Automate & Secure Your Home with Nest Devices

Automate & Secure Your Home with Nest Devices

nest_default_share_iconI’m a sucker for shiny new tech objects. There, I said it.

But I’ve resisted the need and the lure of most “internet of things” things like thermostats,cameras, doorbells  and more. Until now, that is.

A few weeks ago I received a bundle of Nest devices including the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Cam, and the Nest Smoke + CO Alarm from Verizon Wireless as I’m a part of the #VZWBUZZ team. I was immediately impressed with the devices and in just a few minutes I had all three of them configured and installed in their place in my home.

I will take a few moments to discuss all three devices and my experiences with them and how they might be right for your lifestyle.

Nest Thermostat

2016-05-08 08.30.38I’ve had a programmable thermostat in my home for several years now. Living in North Dakota the heater is running all winner as the temperatures plunge to below 0°, and the AC runs all summer as we climb to 90°+. So being able to control when each of these items should run and for how long can be a huge money saver. In fact, I saw a $30 decrease in both heating and cooling seasons by installing the programmable thermostat.

So when I opened the Nest Learning Thermostat box and read the documentation on how it can be either told when to run at certain temperatures, or LEARN when you’re home and adjust the internal climate as necessary, I was intrigued.

Installing the device into the wall was easy with included instructions, so don’t be turned off by that. It came with a large cover plate that covered any blemishes left on the wall by previous thermostats and the device itself simply snaps in place.

Connecting to the thermostat from the downloadable Android/iOS app is as simple as snapping a photo of a QR code with your camera and entering a few numbers. From here you connect to your wireless network, configure a few other items, and snap the thermostat in place to control your heater or AC unit.

It’s really that easy. And now the device starts learning when you go to sleep, when you wake up, when you leave and come home from work, and many other features that help keep your home, and you, as comfortable as possible.

For more information on the Nest Learning Thermostat, check out this page at Verizon.com.

Nest Cam

2016-05-08 13.27.57Since I work at home, the Nest Cam is probably the product I was least excited about. However, now that I installed it and have it sitting on my wi-fi network, I can honestly say it’s nice to have.

As with the Thermostat, programming and configuring was done on the app using the QR code and camera. It resides on a coffee table pointed at the main window, entrance door from outside, and other entrance area from the kitchen.

I was able to set up zones on the app that can either notify, or not notify me of sound or motion inside of those zones. This was a big deal since my dogs are constantly moving about the house.

The best part of the camera is that I can tell it to turn off when someone with the app installed is home. This keeps me from getting tons of notifications of motion when my wife is home, and her from getting them when I’m at home working.

When you’re away from home you are notified by either email or on the app, your choice, as to any sound or motion that triggers the camera. You are then able to watch on the app or browser to see AND hear what’s happening inside your home. And check this out, there’s even a speaker in the camera so if you see something correctable by your voice like a pet misbehaving you can say something that’s heard in your home and hear the response.

All in all, the setup and configuration of the Nest Cam took about ten minutes. Allow more time if you’re going to mount on the wall and have to get power to it.

Visit Verizon.com for more information on the Nest Cam.

Nest Fire + CO Alarm

Check out the Verizon.com page for more information on the Nest Cam
2016-05-08 15.26.27My smoke detectors in the house are hardwired with battery backup. However, they are close to 15 years old and were in desperate need of replacement.

So when I was able to test this device I was excited. Configuration and setup was again, five minutes with the app, the QR code and a bit of info like wi-fi password. Installing the base and hanging it took maybe ten minutes, so easily within 30 minutes if you read and follow instructions (I’ve never been good at that…). The alarm tested during setup and it is LOUD, so make sure you let everyone know you’re testing. The app displays your alarm(s) and provides a status.

Because of the location status, I am going to be purchasing two more alarms for the other floors of my home and replacing them as well. Knowing via the app where smoke or CO gas has been detected is great information for putting that fire out or determining an exit of the building.

And some of you may be interested in a feature that allows a user to stop a fire alarm for up to 15 minutes in the event that the home fills with smoke from a burned cooking experience, electronic project, or other reason.

Visit Verizon.com for more information on the Nest Smoke + CO Alarm.

2016-05-06 15.33.39These Nest devices are a wonderful way to start the home security and automation process. They leverage the power of Google and tap into our reliance on mobile technology, which makes the process easier to manage and more powerful.

If you would like to cut your home’s heating and cooling costs, see your home when you’re gone, or know if your home is experiencing an emergency regardless of where you are, the Nest products are an easy way to get started. And I can’t wait to see what they think of next!

And, if you want to see how these devices work together, check out this wonderful post on the Nest website!

AND, if you’re really creative and want to get more out of your Nest Bundle devices, connect them to other “internet of things” devices and other mobile apps using hundreds of IFTTT (If Then Then That) recipes. Find out more about these by clicking on the links below.

