AT Newsletter Volume 32, March 2023

IoT and Home Automation

Spring has almost arrived. For those of us in the Chicagoland area it cannot come soon enough. I thought this month would be the perfect time to cover one of my favorite topics - IoT (Internet of Things) and Home Automation. Part of my "spring cleaning" routine is to review my home automation setup...yes that is the IT geek in me coming out.


I've been a home automation addict for quite some time. It started years ago with a simple task of "automating" the task of turning our holiday lights on. Insteon was my product of choice and I quickly began automating every possible lamp in my house. Instead of smartphones we had dedicated controllers to control the lighting. I'm quite convinced it didn't really make things any easier (but it was fun). In 2023 we have come a long way and it is hard to find a product that doesn't actually come with a built-in internet refrigerator is connected...why?!


There are several of us at AT that share this hobby (for some it's an addiction). I'll let Ben tell you about Raspberry Pi but for now I'll share a few of my personal favorites.


This is my go-to app. It has been around for a while and is constantly evolving (I believe a new version just came out). Most (I wish I could say all) of my devices can be controlled through the application. The application makes it easy to create Scenes (controlling multiple devices at once) and Routines (scheduling devices based on timing or actions).


These are my favorite "smart" bulbs. They tend to be a bit pricey but are very reliable and are very configurable. Note: that most brands have their own apps but I still prefer using the Smartthings app.


Amazon's Alexa is my virtual assistant of choice. It integrates nicely with the SmartThings application and makes it easy to control devices with simple voice commands. It also can be entertaining for the kids!


The "original" whole house audio solution. I was one of the early adopters of this system and it is still one of my favorites. Originally it was connected to a local PC where my entire music collection was I can stream just about anything throughout my entire house.


Some of my other favorites:

Arlo - security

Rachio - Irrigation

Brillant - Amazing light switches

GE - Appliances, yes this is a bit overkill

iRobot - cleaning

Smartthings sensors and plugs

Ring, Harmony, Eero, Wemo,


Technology has definitely made this hobby much easier but if you are ever looking for advice drop me an email.

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Team AT's Favorite Tech
The AT staff shares what technology they couldn't live without. 
Amy Bohn-AT Tech Team!  Available to keep my technology running – responds quickly to my needs!
Andy Pawlak- iMIS and SQL are the two that are integral for getting my work done. One allows me to view data in a friendly view. Two other items include:
TechSmith Snag-It – screen and video capture tool w/functionality to mark-up and include additional notes. I’ve been using this tool for more than 15 years for documentation and training notes and iTunes/Spotify/SiriusXM/Online Radio – I always have music playing while working, except while in meetings. The melody helps me to concentrate.
Bryan Hartsock - the remote start on my car 
Cindy Meyers - My wifi controlled heated bathroom floor! It’s my newest toy and I LOVE it!
Dave Bertalmio - Kwikset Halo Wi-Fi Smart Lock -
Not having to get keys out of my pocket with a kid in my hands is a game changer.
Ed Sirijintakam - SONOS – Great sounding home-speaker system
that connects to lots of 3rd party services and allows you to play the same music in different rooms, at the same time.
Jim Meyers - For me, it’s Teams – from Video meetings to file collaboration, I use all day long. Great to have an organized way to collaborate on internal projects, client needs, and prospects.
Lisa Kulig - My iPhone, it's the one thing that I always have with me. I love that I can talk to friends and family, video chat with my college daughter, stream music or listen to a book, play games and scroll social media from anywhere.   
Matt Bernatz - In the context of work, I think the windows screenshot shortcut is a great tool that I think not enough people know about. Hold windows key + shift + s and you can take a screenshot of anything on your screen. This is different than windows snipping tool which needs to be open in order to use. This is a great way to take quick screenshots on demand. In my personal life, I use the seek app every summer, all summer long. It allows you to point your camera at any plant or animal and it tells you what it is. It is surprisingly accurate and works on anything from trees to bugs and even larger animals like my dog.
Michele Brandt - I could not live without the ability to stream music through Spotify, Youtube or Apple. I feel so spoiled to be able to listen to anything at any time.  I can never go back!
Noah Barbel - Discord is by far the piece of software I use the most. Whether it’s playing video games, watching TV shows / movies, or just catching up, Discord gives me the ability to keep in contact with my friends and family no matter where they are.
Tricia Marshall - My favorites are:
  • Alexa – From reminders and shopping lists to controlling my lights.  Alexa helps to keep me organized and streamlined so I can focus on the important things.
  • Spotify – I love running Spotify from anywhere on anything. Having music playing really helps me to be able to tune out the other noise when I am needing to be heads down without interruptions.
  • Snagit – Makes grabbing that visual (image or video) simple.
Tyler SchenkAndroid Auto/ Apple Carplay