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Amazon's Alexa is the aide invisibly running the show in Nancy Wynner and Shawn Elliott's central Lincoln home.

Through Amazon Echo speakers deployed in each room, the Alexa assistant dims the lights, turns them on or off on command, powers on the television and reminds them what's on their calendars for the day.

But that's not the only smart home technology at work in their home.

Their Honeywell thermostat allows them to check and adjust the temperature setting using their phones, whether they're lying in bed or out of town.

And their Canary security system allows them to remotely check on their home. They haven't needed its footage because of any break-in, but they have used it to see what their four cats are up to while they're away.

"We just made the leap," Wynner said of their tech-savvy home, "because we're kind of gadget freaks."

Home automation is becoming more common in Lincoln, both in the tech service industry as well as among the do-it-yourself crowd, according to Andrew Hartley of Tech Allies. 

The co-owner of the Lincoln-based company said much of this expansion comes as technological advances have added inter-operability and prices have grown more affordable.

Installing home automation and home theater systems makes up 50 percent of the work for Tech Allies, which started 5½ years ago.

"It used to be more complicated," said Hartley, 28. "You’d spend a whole day programming things."

Now simply pairing up voice-activated devices like the Amazon Echo or Google Home with other smart devices can be done quickly and doesn't always require a professional's help, he said.

"You can have it start your car, start your sprinklers," he said.

Since the Amazon Echo debuted in 2014 and upgraded its offerings, more and more tech is geared toward automation, he said.

Wynner and Elliott began their smart home tech collection about six months after the Echo hit the market. 

The couple has kept their eyes on sales to slowly build their smart home, Wynner said. 

It's helped them run an efficient home, though they haven't kept strict tabs of any major savings on utility costs, for example, she said. 

Often, when the two attorneys don't expect anyone to be home from the office at the usual time, they'll keep the home at a more uncomfortable temperature, depending on the season, and set it to adjust when they do arrive. 

Elliott would like to get the Ring doorbell that allows homeowners to see "who's there" on their smartphone and talk back. 

But he'd need to hire someone to wire it since that's not his forté, he said.

For Tech Allies, installing a Ring doorbell is a common project, and Hartley even has one at his home.

A trend he's seeing more and more is smart door locks systems, like the August Smart Lock, that use sensors to remotely secure and unlock a home via phone or allow it to be unlocked for someone for a specific period of time.

Robotics seem to be the next frontier for smart homes, Hartley said.

His company regularly helps set up Roombas, the robotic, self-propelling vacuum cleaner, and he has helped two customers set up the lawn-mower equivalent, Hartley said.

They may become more popular as the price continues to drop, he said. His most recent customer purchased the Worx robotic lawn mower for $910.

It mows every day, and the homeowner just touches up the edges with a weed trimmer, he told Hartley.

"That’s definitely a lot less work than mowing" manually, Hartley said. 

Though they love showing off their tech to friends, Wynner and Elliott occasionally encounter minor inconveniences.

Sometimes the Internet connection bringing everything together drops out, and the couple temporarily loses the ability to lean on their automated comforts. 

Wynner sometimes asks for Alexa to turn the lights on at work, where she doesn't have an Echo. 

During an early February weekend, Elliott wanted to watch TV. 

But the cats had messed with the router, and after a moment, he realized Alexa was out of commission.

"I said, 'All right, I'll just turn the TV on myself.'' 

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.



Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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