Google Smart Speakers Take the Number One Spot in the Smart Speaker Market
The smart speaker market landscape is changing – Google has overtaken Amazon, the once dominate force in the smart speaker market, with its Google Home.
According to the market analyst firm Canalys, in the first quarter of 2018, 9 million smart speakers were shipped to different parts of the world. Google took the top spot for the first time shipping 3.2 million units of the Google Home and Home Mini devices, while Amazon only shipped 2.5 million Echo devices.
By 2020, the leading research company Gartnerprojected that a total of $2.1 billion smart speakers will be sold worldwide, up from $360 million in 2015. Gartner also projected that 25% of households worldwide will have 2 or more smart speakers by 2020.
“The value of the device is derived from the ease of use and the natural, intuitive interaction model,” Gartner said. “If this value is recognized by all household members, it will drive the desire to have terminal access throughout the entire house, not just in one room.”
Google Home comes in 3 sizes: Google Home (original and regular size), Google Home Mini (smallest version) and Google Home Max (the biggest version).
Here are the top 4 reasons why people see more value in the Google Home compared to other smart speakers:
1. Smart Assistant
At the heart of every Google smart speaker is Google Assistant – an intelligent assistant developed by Google. In total, Google Assistant is capable of helping you with more than 1 million actions.
With Google Home, you can ask Google Assistant to help you with any of these actions hands-free. There’s no need to stop what you’re doing and type your query into Google Assistant; you only have to say this introductory phrase: “Hey Google” or “Ok, Google” to activate Google Assistant.
Just like you would Google anything that you want to know, you can also ask Google Assistant anything – weather, calculations, translations and much more. All you need to say is “Hey Google, how many cups are in a liter?” or “Hey Google, how do you say ‘awesome’ in French?” and Google Assistant will provide a response.
You can set up Google Assistant to give you a daily brief to start off your day, letting you know about the weather, news, traffic, daily reminders, appointments for the day and even your flight status.
With your permission, Google Assistant can help you manage your tasks such as adding items to your shopping list, setting alarms and making hands-free calls.
Most importantly, Google Assistant allows you to turn your home into a smart home. To date, Google Assistant works with more than 5,000 connected home devices.
If your TV has a built-in Chromecast or you’ve purchased a Chromecast – a device that allows for screen casting – you can connect it with Google Home and turn your room into a smart entertainment center.
With your Chromecast enabled TV, Google Assistant and Google Home, you can watch your favorite shows. For instance, you say “Hey Google, play Stranger Things from Netflix on my TV.”
Aside from turning your home into a smart entertainment center, you can also say, “Hey Google:
Turn on the lights
Set the temperature to X degrees
Dim the lights
Stream security camera (using Google Home and Chromecast or a TV with Chromecast built-in)
Google Assistant has also dramatically improved its language understanding, so you can speak to it naturally and it will know what you mean. For instance, Google Assistant understands more complex questions like “Hey Google, what’s the weather like in Montreal and Calgary?”
According to Google, it will soon roll out an update to Google Home that eliminates the need to utter the words “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” for each follow-up questions or orders.
“Soon you’ll be able to have a natural back-and-forth conversation without repeating ‘Hey Google’ for each follow-up request,” Googlesaid in a blog post. “The Assistant will be able to understand when you’re talking to it versus someone else and will respond accordingly. This feature has been one of our top requests and you’ll be able to turn on Continued Conversation in the coming weeks.”
2. Far-field Voice Recognition
People are choosing Google Home over other smart speakers due to its far-field voice recognition feature. To enable accurate far-field voice recognition, Google Home was designed with 2 microphones.
Google Home can recognize voices and minimize error rates even from across the room as its microphone system uses “neural beam forming”. Neural beam forming is a system that simulated hundreds of thousands of noisy environments and applied machine learning to recognize patterns, allowing the microphone system to filter and separate human voice from noise.
3. Multi-Room Capability
People are turning to Google Home due to its multi-room capability. If you put one Google Home in every room of your house, you can set-up your Google Home devices to synchronize music throughout the home or broadcast your voice across devices. For instance, you can say, “Hey Google, broadcast its dinner time!” and your message will be broadcasted to all Google Home devices in your home.
