SMART HOME TECH
AUTOMATE & SECURE YOUR DIGS WITH
Fully customise your voice assistant, set up smart lighting & make sensors work for you with our huge how-to guide
ACTING AS INTELLIGENT hubs, the Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod can tie all of your smart home devices together and make them all accessible through a common interface – your voice.
From a home security perspective, you can use a smart speaker to leverage devices such as smart bulbs, Wi-Fi cameras, and smart switches and sensors to alert you when something at home is awry.
While all of these devices come with their own apps, integrating them into your smart speaker’s ecosystem enables you to control them through voice commands rather than having to jump between multiple apps. Routines (also known as Scenes for Apple users) let you combine several smart home actions together which are triggered when you say a pre-specified voice command.
It’s worth noting that just because you can control a smart home device from your phone, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to do the same from a smart speaker. Every device needs to be certified to work with each smart home platform, and this is often shown as a logo on the product’s packaging or product page: ‘Works with the Google Assistant’, ‘Works with Amazon Alexa’ and ‘’Works with Apple HomeKit’.
With all that said, the integration of smart home devices with smart speakers is still in its infancy. For smart security cameras, it’s currently limited to being able to show the live feed on a compatible TV. For supported smart switches, you can turn them on and off with your voice, or integrate them into a routine – such as the ‘good night’ command turning off all smart lights and switches.
AN INCREASING NUMBER OF SMART SECURITY CAMERAS PROMISE GOOGLE ASSISTANT CAPABILITY, SO WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN? If you have fantasies of getting the camera to record things on demand, or even be able to pull up footage from a specific day and time when you ask it it to (“What did you record on Christmas Eve, 2017?”), you’re in for a let-down.
For now, the ability to control smart security cameras with your voice is limited to being able to play the security camera’s live feed through a Chromecast-enabled TV at home or through Google Assistant on your phone (if you’re away from home).
To set this up, you’ll need to add the security camera to your Google Home. Open the Home app, tap the menu button in the top left corner, and tap Home Control. Tap the plus button at the bottom of the screen to add new devices, select the type of device, then follow the prompts to add it your Google Home.
Assuming Chromecast is already set up on your TV, you’ll also need to link it. From the Google Home app, tap menu in the top left corner, then tap ‘More Settings’. Under ‘Services’, tap ‘TVs and Speakers’. Tap the plus button at the bottom right of the screen, and the app will search for all voice-supported TVs on your Wi-Fi network. Tick your TV, then tap ‘Add’.
Once that’s all set up, you’ll be able to stream your security camera to your TV or smartphone by saying “OK Google, show [camera name] on [Chromecast device name]”. Practically, this is likely to be something like “Show living room on living room TV”.
You can also use voice commands to control any smart switches you have around the house – either as a single command or as part of a routine. You’ll need to add the smart switch using the same steps as above (only instead of ‘TVs and speakers’, select ‘Home Control’ and press plus), but once it’s set up, you can say “OK Google, turn off the [name allocated to the smart switch]” – which looks like “OK Google, turn off the living room heater” or “OK Google, turn on the bedroom lamp”.
Integrating smart switches into a routine is a little trickier. First, we were only able to see the option for routines (Google Home menu > More Settings > Routines) on a Google Pixel 2 running Android Pie – the Google Home application on other Android devices and iPhones didn’t show this as an option. Further, we weren’t able to create any custom routines, although the default routines worked fine. With any of these pre-made routines, you can add the ability to control smart switches – so for the “Leaving home” routine, you can add the option to turn off all of your smart switches.
AS MENTIONED IN THE PREVIOUS SECTION UNDER GOOGLE HOME, THE BENEFIT OF LINKING A SMART SECURITY CAMERA TO A SMART HOME PLATFORM IS THAT THIS ENABLES YOU TO CONTROL IT WITH YOUR VOICE IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TV SETUP. IN THE AMAZON ECHO’S CASE, IT’S ANY TV WITH AN AMAZON FIRE TV OR FIRE TV STICK CONNECTED. The main limitation is that there aren’t many voice commands that are supported, but this situation is already improving. A great case in point is the Netgear Arlo on the Amazon Alexa platform, which recently added the ability to view the last motion video captured by the security camera.
To start using compatible smart devices with the Amazon Echo speaker, you’ll need to get them talking.
Like the Google Home, the Amazon Echo also supports routines, which are a handy way to fire off a bunch of tasks at once if your home’s security is breached. Thankfully, this feature actually works down under.
To get started, you’ll need to get your smart home devices talking to your Amazon Echo speaker. Even if you’ve already set these devices up through their dedicated app, you’ll need to perform an extra step to pull them into the Amazon Alexa ecosystem.
