Products for Deaf

I’m looking for home integration products for the Deaf. A huge problem we have involves smoke alarms, doorbells, and phones. Every Deaf person has this need.

My SmartThings kit is on the way. It looks like a fantastic platform.

In my initial searches I have seen some things that might be useful, but I have not narrowed it down yet.

For alerting devices we need a bright strobe. Everything seems to emphasize sirens – not needed. A small LED lightbulb that could be mounted in small fixtures and placed around the house would serve the purpose.

Another alerting device is a bed shaker. This is just a 12 V version of the vibrating thing in smart phones. You can buy 12 volt bed shakers that plug-in with RCA connectors. All that is needed is an outlet that plugs into the wall, interfaces with smart stuff, and provides a 12 volt triggered output. I haven’t seen these available.

For sensors, something that detects sound, like the phone ringing would be useful. A momentary doorbell switch that could trigger the flashers would be useful. I have seen the ZSmoke smoke alarms. Those look perfect.

Can anyone point me in the right direction or offer some additional information?


Welcome to the community!

There are many home automation options that can be useful for the kinds of situations you mentioned. I’m sure people will have a lot of different suggestions.

I do want to say one thing upfront. SmartThings is great when it works. However, in its current state it offers great versatility, but not great reliability.

I am myself quadriparetic, use a wheelchair and have limited hand function. So my needs for home automation are for specific use cases, not just fun stuff to impress my neighbors. I don’t have the ability to tinker much, whether it’s just to take the batteries in and out of the device to reset it, or to debug because a light that was supposed to come on at seven in the morning didn’t.

I find that something fails in SmartThings at least once a day. It’s different things at different times. And sometimes it fixes itself in just a day or two. And the fix may be as simple as opening the app and closing it again. But it’s not as reliable as a dishwasher, let alone a smoke alarm.

The community is great, the vision is great, and when it works it’s great. But I don’t put anything on SmartThings where I don’t have an immediately available Plan B for when it fails. And I certainly don’t put anything on it where failure might be critical or dangerous.

Just my own experience after using it for a little over a year. You will find much discussion of these issues in the forums.

Now to gadgets. :sunglasses:

One of the Device classes that are now available that can be very useful are lightbulbs that can change color. They don’t only blink, but you can also use color as part of the notification if you’re not colorblind. So blinking blue might mean one thing while blinking orange might mean something else. Both the Philips Hue and the LIFX bulbs can be made to blink when another event occurs. These can be useful for doorbells, A gate being left open, a particular person arriving home, etc. Even the laundry being done!

I wouldn’t use these for fire safety – – I would stick with the actual purpose built fire alarms with strobes for that. But for non-life-threatening situations, the blinks and colors can be very useful indicators.

There is also a nice HMS plug-in nightlight that has eight different colors and works with SmartThings. It doesn’t blink, so I’m not sure it would get your attention in the same way. But it does give you some other options, and I like it better for persistent alerts like the window in the guestroom being left open. Something where I may not want to take care of it right away, but I do want the reminder.

Note Hue used to have an undocumented strobe effect, but that feature has now been removed as it tended to burn out the bulbs. They do still have the blink.

For the bed shaker, I believe most of these are designed to plug into an alarm clock. So the question then is there one of these alarm clocks which can be set to go off as soon as it receives power. That is, if you unplug it while the alarm is going off, and then you plug it back in, will the alarm still be going off?

If so, that’s easy. You just plug the alarm clock into a “pocket socket” (removable wall plug) and then you control the alarm clock going on and off with your network.

If none of the alarm clocks have a persistent alarm when power is restored, though, then you may have to look at altering the power plug on the bed shaker so it can draw current directly from a wallplug. This might require step down adapter.

So I’m sure it can be done, I’m just not sure of the exact steps.

As far as an audio sensor, there are a lot of people who would like to see this, but so far there are very few that can really pick out the right sounds at the right times.

