Going on a Home Automation Spree

Just under a year ago I have inundated my house with Alexa’s and Google Home’s. I then went on a semi-expensive journey to fill my house with everything from wifi light switches, wifi sockets, Philips hue type bulbs(Yeelight) to Honeywell wifi thermostats. A year later, after spending a few pounds, is our life any better?

Alexa and Google Home???

You might be wondering. Why did I buy a Alexa and a Google Home? Do the two work together? Yes and no. They don’t talk to each other, but they can control almost all the same smart devices(with a few exceptions).

My idea from the start was to find out which was the best home assistant and then ditching the loser.

After trying to talk to Alexa and Google Home, there is no doubt who wins in voice recognition. I hardly have to repeat myself with Google Home. Alexa, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand me that much. It gets quite frustrating after a while.

I was hoping that it gets better over time recognizing my voice, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Are there any useful use cases for home assistants?

Yes, but not necessarily for what it is advertised. After a year of using a home assistant throughout the house, I have given up switching on the lights with my voice. You end up using more energy to try and get Alexa to understand you than switching on the lights.

I haven’t given up totally on voice though. From time to time I ask Alexa to play music or to play some radio station. Or to set a timer etc.

The most useful use cases for me is to automate so I don’t have to talk to Alexa.

Automate your lights

I have setup routines to switch on/off the lights in my son’s bedroom. In this way, I always make sure he has enough light during his reading time, and that after he falls asleep the lights switch off automatically. I also vary the intensity of the light. I can change colors, etc.

My newborn daughter stayed in our bedroom for the first 6 months and during that time we had a small light switched on while it was dark. It automatically turns off when there is daylight.

Control the temperature

Also, it is very useful to be able to control the temperature in the house per zone. During the day you can lower temperature in the bedrooms and increase the temperature in the living room/kitchen. During the night the inverse.

Sometimes your habits change, with the help of home assistant you can easily override the temperatures in a room with your voice.

Control your TV & Home cinema

One of the few things that I find worthwhile to control via my voice is my TV and my home cinema. With my voice, I can switch on the TV. Also with my voice, I can tell Google to play a specific video on youtube, Netflix, etc. I have embraced this functionality as it saves me having to look for the remote. It is not very precise but it is getting better every day.

Finding out your next train

I have found Google Home very useful for telling me about my journey to wherever I am traveling to.

Setting timers and reminders

One of the most useful functionalities as a father is the ability to set timers. 5 more minutes and you switch off that TV; Five more minutes and you have to take shower or five more minutes until you finish reading!

Without the precision of the home assistant, I would always be on the losing side for this.

Also, how many times I remembered important actions I have to take and would probably forget unless I set up a reminder.

Conclusion

Our life has definitely changed for the better because of the convenience of automation. And the technology is getting better over time.

I only talked about Alexa and Google Home. But these are not the only devices you may need. If you don’t want to connect to the internet every single device in your house, you will need to get a smart home bridge.

This is where it gets tricky as there isn’t a single smart home bridge that is compatible with every single device. I avoided this problem by only buying smart home devices that connect directly to the internet. This, unfortunately, has security risks.

I also haven’t talked about how all of this technology works together and how you can create your own Google Home & Alexa skill. That will be the subject of my next post.

You might find the following links useful:

https://store.google.com/us/magazine/compare_nest_speakers_displays?srp=/us/product/google_home