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received mobile devices with line of service from Verizon (#ad). No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own. By the way, we meet every Friday @ 2pm CT on Twitter to discuss mobile phones and how you can use them in your daily lives. Join us! 

#VZWBuzz #ad

 

 

 

 

Customizing Your Android Smartphone Screens

Customizing Your Android Smartphone Screens

settingsAndroid smartphones are wonderful devices. The ways you can communicate with friends, family, co-workers and clients are almost limitless. Text messaging, instant message, social media, news sites, and yes, even phone calls are all just a finger press away. Add some calendar apps, weather widgets, productivity tools, media programs, a camera and news readers and you have a full-blown computer in your pocket or purse.

So why are you still using that default home screen background and ringtone? Your device has so many ways to customize the experience based on personal or business criteria, making the smartphone a much more powerful way to manage your life.

Below are some tips to make your phone, well, yours. Make it easier to get at apps, data, contacts and more with just a few minutes of customizing. Enjoy!

Launcher

The launcher is the look, feel and function of the whole operating system. It controls how many icons you can add to a page, how large the widgets can be, what shortcuts you have on the dock at the bottom of the screen and more. The default launcher installed by your mobile company is pretty good, but did you know that by adding free or really cheap launchers you can extend the capabilities and function of the launcher? My favorite launcher app is Nova Launcher. I use the $4.99 version to get a few extra features, but the free one works pretty well. This little program will allow changes to :

  • Number of vertical and horizonal apps allowed in the grid. Great for tablets that have WAY more real estate.
  • Icon and folder size and the label layout.
  • Whether or not the Google Search Bar is present and how it looks.
  • How the App Drawer (where all of your installed apps are located) looks including scrolling direction and type, color, , animation and much more
  • Custom gestures and other inputs.
  • The ability to back up your desktop layout and import it into a differernt phone/tablet. This is HUGE is you’re transferring to a new device.

Try out the Nova Launcher or one of the many other launcher programs at the Google Play Store.

Folders

One of the limitations of the iOS platform used on iPhones and iPads is the inability of having an icon located in more than one place. That is NOT an issue with Android, so if you want an application link in a “Tools” folder, and also in a “Financial” folder, you have this option. Creating folders on your home screen, or just about anywhere else, is very simple.

  1. Drag an applcation shortcut on top of another icon. The system will hesitate for a moment and then drop the icon into a newly created folder along with the original appllication.
  2. Repeat this process for all of your applications until the folder is filled with your desired apps.
  3. Click on the folder once to open, then click on “Unnamed Folder” at the bottom and give your folder a name that identifies the types of apps contained like “Contacts,”  “Tools,” or “Social.”

I create multiple folders on multiple pages so I can get at business or personal specific information quickly.

Widgets

Widgets are an awesome way to bring some additional functionality to the Android environment. They are essentially ways to display app data on a particular screen in a way that makes it available at a glance or directly get to the app data. Some examples of widgets are weather data, email accounts, news and tasks.

  1. Widgets can be added anywhere there’s room and is done simply by clicking and holding anywhere on an open area of screen, opening the widget option.
  2. Click “Widgets” and select the information you’d like to add to the page like your weather app, or email.
  3. Drag the widget to the location of the page and release. If it fits, you will usually see some options to configure the layout, color, update times, etc for the data.

And below are a few of my favorites:

  • MoreCast – Great weather app that has several widgets to display current weather data and forecasts.
  • TypeMail – I have four email accounts on my phone so having unread counts or easily viewable widgets makes it easy to get to each account without opening several apps.
  • GTasks – I use Google Tasks to manage my several businesses and personal tasks. GTasks keeps them separate, but combines if I need.
  • Month – Have multiple Google Calendars on your device? Month combilnes them into one easy-to-view calendar widget.

Pages

Still trying to cram all of your information or data on to one screen? Android will let you keep as many pages as you wish, move them around so you can access them on the left or right swipe of your thumb, and set your “home” page.

As stated before, I have four businesses on my phone that I keep track of. Each business has a “page” full of contacts, tasks, email and other widgets and shortcuts. This allows me to keep everything separate and if I need a client phone number I go to the business page, pull up the “Contact” folder and click on the contact to make the call, email or text. I also keep links to specific apps here, shortcuts to web pages, and even a quick way to get to my OneNote or Drive accounts so I can access files or take notes on a specific client.

Pages are also a great way to separate your media like music or podcasts, books, and games from work related or personal information, or just to create a news and social media page loaded with constantly changing info that doesn’t interfere with your main page functionality.

Ringtones

Early on the Android system provided a way to assign new ringtones, and eventually a way to assign ringtones to specific contacts.

