Beyond Tomorrow, The Future of Housing

Forget about flying cars, self tying shoelaces and hover boards, we know what the real future will look like and it’s ….. kind of already here?
Experts are predicting that in the next five years most of our homes will be completely run by smart technology, building on the success that products like the Amazon Echo have already had. Home automation systems will start doing more of the work for us, predicting what we need before we need it, essentially. So, at the moment we can build a routine by integrating a few tasks together, using one phase, such as ‘good morning’, to turn on the lights and play music. This is going to become even smoother in a few years, apparently, with our home devices getting used to our routine and being able to do things without us asking, like figuring out who’s home based on facial recognition and automatically beginning a routine for that particular person, like turning on the coffee machine and adjusting the heating. All without us saying a word. A.I will also be able to act as a personal assistant, adding information from emails or texts straight into our calendar and predicting, based on our habits, whether we’d like to hear about the traffic or the news before we leave the house. The interesting thing is, a lot of these actions we can do already with our home automation systems, like building a routine or asking about weather. The difference is in the prediction that our home automation systems will make it so easy for us by doing many of our daily requests automatically, fitting seamlessly into our lives. Experts have spoken of ‘Lifestyle benefits’ from these improvements, and it certainly seems like the future of home automation is going to take a lot of stress from our lives. I don’t know about you, but this seems more realistic (and helpful!) than a flying car.

Google Assist expanded routines

‘Google, I’m home.’ Only, our home’s in the wrong place.
Google have rolled out 6 routines, which users of Google Home to modify to their needs. The catch is it’s not actually available in Australia yet. It’s not just us that have update envy for once, in fact the new routines are only available in the U.S at the moment, leaving anyone who’s home is in a different place out of the updates. Since the announcement from Google at the end of last year that they’d be rolling out routines, we’ve been pretty excited. A set of pre-programmed actions that are activated by just a phrase? Sign us up! The six routines available include, Good Morning, I’m Home, or Bedtime, in which you can program your lights to turn off, turn your phone on silent and manage your thermostat if you so choose to. Google’s official line is that other countries can use ‘My Day’ in the time being, hearing our calendar, news briefing and weather report. For us poor Aussies, this feels a bit lacklustre, especially considering we can use routines on the rival Amazon Echo already. So, what’s the holdup, Google? Let’s hope they bring routines to our home automation down under soon!

NBN Co CEO resigns

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NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow has announced that come the end of 2018, he will be stepping down in his role, 2 years before the project is currently due to be completed. This latest high profile resignation follows chief corporate affairs officer Karina Keisler’s announcement that she’ll be leaving in the summer. Despite high praise for Malcom Turnbull, who said Morrow ‘turned the project around’, whilst the PM used the opportunity to take a dig at his political rivals, Morris leaves in a period of continuous turmoil for the company. Many customers have been disappointed at the speeds of their NBN, as they were much slower than advertised by partners like Telstra and Optus, the former of which already offered compensation to their customers at the end of last year. More recently the company have delayed the HFC cable rollout due to connection issues on the network, claiming to be focusing on a better quality for the customer, but it’s little consolation to see the new timetable delayed by months. Morrow himself has stated that customers are being left behind in the rollout and despite a positive outlook from the government, a 3rd CEO change in 4 years, coupled with ever altering plans from NBNCo, only adds to the lack of confidence from Australian consumers.

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Home Automation Set To Add Value To Real Estate

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When choosing to buy and install smart, automated systems into our houses we usually have a reason: it’s going to make our lives easier or our home more secure. Our lives more liveable. But, can they also be treated as an investment into our homes? More importantly, is it a GOOD investment?

Apparently, yes. Having smart home devices in your house when it’s on the market can count for a whole lot more than having the magic colour ‘magnolia’ on your walls (thank god, one of those is definitely more interesting!) A lot of buyers are now, according to the smart home survey, seeking homes with security-based home automation built in, such as a smart doorbell or smart door sensors. A high percentage of people also rate energy efficiency high on the must-have list when looking to buy a home, so installing a smart thermostat, with the ability to have more control over your bills and the amount of energy you use, would be a win for many potential buyers.

