All this smart home tech will want to talk to us based on what we want to happen, let’s explore what our options are! With a good communication strategy in place, you will make sure that the things which need to happen actually happen and if something you consider “out of the ordinary” happens, you will know as well. It’s a slice of peace of mind. Also works fantastically well for routines and scheduled activities.
I have to thank the good folks who responded to my initial announcement on Reddit for this site to give me their own use cases which were used for this page.
Let’s dissect this in a 5-step process:
Step 1: who should be notified? Not every one should get every alert, message or notification and you don’t want to cause “user fatigue” where they just start ignoring stuff.
Step 2: what triggers what? This is where your motion sensors, temperature sensors, humidity sensors and so many more come in handy. “If you do not detect motion for X hours send a notification” is one I find useful. Based on your scenarios, feel free to try things and get creative. One redditor is using a smart drinkware coaster he made for his grandmother, and when the weight sensor is not trigged (on/off) for a certain amount of time, a message come on a speaker “Grandma time to drink some water”. No I don’t expect readers to go this far, but you get the idea!
Some triggers you can use:
- Time of day and schedules
- Motion: when there is some or there is none, for an instant response or over a period of time
- Temperature: if it gets too cold or too hot
- Smoke detectors & CO2 detectors picking up something
- Water leak sensors detecting water
- Smart locks if they are unlocked or locked
- Open/close sensors, if doors or containers are left open
You can get funky with multiple conditions, too. IF A and B happen then send a notification/alert. Say your mom opens the backyard door at 2AM, something may be afoot and these are 2 conditions.
Step 3: what information should be sent? That’s up to you, but keep things brief, no one wants a Shakespearian experience to be told the refrigerator door is open.
Step 4: which medium? You have the problem of choice here! And it’s a good problem, too. Here are some ideas:
- Smartphones & smartwatches: I would use these for caregivers and for actionable items regardless of “severity”. We expect these devices to be charged daily so that can prove to be a challenge for some.
- SMS & text messaging: the old school stuff still works, and you can set things to send a text message as an alert. Maybe it’s simpler as you have multiple users or they are not using smart home apps on their phone. IFTTT is a good tool to get this going and there are others out there. Bear in mind these services are typically fee-based and may have some limitations so it’s worth reading through things.
- Speakers: you can get one or more speaker or smart speaker to say stuff like “Mom it’s 5PM time to have dinner” or “Dad your refrigerator door is open”, feel free to get creative
- Lighting: it can be less annoying to change a lightbulb’s color for the routine things. When the lights turn purple, time to take the scheduled medication!
Step 5: what next? Alerts need to be addressed when the items causing them are resolved. It’s as simple as marking as read on your smart phone but you can get creative, too. Let’s go back to the purple lights mentioned above, your family member can say “Alexa I took my pills” and lights revert back to normal, and you can even add an extra layer in case the lights don’t get turned off so you get notified and check in to make sure all is well. You can add a smart button somewhere convenient, and when pressed, the lights go back to normal. You get the idea, now go crazy!
For super critical things like falls and no movement, don’t mess around, and you can add multiple to be notified. Talk to your family members and caregivers to build the plan, it’s definitely worth it.
On the theme of alerts and notifications, this one is for you fellow geeks out there: