Smart Homes and the Implications of Abundant Content: A Collaborative Exploration of Home Automation – By Lisa Gedak & Tala Mami

Imagine in the future:

“Your wrist phone chimes with a message from your spouse.  Her business trip to review the Sahara forest project will finish early and she ought to make the noon hypersonic shuttle and be home by teatime. Maybe you can still make the premiere of that new zero-G dance show tonight. Time to leave. You signal the table to resorb the scant remains of your nutritionally balanced breakfast. The kids couldn’t wait. They are already in the media room for the day’s first lesson – their artificially intelligent tutor-cum-playmate is conducting a virtual reality tour of the first Olympic Games, reconstructed from the latest time probe results.” (Turney, p.6, 2013)

Our homes are embracing technological innovations at speed we may not have imagined ten years ago.  Turney (2013) imagined a home where technology has seeped into all aspects of our daily lives: information, communication, education, entertainment, leisure, transportation, and infrastructure.  Smart home technologies are making this vision a reality.  In this joint blog post, we explore some innovations that are enabling home automation; we provide some resources that exist for setting up and use of each smart home technology; and finally, we explore the implications of the abundant content and resources available.

Through several meetings and asynchronous research efforts, we have uncovered three cutting edge smart home technologies and some resources that will allow homeowners to learn how to use these innovations.

  1. The Philips Hue Home Lighting System

Control both intensity of light — dimming or brightening on-command — and the color of lights. It can create a personalized experience by using special color-coordinated moods (i.e. choose the “energize” theme on Hue app for a specific room or sync it with music). Also, by using color-coordinated alarms (i.e. wake up every morning to a bright pink bedroom). Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box. Sync color smart lights to your TV shows, movies, and games

Three gadgets of Philips Hue Home Lighting System:

  • Hue lights: These smart and energy-efficient LED lights come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and models to suit different spaces.
  • Hue Bridge: The Bridge acts as a smart hub, connecting your devices to your smart lights. up to 50 Philips Hue lights and accessories can be added to one Bridge.
  • Hue app: Control smart lights quickly and conveniently with the Philips Hue app


  • Turning off all your lights with one tap
  • Using color to personalize and transform the home atmosphere as per convenience
  • Safety by programming lights to make it seem like you’re actually home.

Use of Philips Hue:

  • Bluetooth: A Bluetooth-controlled system can control lights within Bluetooth range. Set the mood of a single room with any Philips Hue Bluetooth-compatible bulb and the Hue Bluetooth app, which controls up to 10 lights
  • Hue Bridge: Adding a Hue Bridge activates the built-in Zigbee network — a more advanced way to control your lights — and unlocks the full suite of smart lighting features: add up to 50 bulbs, set routines, and more.

Compatible Devices:

With an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device, you can use simple voice commands such as, ‘Alexa, dim the lights’, or,’ ‘Hey Google, turn on the table lamp’, to control your lights. Compatible devices include: Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation, Amazon Echo Plus, Amazon Echo Show 5, Google Home Mini and Google Home Hub

  1. EcoBee4 Thermostat

The Ecobee4 allows to control air temperature with voice commands, it also works as its own Amazon speaker, so it can do everything your Alexa or Assistant can do, including play music, shop, and control other devices.

Use of EcoBee4 Thermostat:

  • Provides personalized all-around comfort: Room sensor to help manage hot or cold spots
  • Comes with Amazon Alexa Voice Service built inside: perform the many ‘skills’ that come with Alexa. All you have to do is ask and watch the blue light pipe on top of the thermostat blink in response. For total hands-free control, it can even hear you from across the room
  • Lets you focus: With Alexa, fulfill everyday tasks with a simple command. (i.e. grocery lists, play music, set alarm)


  • Clear Communication: ecobee4 has embedded microphones with far-field voice recognition and a speaker engineered for clear voice and full sound
  • Accessible: All commands can be controlled using one app
  • Energy Saver: Save up to 23%* in heating and cooling costs each year. ENERGY STAR® certified

How to start using EcoBee4 Thermostat:

  • Hire a professional installer to get ecobee device or do it yourself;
  • Removing your old thermostat back plate
  • Determine your HVAC system type by checking if you have one or two sets of terminal labels on your old thermostat’s back plate.
  • If you have a C-wire, it will power your ecobee. You won’t need the PEK included in the box
  • If you have an extra wire that isn’t connected to any terminal on your thermostat, you can use it as a C-wire.

