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Beginner's guide to smart devices

Supporting your independence

Image of smart devices on table

The world of technology has grown and transformed almost everything we do in our daily lives from how we clean our clothes, to prepare our meals and to get from one place to another and communicate with each other.

Over the last decade the development of smart devices has had a highly positive impact on people’s lives, with communication, entertainment and safety devices being most popular. These devices connect and ‘talk’ to each other usually via wi-fi either at home or on the move.

In many ways these devices are fun gadgets that add interest to the home, opening information that may once have been difficult to find. They can play games, music and videos, but they can also provide ways for people to manage their home environment more easily and contact family and friends quickly in an emergency and monitor their overall health.

Image of someone controlling their home devices from a smart phone

So, what is smart technology? Surprisingly, pinning down a definition can be difficult.

  • Is it connectivity with the Internet?
  • Is it artificial intelligence?
  • A built-in capacity to learn from the
  • Is it app driven?
  • Or is it a combination of all those aspects?

The term “smart” originally comes from the acronym “Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology” but became widely known as “smart” because of the notion of allowing previously inanimate objects—from cars to basketballs to clothes—to talk back to us and even guide our behaviour.

As a general rule, smart technology is an umbrella term used to describe interconnected devices that perform relatively normal functions with a greater degree of autonomy than their non-smart equivalents.

Phone, Tablets, watches… IOS & Android Accessibility function

Smart devices are the everyday items that connect to the internet. This can include both 'hi-tech' items (think laptops, smart speakers, fitness trackers and security cameras), and standard household items (such as fridges, lightbulbs and doorbells).

Recently this type of technology has moved to watch devices that can monitor heart rates and sleep patterns.

someone circling a date on a calendar which says get organised

Smart devices can promote independence and reduce social isolation by making you more connected and have access to virtual ‘assistants’ allow you to use your voice to give commands or ask questions.

The top ten things people use smart devices for:

  1. Regular and Emergency Calls
  2. Reminders: Medication, Birthdays, Doctor Appointment Scheduling
  3. Medical Alerts & tracking (watches)
  4. Social: Family Member Drop-Ins, social media
  5. Entertainment: Audiobooks, Listening to News, Viewing media(Screened hubs) Radio, music with
  6. Broadcast a message
  7. Internet search for information
  8. Setting Alarms & Timers
  9. Making Lists; To do… Shopping list
  10. Extra Speaker(can be used with music apps)

The Extras:

  1. Captioning (screened hubs)
  2. Online or Grocery Shopping
  3. Burglar Deterrent (Screen) Doorbells, door locks
  4. Smart Home Features
  5. Interpreter/Translate mode
  6. And so much more… over to you!

Meet Lisa and hear how smart Tech helps her to connect with people and live independently

A piggy bank, calculator, pen and financial statement

A smart device can be a smart phone from around £100, or something like an Alexa or Google Home, these devices can cost from £40 upwards.

You would need to be connected to the internet for any of the smart hub devices.

The best way to learn is by talking to the device and asking questions.

You may be able to find more localised support via Birmingham Connect to Support's Community Directory


How to set up your Echo 

Google Assist devices

Useful Links:

Other links you may find useful when starting out with a smart device

AbilityNet - free tech support for disabled and older people

National Cyber Security Centre - Smart devices in the home 

Scope - Smart tech for disabled people

Last updated: 11/14/2022

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