On a recent IoT Podcast episode, David called in with a question that was challenging for us to answer. David has a workshop and asked us what products he should consider to make his woodworking workshop “smart”. Since neither of us has a workshop, we offered a few suggestions, but also asked our listeners to chime in. It turns out quite a few of you have workshops and added some additions to our list!
Here’s what we suggested along with the great ideas our supportive listeners added.
Again, without our own spaces to design and build, we came up with some of the basics. Since I do some tinkering in my garage, I do suggest having either a smart speaker or a smart display in there. Aside from music playback while I’m working, it’s actually handy to know if someone is ringing the front doorbell since I can’t hear the chime from the garage. With a smart display, I can even see who is at the door, have a two-way conversation with them if needed and even unlock the door if it’s a friend or neighbor.
The same devices can be useful to communicate any issues in the workshop. If you get hurt, for example, you can use the smart speaker or display to broadcast a call for help. Stacey took it even further by suggesting a smart button that can be used as a signal when there’s an issue: You can program the button to flash lights or turn them to a red “alert” color so your family knows to check in with you.
If your power tools don’t draw more amperage than a smart outlet or plug can handle, these could be useful as well. When leaving the shop, you could use a voice command to shut the power down to the power tools. This could mitigate any potential disasters if a small child or someone else wanders into your shop and decides to try your tools without knowing how to use them.
Smart lights and lightstrips could also be handy under tool cabinets to provide that extra lighting on your tools and materials.
Our readers who actually have workshops offered the following useful thoughts.
Smart air quality sensors can tell you when there are chemicals, smoke, or other airborne contaminants in the shop. Given that I’ve been known to burn a few wires during some of my projects, I can appreciate that suggestion.
Along the same lines, a connected smoke alarm could trigger a power shut off to your 3D-printer, wood saws, soldering irons, or other tools if they’re connected to smart plugs. And speaking of smart plugs, if you have a computer in your workshop and connect it to a smart plug, you can save time by enabling the power before you even go to the shop. This can save time as the computer will already be booting or fully booted by the time you arrive.
You could also install a smart air vent that opens or closes for heating or cooling only when you’re in the shop, which is an energy-efficient approach while keeping you comfortable while working.
To hear these suggestions, and our discussion in full on the topic, tune in to the IoT Podcast below:
Tim Epperson says
I thought you had a great response since neither of you have a workshop. As a new woodworker but old IoT person, I struggled with anything cool to do and I came up with just standard smart home ideas.
I did recently have a fire from a Lion battery. As you suggested, I had a smoke alarm–boy I wish I had turned off all of the power to the shop. Live and learn.
You also pegged the idea that you really don’t want any power tools coming on automatically.
I do have some fans or heaters come on when i enter the shop or I can pre-heat as well.
Thanks for the show. Long time listener
JD Roberts says
Almost all smart plugs for residential use tell you in the fine print to never use them for power tools, since having these go either on or off unexpectedly can be a major safety hazard.
Instead, workshop smarts should focus (pun intended) on great lighting, fire safety, and temperature controls including fans. These all help make working more comfortable and safer.
Adding a smart speaker for news, music, and intercom functionality is a pleasant addition for many people. Get one with a screen and you can use it for handsfree display of plans and project instructions, as well as YouTube videos. These also make great timers and are good for shopping lists.
A colored smart light makes a great signal indicator. Use it on the outside for a “work in progress, do not disturb” signal and inside the room so others can let you know dinner is ready or the mail has arrived, or set up your own reminder that your favorite show is coming on. These have a real advantage over audio reminders in a noisy environment, as well as being persistent in case you tend to get distracted while working,
If you have a sink in the workshop, a touchless faucet can be a really nice feature (you’ll find these on a lot of commercial worksites). But these can be pricey if you’ll only use them once in awhile.
Some people like cabinets with motorized shelves that slide out to give you better access to the stuff in the back. This is especially helpful if you work with a lot of small parts. It’s true you don’t have to motorized these, but it can be a real convenience, especially for lower shelves. Pull down shelves for high cabinets are similar, and again can be manual or motorized.
The most fun device you can add in the Impress Your Friends category is probably a 3D printer.
So there are lots of good options.
JD Roberts says
Three more thoughts:
1) Self locking smart cabinet locks can be great for childproofing and theft deterrence. The ones with fingerprint readers are especially good for this purpose in a workshop, although the good ones are pricier (and the cheapest ones break). Cost is typically about $50 per lock, although there’s a wide range of features and prices. GoKeyless is a good place to start looking for better quality models. Amazon carries a lot of cheap stuff: read reviews carefully and believe the bad ones.
2) A “wish I’d done this sooner” workshop luxury item for many people is an automatic door opener. Whether you carry your medium size projects out or wheel them on a cart, an automatic door opener/closer can be a real plus. Of course if your workshop is for making small items, you probably won’t need this. A few brands, like Olide, have models that even work with Alexa or Google Home. Expect to pay between $750 and $1,000 per door, though.
Also be aware that once this is in place, although you can still open the door manually, you won’t want to except in an emergency—it takes a lot of force to override the closer. So you’ll have a wait similar to a garage door wait each time you go through. If your workshop has two entrances, you might want the door opener on only one for this reason.
3) if you have high small windows and sometimes get glare, Switchbot automatic curtain controllers are moderately priced and work well with Alexa. They can work with many existing curtains. You can buy these on Amazon.
Or if you prefer roller shades, ikea has their fyrtur models, although they only come in a few sizes.
Both these options will cost about $200 per window, significantly less than other brands in this device class.
None of these are must haves for a smart workshop for most people, but they’re worth considering if you have the budget for them.