We often talk or write about our smart homes without realizing that some folks don’t understand what it is that a smart home can actually do. That’s partially because there’s such a wide range of things we can automate or control by voice in our homes, that there’s no simple answer: The automations and smart devices I have are likely very different than the ones you have.
Still, there’s merit in laying out some examples for two reasons. First, we might actually be able to better answer the “what is a smart home” question with some practical, real world solutions. And second, sharing a few examples here will (hopefully!) inspire you to add to the list through our comments.
Collectively, we’ll all have nice group of ideas to make life easier in our smart homes. Keep in mind that these are less a set of step-by-step instructions and more of a conceptual list that you can implement or tweak based on your devices and software.
Don’t leave the door unlocked
I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s and extremely effective solution to a problem I had: My young adult children sometimes come home at night after I’ve gone to bed. That’s not the problem though. The issue is that they don’t always remember to lock the door. Since I have a Z-Wave deadbolt installed in my front door, I decided to have my smart home hub automatically lock the door if it’s been open for five minutes. If you decide to do this, make sure you don’t lock yourself out though. My lock can be opened by my phone or watch, but it also has a keypad entry system.
Start the morning right
For a while I had my downstairs kitchen light go on at a specific time so that my wife wouldn’t walk down to a dark room. Scheduling this by the time is pretty easy but there are some days she sleeps in and some days she wakes up earlier. What she always does before going downstairs, however, is take a shower with the bathroom exhaust fan on. The last thing she does, without fail, is turn that fan off before heading downstairs.
A smart switch for the fan is a simple trigger event for home automation and once that switch hits the off position, the kitchen smart light — not to mention my coffee maker with a smart plug — can be enabled at exactly the right time, every time.
Keep an eye on the kids or pets as needed
We walk our dog so this doesn’t apply to me but Stacey has a small pet door in her home so the dog can go outside. With a webcam in a nearby window, she can keep an eye on the dog, but it may not make sense to have that camera on all the time. Adding a tilt sensor, similar to ones you find with smart garage controllers, to the pet door can trigger a webcam to power on. The same approach could be used for kids going out the back door: Add a magnetic sensor to the door and fire up the webcam to make sure playtime is safe.
Sundown is a great trigger for indoor lighting
One of the first automations I ever set up was to turn on the outdoor lights at or just before sundown. It’s easy to do and although the sun sets at a slightly different time every day, most smart home hub software can adjust for this. It took me months to realize it but sundown is a perfect event trigger for indoor lights too. Sure, you can keep some or all of the house lights off until you get home and have them light up based on geofencing, a garage door opening or some other mechanism. But why not use the sun instead of some other hardware or device?
Trigger routines and scenes based on calendar events
Stacey had mentioned a routine / scene she created for doing yoga. When asking Alexa or Google Assistant to run the “Yoga” scene, her TV turns on, the downstairs temp lowers to 75 degrees, a Lutron fan and Philips Hue lights both turn on. That’s useful but I took it a step further, and you can too for your own scenes.
Try connecting IFTTT to your Google Calendar and a supported home automation shortcut or scene. I created a 9am Yoga event as a trigger on my calendar to fire up a similar routine. Lights were dimmed and relaxing music was fired up at nine on the dot, but sadly, I didn’t do the yoga part. Not only does this alleviate the voice command, but it makes more likely you’ll actually do the yoga, or whatever event you want to carve time out for.