3 Ways Technology Can Help Your Last-minute Christmas Shopping

It seems like all of the holidays are bunched together into one stressful moment once Labor Day ends. Halloween demands candy and costumes, Thanksgiving requires flight plans and family dinners, and Christmas is a battle royal at shopping malls and fashion outlets. With all of the mayhem building up, how could anyone possibly have any time to enjoy themselves, let alone spend time with family on Christmas Eve?

This is where technology can make a huge difference! This year, if you feel like kicking back and eating sugar cookies with Old Saint Nick until the sun comes up, then here are a few easy ways that your tech gadgets can make your last-minute Christmas shopping a lot less hectic.

Buy gifts online

Of course there will be some gifts you’ll have to go into Macy’s to buy, but if there are things on the Christmas list that can be bought from anywhere (tools, electronics, stuffed animals, skin care products, etc.), then do it online. You can use your tablet or smartphone to visit sites like Amazon, Etsy or Jet.com to make your last-minute shopping rounds. Each site is easy to use, and you can find exactly what you’re looking for, all while choosing a shipping option that fits your schedule. Keep in mind, many of your favorite retail stores most likely have apps with coupons to offer, so feel free to shop on the sofa while everyone else runs to Walgreens at 2:00 a.m. If you’re really pressed for time, you can always print out the shipping details and stuff it into a card

Storyboard your ideas

The worst thing about Christmas shopping is that it’s so hard to find the right gifts for your family and friends. When time is of the essence, it’s always a huge plus to create a layout of what kinds of gifts you should buy. Using an app like Pinterest or Instagram is a great way to build a collage of possible gift ideas based upon what you think your Aunt Ginger would like. You can “pin” or “like” awesome photos that give you some inspiration when you’re sprinting from aisle to aisle. Having an idea of what you should buy is always a much better plan than going in blind, and you’ll find that it saves you some extra time to wrap gifts when you get home.

Don’t go overboard

One of the biggest mistakes a last-minute shopper makes is that they tend to overspend on account of their lazy guilt. It’s way too easy to start dropping cash on your relatives when you’re both unsure about what to buy and pressured by the ticking of the clock, so the best way to combat the anxiety is to set a limit for your spending. You can download your bank’s mobile app to manage your balances on checking accounts or credit cards on the go, making sure that you’re still able to afford drinks on New Year’s Eve. If you see your funds dipping drastically low in your checking account, you can easily transfer money from your savings instantly, giving you enough cushion to splurge on both sweaters when you can’t remember the color your dad asked for.

Championship Data Protection Year after Year after Year

Because it was so exciting to watch, it seems like only yesterday that after more than a century the Cubs finally won the World Series. Game 7 of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians was a battle—one requiring an extra inning!—to the end. On November 2 the Cubs finally ended a 108-year World Series championship drought.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. The obvious one might be “Never give up”; however, there is something more important to remember when it comes to protecting your data. It’s this: Just because your data has always been safe and you’ve never had a data breach or lost your data as a result of hardware or software failure doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Data loss is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.

Consider that the Cubs played in the 1906, 1907 and 1908 World Series, becoming the first major league team play in three consecutive World Series. The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, becoming the first team to win it twice (they lost the Series in 1906 to the Chicago White Sox). If you were alive back then, you might have expected the Cubs to play in the 1909 World Series. And even if they didn’t, you certainly would have expected them to play in a World Series before 2016! But it didn’t happen that way; their lucky streak didn’t last. The Cubs never played in another World Series—not until 1945, and they lost.

Again, just because your data protection strategy has never been challenged, consider yourself lucky. The streak won’t last. Eventually, your organization will lose critical business data. The Global Data Protection Index found that of those organizations surveyed, 29% suffered data loss. There is no comfort in that percentage, not when you count on critical business data to keep your business up and running and profitable. Here’s another percentage that even a streak of good luck won’t change: a whopping 36% of organizations reported internal or external security breaches (think ransomware) or hardware failure. If you think your hardware is fail-proof, think again. The number one cause of data loss and/or system downtime is hardware failure, according to the GDPI.

So what can you do to protect your data? Key to your data protection strategy should be a solid backup plan. Mozy by Dell offers complete data protection for SMBs and next-generation endpoint protection for the enterprise. MozyPro lets you schedule backups to run daily, weekly or monthly. It’s automatic and affordable backup that includes file sync and mobile access. With Mozy Sync, you simply place a file in your local Mozy Sync folder, and it’s immediately available from any computer, smartphone and tablet that you regularly use. The Mozy mobile app for iOS and Android devices gives your smartphone or tablet access to your Mozy Sync folder wherever you are, and whenever you need it. It works hand in hand with Mozy cloud backup, making all of your files safe and available.