This is incredibly handy if you want to keep business and personal contacts straight, or even to know when your daughter calls. Now, changing the default ringtone is pretty simple, but editing a contact with a specific ringtone can be a bit more difficult for inexperienced users, but essentially:

  1. Pull the contact up in “Contacts” and “Edit” the contact.
  2. Select “More” at the bottom of the contact and scroll down until you see “Ringtone”
  3. Select one of the pre-programmed ringtones, or “Add ringtone” at the bottom, which will allow you to search for songs or other ringtones and assign it to the contact.

As I said before, the Android operating system has a TON of ways to customize the experience exactly to your liking. Charge up that phone, create some pages, start adding shortcuts and widgets, and turn that computer in your hand into the device your friends and family will envy!

I have included some images below of my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge pages. Use them as inspiration if you need, or tell me how YOU customized your phone or tablet @BeBizzy on Twitter or in the comments below!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received mobile devices with line of service from Verizon (#ad). No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own. By the way, we meet every Friday @ 2pm CT on Twitter to discuss mobile phones and how you can use them in your daily lives. Join us! 

#VZWBuzz

2016-03-30-20.01.57  2016-03-30-20.02.25  2016-03-30-20.02.18

 

 

Mobile Friendly Sites SEO Rank Increased

Mobile Friendly Sites SEO Rank Increased

SEO_DiceGoogle recently announced that in May 2016 mobile friendly sites will get a bit of a boost in SEO rankings. This could turn into a long-winded explanation on how to increase your site’s SEO or make the site mobile friendly, but really it comes down to this.

Mobile use of search and the rest of the web is on the increase. ComSCORE has stated that internet users on desktop was equaled and then passed by mobile users in 2014. So it makes sense that search giant Google would start to take mobile-ready sites into account on search engine results, especially to mobile users.

Checking your basic mobile readiness is simple. Go to this website (http://ow.ly/ZFyRr ) and enter your URL. If you’re ready, you should see a message telling you the good news. You will even see a screenshot of how the site is viewed on mobile. If not, you should get some tips on what needs to be changed.

Some of these fixes are pretty easy like text sizes and spacing and images. But, if you use Flash, a layout that does not conform to mobile viewing, non-breakable tables, or custom programming that is not viewable on phones or tablets the change becomes more difficult, and frankly, costly.

Do your potential or current customers need to view your website on mobile? Now is the time to plan on making the migration to a responsive design to ensure your website works on all devices. Protect your earned search engine ranking, or possibly move up by getting your site mobile ready! Contact BeBizzy Consulting today to see how you can make sure you’re ready for the mobile web.

Then, leave the technical stuff to us.

 

Why You Need a Responsive Website

Why You Need a Responsive Website

responsiveFor the last few years, whether I’ve been working for an advertising agency or now at BeBizzy Consulting, the main question is, “why do I need a new website?

The answers are numerous, but one stands out above all the rest… your site needs to be responsive.

By definition, responsive sites provide a similar experience to visitors regardless of the device or resolution on which they view the site. What that really means is that whether the users hits the site on their desktop or on their smarphone the information should be similar. Not exactly the same, as the screen sizes are vastly different, but similar.

The arguments to spend the money on responsive design are many, including:

  • Nearly 60% of American adults use a smartphone, and almost that same amount of internet traffic is performed by mobile devices. Your site needs to be viewed on these devices with a positive experience.
  • The smartphone is the new phone book. Every year we get a phone book delivered, but how many times do you look contact information up on your smartphone instead of dusting off a large, alphabetical listing? Responsive sites provide an easy way to get your contact information front and center on your page even to mobile users.
  • If B2B, more millenials are doing research on your companies and using mobile devices.
  • Huge difference in computer sizes. I use two 23″ monitors, some use a single 27″, and then there’s the mobile guy who uses a 12″ laptop. All need a similar experience.
  • Does your competition have a responsive site yet? If they do, they are getting leads from mobile users. If they do not, YOU can get a jump on them and get more leads.
  • If you are doing any sort of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) it’s much easier to optimize for one site than for two. Send everyone to the same page for the same information and focus marketing dollars instead of splitting and spending extra money to reach both audiences.
  • Google, who owns nearly 70% of the search market, states that responsive web design is an industry best practice.
  • And finally, nearly 75% of consumers bring their smartphone to the bathroom. Talk about a captive audience.

So on to the next question. How much will this cost?rwd

Not as much as you would think, with BeBizzy Consulting anyways. All of our development is built on the WordPress CRM system. The code is installed in our shared server environment, backed up nightly, secured and kept updated by some great software, and is incredibly easy to navigate and edit. Best of all, the themes we purchase and use are all responsive and have been tested on many devices across many browsers to ensure your potential clients are getting to you regardless of which device is used.

