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Home Smart Home

Technology is constantly evolving and improving to adapt to our changing needs. A good example of this is the use of smart home technology to provide greater independence at home for people with disabilities.

I was introduced to a smart home device called emitto by my client Paul (pictured above). The condo he rented had a fully accessible bathroom, a power door opener that was activated by pushing a button or key FOB, and window coverings that could be raised or lowered by remote control. However, Paul does not have functional movement below his shoulders so pressing buttons would be a challenge. His solution included using emitto.

Emitto is a device that enables you to use your voice or a wheelchair mounted switch to wirelessly control everyday things within your home environment. Michael Cullen, one of the Co-Founders of Novalte, the company that developed emitto, is a person who understands the need for smart home technology. Michael has used his background in engineering and years of experience working with occupational therapists and patients at West Park Healthcare Centre and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital to develop technology to help PWD communicate, drive their wheelchairs and control their homes independently. 

“Hey, Google, open door,” and the door to his condo opens. He can also use this technology to open the door for visitors or his housekeeper when he’s not at home. And the window blinds that were originally operated by remote control can now be controlled by voice commands.

“Emitto was created out of a need that I had as a Biomedical Engineer to tailor technology to make it work for individuals with mobility challenges. Before emitto, I would use a mix of other devices but in the end I would always have to hack something to make it work the way our clients needed to. The thing is, not all technologies are created with limited mobility in mind; the end functionality is there but the method that a client needs to access it is different.”

In addition to helping Paul, Michael has worked with over 400 clients with varying levels of mobility and kept seeing the same issues over and over again:

“Our clients want to be able to utilize smart technology in a way that works for them and not worry about the complexities of the technology.” Emitto works like a central hub that connects to all of your devices and then you communicate with emitto. For individuals that have difficulty with their speech, the system is set up with an accessible switch. There is a screen that scrolls through all of the different devices that are connected to the system and the client simply hits the switch when the device appears on the screen. The system can also be operated by eye gaze and sip and puff technology too.

EmittoFor clients like Paul who can speak clearly, the system is easily controlled by voice commands using Google Home voice recognition software. With some additional Novalte hardware added to the existing power door operator Paul simply says “Hey, Google, open door,” and the door to his condo opens. He can also use this technology to open the door for visitors or his housekeeper when he’s not at home. And the window blinds that were originally operated by remote control can now be controlled by voice commands.

Paul also has Novalte hardware connected to his adjustable bed, which allows him to raise and lower the bed by voice commands. Emitto can be connected to smart plugs (small wifi adaptors plugged into regular outlets) so lights and other items can be controlled. “Hey Google, turn on the spider lamp,” is all Paul needs to say to light up his home office.

Paul’s system is part of the first generation of emitto. The technology has evolved and so have the support services available. Smart screens for video chatting can now be incorporated into the emitto system. This makes communication much easier and helps minimize the social isolation that Michael says a big concern with his clients.

Installation and tech support can now be done remotely. If a client gets a new TV, wants to make changes to how the system works, or if there is a glitch, it can all be fixed remotely. Michael says that new users often need a fair bit of training to efficiently use the system and having the ability to do this remotely is very helpful, plus it reduces the amount of face-to-face contact that is required.

An internet connection is required for the system to be voice controlled and for remote support. However, if an accessible switch is used as a controller, most of the core features can work without the internet.

The upfront cost of the emitto system starts around $2,000, depending on what is included. Installation costs start at $200. The monthly maintenance and tech support package ranges from $70 to $150 / month. A system similar to Paul’s would cost approx. $5,000 with a monthly fee of $70.

It’s not surprising to hear that this technology is gaining in popularity allacross Canada. Paul is very happy with his emitto system and it affords him a lot of independence. Check out his video at

Jeffrey KerrJeffrey Kerr, Broker, Barrier Free Real Estate Specialist
RE/MAX Unique Inc., Brokerage

Twitter: @barrierfreeRE

Jeffrey Kerr | Summer 2020

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