so use your smartphone to check its status from almost anywhere. It’s also a great way to remotely open the door so your neighbor can borrow the lawnmower (though getting him to return the mower is up to you).

Open the Door Before You Get There

Make the most of smart-home technology by adding geo-fencing technology that automatically closes the door as you drive away from home, or opens it as you drive up the street toward your home. GPS technology makes it happen by letting your smartphone communicate with your home.

It gets better: Geo-fencing can automatically turn on your lights, adjust your thermostat or control other household functions. That’s what we mean when we call it a “smart” home.

There’s no doubt that a garage door opener is one of the most useful (though underappreciated) devices in your home. Now it’s time to think about a garage door opener that’s smart enough to make your life easier.

Sources:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/how-to/a6041/garage-door-opener-how-it-works/

http://www.howtogeek.com/221077/htg-explains-what-geofencing-is-and-why-you-should-be-using-it/