In the US, smoke detectors are required by law to have a specific pattern, and there are two audio detectors for those that can send text notifications. Because smartthings has an IFTTT channel, you can then use that text notification to trigger pretty much whatever you want in SmartThings, although there may be a delay of as much as 15 minutes . These two devices are the Leeo and the Kidde Remotelync. They’re good for things like letting you know that your smoke alarm went off when you’re not in the building, but the delay might be a problem if you actually wanted them for at home safety.

Glass breaking is another sound event that has a specific acoustic pattern. There are some detectors for this, but none that I’m aware of that work with SmartThings.

There are a lot of baby monitors, and again anything that will send a text alert can be used to trigger smartthings events, but again there may be a delay.

Phone ringing turns out to be harder than you’d think, because there’s just so much variation in how the ring actually sounds. I think people more typically use specialty phones rather than just a general acoustic sensor.

One more thought: I have a friend who is deaf who uses a fan as an alarm clock instead of a strobe or a bed shaker. He says strobes give him a headache, so he only uses those for fire safety. He has fans in a couple of rooms that he uses as notifiers. Again, all you need is one that will work as soon as power is restored and you can just plug it into a pocket socket.

Another option is anything that can be controlled with the Logitech Harmony Hub universal remote. As long as you can put it into a harmony activity, you can trigger it from SmartThings.

So as always, different things work for different people. :sunglasses: :bulb: :rotating_light: :dash:

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Wow! Thanks for all the info.

I have a lot of things to look in to.

I agree that dependability is an issue and I have to make sure not to expect 100% reliability for dangerous situations – like smoke alarms.

The colored lightbulbs and nightlights are interesting.

For the bed shaker, yes something like the wall plug outlet with a 12 V transformer and standard 12 V connector that can be triggered to output a square wave. A fan is a good idea, but I could probably sleep through a tornado :grinning:


It seems to me that a smart watch that vibrates when receiving notifications, texts and emails might be helpful. I have a Pebble Time and it dutifully vibrates when I receive notifications from SmartThings and displays the notification. I am sure the Apple Watch and Android Wear possess similar features.

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Seems like this could be repurposed and hooked to a radio earphone plug and to a smart outlet. This is a whole new area for me. While I’m hearing, she is deaf and I’m learning a lot about it.

This is what got me started. She wanted to keep certain lights on down stairs just in case she comes over. I don’t want the light bill associated with that. LOL. motion detectors, solar lights would also do some of this. But that wouldn’t be near as fun. :slight_smile:

Am trying to find good solution for deaf need to get access to notification, for example in screen monitor , if anyone is ringing on doorbell or receiving SMS or call in smartphone will the monitor blink.

unfortunately many manufactures is selling expensive who is not correct accessible, so i am trying to develop any better than the manufacture’s device.

I am welcoming all people in this community to share idea with me or share partner with me to create project together.

Let me tell you what I did for a doorbell and smoke alarm. Unfortunately I gave up on SmartThings and went to Indigo – it’s much more reliable.

I have an Aeon labs doorbell. I don’t use the sound generation at all, but it sends a z-wave event to Indigo. In response to this event I flash bulbs which I have located all around the house. The bulbs are z-wave bulbs mounted into screw sockets that plug directly into wall outlets.

For the smoke alarm I have a Z-Smoke that sends a Z-Wave event to Indigo. I have this event flash lights, turn on a bright siren, and trigger a wall outlet power adapter in my bedroom that drives a 12 V wall-wart power supply to which I have a bed shaker connected. All bedlam breaks out if the smoke alarm ever goes off.

In response to either of these events, Indigo allows you to generate emails, text messages, commands over the Internet, or trigger external programs that could be used as alerters. I am sure SmartThings allows something similar.


Smart home monitor already has an “alert with lights” feature built-in. That’s for regular lights.

If you want something really attention-getting, the fortrezz siren has a strobe option. It’s on the official “works with smartthings” compatibility list and is quite popular.

