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Getting Started with Your Smart Home

You got your new smart speaker, now what?


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I always joke with people that I like talking to my house like Tony Stark does to Jarvis in the Iron Man movies. Well, I am only half joking. No, that is incorrect too. I just say it because it is funny, but it is totally true. When the Amazon Echo Dot was released and made smart speakers affordable, I was one of the first to get one because that is what I do. I am what you call an “early adopter” and I like to jump into new tech, but I don’t want to spend too much on it, which is why I also enjoy playing with Raspberry Pi, but that is for another article and another day!

No, for today I want to explore a few things that you can get your smart speaker to do around the house,  that go beyond its basic functions. This assumes that you already purchased a smart home speaker, like the Google Home or Amazon Echo, but if you have not, there is a great article from CNET that helps you decide which is best for you.  Also, some of these things can be accomplished by using Google Assistant or Siri on your smart phone.

Turn on the lights

Yes, I know that it is silly not walk a few feet from where you are sitting to turn on the lights, but sometimes it comes in handy to not have to get up or use a timer to get your lights on. That is where the smart bulbs and switches come in.  I bring up switches because that was the first one that I bought, the Wemo Smart Plug. Using their app, I connected this plug to the Wi-Fi and was able to schedule the power to turn on the lamp at a certain time or on demand via the Echo or my phone. It really is convenient when it is dark in the house and you need lights on in the hallway or downstairs.

I actually ended up stumbling onto the smart bulbs. In my town, there is a thing called the Amazon Treasure Truck. It is pretty fun if you have one in your city and you should check it out. Each day, they pick one product, they text you what it is, you purchase online and then pick up at one of several stops throughout the day. Fortunately, I work downtown, so there is usually a spot near me. And one of the days, they had the Sengled Element Starter Kit, which contains 2 bulbs and the hub that they attach to. I had enjoyed the switch when I had it at another home, so I decided to give it another try. I installed them in the living room and they work great! The best part is setting the timer in the app is the best as we have the lights come on  every night in the living room. Over the past weekend, we ended up getting another 4 pack, adding them to the hallway and bedroom.

If you are away from home a lot or just have switches in weird places, I would definitely recommend this solution. One note on this, if you have not purchased your smart speaker yet, I found that the Google Home does a better job of creating zones in your house to turn off numerous lights at the same time. Just something to keep in mind if you are looking to buy one or the other and want to control the lights with your voice.

Connect your media

Naturally Amazon and Google connect their speakers to their respective music and video services, but it is also possible to link your Pandora, Spotify, Netflix, HBO and other media products to the smart speakers as well. Granted, you will need a Chromecast or Fire TV product to see the video products, but these are also affordable and worth it if you are trying to bring down the cable bill. For the audio products, I like to connect a Bluetooth speaker and have the ability to take it with me (within range), without have to move the Echo or Home, as they need to be plugged in.

Other home controls

As you can tell by now, I have not gotten to everything on my wish list. Next up is the thermostat for the air conditioner (which I have used before), a doorbell with the video camera and other cameras around the house. The great thing about these products is the security of being able to take care of things when away from the house. This is especially great for business travelers. It is nice to be at the airport and adjust the temperature at home so it is perfect when you get there.

Hopefully if you are researching or have just been thinking about getting a smart speaker, you have found this useful in what it can do. You better believe as new products enter our house, we will be here to share them.

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