Odd Friday: Meet George Jetson – One Step Closer

When we were young, we watched The Jetsons®, amazed at the space-age conveniences and wondrous push-button contraptions they had to simplify their lives. All of those unimaginable technological marvels, and we wondered how many of them we would ever really see in our lifetimes. What girl didn’t dream of all of that push-button convenience and of having Rosie the Robot to clean up the messes and corral the kids?

No, we didn’t buy a Roomba®, though they are amazingly cool, and I might consider it if it weren’t for the split-level design of our great room. Yet another item to add to the wish list for our next home. They even showed one helping to solve a crime on CSI Cyber® last week. Sigh…yet another digression…

Despite our lack of cable TV and our glacially slow internet service, we’ve managed to take a big step into the age of the smart home. We’ve had a Wink® for nearly a year, but it took the purchase of an Amazon Echo® for us to find the Wink’s full potential and truly feel like we’re living in that era of space-age convenience we’ve been dreaming of for the last 40 years. Granted, Alexa (that’s the name of our Amazon Echo) can’t make dinner or get the kids ready for school, but there are so many other things that she can do, especially when you pair her with a system like the Wink.

I love the fact that I can ask Alexa to turn on the kitchen light when I’m up to my wrists in cleaning a chicken and – voila! The light comes on without my having to touch a thing. If I’m using the last of the Half and Half® to make a sauce, I can ask Alexa to add Half and Half to my shopping list without stopping in the process of whisking my sauce to write it down or risk forgetting it. If I’m flipping through one of my foodie magazines or the Sunday sale ads and see something I’d like to buy, or think of something I need to do, I no longer have to stop to write things down, Alexa will add them to my “shopping” or “to-do” lists with a few simple words. The lists are available on the cell phone of anyone on my account, so Jon can stop on his way home any pick things up as easily as I can, and tic them off as he puts them in the cart. AMAZING!

I can get hands-free weather just by asking, “Alexa, what’s the weather?” Same with the news. She will play music from our play lists and even from popular or trending music lists. And Jon has unfortunately discovered that you can ask Alexa to tell you jokes and repeat just about anything you say by simply saying, “Alexa, Simon says…” first. Fear not, though, she won’t swear at you or your loved ones, and there are a whole bunch of really cool “Easter eggs” that you can research that make her the life of the party when you have guests. “Alexa, Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” 😉

As much as we love our Amazon Echo, there are a couple down sides. If you have the volume turned up a bit too far, it is difficult for Alexa to hear you when you are ready to give her the “Alexa, stop” command. Also, if your internet goes down, neither Alexa or the Wink will work.

As I mentioned earlier, Alexa would not be half as much fun – or nearly as much help – without the Wink. The Wink interfaces with the light bulbs and other devices that make the smart home, smart. In addition to the special light bulbs, we have a Spotter® sensor in our greenhouse that measures temperature, humidity, light levels and movement. Should we have a problem with the breaker or the Toyo® Stove in the greenhouse the sensor would let us know – even if we’re thousands of miles away – so that we could alert whomever we have watching the house. I got an Egg Minder® that tells me how many eggs I have left in the fridge and keeps track of how old they are. Seriously. I’m disappointed that it doesn’t connect to Alexa so that it can send a message to our friends Will and Jeremy to let them know when we need more eggs. Maybe in its next incarnation.

There are other wink products that will open your doors or garage doors, thermostats that will control your furnace, even an If-This-Then-That App (available for both Android and Apple operating systems) that works with Wink and/or Alexa to allow them to respond in certain ways to specific situations. Like if your phone gets within 10 yards of your home and the temperature is above 80 degrees your air conditioner will kick on. Pretty snazzy, right?

A word of caution. If you decide that you’re ready to invest in a smart home set up of your own, pay attention to internet security. We want you to enjoy your technology as much as we enjoy ours.

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