MozyEnterprise seamlessly protects endpoints and remote offices, helps increase workforce productivity with file sync and mobile access, and keeps IT in control of corporate data. This cloud backup solution for desktops, laptops and small servers gives you more complete data protection for users on any network, and the powerful administrative console lets you manage it all from anywhere. And should your organization be hit by malware or other cyberthreat—including ransomware—Mozy allows you to restore files from any point in time prior to the attack, meaning your files are accessible when you need them most.

To be sure, no data protection solution can cause your favorite team to win a World Series, but it will ensure that you can champion a winning data protection strategy year after year after year. Don’t let your business wait a century to discover that.

I can hardly wait for the 2017 World Series!

A Technological Twist on the First Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 21, 1621 — Governor William Bradford wakes up on a cold, crisp morning in Plymouth to the sound of a text message. It’s from Tisquantum, one of the Wampanoag who helped him harvest corn yesterday. “Are you up?” it reads. Bradford slides out of bed and his feet hit the freezing dirt floor. I’ll respond later, he thinks.

Bradford changes into his linen shirt, stockings, and cloak. The sun is slowly starting to rise as he boils water for tea and listens to the news. His desktop is streaming KJBC, or King James Broadcasting Corporation. Cornelis Drebbel has just launched his submarine. Bradford laughs as the leather-wrapped underwater boat chugs along the Thames. No one’s going to have any use for that ship, he thinks. He opens up the shared “Treaty” document on Google Drive. Ousamequin Yellow Feather— aka Chief Massasoit—made several comments. John Carver countered nearly every single one of them, and in many instances, made the language even stronger.

Bradford adds a comment: “This is a treaty between two nations, Wampanoag and England. We need to protect each other from harm and violence, not create it. Please, let’s try to live together peacefully.”

He presses “Enter” and immediately his cell phone rings. It’s Carver.

“Good morning,” Bradford says.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Carver demands. “Why are you trying to wreak havoc on these people? Let’s not make things more tense than they already are. This is our land now, Bradford. Let’s just get this meal thing over with.”

Bradford sighs and hangs up and walks outside to see his wife, Dorothy, preparing the table with a massive spread.

“Is this really going to fill 113 people?” Bradford asks.

“I’m doing the best I can,” Dorothy says. “This article I read on Henrietta Maria Living says that when you throw big dinners like this, it’s rare that every single person is going to be eating at the same time. Usually people tend to dine in shifts.”

“If you say so. Have you seen Tisquantum?”

“He just went to join the rest of the Wampanoag to hunt for deer.”

“Sounds delicious.”

“Indeed, his grandmother just texted me an amazing venison seasoning recipe.”

“Can’t wait. I loved that photo you posted of you two picking berries.”

“Really? How come you didn’t ‘like’ it then?”

“Sorry, I’ve been too busy for social media. I’m just trying to negotiate this Treaty thing.”

Several hours later, dinner is nearly ready. The Pilgrims pile their plates with pumpkin, squash, fruits, clams, and fowl stuffed with herbs and onion. Chief Massasoit and his warriors are carrying five deer—all cooked, seasoned, and read to eat.

“We’re starving. Is there going to be enough food for all of us?” Massasoit asks.

“I made forty batches of that chestnut casserole you helped me harvest.”

“But there’s over a hundred of us!”

“In that case, I’ll place an order on that catering app.”

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: 4 Ways to Protect Your Data When Shopping Online

Cyber Monday 2015 generated over $3 billion in sales, a 12% increase over previous years. This increase in online shopping isn’t without its pitfalls, however, as one in 86 transactions were targeted with some type of fraud.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, how should you ensure that your personal information is safe and secure when you shop online?

Be careful who you trust

Don’t give out your personal information to outlets you do not trust. Every time you are asked for your personal information while shopping online, ask yourself a few questions:

Do you trust the company or site you’re on? 

Before you trust an online store with your personal information, read up on what other shoppers have said about them. Search for complaints or scams that their website may have been involved in by typing “Company Name” + “Scam” or “Complaint” into your favorite search engine.

Is the store website encrypted? 

