Here’s What Happened to Me After One Month Inside a Smart Home


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Category: Home Improvement

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Like most 90s kids, I watched every single Disney Channel Original Movie—and there was no DCOM I loved more than Smart House. I was fascinated by the idea of a house equipped with “Personal Applied Technology” (“PAT” for short) that could listen and respond to every request while providing accurate information on demand. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted a home that could make my favorite smoothie, project any movie or music video I could imagine onto any wall, then turn my bedroom into a virtual beach.

As an adult, I still love Smart House, but for more practical reasons, admittedly.

During the process of making my house “smart” in the modern age, I discovered two common misconceptions. First, building a smart home is expensive, and second, so many gadgets require you to have to automate everything

After doing some serious digging, it turns out that neither is true. In fact, it’s possible to start off with just a wifi signal and one or two smart devices. 

Here’s what happened in my first month of installing a bunch of new devices.

It’s True: I Became Really Accustomed to Talking Out Loud to No One, Like in the Commercials

I’ve been slow to adopt the “Hey Siri” function on my iPhone, but I am all about asking my Amazon Echo to launch my favorite playlist or tell me the weather. Alexa and Echo’s personalities are like a personal butler who has more than 1,000 specific skills. I’ve learned to ask mine for everything from calling an Uber to helping me manage my finances. I felt weird at first about giving commands to an empty room, but I quickly learned to love the hands-free, immediate feedback Alexa provides.

The Echo, Apple’s new HomePod, and Google Home all serve as central hubs for your newly connected home. If you’re still uncertain about smart home tech (or if you want to feel like you’re actually living in Smart House) I highly recommend starting off with one of these gadgets.

I Actually Started to Feel Safer (and Got Accustomed to the Convenience Quickly)

One key reason that people enter the smart house game is for improved home security. It’s possible to go big with wireless cameras, motion sensors, doorbells, smoke alarms and more, but I started with a smart lock after seeing the technology at a few Airbnb stays. You’ve probably used keypad entry locks, but did you know that you can now open your lock with your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone simply by approaching the door or with a single fingerprint? Yes, James Bond, it’s true!

I definitely feel safer living alone after installing a smart lock. The technology is notoriously difficult to “pick,” and there’s no risk of my keys falling into the wrong hands or of forgetting to lock the door when I leave. I can also remotely grant entry to my dog-walker. Finally, I’ve gone a whole month without dropping my groceries, gym bag, purse and lunchbox in a pile on my steps as I search for my keys.

I Slowly Stressed Less About Both Cooking and Cleaning

Adulting is hard work, and I often struggle to find the time to prepare a wholesome meal and deep clean my home. I’ve long known about the magic of slow-cooking, but the Smart Crock-Pot takes it to the next level. I can control the device from my smartphone, which means I can adjust time, temperature, or power if I’m running late for dinner—no more relying on the appliance itself to switch over to warm or turn off.  

Similar to slow cookers, robot vacuums have been on the market for awhile, and now I’m wondering why I didn’t invest sooner. The Roomba is the most recognizable of the bunch, but there’s a wide range of options for cost and functionality—and most can be programmed and scheduled with your smart home hub. Sigh of relief over here as my robot vacuum takes over the burden of this unpleasant chore.

My Dog Got Hooked on the Automation Too

Smart home tech also extends to pets. My dog likes to be fed on a schedule—he knows exactly when dinner is on its way and makes sure to remind me if I’m a minute behind. Like a smart slow cooker, a wifi-enabled smart dog feeder is a lifesaver if I’m working late or have other evening plans. My feeder allows me to set up mealtimes and portion sizes right from my phone. I’ve found that my dog is less likely to whine at my feet for food and treats because he knows to expect it regularly from his feeder. He’s even lost a little bit of extra weight since we started using this gadget, and I feel like a more responsible dog parent.

Disney was remarkably prescient about the future of home automation when it created Smart House. It may have seemed far-fetched back then, but it turns out you actually can live out that childhood dream of having your house do everything for you! 

Emily Long is a home safety and automation expert for SafeWise. She loves to geek out on new tech gadgets and home improvement projects. When she isn’t writing about smart home tech, she can be found teaching yoga, road tripping or hiking in the mountains.

Applying Apple’s Strategy to Moving Companies


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Category: Operations

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[Synopsis: How does Apple maintain its status as an industry titan? And how can we copy them?]

We all know the legendary success story of Apple. Many of us know firsthand the unique appeal of their products. Fewer, however, are in tune with the idea that their business model revolves around not their products, per se, but the experience of using those products. It’s an experience shared by their customers and their employees.

Apple’s strategy for success is grounded in concepts that make sense and are easy to visualize. But taking their approach and putting it to work for ourselves? Come on. They put cutting-edge technology in people’s hands. We take furniture and boxes off of people’s hands. Apple’s products are sleek, even sexy. Our services? Not exactly sleek.

But for all the differences between us and them, it still all boils down to the experience of doing business. In fact, a glance at CustomerThink’s rundown of Apple’s four points for success tells us that yeah, we can apply their principles to our own game plan.

