It may not seem like the best trick to setting up a smart home so you can turn your lights on and off from your phone, but with the right gear and apps, you can put together some routines that will impress your family. , friends, and occasional Airbnb guests.
Here are five of our favorite smart home tricks, leveraging different technologies across the smart home range.
1) Sync your lights with your movies
Kicking off our list of smart home tricks is entertainment light syncing. If you’ve invested in Philips Hue lights, you can make sure they change color and brightness in time with movies and TV shows. The end effect looks incredibly cool and can be the finishing touch to your home theater room.
It’s not hard to do, either. You only need the free Philips Hue Sync app for Windows or macOS. That’s the only caveat with this setup: Your videos must be played on a computer (or a computer connected to a TV), so the program can detect what’s on the screen and flash your lights accordingly.
You also need to do some prep in the Philips Hue mobile app for Android or iOS. Open Settings, tap Entertainment Rooms, then choose Create Room. Please select the relevant room, choose some or all of the lights from the list (they should have multi-colored capabilities), then tap Lights are done. The app will then ask you to indicate the layout of your cinema room.
Launch the desktop application, connect to your system, and select the entertainment section you have already configured. Choose the Video option (you can also sync with music and games), then Start light sync and switch to your video player of choice. You can adjust the strength of the effect using the knobs on the control panel.
2) Turn everything off when you leave the house
The best smart home tricks should work like magic, and if you use the location triggers available in the free web service IFTTT (If This Then That), you can make all your smart home equipment respond when you leave the house. Turn the thermostat down, check if the lights are off, and so on. Many smart home services have this geofencing built in, but we like IFTTT because it works with so many benefits and devices, so there’s nothing left that shouldn’t be. So IFTTT knows where you are, you must have the app for Android or iOS installed.
Assuming you’re all signed up for IFTTT and have the apps installed, click on your avatar (top right) from the website, then choose New Applet. Choose Location for the “this” trigger; then you will exit an area and locate your home on the map. Click Create a trigger to finish.
Then select the “that” action and take your pick of smart home services: IFTTT works with SmartThings, Nest, Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo, Lifx, Ecobee, and more, so the choice is yours. Unfortunately, you cannot combine them all in one application. You’ll need to set a separate setting for each one you want to disable, but once they’re all configured, your house will go dark and secure as soon as you leave.
3) Use your voice to call
You know you’re in the future when you can say a command, seemingly out of nowhere, and make a phone call using nothing but your voice (touchscreens were so last century). Thanks to Google Home, the Amazon Echo, and the Apple HomePod, you can now do this with just a few minutes of setup.
Assuming you’ve set up Google Home, linked to your Google account, installed the Google Home app on your phone, and allowed personalization (full instructions here), you can make a call by simply saying “call…”. say, followed by someone in your Google contact list (you can also say the number). To end the call, tap the top of your speaker or say, “hey, Google, hang up” instead.
For an Amazon Echo, you’ll need to tap the Calls button (the speech bubble) in the mobile app, enter your mobile number and follow the instructions to start calling. As with Google Home, say “call…” and then a contact’s name to make the call. You can also specify a particular number, such as mobile, work, or office. Say “hang up” at the end to end the call.
For now, you can’t make calls with Apple’s HomePod speaker, but you can make calls from your iPhone to the HomePod and use it as a speakerphone. While on a call, tap the on-screen audio button and choose your HomePod from the list. A green light will appear on top of the HomePod when you’re connected, and if needed, you can use the buttons on top of the HomePod to adjust the volume.
4) Find out when the kids come home
Setting up your smart home so that you know exactly when the kids are coming back from school is very convenient and not that difficult to do. It saves you from worrying about where they are, saves the hassle of texting you at the end of each school day, and can be easily adapted to your home routine.
You have a few options when it comes to this. At a basic level, you can set up a motion-sensing camera like the Canary, which will buzz you when a person is detected through the front door. He can distinguish between people and other types of movement and of course, does a lot of different tricks, such as measuring temperature and humidity at home.
If checking a photo on your phone seems too much of a hassle, or you don’t necessarily want to be so intrusive snooping on your kids, an August Smart Lock can grant access based on a mobile device and tell you exactly who’s coming through the door. Came and when. Another great feature of these and other smart locks is temporarily letting family, friends, Airbnb guests, and others into your home.
You also don’t need a physical smart home device to track your kids. The Life360 apps for Android and iOS automatically ping you when your kids enter a certain area (such as home or school) without manual effort. That’s assuming you can let them install the app on their phones first, and they’ll be fine with you following their whereabouts so consistently.
5) Put your Nest camera on the big screen
Our latest smart home trick involves your next camera and your TV screen. Watching your Nest security camera feed on your phone is fine, but to capture enough detail, you need to get the footage on a big screen, with the bonus of quickly swiping to and from your security cameras while you’re at it. You can even have the feed in the background while doing something else, so you never miss the delivery person again. sittingSitting couch watching TV.
Thanks to the magic of Google’s various services, this is possible if you have a Nest Cam IQ indoor camera and a Chromecast, although it’s a bit trickier to configure than it should be. First, open the Nest camera app for Android or iOS on your phone, tap the feed you want to use, then tap the gear icon (top right). Choose Google Assistant and toggle the toggle switch to on.
Then you need to go to the Google Home app for Android or iOS (did you say it was a bit complicated), open the app menu, and choose Home control. Tap the plus icon, select your camera, and it should appear as a configured device. You can now control your Nest camera via Google Assistant (on your phone or via a Google Home speaker if you have one), so we’re ready to go.
SIfyou want to give your devices names that are easier to pronounce, you can do this through the Nest and Google Home apps. Ay “show” [camera name] On [Chromecast name],’ and as if by magic, your Nest camera feed should appear on the television your Chromecast is connected to. When you’re done, say ‘stop’ [Chromecast name]’ to do that.
This article has been updated since it was originally published.