Don’t ever give out your personal information on websites that aren’t encrypted. Encrypted sites protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. Look for an https at the beginning of their web address. This shouldn’t just be on the login page, so check every page you visit.

Does the store have a privacy policy? 

Online retailers should have a clear privacy policy that tells you how they protect your personal information, and secure your credit card information.

Did you download the store app you’re shopping on from a legitimate link? 

When using apps, always use the link provided by the brand on their own website to download their app. According to New York Times, more and more “fake” apps are making their way onto app stores, just in time to fool shoppers for the holiday season. Fake apps are not only hoping to sell you lower quality products, they could also use your credit card information in dubious ways.

Remember, not all WiFi is created equal

Every restaurant, mall and office seems to have WiFi, and often these networks are open to all users. We’ve all logged into an unprotected WiFi network once or twice, but few people know how much more vulnerable you are when transmitting data over a wireless connection (and not just an unprotected one). Limit your buying activity to password secured connections you trust, such as your home, and never log in to your banking app or transmit credit card information over an unsecured public network.

Secure your devices and accounts

Where once you only had to ensure your computer had the latest available anti-virus software, now you have to also worry about securing phones and tablets. Most security software is set to update automatically, so opt-in for that option on the software you choose. But also set your operating system and browser to update automatically, as these updates can often include important updates required to keep your device secure from the latest threats.

Not only should your devices be updated, remember to choose smart passwords for all accounts. Using a password management service such as LastPass can allow you to create hard-to-crack passwords without having to worry about remembering them. Choose passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and special characters, and keep the length between 10 to 14 characters.

Consider a Virtual Credit Card Number

Some card issuers provider users with an alternate number that they can use when they shop online. The disposable number is still linked to your account, and your purchases do appear on your card statement, but since it can only be used for a limited time, or with a limited number of merchants, a scammer who comes across it at a later date cannot use it. You will need to check if your credit card issuing bank provides a disposable number, but it’s worth checking it out before the holiday shopping starts.

Your safety is in your own hands, so remember to stay safe while shopping online by following these suggestions. Happy holidays!

Technology Can Help You Eat Less During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. The period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is a festive time that we all enjoy. But nobody likes the pounds we pile on during the holidays. It’s pretty hard to resist turkey, pumpkin pie and other calorific treats that come out to tempt you at this time, so it’s no surprise that at the end of the season some of us need to loosen our belts.

Just how much weight do people gain? It depends. One report suggests that Americans weigh on average 1.3 pounds more at the end of the holidays than they did at the start. That doesn’t sound too bad, but if you have a high BMI (or did in the past), you could gain between 2 and 5 pounds, and it’s not always that easy to get rid of.

The way to avoid six months of intense workouts to recover your beach body is to eat less, and luckily, there are plenty of technological solutions to help us do better.

Track food with apps

One way to eat less is to know what foods and how many calories you’re eating. It might surprise you, because all of those tiny, seemingly harmless snacks can add up to a whole lot of calories. Luckily, you don’t have to track these in a little book any more. There are plenty of apps to help you keep eating habits under control, including:

   •     LoseIt
   •     My Diet Diary
   •     MyFitnessPal
   •     NoomCoach
   •     Fooducate
   •     Simple Calorie Count

Most food diary apps require some initial setup (entering weight and height, for example) to help guide you on the amount you should be eating each day. Once you see how many calories that beer or slice of cake adds up to, you’ll definitely want to reduce your consumption.

Work with a nutritionist

Working with a nutritionist to improve eating habits isn’t exactly new, but what is new is that you can now do it without leaving your home. The HAPICoach app lets you work 1:1 with your personal nutritionist to set up and work on an eating plan and reach your nutrition goals via an app and related fitness devices. If you’re international, it will set you back about $25 per month, but isn’t it worth it if it keeps you looking trim?

Change your habits

One way to make eating less stick is to change your routine and form new habits that aren’t focused on food. You’ll have to stick with it, though. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take 21 days to form a new habit, but more like 66, says James Clear. Try an app to help you maintain your motivation and focus until your new behavior is etched on your brain. One approach that works is habit stacking—chaining a series of actions together until they all become automatic. A simple way to eat less would be to integrate drinking water as part of a habit stack at intervals during your day. Check out this list of apps to help you with building healthy habits.