It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise though, that the most sought-after automation aren’t widely expensive or high-tech. Instead, buyers are wanting the ‘modern basics’, the things we’ve been looking at when buying a home for decades. We primarily want security, energy efficiency, safety (such as Nest’s smoke and CO detector) and investing in these, of course (as we’ve always known), should be a good investment in your home.

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Voice Assist Is Not ONLY For The Tech Savy

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Smartphone and smart homes: is it inevitable that the older generation gets left behind in the new age of technology? Actually, no. New A.I initiatives are marketing themselves towards the needs of elderly people and increasing numbers are installing home help and home automated systems to help them live a more independent life. At its simplest, you can use A.I such as Lifepod as a ‘virtual caregiver’. It’ll remind your loved one to take their medicine, remember appointments, as well as acting as an emergency response system (more sophisticated than the old emergency button-necklace device). We all know the worries of living away from a potentially vulnerable relative, and so apparently do the makers of A.I, as you can now use Alarm.com’s Wellness system to check on movement patterns, eating habits and even check if they’ve locked the door! Perhaps the most important use of these home automation for elderly people is something we often forget: a cure for loneliness. A vast portion of Australia’s elderly population suffers from loneliness, especially those living alone. Amazon Alexa can connect you by phone to a loved one in an instant, or even serve as someone to talk to herself. As a viable, cheaper, alternative to a hired nurse or nursing home, this might just be a technological advancement to excite and help those outside the ‘tech generation’.

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Alice Towndrow
Article Author

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Alexa will now allow follow up commands

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In the ever-growing tech ‘arms race’, Amazon are committed to making our lives easier, as well as our jaws less sore. Instead of constantly saying ‘Alexa…Alexa…Alexa…’ (or whatever your start up command is), Amazon have released a new update allowing follow up questions to be asked, meaning Alexa will stay awake for an extra five seconds listening out for another question, without the need for you to say her name (don’t wear it out?) again and again.

For the moment, the questions need to be separate, you can’t combine them, but it will make for a more natural conversation with Alexa, as she will also try and pick out whether you’re talking to her or to someone else, or even if it’s the TV that she can hear. If for some reason you don’t have any more questions or need anything else, a simple ‘thank you’ will send her back off to sleep, which is pretty natural and something probably 90% of us say to our devices anyway (got to be polite)! Of course, it’s definitely in the new stage at the moment, only available in English and can only be used when music is off, but it’s good to know that Amazon understands the little annoyances with these devices and that they’re working towards a more natural interaction with our smart gadgets.

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Alice Towndrow
Article Author

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Home HQ- An Aussie Smart Home Kit

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Alice Towndrow
Article Author

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A Watered down smart home from Origin Energy.

Origin have just announced plans for a ‘budget’ smart home kit, but is it really all that? At just $199 and including a smart bulb, plugs and motion sensors, it does seem like the perfect, economical, way to get into the smart home game. Yet, despite novel ways to save energy and keep your home secure, like checking the lights are off or receiving an alert if the door is opened, it comes across as a slightly underwhelming version of a smart kit.

When you take into consideration the ‘smarter’ older siblings in this scenario, Google Home, Amazon Echo or Nest, the market leaders are more versatile and simply better value for money, in that the family home will be ever evolving with the technology. Choosing one of the brand leaders for your smart home will also ensure compatibility with more partners, giving you more choice over what you buy and how much you pay. The Origin kit, on the other hand, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing in terms of smart technology. A smart home should be customisable to the family’s needs and wants and offer a wealth of choice when it comes to expanding on the household’s smart products. Origin Energy’s starter kit, as yet, doesn’t offer this.

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How to make your Australian Amazon Alexa work with all alexa skills

As mentioned in the last article, many Aussie Alexa Users were frustrated when the AUS Alexa App and Software rolled out, claiming there were not enough skills or that their previous settings and smart home devices are no longer compatible. Well, FEAR NO MORE!

After speaking to a member of the Alexa team last week, I was given this VERY simple how-to guide. By following the steps below, you can successfully make your Amazon Echo Device compatible with your favourite brands and back to the USA software and app. With the added bonus of it recognising you are in Australia and not having to jump through a million hoops just to get the app on your phone.