4. Hi-Fi Speaker
People are choosing Google Home over other smart speakers in the market today due to its hi-fi speaker. It has an integrated high-excursion speaker that delivers crystal-clear highs and rich bass.
So, if you’re looking for a smart speaker that’s intelligent enough, is capable of far-field voice recognition, has multi-room capability and has hi-fi speaker, then Google Home is the right smart speaker for your home. Connect with ustoday and learn how to make you your home more smart and comfortable.
9 Things to Look for in an Outdoor Security Camera
If the security of your home is important to you, then an outdoor security camera is for you.
What is an Outdoor Security Camera?
An outdoor security camera is a camera that’s installed outside of your home in order to protect it from unauthorized persons.
Not all outdoor security cameras are created equal. If you’re planning on buying an outdoor security camera, look for the following features in order to provide optimum security for your home and your family:
1. HD Image Quality
When choosing an outdoor security camera, select one with high definition. A security camera is judged mainly by the quality of the footage that it produces. Watch out for security cameras that claim they have high definition quality, when in fact their lenses and sensors produce lower image quality.
A true high definition camera gives you 1080p HD image quality. Image quality is especially important in worst case scenarios, for instance, when a burglar tries to enter your home. If you want to report this incident to the police, they’ll ask for a copy of your security camera footage. Nest outdoor cameras have taken footage of package thieves and break-in culprits. Criminals have been identified and arrested via the Nest outdoor camera footage.
Footage that is not of HD quality and is too grainy is useless for authorities as perpetrators can’t be identified.
The Nest outdoor camera provides true HD image quality with its all-glass lens. You can zoom in up to 8 times in order to see every detail.
2. Night Vision
When choosing an outdoor security camera, select one with night vision. Many criminals operate during nighttime thinking that darkness will conceal their identity.
The Nest outdoor camera has night vision. This security camera, with its high definition and all-glass lens, produces clear footage regardless of whether it’s day or night.
3. Wide Angle
When choosing an outdoor security camera, choose one with a wide angle view.
The Nest outdoor camera has a wide angle, providing you with a 130° view of your home.
4. Weather Resistant
When choosing an outdoor security camera, choose one that’s weather resistant. A non-weather resistant camera is useless outside as it has to battle nature’s elements: rain and snow.
The Nest outdoor camera watches your home rain or shine.
5. 24/7 Recording
When choosing an outdoor security camera, select one that records everything, 24/7.
When you subscribe to Nest Aware, your Nest outdoor camera records everything 24/7 and you can easily review everything that the camera has recorded.
This camera has continuous power as it can be plugged into an outdoor or indoor outlet. Compared to battery-operated cameras, those that derive power from outlets are better, as battery-operated cameras are often in the sleep mode and only turn on when there’s motion.
6. Differentiates Between a Person from a Thing
In selecting an outdoor security camera, choose one that can differentiate between people and objects.
When you subscribe to Nest Aware, your Nest outdoor camera will give you a notification alert when it senses a person. On Android smartphones, this notification includes a cropped close-up of the person.
Using the Nest app, you can review the footage of what the person was doing in your home.
7. Activity Zone Alerts
In selecting an outdoor security camera, choose one that has activity zone alert capability.
Many criminals surprisingly choose the front door as their entry point. If a camera has an activity zone alert capability, it can send notifications whenever someone moves into your selected activity zone. The Nest outdoor camera gives you alerts whenever it senses someone in your identified activity zone.
In selecting an outdoor security camera, choose one that allows you to interact with the person who has entered your home.
The Nest outdoor camera allows you to interact with whoever has entered the vicinity of your home by being able to see, hear and talk to the person.
For instance, if an unauthorized person attempts to open your front door, using the Nest app on your smartphone or tablet, you can yell at the intruder as the Nest outdoor camera is equipped with a microphone and speaker.
You can also interact with friendly visitors like the delivery person. Using the Nest app on your smartphone or tablet, you can give instructions to the delivery person on where to put the package. The delivery person can also interact with you using the camera’s speaker if he or she has any questions.