Use YouTube

When it comes to eating less, YouTube university doesn’t disappoint. There are hundreds of thousands of videos featuring meditations and hypnosis to help you eat less or to lose weight. Just fire up the mobile app, plug in your headphones and transport yourself to a different plane where eating until you’re stuffed seems a lot less attractive.

Grab a fitness tracker

Finally, fitness trackers can help you make a preemptive strike against those holiday pounds, by helping you get a handle on how much exercise you’re actually doing. These wearable devices are small and sleek and often integrate with mobile and web apps to give you more data on your exercise habits (if you can stand to look!). When you know better, you do better, so grab yourself a FitBit, Gear Fit or other tracker to help you. Alternatively, put it on your wish list and hope that Santa is kind to you this year!

Backing Up Servers

Maybe your business is growing—you’ve hired somebody to help with the bookkeeping and you need some way to share the accounting files. Maybe you’ve had a near miss—the power went out suddenly and your data hadn’t been saved recently. Maybe, for some other reason, you’ve come to the realization that your data needs to be protected, whether due to business continuity, regulatory, or other reasons.

Regardless, you need a data protection solution for your server. And you’re not sure where to start.

What do all these terms mean?

Anytime you get people talking about backup, they’ll spit out a bunch of acronyms that can be bewildering to a newcomer. So let’s talk about them!
   •     BCP: This is your “Business Continuity Plan.” In other words,          in the event you lose data—whether it be a single file or a          whole server—how will you recover from the loss and resume          business? Many businesses formalize this as a written plan;          that way, in the absence of all the principals, others know how          to proceed.

   •     RPO: This is a “Recovery Point Objective.” It’s a measure of how much data—measured in time—you can afford to lose.          If you’re doing bookkeeping, you might be able to afford to lose 15 or 20 minutes’ worth of work. If you’re a bank, you          generally can’t afford to lose anything. As this number approaches 0, the solutions tend to get more expensive,          depending on the type of data.

   •     RTO: This is a “Recovery Time Objective.” It’s a measure of how quickly—again, measured in time—you have to be back          up and running. The more critical the data, the lower the RTO usually is.

So how does this all come together? Say you manufacture widgets for a living, and your inventory and customer relationship systems live on a server. Your business continuity plan may be something as simple as:

  1. In the event the server dies and the server is unrecoverable, contact our local server reseller and arrange for delivery of Server Model X. Reseller contact info is XXX-XXX-XXXX.
  2. While awaiting delivery, download restore of most recent restore point. Our backup vendor is Mozy; their support is XXX-XXX-XXXX, with support ID XXXXXXX. Ask for assistance in recovering backup set “Inventory Data.”
  3. When server arrives, reinstall Inventory Management Software (Vendor is XXX-XXX-XXXX).
  4. Restore backup set to location d:\inventory.

Why start with the business continuity plan?

For starters, a business continuity plan helps you identify how you’re going to work through a failure. All too often, the vendors may not know how best to help you. If your inventory control software only runs on Server 2003, a local reseller may not have a machine with Server 2003 available. You may have lost or misplaced the inventory control vendor’s contact info. Your backup vendor can probably help you get your data back, but may not know which application generated it when the data is just files on your server. And so on.

By putting it all in a plan, you’ve already set yourself up for determining what your critical data is.

What is my critical data?

The easy answer is “all of it.” However, when getting your business back up and running, you probably don’t need a 5-year-old quality control report right now. The older the data gets, the less critical it is. In addition to this, different types of data may require different workflow. You may be backing up images and a database; the database is going to require a database engine to be usable. So you should take steps to identify your critical data, categorize it, back it up, and most critically, know how to get it back in a way that allows you to keep your business running.

Your business continuity plan should include steps for getting the most critical data right away and lesser-critical data afterward. This is where the RTO comes into play. In the example above, you’d probably want your vendor to have a server delivered to you within 12 hours and critical production data up and running within 4 hours of the server becoming available. At most, you’d miss one full business day of work this way, most of which is spent waiting on new hardware. By communicating your RTO to your vendors, you can ensure everybody understands what the expectations are, and as things progress, whether or not your business continuity plan is on track.

Some data may reside in applications; for example, Microsoft SQL databases or MySQL databases. These can be protected to, but generally require what’s called an “Application consistent” backup—a backup that ensures the congruency of the database prior to executing a backup.

If you have critical data in applications like that, make a note of it; your backup vendor will want to know in order to best assist you.

So I know what my plan is and what my critical data is. What are my next steps?