Every smart home device that’s supported by Amazon Alexa will have its own corresponding ‘skill’, which downloads through the Amazon Alexa app. To go to the
LIKE THE GOOGLE HOME, THE AMAZON ECHO ALSO SUPPORTS ROUTINES, WHICH ARE A HANDY WAY TO FIRE OFF A BUNCH OF TASKS AT ONCE IF YOUR HOME’S SECURITY IS BREACHED. THANKFULLY, THIS FEATURE ACTUALLY WORKS DOWN UNDER.
SO LONG AS YOU’VE FOLLOWED THE SETUP PROCEDURE AND INSTALLED THE RELEVANT APP FOR THE DEVICE ON YOUR IPHONE, IT WILL APPEAR IN THE LIST OF ACCESSORIES IN THE IPHONE’S “HOME” APP, WHICH IS THE MAIN ENABLED DEVICES.
Skills marketplace, tap the menu button in the top left of the Alexa app, and select ‘Skills’. Search for your smart home device (eg, “nest camera”), and it will return the matching skills. Select the relevant skill, and tap ‘Enable’. For some skills, you’ll need to login to the service using the account details you created when first setting up the device.
The final step is getting Alexa to find the devices on your network. Tap the ‘Discover devices’ button in the last prompt, and it should find the smart home device you’ve just enabled. Alternatively, if you’re configuring multiple smart home devices at once, you can save this to the end, and then use the voice command, “Alexa, discover my devices.”
Once all of your smart home devices have been added using the above process, you’ll be able to control them by voice. For smart security cameras, you can say something like “Alexa, show the living room camera”, or “Alexa, show the last motion detected by my front door camera”. Similarly, you can turn individual smart switches on and off with your voice.
You can also set up some routines. Go back to the homescreen of the Amazon Alexa app, then tap the menu button on the top left and select ‘Routines’. Tap the plus button in the top right, then the ‘When this happens’ button. Tap the ‘Voice’ option, and put in a keyword that can trigger your routine – for this example, we’ll use “I’m home”.
Hit Save, then tap the ‘Add action’ button. From here, you can choose a variety of things that you add to your routine. This enables you to play a specific song from your own music library or streaming music service, control your smart lights and switches (either individually, or as part of a group or scene), and even get Alexa to say a custom phrase.
SO LONG AS YOUR SMART HOME DEVICES HAVE A ‘WORKS WITH APPLE HOMEKIT’ BADGE ON THE BOX, YOU’LL BE ABLE TO CONTROL THEM WIRELESSLY FROM AN APPLE HOMEPOD. AND THEREIN LIES the rub. Compared with the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa platforms, the list of devices compatible with Apple HomeKit is a lot skimpier.
None of the smart home security cameras we reviewed in this feature were compatible with HomeKit – although Netatmo has promised that a software update later this year will make its Welcome indoor security camera HomeKit-compliant. D-Link also has a HomeKit-compatible camera called the Omna 180 Cam HD, and after you set it up through your iPhone, you can view a live feed of the camera through the Home app.
One of the cool things about Apple’s smart home ecosystem is that you only have to set devices up the one time. So long as you’ve followed the setup procedure and installed the relevant app for the device on your iPhone, it will appear in the list of accessories in the iPhone’s “Home” app, which is the main controller for HomeKitenabled devices.
You can control compatible smart home devices through the HomePod with your voice individually, or along with other devices using the ‘Scenes’ feature. If you have a HomeKit-compatible switch (again, these are thin on the ground, but the Elgato Eve Switch is available through the Apple Store), you can control it using voice commands fired at the Apple HomePod. For the Eve Energy, this includes “Turn on the [insert name of device and room it’s in]” and “Is the [insert name of device] turned on?”
To create an automation, go to the Home app and tap on the Automation tab at the bottom. Select ‘Create new automation’, and you’ll be able to configure preloaded scenes or create your own. One of the cool things that HomeKit can do that Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa can’t do is trigger automations based on your location. The “Arrive Home” and “Leave Home” pre-made automations automatically turn selected smart home devices on and off based on your presence.
Google Assistant supports a broad range of smart home devices.
The new Routines feature only appears to be supported in Australia on Google’s own Pixel devices.
The pre-made ‘Leaving home’ routine can automatically turn off all of the smart switches in the house.
You’ll need to enable a ‘skill’ for every smart home device that you connect to Amazon Alexa.
Getting devices connected to Amazon Alexa is a multi-step process.
Amazon Alexa’s ‘Routines” feature lets you group multiple smart home actions together under a single command.
The Home app is the main controller for HomeKitenabled smart home devices.
The Home app lets you group smart home devices logically by the room they’re contained in, making it easier to turn entire rooms off and on.
The automation feature in the iPhone’s Home app lets you create routines based on your presence (or lack thereof ).