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Alexa moved out of her parents’ house and into her own place before mainstream smart home technology existed. When she first moved in, she worked with her father and a local electrician to set up a Universal Remote Control (URC) system in her home. This specialized, custom-built system made it possible for Alexa to control numerous aspects of her home, but it was costly and required more maintenance. When Alexa learned about smart home technology a few years later, she and her support team jumped at the chance to upgrade her system.

Alexa’s Goals

  1. Increase independence at home
  2. Improve safety while alone
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Alexa chose to install:

  • Three smart speakers throughout her home (she uses Amazon Echo Dots)
  • Smart lighting, including smart bulbs in the living room, and a smart switch that operates ceiling lights in her bedroom (she uses the Caséta system by Lutron)
  • A smart plug to control a floor lamp in the living room and Christmas lights on her tree
  • Smart window blinds in her living room, bedroom, and bathroom (she uses Somfy)
  • Smart door locks on the front, back, and garage doors
  • A smart thermostat (she uses Google Nest)

She already had a smartphone (Android).

Alexa uses her smart speakers to control her other smart devices by voice, to set alarms to wake up in the morning, and to call for help (either as an intercom to other speakers throughout her house where her attendants might be, or by using it to make a phone call to her sister, for example).

“If my hands aren’t working well that day, like if I’m really tight, and I can’t use my phone, then I can use my voice to call my sister,” says Alexa.

The speakers have also learned Alexa’s voice, and with the help of Routines (automations possible using the Amazon Echo’s voice assistant app) she is able to give one-word commands to elicit a number of different events. For example:

  • Alexa simply says “Open” to open her smart blinds. Without the Routine, she would have to say a more difficult phrase, like “Open the blinds” or “Raise the blinds up.”
  • Alexa says “Good night” to turn all of her lights off, turn off the TV, and lock the doors.

“My Echo does better than the ones at my parents’ house. I don’t use theirs enough. The ones around here understand me because the more you talk to it, it learns your voice,” shares Alexa.

Together, these devices make it possible for Alexa to control her environment and safely be alone for portions of the day. She uses her blinds for privacy at night, which is especially important to her with three large windows in her living room that directly face the street. And she uses her thermostat to control the temperature by voice, which means when she’s hot or cold at night she can easily adjust the temperature on her own without moving from her bed. And with her smart door lock she is able to unlock her door to take her dog out for a walk (she has an automatic door opener as well, making it possible to get in and out of her home completely independently).

“Without this technology, I would need 24/7 helpers instead of what I have which is much less. For me, I get work done when people aren’t around. I use Dragon Dictate on my computer to type, so if people are around making lots of noise, I can’t get much work done. I also really can’t type well because I get stage fright knowing people are listening, and I get tighter and can’t talk as well,” shares Alexa.

“My smart home technology gives me greater independence and confidence to live on my own. I just want to live in a house like everyone else without having other people if I don’t need to. This technology makes that possible.”

Alexa made the following video with The Arc of Pennsylvania back in 2016 to showcase all she could do with her URC system. Now Alexa can control all of the devices featured in this video by voice using her smart speaker.

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