Compatible Devices:

Ecobee4 integrates seamlessly with apps and other home ecosystems like Alexa or Apple Home Kit.

  1. Portal from Facebook

Portal from Facebook allows video conferencing, listening to music, checking the front door, displaying photos, sharing stories using augmented reality effects, playing games, surfing the web, and accessing popular apps.

Use of Portal:

  • Hands free video calling
  • Comes with Amazon Alexa Voice Service built inside: play music, surf the web, get the news and weather by saying “Hey portal”
  • Play games and share photos


  • Camera automatically pans and zooms to focus on you, even in a room full of people.
  • Voice-enhancing microphone that minimizes background noise. front porting stereo speakers and a rear woofer for rich hi-fi sound
  • When you’re not on a call, Portal can show pictures from your Facebook photo albums
  • Display birthday reminders and the weather.
  • Can connect to TV for large display

How to start using Portal:

  • Purchase a portal box here:
  • Download the portal app for syncing with devices
  • After plugging in device, follow onscreen instructions for two step set-up
  • Call, email or chat instantly with portal support team for set-up issues or technical support

Compatible Devices:

Portal integrates seamlessly with several apps including, words with friends, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Facebook watch and CNN, and connects with smart devices for use on the go, is compatible with WhatsApp and messenger.

Incorporating these technological innovations into our homes to make them “smart” can be exciting, and it is fun to imagine the future possibilities that these innovations can generate.  The content available currently surrounding smart home technologies is vastly abundant, but consideration needs to be given to the number of innovations that are emerging, and the speed of their arrival. Weller (2011) postulated the impact of having an abundance of learning content and resources and examined how in our digital, networked age, the scale of the content we have access to is on a different level.  In smart home technologies, the user is the generally self-taught, and installs, sets up, and operates the technology with remote support, instruction, and troubleshooting being supplied by the company designing the tech.  As home automation continues to grow, so does the amount of content that will be available concerning these innovations, and this abundance may need more educational considerations then the smart technologies themselves.


Turney, J. (2013). Imagining technology (Working Paper No. 13/5). Retrieved from

Weller, Martin (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249. 223–236 Retrieved from

5 thoughts on “Smart Homes and the Implications of Abundant Content: A Collaborative Exploration of Home Automation – By Lisa Gedak & Tala Mami

  1. This was an interesting activity to do since I, myself, am not very tech-savvy!

    In order to adopt such smart solutions at my own house, I would have to educate myself and get exposed to abundant content and resources on the internet. This can be a blessing and a curse at the same time 🙂

    In such a world where every day you learn something new, I believe it is very essential to remind ourselves to always have a good appetite for learning but at the same time, educate ourselves to be critical thinkers throughout our learning process in terms of choosing the right resources and content. I believe it is a skill that can be enhanced regularly!


    1. I agree Tala, it is definitely a blessing and a curse! So much content we discovered!
      Great activity, I enjoyed working with you!

  2. Thank you for this interesting exploration! Reading all this has me wondering the following: You’ve uncovered some devices that could be used to automate a home. How confident are you that you could select one between them for a same function? And how confident are you in your ability to use content available online to install and use them? Help me see more connections to learning, teaching, and pedagogy.

    1. Hi George,

      I am glad you found our topic interesting. Looking through the lens of “abundant content” it became quickly clear that there was an enormous amount of information and various methods of incorporating smart technology into our homes that could be investigated. Selecting, installing and using this smart tech would widely range in how user-friendly it was, as would the tech support required to install, operate, and troubleshoot these automatons. Technology is making its way into our everyday lives, thus demanding knowledge building in non-educational settings. This influx of tech in our homes lacks the pedagogical framework and reminds me of Cormier’s (2008) Rhizomatic plant comparison. Smart home tech has no defined boundaries and is arguably spreading without limits. In relation to teaching and learning, this can be compared to using new tech in our classrooms, instructors need to select appropriate tech, and use it effectively to enhance the learning; with the pedagogy coming first, then the tech being selected based on the pedagogy. With our exploration of smart home technologies, it became evident that the tech is selected first, without much thought as to why it is selected. We have provided links to instructions installation and use, which provides a demonstration for the learner (Merrill, 2002) Smart home technologies are also integrated into everyday life, which can promote learning.


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