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How to Use a Smart Speaker as a Home Automation Hub

Homeowners looking to get into the smart home space for the first time often use the smart speaker as the first home automation device. A smart speaker can do a variety of things including fetching the weather, reporting sports scores, and reminding you to take your medications. But did you know that a smart speaker can also act as a home automation hub?

It goes without saying that a smart speaker needs to have built-in capabilities before it can be used as a hub. Both Google and Amazon devices have those capabilities. For the purposes of this post, we will stick with Amazon devices and their built-in personal assistant, Alexa.

Like Google Home, Amazon Echo integrates with a lot of automation devices now on the market. Vivint Smart Home, a leading supplier of integrated home automation systems, says its equipment is compatible with Amazon and Google devices. The point is that manufacturers are making their products compatible from the get-go.

It Starts with Programming

As with any smart home hub, using an Amazon smart speaker as a hub starts with programming. Any of the devices you wish to control with Alexa must be compatible with it. All the devices must be on the same wireless network as well. With that accomplished, you can program customizable phrases.

This post will not get into programming details. Needless to say you can program your smart speaker to recognize different phrases to turn lights on and off, turn your sound system on and off, control your irrigation system, adjust the temperature on the thermostat, etc.

You can also program your system to automate tasks without you having to utter a word. For example, let’s say you want all the first-floor lights to turn on at 5:30 in the morning, on work days only. You can program the system with your voice. Once programmed, the system will turn the lights on every morning, just as you requested. You will not have to say anything.

Choose Unique Phrases and Words

The key to programming is choosing unique phrases and words to differentiate tasks. Going back to the previous example, maybe you don’t want all the first-floorlights on early in the morning. Perhaps you just want the kitchen lights on. You program the phrase, “Alexa, turn on kitchen lights.” You can use it for both programming and on-demand control.

Likewise, you can program similar phrases for every room in your house. You can even control exterior lighting the same way. Just say, “Alexa, turn on patio lights.” In an instant, the back patio will be illuminated.

Accessing Your Smart Speaker Remotely

About the only challenge there is to using a smart speaker as a home automation hub is remote access. Fortunately for Amazon users, remote access is available through Android and iOS mobile apps. Google also makes remote access available through Google Home. As for other brands, it is a mixed bag.

How does remote access help? It allows you to override existing programming even if you are not home. Maybe your thermostat is programmed to change the temperature some 30 minutes before you’re scheduled to arrive home from work. If your schedule changes and you plan to be out for a few more hours, remote access allows you to override the programming so that you are not heating or cooling an unoccupied house.

A home automation hub is the main player in maximizing the efficiency and security benefits of a home automation system. If you own one of the more popular smart speaker brands, you can probably use it as a hub.

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