Smart lighting is one of the most important aspects of smart home and a definite favorite among smart home lovers. In fact, market forecasts show that global revenue for smart lighting is expected to surpass $22 billion by 2025 and nearly double by 2030.
Smart lighting solutions allow homeowners to control their lights using an app remotely. In addition to just turning them on and off, you can also set timers and schedules for your lights. We’ve talked quite a bit about smart home automation and having smart lighting as one of the most vital components of basic automation. Among many others, Philip Hue offers some of the best smart lighting solutions currently available on the market, and you don’t have to break the bank to buy them.
Philip Hue is a smart lighting provider with a wide range of options for smart home lovers and newbies. They work similarly to any other smart light setup and can connect using WiFi or other Zigbee signals. They allow you to use an app or a physical remote to control these lights’ brightness, color, and timings.
You can even integrate these lights with other smart techs in your house. Along with being controlled by an app, these lights can be with Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, allowing you to control them with nothing other than your voice.
The Philip Hue Starter Kit is all you need to set up the smart lighting system for your house. It comes with a hue bridge, smart LED bulbs, and other smart accessories that are quite easy to install. You’ll need to consider factors such as which room you will get the kit for and how many lights you need to figure out to choose the best starter kit for you.
Currently, Philip Hue has 3 Starter kits that provide either a white ambiance or a white and color ambiance. The number of smart LED bulbs you get with each light varies, and prices start from just $69.99.
Philip Hue has a wide range of smart lights you can choose from depending on your needs and requirements. Your choice will depend on where you want to install the lights in your house. Let’s take a quick look at some of the Philip Hue lighting options:
These smart lamps are a great option for your house and can function as a reading light or just as decor. Although smart floor lamps provide gradient lighting, smart table lamps offer color and gradient lights.
Smart outdoor lights offer soft-warm lighting and colored lighting. Similar to all other lights, they are also Bluetooth enabled and are a suitable option for the front lawn and the backyard. In addition to these smart lights, Philip Hue also provides a bathroom-specific range called the Philip Hue Adore, which comes with innovative smart lights and the Adore white-lighted mirror. Along with these smart lights, Philip Hue also offers a wide range of smart accessories, including the Hue Bridge, smart buttons, smart plugs, dimmers, and much more.
Philip Hue lights come equipped with a Hue Bridge, which is the first thing you’ll have to set up. When setting up the Hue Bridge, you must plug it into the power socket and connect it to the internet. Then, open the Philip Hue app and add the new bridge.
After installing the smart lights in your desired location, simply connect them to the bridge using the app. As opposed to using the bridge, you can also use Bluetooth to connect to the smart lights, limiting your control over them.
Philip Hue Lights and Smart Assistants
In addition to using the Philip Hue App, you can also use Google Assistant, Apple Home Kit, and Amazon Alexa to control the smart lights as well. Along with allowing you to control the smart lights with voice commands, you’ll be able to take extra security measures such as having the lights turn on if motion is detected as well.
Philip Hue offers smart lighting options for every room in the house and for the front yard and backyard as well. They provide many options, including smart LED bulbs, lighting strips, smart accessories, and more. I’m a huge fan of Philips’ smart lighting technology. Not only is it a brand I trust, but the technology also integrates seamlessly with most smart home assistants. In addition to being set up and controlled from the app, the Philip Hue lights can be connected to various smart assistants allowing you to control them using voice commands as well.
With increasing advancements in smart home technology, homes are now becoming more than just a place to live in. Along with living in your house, these smart home gadgets allow you to interact with it as well.
They are rapidly growing in popularity and recent forecasts show that the number of smart homes in the United States is expected to cross 77 million by 2025. If you’re someone who’s interested in these products, you can save yourself a lot of time by simply looking for the Z-wave logo on the gadgets you buy.
Unlike other gadgets, Z-Wave isn’t a product or system but a wireless protocol that helps you turn your smart home dream into a reality. The Z-wave technology entered the United States in 2002 and was bought by Silicon Labs for a price of $240 million in 2018.
Z-Wave uses low-energy radio waves to enable communication between devices and ensures that they can operate with each other. This allows you to work across multiple product categories to create seamless automation within your smart home. Most smart home products are equipped with various versions of Z-Wave.
They come equipped with features such as the SmartStart, which allow you to experience the true potential of the smart home technology by simplifying the inclusion process of other devices. These versions include: (WARNING: TOTAL GEEKNESS INCOMING)
The Z-Wave Plus, also known as the Z-Wave 500 series, increases the range and battery life of the initial technology and is a commonality among current smart home products.
The Z-Wave 700 series improved upon the gaps left by its predecessors and provides a connection range of 1 mile and a battery that can last up to 10 years.
Their latest version, the Z-Wave 800, extends the connection range to more than 1.5 miles and is equipped with both the S2 security framework and the Secure Vault.
The Z-Wave Long Range (LR) was announced in 2020 and aims to extend the connectivity beyond the boundaries of smart homes and really wants to compete with technologies in the commercial sector.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a home automation system is how secure it is. We sometimes easily forget how vulnerable our personal data is. You want to make sure that your personal data and information are safe and secure and that no one will be able to access them without your permission.
With Z-Wave technology being one of the most popular types of home automation technologies, it is also known for being very secure. The Z-Wave standard uses 128-bit AES encryption, which is the same type of encryption that is used by banks and other financial institutions. What this means is your data will be safe and secure and that no one will be able to access it without permission. In addition to that, Z-Wave devices are also equipped with tamper-resistant hardware, so even if someone tried tampering with your device, they most likely wouldn’t be able to.
Why is Z-Wave Important for Smarthomes?
As mentioned, Z-Wave is a wireless protocol that communicates between devices enabling them to function together and is essential for smart homes. Z-Wave’s SmartStart feature makes installing a new device as simple as turning it on.
