Smart Home For Beginners - Voice Assistants

When it comes to smart homes, having voice assistants throughout you house can be extremely useful. In the previous we walked through creating scenes, setting up routines to automatically trigger those scenes, and finally using geofencing to enhance those triggers. With voice assistants it makes it incredibly easy to trigger any device, scene or routine just by asking the house to turn it on or off. And while the automations we’ve already setup cover the vast majority of your smart home use, needing to manually trigger something in your home is unavoidable. Voice assistants make it easy for everyone in the house to take control of the house. All without having to fumble with a smartphone. Just ask to turn the living room lights on, or to start cleaning the upstairs and have the Roomba kick off a cleaning cycle.

You really have three choices: Amazon, Google, and Siri. And before anyone laughs at Siri or the lack of Bixby and Cortana, it really is just those three. Amazon, Google, and Siri are all capable voice assistants when it comes to smart home. Cortana and Bixby? Does anyone actually use Cortana and Bixby?

Amazon Alexa is the 800lb gorilla of the three. Amazon has commoditized smart home speakers and used their store front to push millions of cheap smart home speakers out to the masses. They are the undisputed leader for right now, and I’m sure many of you have settled on Amazon as the central pillar of your smart home setup. The beauty of Alexa is that it’s widely adopted and most smart home accessories have skills that you can link to your account. If you’re linking Alexa to another smart home platform like Smartthings, Wink, Hubitat, you need to find that skill in the Amazon skill marketplace. Once you’ve linked the service, you’ll see all of the devices associated to that service show up as devices within Amazon. If you tap into the Devices section of the Alexa app, you’ll want to set up different groups to have better voice control of the devices. I’d recommend creating groups based on rooms in your home to start. Put everything that’s in the living room in a “living room” group. Reason for that is that you can then asking Alexa to turn off the living room lights. And if you have created an Amazon routines, which we talked about in the second video in the series, then you can call out the name of the routine to Alexa to trigger it.

Google Assistant is really the most natural and capable assistant of the bunch, but surprisingly isn’t really the best option as your central pillar of your smart home. You’re really better off using another service like Wink, Smartthings, Home Assistant, or Hubitat as the central pillar and then tying Google Assistant into that service. Regardless, issuing voice commands to control your smart home works just like you’d expect. Setting it up with third party services is a lot like Amazon. In the Google Home app you tap the “Add” button, then “Set up device,” then “Have something already set up.” You can link in services like Smartthings, Hubitat, and more. And just like Amazon, when they’re added in, you’ll need to manually sort the imported devices into different rooms and groups. Once sorted you’ll be able to issue the same exact verbal commands to turn on and off devices by room, group, or device type. You can also trigger any routines you’ve set up just like with Amazon.

Apple’s Siri is another capable option for voice assistant control of your smart home. I can hear some of the Google and Amazon fans chuckling right now, but it’s true. Siri is more than capable at the basic smart home controls, and with iOS 13 Siri will be gaining even more abilities. That said though, at the moment not every device works with Apple’s Homekit natively. If you have something like a Logitech Harmony you can easily tie that into both Amazon and Google for voice control of your home entertainment system. That’s not possible with Apple out of the box. You have to use a separate system called Homebridge to make non-Homekit devices usable by Homekit and Siri. I won’t be diving into that in this video. Just like the other two, you can ask Siri to control devices by name or routine, as well as by scene. All three systems at their core behave the same way with linked devices, scenes, and routines.

In the next video we’ll dive into security, which is an important topic.

Series, Smart HomeMatt Ferrell