This guide will work for all Australian marketplace compatible Alexa devices (such as any Alexa device sold on Amazon.com.au)Australian Skills and the Australian English language setting are NOT SUPPORTED on:

  •     Amazon Echo (1st Generation – bought before 2017)
  •     Echo Dot (1st Generation- bought before 2017)
  •     Echo Show
  •     Echo Spot
  •     Amazon Tap
IMPORTANT!!! *If you migrate an Alexa device to Australian from another country, you won't have access to digital content purchased from unsupported services, such as Amazon Music*

This guide will work whether or not your device is already active and registered, brand new, bought in Australia with Australian software, or bought previously from the American (or other countries) marketplace unactivated or activated.  if you had previously had a working American Amazon Alexa device and it lost all your setting and smart home features when the Australian software rolled out, this can get back your old account and settings and will let you pick u with your home automation and Alexa skills where you left them.

FOR PREVIOUSLY ACTIVATED DEVICES

To Complete the next steps you MUST have an Australian Amazon Account AND American Amazon account. The Echo device you wish to change should be already on your Australian account. ( this also works to move other countries Alexa to Australia,  just in reverse)

  1. Log into the Amazon marketplace your device is registered to and hover over my account menu, in the drop-down select 'Manage Your Content and Devices' link
  2. Go to the My Devices tab in the Manage Your Content and Devices, and find the device you wish to change and choose to deregister your device.
  3. then you just simply register the device again using the Alexa app, logging out of the olde account and back into the desired countries marketplace account, and then select your country's default language.

FOR NEW DEVICES

Now, this is REALLY easy part…. just change your country settings to your local Amazon website to get access to content and features on your Echo device.

You can change your country settings by visiting Manage Your Content and Devices and following these steps: To migrate your account to Amazon.com (or any other desired country including back to australia when the skils are availble), please follow the steps mentioned below.

  1. Visit the Manage Your Content and Devices page on Amazon.com.au (http://www.amazon.com.au/mycd)
  2. Select the Settings tab.
  3. Under the Country Settings heading you will see text stating

“You are currently linked to shopping on Amazon.com.au. Click here to learn more about other Amazon sites you are eligible to shop on based on your country of residence.”

  1. Select the link to see the available options.
  2. Click the “Learn about transferring your Kindle account to Amazon.com” link.
  3. If you're happy to return to Amazon.com, select the “Transfer your Kindle account to Amazon.com” button and follow the on-screen instructions.

You can migrate back to Amazon.com.au whenever you wish just repeat this process to the Australian website.

If you get stuck or are confused, or unsure of anything above, you can ask questions in the comments below, contact us via web-form, or on Facebook.   Alternatively, you can contact the Amazon support team.

Enjoy getting your 'Smart Home & Automation Skills' back.

Dissappointed in Australian Echo Devices?

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Amazon's launch in Australia had a few Road bumps along the way, With false starts eventually making an Underwhelming catalogue. But the online retail giant did promise. Bring its own smart AI assistant. To Aussie Shores. In early 2018. That promise has been kept. With the echo range. Available in stores and online and with comes Australia's own true blue Alexa. While the echo range was the same physically as the American line, it was the ai assistant software that makes the unit unique to the Australian culture.

The Australian Amazon Alexa app launched in the past week, and the Amazon Alexa software was a major letdown for many, first off and not a huge issue is that Alexa has lost her bubbly sing-song voice, and now speaks in a thicker “more Aussie” accent. Which frankly sounds like an insult to many Australians, unless you sound like an 'ocker' computer. Alexa's Australian voice doesn't sound quite as natural as Google's, especially on the tiny Echo Dot which falls significantly short of the Google Home Mini when it comes to sound quality.

The biggest problem that many early users have though is the LACK OF SUPPORT, AND COMPATIBILITY Australia has received for Alexa. While it does feature a long list of Australian companies and websites that Alexa can connect to, which is excellent for weather recipes or news, the list of compatible devices skills … TINY!

For the company that single handly fueled the smart assistant and voice-controlled market in the states, and with significant competition from Google beating them to market on our shores, the smart devices companies that many consumers around the world turn to are nowhere to be seen.