So what’s the next step? Well, contacting us would be the best, easiest next step towards determining if you need to complete the migration to a responsive site. There are definitely a few more items to be concerned about like current SEO efforts and other special coding that may exist. If you want to do some checking for yourself I would suggest making a list of competitors or businesses similar in other areas and checking their websites. If you’re seeing others already configured for responsive, you’re already behind. If not, it’s a chance to jump out front and potentially capture some market share.

Responsive web design is not new, nor will it be going anywhere soon. Designing a site that’s capable to be displayed on virtually any device and display similar information is huge in minimizing the cost of multiple SEO campaigns and managing several versions of one site. Contact BeBizzy Consulting and let’s see how we can move you towards that mobile-friendly website. You decide what you want on the site, then leave the technical stuff to us.

 

Logitech k480 Bluetooth Keyboard

Logitech k480 Bluetooth Keyboard

2015-03-18 10.56.10Yesterday I was on the fence on whether I should buy a Chromebook or not. For those of you not familiar with Chromebooks, they are cheap, laptop-like devices running Google’s Chrome OS. They have very little onboard memory, HD screens, similar ports to commercial laptops, and depend greatly on internet cloud services for hosting files and work. Some even come with LTE connectivity.

I have a laptop and also a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but the laptop, while powerful and work-friendly, is large and battery life is “ok.” The Note 10.1 is an awesome tool for email, following social media and viewing the web, digital books, entertainment and file viewing.

The Chromebook was to fill the void between the two because of these features:

  • Smaller than the laptop but larger than the tablet.
  • Full keyboard to make typing easier.
  • Wonderful battery life.
  • Great connectivity to cloud-based file storage like Google Drive, Dropbox and others.

So as I’m researching the Chromebooks from Asus, HP, Toshiba and Samsung, I stumbled upon another solution. What if I found a keyboard that was easy to use, full-featured, and could work on multiple devices when I inevitably upgrade from the Note 10.1?

About an hour later after a trip to Best Buy I had my solution in-hand, the Logitech k480 Bluetooth Keyboard.

The k480 has a ton of features that make this perfect.

  • Order your Logitech k480 today!Full featured keyboard including a selector to choose between a PC/Android layout and iOS.
  • Can connect to up to three difference devices using the numbered dial.
  • Rubberized cradle to securely holding your tablet or phone (or both in portrait mode!)

Now, I can use my tablet as my laptop/Chromebook clone. Android now has a full Microsoft Office version to create and edit documents and presentations. The 10″ screen is more than enough to work on WordPress in my browser, making blogging easy. I was worried about the charging port being on the bottom, but with a screen rotator app I can flip it 180 degrees and plug in on the “top” of the tablet. The channel even allows headphones to be plugged in with the device upside down.

Want to hear the best part? This keyboard is only around $50! Order one up on Amazon right now and turn that Android, Windows or iOS tablet into an even more powerful work device.

What are your thoughts on Chromebooks or the Logitech k480 keyboard? Let me know in the comments below, or just give a shout out on Twitter @BeBizzy!

2015-03-18 10.58.18  2015-03-18 10.56.23  2015-03-18 10.56.42

 

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I receive devices with line of service from Verizon. No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Winter Travel with Your Smartphone

Winter Travel with Your Smartphone

winterdrivingWinter travel in a car always has some risks, especially for younger, inexperienced drivers.  Roadways are unevenly covered with ice, snow, slush and water making otherwise normal driving hazardous and unnerving.  Driving across the northern part of the United States can take you from a seemingly beautiful late-fall/early-winter day into a white-knuckle whiteout where speeds above 30mph are impossible.

While you can’t control the roads, or the weather, or even the other guy behind the wheel who isn’t as careful or experienced in driving in winter conditions, you can prepare a bit with some smartphone apps and accessories to make things a bit more safe.

First of all, I should mention that 1) driving in stormy winter conditions is not advised so delay travel whenever possible, 2) you should NOT use mobile phone while driving, and 3) you should always carry a winter survival kit.

There are also some basic maintenance items you should do to your vehicles to minimize the chances of a mechanical failure.  And for some basic tips and other information on winter driving, check out IcyRoadSafety.com. (more…)

Get Office Mobile To Work On Your Android Tablet

Get Office Mobile To Work On Your Android Tablet

officemobileThere’s a lot of buzz today around the new iPhone, and rightfully so.  I hope to have one of these beautiful machines in my hands in the coming weeks just like millions of other tech-heads.

But today I was reminded why I am an Android fan.

Many of you have installed Microsoft Office Mobile on your android phones, iOS devices and, of course, Windows tablets.  Unfortunately the android tablets have been left out of the fun.  But with android, there’s always a way and at 6:30am I was able to install Office Mobile on my Samsung 10.1 tablet from my HTC OneM8 with an easy process of copying the .apk file from my phone, installing in on my tablet, and installing another app that allowed me to use Office in landscape mode.

Here’s what you will need: (more…)