Stories & Features

Smart tech for back to school season can keep your schedule on track

Image of an Amazon Echo smart home device in a home living room
Whether you have teenagers prone to abusing the snooze button, are coordinating multiple pickups and drop-offs, or struggling with the soccer schedule, technology has come a long way since the whiteboard or paper-on-the-fridge approach.

Reminder and scheduling apps, smart speakers, and alarm clocks are all on offer these days

It's no secret that life gets a little more difficult with major changes to our schedule. With September and the return of kids (kindergarten and college-aged) to the classroom, you might be struggling with some schedule changes of your own. Nowadays, most of us walk around with a calendar, alarm clock and to-do lists in our pockets, thanks to smartphones. But are you getting the most out of them that you can?

Here's a quick look at some of the ways that smart tech can make your back-to-school season (or any schedule change) smooth sailing.

For that post-summer sleep-deprived state, consider a smart alarm clock or app

Maybe the default alarm on your phone is good enough for you, but you can go a step further by considering a smart alarm clock.

The experts over at CNET recommend the Amazon Echo Show 5. There's a voice assistant that you can use to silence or snooze the alarm, but you can also get a headstart on your day by checking the weather. And if a smart alarm clock is just one piece of your smart home, they can all work together.

They've also got good recommendations for a Lenovo model that will control smart gadgets – and can help you start your day with the podcasts of your choice.

We're big fans of natural light, and even in the depths of winter, it's a more pleasant way for your body to wake up than the blaring sound of an alarm.

Thankfully, there's a wealth of clocks on the market today that can gently sooth you into Monday morning with "sunrise" features. Check out this list of the best options from Reviews.com to find a wake-up light that works for you.

For another option that is much less of an investment, considering upgrading your existing smart phone alarm with a new app, just for the price of a few bucks. While the default Android and iPhone alarms get the job done for most of us, apps available today can offer a lot more customizable options.

Heavy-duty sleeping teenagers might benefit from alarms that offer "the loudest and most annoying sounds" as options. If you're someone that sets multiple alarms or finds themselves hitting the snooze button over and over, you can find an alarm app that requires you to solve a puzzle, or take a photo in another room of your house before your phone will stop blaring. PCMag has rounded up some of the best options – take a look for one that works for you.

How a smart speaker can help

From telling you what the weather will do that day to reminding you about tasks and appointments, many of us are opting for smart speakers or digital assistant to guide us through our day.

Google, Amazon, and Apple all offer smart home assistants that can make day-to-day chores like making dinner, getting through homework, or remembering to pick up milk on the way home.

With smart home tech, you can use the smart speaker to do a lot more too. Turn off the lights, play your favourite music or lock the smart locks on your front door. A recent Globe and Mail story indicates almost 6 million Canadians use smart speakers.

Whether you opt for a smart speaker or a better alarm clock, the customizable features to add reminders – or know how cold it's going to be that day – can also help you manage your energy use. Consider setting a nighttime routine to turn down the thermostat or turn off devices to minimize standby power usage, or turn off all your lights. You can also use them to control other smart devices, through plugs, or the latest-generation slow cookers and blenders.

A reminder: MyHydro offers alerts and reminders too

Once you've got your back to school schedule down, don't miss out on the chance to manage your electricity use too. Use the step 2 alerts in MyHydro to remind you when you're getting close to the step 2 threshold in your billing period, and to remind you to log in and check your hourly usage.

Checking in regularly when you have major changes in routine, like back to school, can pinpoint spikes and changes that can help you save.