“Alexa, turn my lights on!” I say as I walk in the door. Two lamps of my living room turn on in a burst of light. What an easy way to get my lights on even when I am holding groceries or packages. My Amazon Alexa was a gift. When I first got it a couple of years ago, from my tech-savvy boyfriend, I was not entirely sold. “Why do I need this?”, I asked myself (I didn’t tell him that as I did not want to be rude to the gift he gave me). Oh, how I was in for a treat. My lights turn on and off without a touch of the hand. I set alarms in the morning. Timers are set for baking and keeping track of when laundry is done. I play 21 questions with her. For blogging, I admit, I will ask her to spell a word for me! Alexa also tells me the news of the day in the “Flash briefing” mode. Having a smart home was just for me! I even bought my brother and sister an Alexa Dot that Christmas.
Recently, I’ve recommended Alexa to a coworker and she was so excited when she got one for black Friday. She told me that she wants her home to be cute and fun with the technology. I got to thinking. My coworker was so intimidated by the technology that she didn’t want to get it. After I explained to her how it worked only then did she feel confident enough to get one. How about I do the same here in this post for us! I’ll walk us through some basics to turning your home into a smart home. Plus, with Christmas coming up, these are also great gifts for the tech person in our lives!
Smart Home Step One
Alright to get started, we are going to need a basic smart device to run all our gadgets. We want to start with an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home. These devices can be spoken to and told what we need. They have microphones that we speak into and speakers that deliver their voices. The first thing is deciding how much power we want our initial device to have. The Amazon Echo has a large quality speaker but the Amazon Echo Dot is a smaller cheaper version with a minimal speaker. If we already have Bluetooth high-quality speakers, the Echo Dot is fine to connect to those if we want to play music. If we don’t have separate speaker go ahead and get the large Amazon Echo which comes with a quality speaker for music. Now there is also the Echo Show and Amazon Spot which have a screen. If we are intimidated by all the options then just get the Echo Dot, it’s perfectly fine for starting out. Plus the Echo Dot is cheap enough to put in multiple rooms. The same options go for the Google Home. There is a Google Home Mini, a large Google Home with a speaker, and another one with a screen. Try Best Buy or Target for the Google Home Products. Now when we plug them in they will guide us with directions for set up and come with accompanying apps. With these smart devices, it’s the first step to starting our tech smart home.
Let there be light! We need special lightbulbs that work with the Amazon Echo or the Google Home for our Smart Home. Basically, we need some wi-fi lightbulbs. Sorry, the regular light bulbs don’t work. Luckily, wi-fi lightbulbs are usually LED so they last forever and save money on our electricity bills. To get started super easily, I would recommend the Phillip’s Hue Starter Pack with Hub. It comes with multiple light bulbs and a Hub. Don’t get scared, the hub links the Amazon/Google device to the wi-fi light bulbs. What’s super cool is that we can select the white bulbs or the colored bulbs. The colored bulbs have color settings such as sunset mode that changes the room to an orange and red hue. It’s a very nice ambiance! Again, the step up is easy. Connect the hub to our existing Wi-fi internet and use the Amazon/Google app to add the hub. Once this step is done, our lights will be able to be controlled by our voice and we can impress our friends with our smart home!
Smart Home Step Three
Connect our favorite music apps! My favorite is Spotify. I’m able to tell my Alexa to play Spotify. She even plays specific artists and albums if I ask! According to my research, Alexa Echo is compatible with Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and Pandora. In addition, the Google Home is compatible with Youtube Music, Spotify, and Pandora. Once we get the ability to play music out of the speaker of the device without even scrolling through our playlists, we can focus more on dancing and singing!
Advanced Options for our Smart Home
Alright, so step one, two, and three were just too easy for us right! We want more smart items for our smart home. We are ready for the advanced stuff. Okay, how about a smart thermostat. Check out the Nest Thermostat or The Honeywell which can be controlled with a voice-activated smart device and/or a smartphone. How about locking our doors automatically. There is the August Smart Lock for that! What about home security and safety. Get the Ring Video Doorbell. This sends a video to our smartphones when anyone is in close proximity to our doors or if they ring the bell! There are also wi-fi sockets/plugs to which we can plug in any device and control the power of the device with the Amazon/Google. Seriously, they have thought of everything! Once we finish the basic steps, check out these more advanced options for a super tech smart home!
There, that wasn’t so bad, was it! We can easily set our homes up to be smart homes! All we need is a smart device, some wi-fi lightbulbs, and our favorite music service. There are many more advanced options too. I didn’t even mention all the apps that can be installed to customize the Alexa Echo. Including the “Flash Briefing” that I was talking about. We can set up what types of news we want to here and in the order we want it. Honestly, the Amazon Echo does so much for me that I’m not sure I’ll ever go back!
Please let me know if you end up trying any of these ideas! I really enjoy new technology and I truly enjoyed sharing these basic steps with you! Let me know in the comments if you have any other smart home technologies that I am not aware of!
If you are into new technologies you can also read my previous post with my adventures with Bitcoin here: Bitcoin 101: Is it the Currency of the Future or the Currency of Disaster?