UPDATED 15:49 EST / MAY 19 2015


Zombie Awareness Tips: How to survive the apocalypse with a smart home

Zombies. The walking dead returned from the grave to feast on soft buttery brains. Smart homes, a technology that allows for the automation of certain tasks such as turning on lights or changing the temperature.

What do zombies and smart homes have in common? Very little. However, when the zombie apocalypse comes and zombies eat your neighbors (sorry George!), your neighborhood’s smart home technology may not be entirely useless.

Just like in AMC’s The Walking Dead and numerous other zombie movies, should the shambling hordes come, you’ll want to do what you can to survive. According to the Zombie Research Society, May is “Zombie Awareness Month,” so SiliconAngle’s staff has worked out ways you can make smart homes work for you should the dead come knocking.

Off Grid Power for the zombie apocalypse

From the first zombie-infected bite much of what makes smart homes so appealing will fail: phone lines, cellular networks, and power grids will go down. Of course, smart home technology will run without networks–but it will not function without electricity.

To power a smart home and all of its essentially prepared people will likely already have a store of fuel and a gas generator or even a car using an DC/AC Power Inverter. Take a look on Amazon.com for one of these; it’s worth having one even without zombies scratching on the door.

The only problem: generators and cars are loud and use up fuel.

To keep the house powered and make sure all the smart home electronics keep running we’d suggest solar power with some sort of battery for night time or rainy days (wind power could also be a go-to here.)

For solar there’s a few solutions out there such as the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator Kit, which uses a solar panel to charge a battery. You can also find more solutions at BatteryStuff.com including multiple charging kits for different wattages. There’s also this interesting product that’s a portable solar charger kit called the Wagan Solar ePower Cube 1500 that bundles up a nice set of solar panels into a portable cube-like kit.

Simply take one of these solutions, combine it with a battery such as a Xantrex XPower 1,500 Watt Portable Powerpack or a set of otherwise ordinary 12v rechargeable batteries and you’d be good to go to keeping your anti-zombie smart home setup powered.

3068010930_7de840c6a3Motion detectors for early warning

Security is going to be the next problem for the zombie-fortified house and knowing what’s going on around the perimeter is going to be important. The first step is having an early warning system. That means motion detectors.

Most motion detectors turn on lights but this is not a good thing with zombies around–who might be attracted to lights. Therefore it’s better to grab a product that will instead by connecting to a larger network that signals people inside the house to check the perimeter.

With Insteon, from Smartlabs, Inc., you can set up a wireless motion detection network that can reach up to 150’ from any access point (a solid perimeter may need several access points as a result.) Combined with the Insteon hub or starter kit. For another good example of how this can be integrated is the SmartThings motion kit setup (plus hub.)

The benefit of many smart home hubs is also that networked computers, tablets, and smartphones with Wi-Fi access can be used to monitor the motion detectors via the hub.

Video cameras to see what’s going on

Having a motion detection perimeter is still not enough to ensure safety against the roaming dead. In most cases, motion detection will allow an early warning that an intruder is on the way and possibly give occupants a chance to get to a roof or an outlook to see what’s prowling. For instances where it’s not possible to get a line of sight, wireless connected cameras become the go-to.

From what we’ve seen the best in class wireless cameras continue to be the DropCam Pro variety. With Wi-Fi connectivity, DropCams could be placed around the perimeter and fed directly to a computer in the household–they even work great as motion detectors with the proper software. DropCams also have excellent night and low-light modes–for the all important horror trope of zombies coming in the night, after all.

DropCams also work with Nest Labs, Inc. Nest system (famous for the Nest thermostat), which is a still expanding smart home ecosystem itself.

2289727704_109b3fcb33 (1)Garage door opener for quick escapes (or distraction)

The presence of zombies also means that swiftly getting into and out of the house will be important–and in many cases this will be by car.

Ordinary clicker-type garage door openers will likely do the trick, but one that connects to a smart home network might suffice–but only if you extend the range of your own Wi-Fi network out through the neighborhood. Keep in mind: no more cellular service and even the Internet may suffer under the gnashing of zombie teeth.

One garage door opening system, the MyQ Chamerlain garage controller may be a go-to when your smartphone is in range of your Wi-Fi network. It’d be good to have something that connects with what technology you have to let you get that garage door opened after coming back from a supply run.

Alternatively, garage door openers could be used on other homes to distract the mindless undead hordes away from your house. So convince your neighbors to have a system set up as well and make sure to get access to it! That way when the marching zombies come down your street, you can click a button and attract them away from your safe house and to the (hopefully) unoccupied domiciles elsewhere on your street.

Leak detectors for that precious water

Potable water is going to be a very big deal during the zombie apocalypse. You would most likely purchase water filters, purification systems, and a large reservoir to hold onto water ahead of time, but smart home technology can once again come in handy here as well. A leak in the reservoir or pipes would be devastating for survival–but luckily right now several smart home solutions have water leak detectors.

For example, already mentioned above Insteon produces a water leak detector system that connects to the Insteon hub. And, SmartThings makes the SmartSense Moisture Sensor that can connect to that company’s hub. Wally, produced by SNUPI Technologies, Inc., is another moisture detection system and it works with Nest.

Running out of water is a staple of zombie survival horror–don’t let it happen to you. Plus, these devices are extremely useful for everyday around-the-home issues that might arise before the ravenous dead start crawling their way down the driveway.

10123106026_a9fe19fbc1Humidity detectors to keep mold away

Water is covered, but what about food? Certainly the smart home ecosystem is offering products that help keep pantries stocked and make refrigerators smarter–but this might not be that useful once the power lines go out and the grocery store is overrun by brain eating cashiers and management.

Canned goods will likely be the go-to for anyone stocking up to survive long enough for rescue, but anyone who is doing their own personal farming will have to store some sort of preserved produce. It’s best to keep the pantries and storehouses dry and humidity controlled. As it turns out, smart homes also offer a way to check humidity.

SmartThings also produces a humidity detector that can work with the SmartThings hub called the SmartSense Temp/Humidity Sensor.

ConnectSense makes a humidity and temperature sensor that could do the trick as well and connects nicely to smartphone and computer apps.

Of course, the Nest thermostat comes with its own humidity sensor, and that could be set up in the storage area to alert when humidity jumps too much.

Other solutions could use a computer connected to a USB sensor such as the THUM USB temperature/humidity sensor, but that would require running extended USB cables beforehand (or plugging it into a wireless hub.)

No soggy rutabagas for the long-term survivors. (Personally, I’ll stick with the potato people.)

Smart homes and zombie defense

A great deal of what makes the modern concept of home automation great is the Internet, cloud servers, the ability to automate from everywhere. Sadly, cloud servers will probably not fare well under the attention of brain craving technicians. However, with enough forethought and extending wireless networks around the home, smart home solutions could become survival solutions.

From security for the perimeter, comfort and safety of occupants, and monitoring of precious water and food. It’s not quite the comforts of modern living, but given enough preparation it could keep a little civilization together for delicious humans trying to eke it out during the zombie apocalypse.

Photo credit: AMC’s The Walking Dead, 2010 (top), Nest Labs, Inc. Nest thermostat (bottom); Seamark Road Sentry via photopin (license); Garage door mural via photopin (license); Zombie Walk via photopin (license)

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