9. Easy Installation
In selecting an outdoor security camera, look for a camera that is easy to install. With the Nest outdoor camera simply plug in the camera in the cable and adapter, mount the camera and it’s good to go.
How to Detect Water Leaks
Detecting water leaks in your home is important. Water leaks cost money, put more stress on aquatic ecosystems, contribute to pipe failures, reduce water quality and pose a threat to your family’s health.
Here are 6 ways to detect water leaks in your home:
1. Conduct a Meter Dial Test
One way to detect if there are water leaks in your home is by monitoring the meter dial. First, turn all faucets and water-using appliances off, then locate the water meter dial; it’s usually found in the basement where the water pipe enters your home. Observe the red triangle on your meter dial. If the red triangle moves even though you’ve turned off all faucets and all water-using appliances, then there is a water leak somewhere in your home.
You can also conduct a slow leak test. You can do this by recording your meter’s reading before you sleep, after you’re done using water for the day. Check the meter’s reading again in the morning before using any water. An increase in the meter’s reading will indicate that there is a water leak somewhere in your home.
2. Conduct a Toilet Tank Test
To find out if your toilet tank has a leak, drop a small amount of food coloring into the toilet tank. After 10 minutes, observe the toilet bowl. If there’s any discoloration in the toilet bowl, then your toilet tank is leaking. Make sure that after this test, you flush the discolored water as this can cause staining.
One of the most common causes for toilet tank leaks are old or worn-out toilet flappers, also known as the valve seal. A flapper is made from rubber. Over time, minerals and decay build up on the flapper. However, it can easily be replaced to fix the toilet tank leak; just bring the old flapper to the nearest hardware store to make sure that it perfectly fits your toilet model.
Other possible causes for a toilet tank leak are flappers that are not properly seated in the valve, misaligned or bent flapper wires and corroded valve seats.
In the event that the leak is around the base of the toilet tank or where the toilet sits on the floor, it’s time to call a professional.
According to the Natural Resources Canada, a toilet that continues to run after flushing can waste up to 200,000 liters of water per year.
3. Conduct a Faucet Leak Inspection
Finding a faucet leak is probably the easiest as this requires only a visual inspection. A leaking faucet will drip even when you turn the dial off. The problem with finding a faucet leak is when you have a number of faucets in your home; checking every one of them can be tedious.
The most common cause of faucet leaks are old and worn faucet washers and gaskets. The Do-It-Yourself Network has a tutorial for faucet repairs.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second will waste 3,000 gallons of water per year. This wasted water is equivalent to the amount of water needed for over 180 showers.
4. Conduct a Showerhead Leak Inspection
Similar to faucets, finding out whether a showerhead is leaking can be determined by a simple visual inspection – if there’s a drip when you turn the dial off, you have a leak.
According to EPA, 500 gallons of water is wasted each year as a result of a showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute. This is equivalent to the amount of water you need to wash 60 loads in your dishwasher.
A showerhead leak can be fixed by tightening the connection between the pipe stem and the showerhead with pipe tape. Pipe tape, also known as Teflon tape, is available at your nearest hardware store.
5. Conduct an Outdoor Leak Inspection
If you’re using an in-ground irrigation system, conduct a visual inspection of each spring for leaks as irrigation systems are susceptible to damage from frost or freezing.
According to EPA, an in-ground irrigation system that has a leak that is 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (similar to the thickness of a dime) will waste 6,300 gallons of water per month.
6. Use Flowie and Floodie Sensors
The best way to detect water leaks is by using the Flowie and Floodie sensors.
The Floodie sensor is a flood sensor that can be placed in flood-prone areas like under the toilet tank, dishwasher, water heater or in the basement. Once the Floodie sensor comes in contact with water, it sends text, email and in-app alerts.
The Flowie sensor is a water sensor that’s strapped onto the municipal water meter. This sensor comes with the following features:
- Detects leaks and abnormal usage
- Measures and reports water usage
- Reports trends and analytics on water use, costs and changes
- Reports power outages
- Reports basement temperature and humidity
- Sends text, email and in-app alerts for emergencies
The Flowie sensor is particularly useful in detecting water leaks that aren’t visible – for instance, pipe leaks. If undetected, leaks in water pipes may cause future pipe failures. Pipe leaks could also result in water contamination in your home, in turn threatening your health. Water leaks also result in mold growth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people have different reactions to molds.
