Smart Home 101: Automated tech for the not-so-savvy

by Martin McConnell

Smart home technology can be genuinely life-changing when it comes to ease of use. However, those who are out of the loop might get intimidated by all the technological hoops to jump through.

Tony Fabrick of Xtend Technologies in Broadview Heights explained that while home automation can seem daunting, it can be just as easy to learn. Additionally, taking the technological plunge can be a big help to homeowners of all ages.

“The first thing I always recommend to our clients is, you have to get educated,” Fabrick said. “A lot of times, we’ll typically recommend our client to come into our experience center. We built an entire experience center right in Broadview Heights.”

According to Fabrick, Xtend’s experience center, located in-house at 7981 Broadview Rd., is a priceless tool for those looking to upgrade their home technology. Not only can it educate potential consumers, but the staff there is willing to show off different technology for different demographics.

“People who are aging, they have a lot of issues with their sight,” he said. “The first thing that goes is brightness. If people are building homes, or maybe remodeling a home if they’re aging, we take into consideration the lighting in the space.”

Fabrick said rooms can be made more accessible to those with vision problems through floor lights, brightness shifters and other lighting options.

Still, some senior citizens may be worried that the technology for a true smart home experience could go over their heads. Fabrick explained that there are multiple different interfaces that range in ease of use, and that each client is sure to find something that they can easily understand.

“I always say, everybody’s aptitude for technology is different,” he said. “Just in the home automation space, we have two or three different solutions that have completely different interfaces. … We can design systems that use an interface that’s more comfortable for them, so it’s easier for them to use.”

Fabrick did note that he would likely stay away from a mass-produced, barebones service like Amazon’s “Alexa.” Although Alexa is voice-controlled, that does not automatically make the machine easy to understand. In fact, the opposite can be true, according to Fabrick.

“Alexa and Google Home are not all that advanced,” he said. “They need to be given very specific commands, to do very specific things. If your intention is, ‘hey, I just need it to do three or four things,’ then maybe Alexa will work.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Fabrick noted that doorbell cameras like Ring or Blink are easy to use. However, the set-up can be difficult for even the tech-savviest consumer, so professional help is recommended.

As for price point, Fabrick explained that everyone is different. A number of factors, such as house size and how much technology each consumer wants, can equate to wildly different cost options. He stressed that understanding the systems before buying is extremely important in the smart home process.

“It’s all about education,” Fabrick said. “The reason we built our design and experience center is to educate our potential clients.” ∞