Actually protecting data should be the last step of your business continuity plan. Now that you’ve set your standards and understand what needs to be protected, we’d be more than happy to invite you to give us a call, where we can discuss how Dell EMC can protect your most important data. Even if Mozy isn’t the best fit, Dell EMC together is the world’s largest data protection company. We can find the right solution for you!

Mozy Frightful Computer Haiku Contest Winners 2016

Two-thousand sixteen marked the sixth consecutive year of the Mozy Frightful Computer Haiku Contest. This year’s haiku poets claimed $200, $50 and $25 gift cards for their evocative efforts. As in years past, it was a challenge to select the winners from all of your most excellent submissions. Here are our winners:

3rd place and a $25 gift card to Denisha Parker Moore:
Virus goblins in
the night came to cause big fright.
Mozy make it right!

2nd place and a $50 gift card to spaceJASE:
Poor souls lost or burned
Mozy works the graveyard shift
Undead files return

1st place and a $200 gift card to Joel Hiller:
In the darkened lab
Mozy brings the dead files back
“It’s alive!” I shriek

Congratulations to our winners (though if you back up with Mozy, you already know that you’re a winner)! Winning poets, please email us at stories@mozy.com to claim your gift card. Be sure to include your name and snail mail address.

If you didn’t win, there is always next year. In the meantime, limit your sugar intake and be sure that you are always safeguarding your files with the latest Mozy backup software.

Why Cloud Computing Makes Xbox One the Ultimate Console

Back in 2013, Microsoft made a peculiar declaration that the Xbox One wouldn’t be like other consoles that showed their age in the dying days of their life cycle. Instead, the new console would become more powerful with cloud computing. Since then, there haven’t been many examples of games showing it off and most people still don’t exactly know why or how it will improve the console. While there’s no software that fully takes advantage of the feature currently in consumers’ hands, there’s still plenty of reason to be excited about the technology that will change gaming forever.

The best example of cloud computing on the Xbox One is featured in the upcoming game, Crackdown 3. Making its visual debut at Gamescom 2015, the developers showed how an entire environment could be demolished in a multiplayer setting. Seems simple enough on the surface with how powerful the console is, but not even the newest-built PC could handle all the processing required to do this.

This is where cloud computing comes in. It gives the Xbox One hidden processing power by using servers in the cloud to store the destruction. For years, multiplayer games have ran by declaring one console the host while other units would feed off of it, but these matches have always been held back because there’s only so much information that can be shared. Cloud servers create more room for the game’s multiplayer matches to feature full-scale destruction that won’t disappear.

Dave Tach of Polygon describes how the additional servers made Crackdown 3 a thrilling experience:

“When the server’s horizontal bar maxed out, it added another, represented by a progress bar beneath it. And another. And another. The game didn’t so much as hitch as the buildings fell and more and more servers made it happen.”

Unfortunately, there’s nothing currently available to consumers that clearly shows how amazing using cloud servers can be. Titanfall does have its multiplayer universe built using them and it creates more room for physics and artificial intelligence. Still, the game’s multiplayer mode still behaves like a traditional one. There isn’t anything that truly shows the power of cloud servers. Crackdown 3′s ability to have multiple players destroying the entire environment could finally be the software that changes that when it’s released to the public.

Will the additional cloud servers make the Xbox One the only console you’ll need for decades? Not necessarily. Games will continue to require better graphics cards and more processing speed, and that will have to be upgraded. There will still be a need for new consoles, or slightly upgraded models that the current generation will be releasing soon. They also won’t wow consumers like a decked-out PC rig with the latest technology.

People who have never heard of cloud servers probably won’t be any the more wiser after playing through Crackdown 3, simply thinking that it’s just how powerful the Xbox One is. However, as more developers take advantage of them, the longer the console’s shelf life will be.

Halloween and Technology: A Spooky Treat

When you think about Halloween you tend to think about candy, costumes, ghosts, and vampires. What you usually don’t think about is technology, but you should. Technology really can level up Halloween for you and your kids.

Are you tired of trying to find houses to trick-or-treat?
For the last few years Nextdoor has allowed its members to install an app on their phone that lets them track the houses that are celebrating Halloween in their neighborhood. Gone are the days of wandering aimlessly looking for houses that have their lights on. Instead you can download the app, open the Treat Map, and find all the houses in your neighborhood that are handing out candy.