“Some people are sensitive to molds,” the CDC said. “For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions.”
Detecting water leaks in your home is crucial to saving money, saving the environment and for providing a healthy environment for you and your family.
Call us today to learn about the water detection option for your home and prevent a disaster.
Why it’s Time to Ditch Your Old Smoke Alarm for Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Have you ever stared at your old smoke alarm and wonder if it’s still working? With the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your family and home are protected.
Here are the top reasons why it’s time to ditch your old smoke alarm for the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm:
1. Nest Protect Tests Itself
It’s important to regularly check that your smoke alarms are functioning. Data from the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services showed that 15% of fires that occurred between 2011 and 2015, in residential properties where a loss occurred, had smoke alarms that weren’t operational. 4% of these cases were due to the smoke alarms not having power or battery.
The Fire Code of Ontario, Canada requires every home to have a working smoke alarm on every story and outside all sleeping areas. Failure to comply with the smoke alarm requirements could result in a ticket for $360 or a fine of up to $100,000 for corporations or $50,000 for individuals.
Conventional smoke alarms require you to manually test that the alarm’s batteries and sensors are still working. To test the battery level, a battery tester has to be used. To test the sensors, the device has to be detached, brought outdoors and exposed to a small amount of smoke.
Nest Protect eliminates the need to manually test the sensors and batteries; the device actually tests them for you. When you turn off the lights at night before bed, the Nest Protect will show a quick green glow to assure you that its batteries and sensors are working. The quick green glow also signals that the device’s Wi-Fi connection is working.
Another way to check whether your Nest Protect’s batteries, sensors and Wi-Fi connection are working, is by checking your Nest app, which you can download onto your smartphone or tablet.
2. Nest Protect Functions Both as a Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
While traditional or conventional smoke alarms only detect smoke, Nest Protect detects both smoke and carbon monoxide.
You can see smoke. When your senses come across smoke, they react automatically. For instance, your eyes water or it’s difficult to breathe through your nose. Carbon monoxide on the other hand is a silent killer. Unlike smoke, you can’t see or smell carbon monoxide. Whenever a fossil fuel is burned, carbon monoxide is produced. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide can cause sudden illness or death.
3. Nest Protect Tells You Where the Danger Is and the Alert Level
When your conventional smoke alarm goes off, your mind starts to panic and ask questions; where is the smoke coming from? Is it a full-blown fire or just burned food?
With Nest Protect, you’ll be notified in different ways whether the smoke or carbon monoxide level is at an early stage or at an emergency level. It also tells you which part of the house the danger was detected.
In case it’s an early warning due to a hint of smoke or carbon monoxide, Nest Protect will notify you in three ways:
Through the Device’s Speaker
You’ll hear, “Heads-Up. There’s smoke in the (specific room name). The alarm may sound.”
Through Device’s Light
In case of an early warning, the device’s yellow light is turned on.
Through Smartphone or Tablet Alert
An early warning alert will also be sent to your smartphone or tablet, provided you have installed Nest app on your mobile device.
In the case of an emergency situation, you’ll be notified in the following manner:
Through Device’s Speaker
You’ll hear, “Emergency. There’s carbon monoxide in the (specific room name).” The alarm sound will also go off.
Through Device’s Light
In case of an emergency, the device’s red light is turned on.
Through Mobile Device Notification
You’ll also receive an emergency notification on your smartphone or tablet via the Nest app.
3. Easily Hush the Alarm
If the smoke is a result of burned food and there is no immediate threat, you won’t have to run to the alarm to fan it or turn it off; the alarm can easily be hushed via the Nest app.
4. Connectivity with Other Smart Home Devices
Conventional smoke alarms can’t be connected to other smart home devices, however the Nest Protect can be connected with compatible smart home devices. It can be connected with other Nest products, including the Nest Thermostat – a smart home device that remotely controls temperature.