If you just want to give a notification, many people, myself included, just have a light change color. You can do that using the free IFTTT service) although lag varies from house to house), with Tasker on an android phone, or by using core.

If you have either Phillips hue lights or LIFX lights, both have their own IFTTT channels, so that’s probably the easiest method. At my house the lag is a pretty regular eight seconds, which works for some situations, but is a little long for others. But other people have much longer lag so you do need to investigate that.

If you are unfamiliar with IFTTT, the following is a good tutorial:

Any idea about bed shake then starts vibration at alert from device zsmoke or other device?

Thank you, Barry for your good comments.
As I understand so Indigo is a software for MAC so I will look for other way.

As Barry mentioned, you could do something similar to his setup with SmartThings. The problem, though, is that SmartThings has some reliability issues. I definitely wouldn’t depend on it as a smoke alarm to wake somebody up.

When SmartThings works as intended, it’s my favorite home automation system, but you just can’t count on it yet. They are working on making it more reliable, but even they say you should never use it for life-and-death issues:

Data accuracy and consistency from SmartThings sensors, including those provided by SmartThings directly, resold by SmartThings, or supported by SmartThings, is not guaranteed.

Therefore, you should not rely on that data for any use that impacts health, safety, security, property or financial interests.

For example, because temperature readings may vary significantly from reading to reading on an individual device, between devices, or over time, those readings should not be used to control heating and cooling in environments where food spoilage, health risks, or damage to physical goods could occur.

Alternately, presence data from SmartThings devices or mobile/Smartphones can vary in accuracy, and therefore should not be used to control access to secure locations without secondary authentication.

There are a number of bed shaker alarms available, including some with smoke alarms or acoustic sensors to register when the regular smoke alarm goes off. As their own product guidelines say, though, I wouldn’t trust my life to SmartThings.


I 100%+ agree with JD, with life and death matters I would not depend (or bet $.01) on ST exclusively.

There are some really nice features though for day to day for DBL population.
I just want to add to JD’s comment about lights changing color’s as a notification - I also use a App called “The Flasher II” as I find it more engaging (catches my attention quicker) when a light flashes many or several times. Here is a link to that thread too.

Best of luck ~ it is amazing how technology how can truly assist not just a mere convenience. :slight_smile:

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I’m deaf, just like you! I’m very fascinated with all of this and I’ve also been working on similar things like this. All of the bed shakers/vibrators don’t plug into a conventional wall outlet. They go into slot on the clock. I don’t understand how you put it in a wall outlet power adapter? Do you have a link to something to do that? I could easily use a Wemo plug and IFTTT to trigger it at night if sleeping.

Like you, I’m not a big fan of smartthings - I found the app to be hugely complicated and not as easy to use. You have to hunt around, with confusing names like Labs or Robots or stuff like that.

For the doorbell - I use the Ring with a webcam and I LOVE it.

I will have to look at the Ring doorbell.

I haven’t used SmartThings in a little over a year, so I’m not current on reliability or features. I switched to Indigo in order to gain reliability a little over a year ago.

I have a smoke alarm that triggers the bed shaker via indigo (similar to IFFT), but you could trigger it with anything.

A bed shaker is really just a 12 Volt version of a vibrator, like the one in a cell phone. To turn a bed shaker on you only need to power it with a 12 Volt power supply.

I combined an Aeotec extension cord-like (I think these have been discontinued) wall outlet, a “Wall Wart” AC plug-in 12 volt power supply, a short adapter to convert the power supply connector to the type of connector needed by the bed shaker, and a SonicAlert Super Shaker. I found everything on eBay.

The Aeotec plugs into the wall AC and would be on/off controlled by SmartThings. The 12 V power supply plugs in to the Aeotec device. The Super Shaker plugs into the 12 V power supply using the conversion connector.


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That conversion connector to connect the super shaker to the plug is where I’m hung up. Been looking on amazon, but its hard to find the right one. I might just have to buy several and see which ones fit. Unless you can link me directly to the product on ebay or amazon?