How to Make your Condo Smarter

Toronto Condo Living, Toronto Life

As kids, most of us had a TV or movie led idea of what the future was going to look like. Thanks to shows like The Jetsons or Star Trek, many of us were under the impression that we’d be flying a spaceship, time travelling, enjoying a capsule wardrobe of gold or red jumpsuits, or at the very least have our own personal robot butler by now.

Smart Home Holographic interface in Iron Man
Smart Home Holographic interface in Iron Man

While technology has come a long way, most of us aren’t even riding to work in driverless cars, let alone spaceships. Although, with the advent of smart technology and early adopters of these advances, we’re coming closer and closer to Smart homes that help us stay on schedule, anticipate our needs, and generally make life easier.

Many people want to embrace the next generation of home technology beyond the depths of their iPhones, but just don’t know where or how to get started. Smart technology can be installed in your home in pieces, or all at once.

Level 1 – The Basics

One of the first smart technologies to become as common as a blender or toaster is the launch of products such as Google Home ($149) or Amazon Echo and Alexa ($130). These devices act as personal assistants that are able to provide schedule reminders, play the music you want, provide voice recognition, make phone calls for you and more – essentially acting like an omnipresent Siri who lives in your living room.

Since competition between the big providers is tough, each of them are regularly rolling out new capabilities. When Alexa launched in fall 2017 it had routine based commands, like saying "I’m home" that would automatically adjust the thermostat and play specific music while you prepared dinner. Google Home is now working to "catch up" and surpass Alexa and Echo, while more competition, like Apple, is coming forward to compete for your dollars and a seat at your kitchen table.

Setting up these simple devices doesn’t take long and they're very user-friendly, so it's often as simple as plugging in a cable or two, and running an app on your phone that will take you through all of the necessary prompts to get them up and running.

Level 2 – Connecting Your Smart Technology

For those who find the personal assistant too basic for their tastes, there is other smart technology you can add on to help bring your condo further into the future. Smart lights, switches, and plugs go well beyond the old timers from the 1980’s that were manually scheduled to turn on along with the streetlights.

Smart wall switches are connected to your home’s Wi-Fi to allow you to control your lighting the traditional way (flicking a switch), or use your smartphone like a new age remote-control, from around the block to thousands of kilometers away from home. These smart light bulbs and switches can also be connected to your virtual assistant allowing Alexa, Google home, or whichever bot you’ve got living with you to light up at your every command.

Other smart light technology such as iDevice’s Instinct, set for release this year, has an ambient light sensor and motion detectors to light your home as you need it. As for installation, most people will give it a go themselves, but a number of licenced electricians will install a system for you if you want to look into an estimate for a bundled job that will meet all of your smart condo’s needs.

Remember your once cutting-edge Roomba? The good news is particular models of this now seemingly commonplace vacuum can be connected to your home’s personal assistant, after a few software updates, and provided that your Roomba has Wi-Fi set up/ capabilities.

The Smart Sanctuary

A bathroom is a place where people can reflect, relax, recharge, and get ready for their busy lives on a daily basis. For those looking for a little indulgence that is also good for the environment, a smart toilet might be a good way to go. Features can include heated seating, foot warmers, nightlights, warm flowing water, air drying, speakers, and the elimination of the need for toilet paper thanks to efficient cleansing jets.

While some may feel that the bathroom is a good place to be "technology free" others feel this extravagance is well worth the upgrade, and will even improve their home’s overall value. No touch-flushing, and overflow protection can keep the germs at bay and prevent an embarrassing incident with your downstairs neighbour should your toilet clog. Basic smart toilets start at around $2,000 plus installation.

Other Literal Bells & Whistles

While many people enjoy condo living for the security of a concierge and intercom system, spaces without a personal attendant, those living alone, or those who are a little more home security focused can find comforts in remote and on-site accessible security cameras and thermostats.


Joi from Blade Runner 2049 - Lesson learned, do not fall in love with your smart condo

People who travel frequently, or who have kids and want an extra safety net, will find that it’s worth the investment to install security systems such as The Nest Cam Indoor security camera. Cameras offer 24/7 live streaming, and person alerts to allow homeowners to keep an eye out from any location.

Level 3 –  Bringing it All Together

Whether you’ve just begun your journey into the 2.0 home lifestyle, or you’re eagerly awaiting the next big product to help bring your home further into the future, technology that acts like a bridge, to connect all of your smart devices into one central system may help simplify your home life. Products like Harmony Hub, Raspberry Pi or, or running OpenHAB (from $100 depending on brand and model) can allow for your system to know when your phone, and presumably you) arrive home with it automatically turning on the lights and the TV.


Ordering food home in Fifth Element. Remember Bruce's smart apartment?

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. Is your home smart enough to greet you and treat you to an easier existence, and are you ready to let it?

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