Wednesday, February 21

Building a smart home: when you pop, there’s no stopping



I’ve gone from wondering why the hell I want a light bulb that I can turn on with my phone if, for that, I have a switch to absolutely not buying anything that can’t be linked with an app or a smart speaker. You may think that I am a bit maniacal and dependent on technology, but I assure you that, if you try it, you will gain in quality of life.

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There are video games that perfectly stage that “the first one is free”. Many free to play titles let you do certain things until you get hooked and, surprise, start frying micropayments. Well, something similar has happened to me with home automation.

It all started with a “free”, since I had practically just landed at ComputerHoy and I had to analyze the Amazon Echo family that had just arrived in Spain after a few years in other markets.

I liked them and had some assistant-enabled devices, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into and what I had compatible at home was… by fluke, since I didn’t buy it with that intention.

Of course, from that day things changed. Since they were never picked up, the older models were scattered around the newsroom so everyone had experience with me and Alexa. I kept the Dot that no one wanted. I was the new one, you know.

At first I used it to set timers or music, but later my colleague Edu posted an offer of smart plugs on the web, a pack of 3 plugs from Meross that came out at a great price and I said to myself “here I go”, paraphrasing the mythical mistake of Final Fantasy VII.

I bought the plugs and discovered how easy it was to start making lamps, speakers or “dumb” devices something smarter, in addition to programming their switching on and off or seeing consumption. And after the sockets came the revolution: the light bulbs.

At first I bought some cheap RGB bulbs. I thought they were funny because they allowed me to turn them on and change colors from the sofa with my mobile, but they didn’t really work with Alexa, so later on I went for ones compatible with Assistant and Alexa or the Echo Flex for the bathroom, since With its USB port I can charge the toothbrush as well as play some music.

It is a pleasure to say: Alexa, turn on the table light so that the LED strip that I have the iMac M1 on lights up. or “Alexa turn on Xiaomi” so that my Bedside starts to glow when I’m entering the house.

I don’t lock myself out of any assistant though, and actually use both Google’s with a Nest Hub 2 and Homekit with the iPhone. What I don’t currently jump through is the hoop of buying something that doesn’t connect to one of the assistants or mobiles from home.

It may be an obsession, but I’m going to tell you two cases. The first is that we just adopted a little dog and we don’t trust what she can do in the living room when we are not at home, so I bought the Xiaomi surveillance camera.

It is perfect because it can be connected to the mobile and you can see everything from there, but it also supports voice commands thanks to the assistants and, furthermore, if I am in the office, I can see what the camera records from the screen of the Xiaomi Mi Smart Clock. All with a simple command.

Another case is that of smart appliances. After trying the Xiaomi fryer and seeing how convenient it is to have a connected appliance, the new washing machine and boiler are also smart.

The washing machine is from Samsung and I am not controlling it with my voice, but with the SmartThings app I can easily control the program and, in addition,notifies me about the state of the wash and the time left depending on the clothes (quantity and type) that you entered.

And the boiler… well, it doesn’t really connect with an assistant like Alexa (although you could with a compatible smart thermostat) but with your own thermostat and mobile. In this way it is very easy in winter to spend a weekend away and mark the degrees at which you want the house when you return.

Yes, there have been analog timers for plugs for decades and there are also programmable digital thermostats, but for me it is very easy to have all that in the different proprietary mobile apps (Meross, Samsung or plugs) or on Alexa/Google Home.

Is it a ‘punch’? sure, but I assure you that the investment is worth it because you gain in quality of life. And, what started as “I have no idea about home automation, let’s see what can be done with a smart speaker” has led to “I don’t buy something if it can’t be connected to a mobile phone or an assistant”.

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