Like we said, Apple doesn’t just offer customer service. They deliver customer experience. And moving is always an experience. So the trick is making it a great one; Here are Apple’s ideas for how to make it great.

1. “Build Your Vision and Values Around the Customer”

apple1What the customer wants is what we want…get everything loaded up, transported and unloaded in a short amount of time without breaking anything.

“Everything cascades from the principle of customer success,” we are told. For Apple, this means making products that help their customers achieve success in whatever area they choose. Translated for us, the idea is to make them feel like their actions make them feel successful. Is the customer worried about that antique curio? We’ll show them how we’ll wrap it up to keep it intact throughout their move. Customer obsessed with color-coding their boxes? Then so are we. 

Echoing Apple’s sentiment, Campaign Monitor Nate Skinner maintains, “If our customers kick ass, we will too.” Put in slightly more erudite words, he says his goal is to be an advocate for each customer so they feel like they’re succeeding.

Every job is different. So it hardly makes sense to say “this is what we do” – unless what we do is what the customer needs us to do, every day, in whatever way they require to see their move become a success on their terms. Moving is often a big deal for them.

2. “Create Support Careers — Not Just Jobs”

apple2Hire smart people who wake up every day wanting to help others,” goes the advice. People who are a positive force around the customer will influence and elevate the morale of other employees too. This is why Apple hires for attitude as much as aptitude.

This sounds simple enough, but in this business, even the most positive of people can get burned out – especially over the course of an intense and laborious summer season. And when pep talks and doughnuts aren’t enough to keep everyone in high gear, where do we turn?

Reinforce the value of customer support by creating a career track for people.”

In other words, while great customer service can be its own reward, feeling good don’t pay the rent. Ideally, we want to cultivate an industry filled with moving professionals, not people doing side-jobs for money. In the long run, the tangible benefit of moving up in the company not only can create loyalty among your own people, but it also helps keep customer satisfaction at a high-level. 

3. “Invest Time in Great Service”

apple3Pop Quiz: When a customer asks you about coverage and valuation do you (a) hand them a pamphlet or (b) take a few minutes to explain to them the points that they would like to understand?

If your answer was (a), we need to talk.

Seriously, this may be an oversimplified example but in any situation, Apple believes that “taking the time to thoroughly resolve every issue will boost customer satisfaction, improve retention and avoid future complications.” Customers want to know that we care about giving them the info they need.

To this point, we are told that “…if (Apple’s employees) can’t answer your question, they’ll help you find someone who can.” This advice is golden. Impress on your employees that it’s okay if they are not sure how to answer a customer’s question, but it is not okay to fake an answer; This can create bigger problems down the road. Even if there’s no logistical (or legal, yikes!) fallout, a pattern of providing inaccurate information can result in lower customer satisfaction.

Training people well includes letting them defer to the crew leader or the office when they are unsure of something. Get the customer the right answer, then make sure the employee knows the answer for the next customer who asks.

4. “Be More than a Service Desk, Be Their Resource”

apple4Building on #3 above, we can and should do more than simply answer questions when customers come, even if we do a great job with that. What we want to be is the source of information for our customer base.

“Consider how you can make your customers’ lives easier…not just how you can answer their immediate questions.”  Some customers – maybe many (most?) don’t know what they don’t know…like whether they need certification from their vet when moving pets across state lines, or how draping their carpets and area rugs in the sun for a day can eliminate tiny pests that they might otherwise be transporting to their new home. Why would they think to ask you that? They wouldn’t. Tell them.

By applying these principles to your company, we become more than just the movers they hired; We become the experts that make their moving experience a great one.

Don’t Try to Beat the Heat: Tools for Knowing When it’s too Hot to Work


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Category: Business Basics, Regulations

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[Synopsis: We have to work, no matter the heat. Let’s just make sure we don’t get beat by it.]

In our industry, business is busiest when the heat is hottest. Yes, the crazy days of summer are coming fast, and it is time once again to put it in high gear.

But as our days fill up and our crews are stretched to the limit, let’s not forget that even superhumans like us are still human. Even while we tell ourselves to keep cranking no matter what the thermometer says, our bodies can only put up with so much. If we don’t pause to take care of our bodies we can lose a lot more than a few minutes of daylight.

As the Omaha World-Herald reported in August of last year, a moving company employee who was packing and loading boxes inside a truck on a day with a heat index of 112 suffered a heat stroke and, though transported to a local hospital, died that same day.

“If you’re working in those extreme triple digits, you’ve got to train your workers to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and seek immediate medical attention,” said Darwin Craig of the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In this article WebMD covers symptoms, treatment, risk factors and prevention as related to heat stroke. They also give information for recognizing and treating heat exhaustion.

There is also an app provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Association called the Heat Safety Tool, which provides the heat index and risk level of any given work site. It’s a free download for both Android and IOS, and is available here.

We’ve all been out there, sweating it up in the heat, kicking butt without thinking of slowing down until the job is done. But hey, that sun and that heat don’t care how strong and determined we are. So let’s take this issue seriously so we can all get our jobs done safely.


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