I have received several calls and emails over the past week or so asking if I thought automation/smart homes/technology can help with the Coronavirus issue. Initially, I was caught off guard by the questions, but many of these calls were from the northeast US, where many people are in closer proximity than we are used to being and a real fear has caught hold and people want solutions and options.
At first, other than the obvious “video conferencing”, I had to think about it a few minutes, but then a multitude of ideas came to mind. These are not new, and in fact, we have many of these features in our offices and client homes. Its simply thinking of things differently and applying in this use case. Depending on how isolated you want to get, be or stay, here are several ways technology and smart homes can help alleviate some of the Coronavirus fears, and keep you separated from the “crowds”.
Video Conferencing – Zoom Rooms and other methods of communicating remotely can enable many of us to work remotely or from home and still conduct business. This probably one of the quickest and easiest methods to deploy to help avoid contact with those who may be ill or spreading the virus. From just a few years ago, where codecs and special systems were needed, up to now, where a simple software solution like Zoom Room, Skype or other apps can help deliver this experience, within a few minutes of downloading software (assuming you have a laptop with a camera and mics, which is pretty standard these days). While having group meetings or large meetings with multiple attendees may require additional licensing, these systems are much easier to setup and deploy than even 5 years ago and prevent any cross contamination.
My son is in college now and I was just informed most Florida colleges are shutting down the campuses, for 2-3 weeks. I am guessing this is occurring in many areas. However, classes and such are still be administered remotely, using video conferencing, internet broadcasting, campus connections and other online solutions, the kiddos can still get their studies done and complete their schooling. Its mid-terms right now, so not a great time, but technology will play a big part in alleviating this.
Several other smart home features come to mind, some are simple and easy to implement and install, while others take planning and more time to program and setup, but if you currently have a smart home, these are some things to consider.
Motion sensor lights/switches, especially in bathrooms, prevent the touching of surfaces that everyone has to touch, unless automated. This helps prevent the spread of disease and keeps you from spreading to your personal devices and products. Public bathrooms are one of the most grungy places we encounter, so not having to touch things is key in this area. Most have automatic flush toilets, so the goal should be a touch free bathroom (less the hand dryers, which have had some concerning studies done on them, but that’s another discussion). We have motion switches and fan timers on our office and client bathrooms. Thus, you simply walk into the bathroom, do your business, and don’t have to touch anything but the paper towels, after washing your hands. The lights automatically turn on and off as needed, thus fewer germs spread. This also saves on energy, as the lights aren’t on 24/7.
Owning and having a smart home, also makes things a little easier, while (as we say in the hurricane prone south) you “hunker down” at home, while avoiding crowds, being sick yourself or healing up. With a smart home system, you can adjust your lights, hvac, blinds, and more from the comfort of your chair or bed. This makes staying comfortable much easier and takes less energy, allowing you to make the most of your time at home.
Another thing to consider is door locks, garage door opener systems and door cams. Between these 3 devices, you can completely avoid anyone coming to your home, for product, food or other deliveries. By using your door cam you can see who is at the door and even converse with them (tell them to leave package, or you’ll be there in a minute). If need be, you can open your garage for large deliveries, or even allow someone to deliver inside your home, by unlocking your front door for them, all the time keeping an eye on them with your cams. You could simply tell them leave the food in the kitchen and not even have to personally interact with them, whether you are home or not. You can also simply use various payment apps, Apple Pay, Paypal, Zelle, Venmo and others, to pay without exchanging cash or even handing a card to someone. Again, one less interaction with any potential germs.
We even have Motorized Door Systems today. Seen daily in commercial buildings, this is one less handle or thing we have to touch, which lessens the spread of germs. In homes, we’ve used door opener systems for the disabled for many years. These are typically mounted at the top of the door and pull them open or close with springs. These are for your standard single front doors. We also have sliding glass door opening systems, which we showcase at our model home here in Jacksonville, Fla. These can open multi-panel sliding glass door systems with a single button press. Again, one less thing to have to touch and an easy way to allow access, or fresh air, into your home.
Since it does not appear at this point that Coronavirus is an easily air born transmissible virus, unless getting coughed or sneezed on directly, it is more about avoiding touching surfaces and then your face, eyes, nose or mouth. I’ve read that many germs can only live a short time, <5 mins on hands, but can survive 12+ hours on fabrics and hard surfaces and many days or weeks on some solid surfaces, so washing hands is still a key part of avoiding the virus.
Also, not related to smart homes, but keep in mind you own and touch lots of “dirty” things. From door handles to your laptop, PC, cell phone, car handles, steering wheel, gear shift knob and other things you touch often, after touching other surfaces, but rarely wash, clean or sanitize, as these items can also be overlooked breading grounds for germs.
Clean your electronics properly, for both germ killing and electronics protection. (Always read the instructions for the product you are using!). You should never spray detergents, alcohol or other solvents directly onto electronics. Typically spray a clean cloth, then gently wipe down your devices. Drying is a key part of germ killing. Whatever you clean and however, typically it must be dry before considered germ free/clean. Some products require letting the liquid air dry, while others require you to dry the liquid off (like your hands), before its actually disinfected.
The Ultimate Solution, if you really want to go kinda crazy with things, as mentioned above, you can use smart devices, internet and services mentioned above to order, pay for and have delivered anything you need in today’s world. Use email and the internet to communicate, video conferencing for meetings and sales and you could conceivably live human touch free (not advising this, just saying), if you wanted. One could even create a clean room/box for deliveries, that uses Infrared or UV lights for a set amount of time to kill any germs, virus, bacteria that may be living on those boxes.
Today, we can even have our food delivered right to our door; groceries and prepped foods ready to cook, so hermits rejoice. However, I still like and enjoy people for the most part, and do feel the need to interact with the real world, so I’ll be out and about, as cautiously as I can be, selling, installing, programming and enjoying people that make the world go round.
We all need to do our part in protecting against the spread of this, and any other disease, so consider a few of these options and feel free to comment on how you applied or used any of these or other technologies to help fend of disease and illness. Stay clean, my friends. And wash your hands, often, please.