It has not been announced why Amazon was unable to get more well-known companies to be ready launch day, but an unofficial source within Amazon told About Automation that they plan to release those skills at a later stage. “With more skills to be built on and release, and to expect an update to the skills list in the coming weeks”. To understand where I am coming from with this, let me list you all the “smart Home” Skills Alexa Aus can currently use.

Philips Hue

Harmony

Telstra Smart Home

LIFX

Koogeek smark Home (not work with p2)

Neo smart Blinde controller

YD Home2

Vertilux Shades (VTi Celtic Motors)

MyArticSpa

Feit_electric

eHomeLife

HomeMate New

mydlink Smart

Lanbon Smart Living

Meross

SSG Smart Home

Yeelight

Node-RED

B One VoiceAct

Harmony

mydlink Home

TP-LINK Kasa

Yonomi

AND THAT'S IT!!!!!!

Brands we want and need are ones like Samsung SmartThings, Wemo, Nest, Osram, eWeLink. I could go on, but I won't bore you. Personally, I find this a significant let down however you can not wholly blame Amazon for this, but with reliable companies like Amazon and Samsung, you do expect a bit more readiness for a major product launch.

There is also small let downs when you compare Alexa to the well established U.S AI Software. For instance, the Australian software can keep a shopping list, but they can't purchase directly from Amazon (yet). Nor can they control Amazon's Fire Stick for streaming, This combined with the lack of skill to recognise different users by voice. The average consumer would seem to think that Amazon is still treating Australia as a second-rate country,  which does appear to be the leading reason why we are not on par with the US or even the UK technology market. Large companies just seem to think we don't want or need it. With companies like Google, we ahead of this curve, however still fail to provide the services they do to other countries, but beating Amazon to market for home assistant hardware has already given Google a big head start. 

Now on to what the Alexa Australian Software CAN do…

for music streaming, you have a choice of iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify and the newly released Amazon Music Unlimited. The echo dot, in particular, doesnt have a powerful sound like the Google home devices. However, All the Echo speakers have an impressive trick up their sleeve: the ability to connect to an external speaker via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm audio cable.

Like Google, you can create routines such as “Alexa, good morning” or “Alexa, I'm home” to trigger a string of smart home commands. This will prove to be a favourite set up for many smart homes.

If all this bad talk from many reviews and news outlets is dragging you down, or you already have an Alexa device and are sick of asking what the weather is like? Or to tell you a joke. There is hope yet.

The good news is as mentioned before amazon echo devices are identical to the units sold in America. It's just the software that changes its compatibility. The way it tells what country you are is far more straightforward than it seems, for now, if you which to continue to use American Alexa software you can follow this guide to switch countries software.

So your smart home can continue to function until the skills are more readily available in australia.

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AMAZON AUSTRALIA SOFTWARE DROPPED EARLY!

IN BREAKING NEWS – a fluke discovery for any Australian users of Amazon Alexa.
If you have shipped an Amazon Echo device from the UK or USA, and have had to do some tricky set up to get it to work, chances are on the 24th of Jan, it stopped working.
Things like not recognising your account, even dropped off basic set up features like switching accounts and answering set up questions. It appeared to have been in factory restored mode, forgetting all of your settings and account.
Well, there’s a reason for that!
As of tonight, Amazon has pushed the Australian Software for Amazon Alexa. (whether or not it was testing or intending this change, remains to be confirmed)
Upon further inspection (and a lot of back and forth trying to figure out why our lights weren’t talking to echo), we discovered that the Amazon app (not available in Australian app stores YET), gave us a preview of what is to come.
Below is a list of all new Australian and New Zealand skills ready to go come on launch day, set to be the 1st of Feb (in 6 days’ time).

Lastly, a massive feat for Austereo. Not only having Hit105 and sister stations all with skills but also Triple M Radio Stations, in particular, have been very busy working on TWO skills per major station. One for news, and one dedicated to sports news. This is a great skill to have for your morning briefing.

  • Triple M news for Sydney
  • Triple M news for Brisbane
  • Triple M news for Melbourne
  • Triple M news for Adelaide
  • Triple M sport for Sydney
  • Triple M sport for Brisbane
  • Triple M sport for Melbourne
  • Triple M sport for Adelaide

We are sure that there are many still to come, these are all the confirmed skills. There are many NON-BRANDED skills like games, facts and jokes ready to go as well.