For instance, the Nest Thermostat can be connected with a Jenn-Air oven, so if the Nest Protect detects smoke from burned food cooked inside the oven, the Nest Protect will communicate with the Nest Thermostat to turn off the oven.
The Nest Thermostat is also compatible with nearly 95% of low-voltage residential heating and cooling systems. If the Nest Protect were to detect smoke or carbon monoxide, it will communicate this information with the Nest Thermostat and the Thermostat will turn off your home’s heating and cooling systems – known to be the usual sources of smoke and carbon monoxide.
With the Nest Protect’s great features, such as the ability to test itself, to detect not just smoke and carbon monoxide, its ability to notify you the danger level and location via speaker, light and mobile device, the ability to silence the alarm via mobile device and the ability to connect with other smart home devices, you’ll have peace of mind while you sleep and even when you’re away from home. And did we mention smart camera?
3 Ways Google Home Helps You Do More in Less Time
Smart devices including Google Home are designed to make our lives easier and help us be more efficient. Google Home has rolled out 3 important updates to help you accomplish more tasks in less time.
1. Broadcast Your Voice
Shouting throughout your house to speak with a family member in a different room can be bothersome.
Google Home is introducing a better way to call out to family members through its update called “Broadcast”. You can use Google Home to broadcast your voice throughout your home to eliminate the need to shout.
Simply say, “Ok Google, broadcast:” followed by your message and it will be broadcasted to all Google Assistant enabled speakers in your home.
This is a great feature because it is quick and convenient – you don’t even need to touch your phone!
You can also broadcast your voice from one Google Home device to another. To get started ensure that all Google Home devices are on the same Wi-Fi network, at least one member of the household has signed into the Google Home app on each of the Google Home devices and turn off the “Disturb Not Disturb” function.
Broadcast also allows you to broadcast your voice from your smartphone to a Google Home device. To get started ensure that your smartphone meets the Google Assistant requirements, the same Google Account is signed in on both the smartphone and the Google Home device and that the “Do Not Disturb” function is off.
2. Voice Match
Google Home supports multiple users – up to six family members can now connect to one Google Home device.
What if you say, “Ok Google, good morning”, will it be able to give your daily briefing and not the daily briefing for your husband or your daughter?
Google Home can distinguish your voice from other family members. It’ll only provide your own commute time, your own appointments, your own playlist and your own personal contacts (in case you want to use the hands-free calling feature).
How to Use the Voice Match Feature
To use the voice match feature, follow these steps:
- Install the latest Google Home app.
- In the app, look for “multi-user is available” card. If you’re unable to see the card, click on the icon located in the top right corner to view all connected devices.
- Once you’ve located Google Home in the list of connected devices, choose “Link your account”. From here, you can teach Google Assistant – the AI behind Google Home – to distinguish who’s speaking.
How Voice Match Works
To interact with Google Home, you need to say one of these phrases “Ok Google” or “Hey Google”.
According to Yury Pinsky, Product Manager of Google Assistant, once either “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” is uttered, certain characteristics of the person’s voice is then analyzed by the AI.
Every time you say “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” to your Google Home, the AI will match your voice with its earlier voice analysis in order to determine who’s speaking. This matching process, according to Pinsky, happens in a matter of milliseconds.
3. Hands-Free Calling
Hands-free calling is another feature of Google Home that allows you to do more in less time.
Whether you’re in the kitchen preparing for dinner or in your room putting things back in order, you can now place calls by using just your voice via Google Home.
This functionality is only available in Canada and the U.S. It’s also completely free as long as your call recipient is in Canada or in the U.S.
Calling your Mom to wish her a happy birthday or simply ordering a Pizza is just an “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” away.
Up to six members of your household can connect to Google Home and connect their personal contacts. This device can distinguish your voice from your husband and your children. Therefore if you want to call your Mom, it will call only your Mom and not your husband’s Mom.
Broadcast, Voice Match and Hands-Free Calling are just three features of Google Home that’ll help you accomplish tasks more efficiently.
With Google Home, you can also control your other smart home devices with your voice. Google Home can be connected to smart products such as Nest, Philips Hue, Wemo, TP-Link, SmartThings, IFTTT, LIFX, Legrand, Lutron, Awair, D-Link, Deako, Emberlight, Hive, iDevices, iHome, Leviton, Nanoleaf and many more.
