Smart Home - Ok Google, are you listening?
I'm sure you've all read the articles about Google, Facebook, and Amazon being evil and listening in to all our conversations. Let's not kid ourselves; it's all true. They're data and marketing companies after all.
Can you recall a time when you're talking to someone about something, and not long after, you see ads for said something on your phone and PC, even though you never looked it up online?
Yeah, that's your phones doing. It has a microphone, and it always listens. All. The. Time. Deal with it. That's the way of the future. Fun fact - it's also part of how the Yanks got Bin Laden. So you win some, you lose some.
So where did I commence my soiree into home automation? Well, I wanted to hack one. Having not been as successful as I would have liked, I decided to go all out. And I mean ALL out. My haul is quite impressive.
My arsenal consists of;
1x Google Home Hub (now called a Google Home Nest Hub)
2x Google Home Mini's
1x Google Nest Mini
1x Google Home Mini fitted into a battery pack
1x Google Chromecast for the TV
1x Sensibo smart controller
6x Kasa HS100 smart wifi plugs
The LIFX bulbs already installed
Why so much gear, you ask? Firstly, I want Google to hear my farts no matter what room I'm in. And secondly, laziness. I consume copious amounts of audiobooks that carrying a BT speaker around was tiring my second favourite drinking arm. Google Home allows you to create speaker groups and broadcast through the whole apartment. Peak laziness.
So here's the purpose of them all, and why you too should be doing this cool setup.
Google Nest Home Hub - Living room
This bad boy packs a small speaker on par with the Mini's but carries a smallish 7" screen, suggesting you can watch youtube or see what audio is playing. It serves as the control hub for visitors who can't figure out the voice commands (read: the dumbasses). Different swipes permit access to all the home robotisation features, like turn lights on and off as needed.
Google Home Mini - Bedroom
This one is attached to the wall with a 3M strip usually reserved for pictures (for those playing at home, that's the limit of using my super expensive Engineering degree). The power of this one is using it to turn everything off when I've gone to bed, and getting everything started in the morning. I'll cover off "Google Routines" shortly.
Google Home Mini - Kitchen
Same mount mechanism as the bedroom. Used excellently as a kitchen timer, and for blasting tunes. The sneaky plug on the right is a Kasa plug.
Floater in a battery pack - AKA Jarvis
Inspired by Iron Man, this little fellow is my floater. Used between the study, bathroom, and balcony as required. Always fun to poop and listen to Metallica.
I have a pretty decent home theatre setup with an excellent soundbar and fully sik hektic subwoofa mate. The Chromecast allows streaming of any audio or video from the phone to the TV and brings the aforementioned subwoofa into play.
Sensibo smart controller
The holy grail of the setup. Long story short, if you have a device with an IR remote, Sensibo will grab it by the nuts and bring it into the modern era kicking and screaming. Super simple to use, it eliminates the need for those large, clunky remotes AC units use (and the cat chews on).
The Sensibo app is genius. It uses the AC sensors to pick up ambient temperature and humidity, with which you can set it to auto acclimate your house as required. As a recently single guy, having the AC permanently on is slightly outside my price range, but good to know I can do it in the future.
Kasa HS100 wifi plugs
These little beauties enable all your old dumb devices to get in on the smart home gangbang. The idea is you plug the device you want to automate into the Kasa plug, and then Kasa plug glides gently into the wall. Simple wifi setup later, and your dumb device is now smart!
The six upgrades for me were;
Pod coffee machine
External balcony railing lights
Cool flamingo neon thingy
Heater/fan in the bedroom
An older lamp in the study
Saving a spare one for the Xmas decorations later in the year!
The Kasa app is well done and allows you to run schedules on your plugs. For instance, when I do the Xmas tree this year, I'll set the socket to turn on 30 mins before sunset automatically. Power move. Santa better be impressed ...
Already discussed on this very blog. Only thing I'll add is the app is great and allows you to choose from millions of colour combinations. Super awesome for making the apartment look like a neon run. Girls love neon runs.
Setting it all up
Attaching everything is simple and straight forward. For the connected device, download the app and follow the bouncing ball until you are the master at arms of said device.
Google Home connects with hundreds of different providers, so Kasa, Sensibo, and LIFX are all picked up and incorporated into the Home app. You assign the devices to rooms and types. Now you can call them out as required (e.g., Hey Google, turn off everything in the living room).
The fun part comes with Google Assistant Routines!
Google Assistant Routines
Routines allow you to batch together tasks under a few keywords. Here's a few I use.
"Hey Google, good morning!"
Usually announced around 515am in the morning when the cat starts licking my face. Lovely Google will turn on my bedroom and living room LIFX globes to 25% brightness, turn off my alarm, read me today's weather and my agenda, then tell me a lame joke. Once the formalities out of the way, she begins broadcasting a Spotify playlist called "Creamy" to all speakers. As a pièce de résistance, Kasa kicks on the coffee machine for me. Start the day kicking ass.
"Hey Google, good night!"
Those days of running around chasing lights? Yeah, they're done. Climb into bed and utter these magic words, and Google turns everything off for me. She enquires what time I would like to set my alarm for, starts a 20 min timer on the heated blanket, and begins playing white noise for 2 hours so I can sleep.*
* As a side note, white noise is the best. I live right off Chapel St in Prahran. The trams and drunk WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-girls can be unbearable at times. White noise cuts them all out. Also gives weird dreams sometimes but that's part of the fun.
"Hey Google, set the mood."
This one is for the ladies 😉 All the lights transition to a sensual pinky purple, and the smooth baritones of Barry White ooze out of the Chromecasted audio throughout the house. Gimmicky as hell? Yes. Is it sexy? Well ... I can't get enough of your love, baby 😍
"Hey Google, daddy's home"
The latest and the greatest. Upon the arrival of daddy (that's me), Google turns on all the lamps to moderate yellow light, ignites my flamingo neon (also sexy), and starts playing some pump up music. A great way to arrive home.
My only contention with this whole setup is the crap speakers that Google Home's have. Coming from a Sony SRS31 with its deep base and crisp highs, the Google Home Mini and Hub sound like paper cones tied together with string. In their defence, they perform for audiobooks and podcasts.
When it comes to music and wanting some sweet beats, I use the Chromecast to get the audio through my TV and soundbar. Now there's a bit of an audio delay, so you hear the Google Home speakers and the soundbar at different times, but the Home app allows you to offset and fix that. Super kudos to the geeks at Google for putting that in.
Would I do it again?
Yes. There's so much advantage to having everything connected that I struggle to remember what life was like as a Neanderthal who had to flip switches. Little conveniences like having the coffee machine turn on when I wake up, to turning the HVAC on from bed on a 2-degree morning, they all add up and prove this is the way of the future.
Another advantage - have some random trivia fact you want answered to settle a debate with someone? No need to type that, just ask Google. Done.
And what about privacy? Let's face it. If Google wants to hear me have regular crazy sex, they're more than welcome to listen in. Maybe the geeks will learn a thing or two 😜