TechLife Australia - - FRONT PAGE - [ JENNETH ORANTIA ]

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



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 ).

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