Using only your voice through Google Home, you can control your C by GE lights, find the perfect temperature of your Nest Thermostat, control your Whirlpool microwave and oven, control your LG washer, dryer and refrigerator and keep an eye on your home via Nest indoor and outdoor cameras.
Contact us today to learn more and make your home smarter with the latest technologies!
Benefits of Keyless Entry Using August Smart Lock
Your front door is the most frequently used door in the house. This is the point of entry and exit and is the point where you grant people access to enter your home.
Installing the August Smart Lock on your front door gives you the benefit of entering your home without a key.
August Smart Lock eliminates the need for keys. You’ll no longer have to fumble through your bag in search of your keys. You won’t need to search through a bunch of keys on your keyring to find the right one for the door. There will be no need to worry about being locked out because you forgot your key. With the August Smart Lock, you will no longer have to worry about losing your house key.
How Keyless Entry Works
Keyless entry or auto-unlock is one of the unique features of August Smart Lock. Without having to grab a key or your phone, August smart lock will automatically open the door for you as you approach it.
Technologies behind Auto-Unlock Feature
August Smart Lock uses the auto-unlocking action by relying on the following technologies:
- August App
For the auto-unlock feature, the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS are regulated by the August App. In order for this smart lock to work, you need to download the August App to your phone. The auto-unlock feature recognizes whether you are at home or away to determine whether or not to unlock the door.
Auto-unlock will enter the “Home Mode” when you’re at home. During Home Mode, nothing happens automatically as you’re presumed to be at home. Home mode is activated after auto-unlock successfully unlocks your door.
Once auto-unlock recognizes that you’ve left your home – specifically that you’ve travelled over 200 feet away from home – auto-unlock will enter the “Away Mode”.
Upon returning home, the auto-unlock feature will start looking for your lock’s Bluetooth signal. Without needing to take out your phone, auto-unlock will detect when you are 10 to 15 feet from your door and will unlock it for you. It will then enter Home Mode again.
How to Optimize the Auto-Unlock Feature
1. Turn on your phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The auto-unlock feature works best if you turn on both your phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as your phone uses these two technologies to establish your true location. If your location can’t be determined, the auto-unlock feature won’t work correctly.
2. Take advantage of the August app notifications.
By default, the August app will notify you every time you are in the Home Mode or Away Mode.
3. Enter and exit with August Smart Lock installed.
Come and go through your front door without the need to use keys or your phone.
4. Turn on your August app.
If you turn off your August app, your Home or Away status can’t be determined. If your location can’t be established, August app won’t auto-unlock your door as a security measure.
5. Turn on your phone.
If you’re away from home, don’t turn off your phone as this disables the August app, your phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – technologies that are necessary to power the August Smart Lock.
Turning off your phone will also result in failure to establish your Home or Away status. Once this happens, auto-unlock won’t function as a safety measure.
Keyless Entry for Family, Friends, Housekeepers
With the August Smart Lock, you’ll no longer have to worry about someone making an unauthorized copy of your key.
When you need to let family, friends, housekeepers etc. into enter your home when you’re not there, you can grant them access by sending each of them an invitation via the August app. After accepting your invitation, they’ll have instant access to your home based on the access levels that you’ve set.
Keyless Entry for Authorized Delivery Personnel
Early this year, August Home and Deliv, a leader in same day delivery services, announced a partnership for in-home delivery.
“With this new partnership, August Access customers will be able to opt for secure in-home delivery after the transaction with the retailer or business is completed,” August Home, in a statement, said. “If the customer authorizes an in-home delivery, August generates a one-time passcode. When the Deliv delivery specialist arrives, they ring the doorbell and a notification will be sent to the customer’s phone via the August app that the delivery is occurring. If no one answers the door, the Deliv delivery specialist will use the one-time passcode to unlock the door and drop off the package. Customers can even choose to watch the delivery take place in real-time through the August app or view a recording of it any time.”
Check out our smart bundles and give us a call to help you choose the right solution to make your home smarter, cozier and more efficient.