With a few devices and a bit of software, you never have to switch on the lights or open the blinds manually again
Have you ever been in bed and needed to switch on the lights? Or wanted to close the curtains or blinds but that sofa blocked your access? I have recently finished building a house and I decided I wanted to include some gadgets that would make life simpler and less frustrating.
Since I am familiar with Google Assistant on my Android phone, I decided to set up Google Home with various third-party add-ons. I’m sure a very similar result can be achieved using Amazon Alexa.
The starting point was the Google Home Mini itself, which is a very elegant little device that you can get for about R900 from Takealot.com or Incredible Connection. It doubles as a fantastic speaker with streaming capability from various devices or directly from Google Play Music and Spotify, to name a few.
It is incredibly easy to set up, but you will need an Android smartphone or tablet.
Once connected to your Wi-Fi, it becomes your own smart assistant. You can get weather updates and calendar reminders, listen to audiobooks, create shopping lists … You name it!
The next part is deciding what you would like to automate. After some research, I decided to start with light switches and blinds. I chose TP-Link Kasa switches and Somfy automated blinds. There is a range of options to suit your needs and budget.
The light switches are made for the United States, but they work perfectly here too and can be installed from scratch or retrofitted. Once installed, the switches connect seamlessly to your Wi-Fi via their own app called Kasa, which communicates with Google Home.
You can give each switch a name, set schedules and automation, or just control them with your voice. Turning on the light is as easy as saying: “Okay Google, turn on the bedroom light.” The same concept works for the automated blinds, but it is a slightly more complex setup, as you need motorised blinds and a control box, which allows Google Home to communicate with and send commands to it.
The cool part is when you get creative and add automatic schedules. For example, you could set your blinds to open at sunrise every morning or, if you start a movie on an Android media box with a command like “Okay Google, play Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, the blinds close and the lights dim to give you that cosy movie-night feeling!
I have also just added a smart doorbell called Ring, which allows me to see who is at my door via an app on my phone and to speak to them, wherever I am in the world. The next item on my wish list will be a smart lock, so I can unlock my front door using just my voice.
If one adds a Logitech Hub and smart wall plugs into this mix, there is the potential to control pretty much any electrical device that can function with a normal remote or even an on or off switch. We live in exciting times!
Philip Case became a quadriplegic in the ’90s, when 56k modems were considered hi-tech. Over the years he has gained a reputation for a mild obsession with gadgets and accessibility devices. He has conquered a number of Quads4Quads rides on his adapted side-by-side and built a smart home in Paternoster on the West Coast, and continues to figure out ways to make the world more accessible using technology.