Halloween is always more fun when you are saving money
If staying home and handing out treats is more your speed just turn to your phone or the Internet for help. Slickdeals has you covered. It can help you find the best deals on costumes, candy and Halloween decorations. You can browse the site for deals or set deal alerts that will let you know as soon as something goes on sale. There’s even iOS and Android apps to help you get to those deals as quickly as possible.

You can also save money by using Honey. No, I’m not talking about Winnie the Pooh’s favorite treat but about a slick little extension that you can install in your browser. Once Honey is installed in your Google Chrome Browser it will help you automatically find and use coupon codes, get the best prices on Amazon, earn cash back on your purchases, and find real-time deals. Nothing makes Halloween fun like saving money.

You can find more than cute cat pics on the web
The Internet is also a great place to find resources for a fun and exciting Halloween. A quick search on Pinterest will return literally thousands of results for decoration ideas, home-made costumes, fun Halloween themed desserts, and more. Pumpkin Masters is another great site to visit at Halloween. They have lots of freebies like pumpkin carving templates, desktop wallpapers, and Halloween trivia.

Lights aren’t just for Christmas anymore
This last tip for using technology to spook up your Halloween isn’t for the faint of heart but it can make for a truly memorable Halloween. The last couple of years ABC has aired a reality show called The Great Christmas Light Fight. This show pits families against one another to determine who has the best Christmas lights. But displays like this aren’t just for Christmas anymore. Companies like Light-O-Rama can help you set up a fully interactive Halloween display with lights, sound effects, music, and more. With some hard work and imagination you can turn your home into a haunted mansion that will be the most popular trick-or-treat stop for miles.

So there you have it. While you might not think it at first blush, technology can help Halloween be more fun. It can help you build the ultimate haunted mansion of your dreams or it can just help you find one to trick-or-treat.

4 Smart Technology Gadgets to Protect Your Home

Technology advances have provided us with more ways to protect our homes and families from danger, but how do you choose from hundreds of smart home gadgets? We’ve poured through the reviews to identify four ways that you can prevent harm from electrical surges, overheating of electronic devices, and environmental contaminants.

Power surge protection

Your first consideration in evaluating surge protective devices (SPDs) should be the safety of your television, Internet connection, computers, and appliances, but a severe power surge could result in a fire. Lightning strikes can pass through surge protectors and come through your phone or cable line. Power surges can even originate inside the home as large appliances power on and off.

For whole home protection, Leviton offers several models of Type 2 SPDs that protect the home’s entry point of electrical service from residual lightning energy and internally generated surges. Following a surge event, a surge module can be easily replaced. Features include high levels of protection against transient surge capacity and instantaneous response time.

For economical surge protection at the electrical outlet, the TrippLite TLP1208 model series features options for telephone, cable, and satellite input and output with a surge suppression rating of 2880 joules. Additional features include EMI/RFI noise filtering, resettable circuit breaker, diagnostic indicators, automatic shutoff, and $150,000 insurance for connected equipment.

Electrical device overheating protection

Protect your home from fires caused by overheating of electrical devices by installing a smart plug on electrical outlets.

The D-Link DSP-W215 Wi-Fi Smart Plug allows you to control power to your devices from an Internet-connected iOS or Android app. Thermal sensors detect when a device is overheating and automatically shuts it off. Energy usage can be monitored to help you save on electricity costs by creating on/off schedules for connected devices. Connection to an existing Wi-Fi network takes only a few minutes. Integration with the Amazon Echo allows for hands-free voice control. Pair with IFTTT (If This Then That) devices and apps as part of a smart home solution.

Environmental contaminant protection

Birdi, the latest smart technology in environmental sensors, combines sensing of smoke, carbon monoxide, and air quality into a single device that provides in-home and smartphone alerts.

Birdi’s fire protection sensor detects fast-burning and smoldering fires with the ability to minimize false alarms. The smoke alarm can be silenced from your smart phone or by saying “quiet” when within range of the sensor.

In-home air quality sensors provide insights on small particulates, dust and other allergens, stale air carbon dioxide, low-level carbon monoxide, VOCs, temperature, and humidity. Outside the home, Birdi detects pollution, pollen, and other particulates. When there is an emergency, authorities and other pre-configured contacts can be automatically notified.

Affordable investments in smart technology can save you money by preventing the need for claims against your homeowners or renters insurance and the potential for increased rates. More importantly, you can protect the health and safety of people in and around your home with a few inexpensive gadgets.