When turned on, a device is automatically recognized by the network and all you have to do is follow a few prompts to connect it. In addition to the easy installation, any Z-Wave certified device can work with other Z-Wave devices, allowing smart homeowners to choose from an unlimited number of options.
How Does Z-Wave Work?
The Z-wave technology operates using radio frequency between 800-900MHz, ensuring that the communication among devices doesn’t suffer from any major interference. Unlike Wifi, these devices connect to each other, form a mesh network, and then send signals from one device to another.
However, not all such devices are capable of repeating a signal. This necessitates a Z-Wave repeater to receive and send signals from one device back to the Hub.
Z-Wave Hub and Apps
A hub is where all the behind-the-scenes actions of your smart home take place. It allows you to control and manage your smart home devices from wherever you are and can also send alerts from these devices.
Smarthome owners can use the hardware hubs from Samsung SmartThings and Aeotec to manage their devices. A great thing about these hubs is that they can also integrate with Z-Wave and other smart home technologies. Along with these, other smart hub options are compatible with Z-wave.
However, if you’re looking for a Z-Wave specific hub, then Aeotec’s Z-Stick 7 is the best option. In addition to hardware hubs, many products that are equipped with a Z-Wave kit provide apps that can be used to control these devices.
Currently, there are more than 3600 Z-wave certified products on the market and over 100 million people are using the products equipped with the many versions of Z-wave. All of these devices are compatible with each other, regardless of which manufacturer they are from. Z-Wave compatible products are available in categories such as locks, switches, thermostats, and much more.
Some of the many devices that use the Z-wave technology include:
Smarthomes are rapidly growing in popularity across the United States. And this means homeowners are constantly looking for devices that are compatible with each other. Searching for such devices can be a problem that many people face, but it can easily be solved by looking for the Z-wave logo on your smart devices.
Z-wave uses wireless communication protocols to help ensure that smart home devices can be integrated with one another. And this is what we want! Nothing is more frustrating than getting a new smart device only to have it not integrate with the rest of your smart home. Z-wave allows owners to work across multiple devices and make their smart home dream a reality.
Google Home App has introduced a very useful feature that allows users to make calls to all their contacts rather effortlessly. What’s nice is this added feature lets a person set up a Google Home App and then use its modified features to make calls from smart speakers to businesses or personal contacts. If the technology was completely synced with all of your smart devices (smart watch, smartphone, wireless earbuds), I could see how this would be a major component for your smart home. But some of these wishes just aren’t there yet. And to be honest…despite what you might think, the process of setting this up is quite simple. You just have to make sure you have the latest software version and follow the steps to make calls through Google conveniently.
Setting Up Calls On Google Home
The first step in making calls to your desired (business or personal) contacts is to configure the prerequisite settings on the device.
To make a call to your Google contacts, you must go to Settings. In the settings, you have to tap on the “more settings” feature.
Locate the tab named Devices
Here, you have to add the desired contact by selecting a speaker of your choice.
While doing so, you must ensure that your personal results toggle is turned on.
If you have a Google Home App running on your phone, the next step is to train your Google assistant. After that, the assistant will work by recognizing your voice. The only real necessity of this is that your personal accounts must be synced so that it picks the calls and access your contacts based on the settings you have selected.
Making calls from Google Smart Speaker has enabled people to shift from obsolete ways of calling and bring communication into the future. Previously, Google Assistant helped people in making calls. Now, the Google Home App has made it possible to contact anyone essentially from any part of the world with just an app.
There are a lot of nice things about making phone calls using your smart speaker. In a lot of regards, it is convenient. For example, the Google Home App detects the speaker’s voice once the setup is completed. You have to personalize all the settings to make use of the feature to the fullest. Once everything is set, you just have to say the command, and Google will dial up that call for you.
Now…this isn’t something I use often. Most of the time when I make calls through a smart speaker, it’s when I don’t have my phone or wireless headphones near me. In this regard, this feature is awesome. But having the ability to make a phone call through my wireless buds (connected to my phone) or even through my smartwatch is much more convenient than doing it through one of these smart speakers. Nonetheless, for those that don’t have these smart accessories that pair with their smartphones, making a call through your Google smart speaker definitely has it’s purpose.
Most people know about Google Assistant and the devices it’s on. And most people are getting a ton of benefits from its use in daily life. I’ve talked about my favorite Google Routines and how much they simplify life instead of having tech make things worse. But one thing I’ve noticed is about 1% of the people I know effectively use Google Assistant. Yes, it’s fun to ask it what time it is and ask it questions about something you don’t know, but…there’s a whole world of utility-type functions that Google Assistant can do that are super efficient and not a lot of people use.
So what else can you do beyond the usual tasks with Google Assistant rather than ask it about the time and weather? Granted, those are important and very popular voice commands, but here are some valuable Google Assistant tips that I think most people are either unaware of or haven’t realized how efficient they can make life:
1. Find Your Phone
Do you not know where your phone is located? You can simply say “OK Google, detect my phone” from an account-connected smart speaker with Google Assistant enabled. To locate your phone, just listen for the ringing (or pinging). In the unfortunate event that you forget your phone, Google Assistant makes it simple to locate it.
Why not let Google Assistant handle the spam calls? If you get a call from a hidden number or from anyone with whom you don’t wish to speak, tap the screen-appearing Screen Call button. A live transcription of the conversation will be provided by Google Assistant when it answers the call. You can either hang up or jump in.
Another fun phone hack is reducing the time you waste waiting on hold for customer support. If you have the Phone app by Google, go to Settings, then Hold for Me. What this does is every time you are on hold with a customer support rep (or any toll-free number), Google Assistant will give you the option to hold the call until the phone rep comes on. Please note that this is only available on Google Pixel Phones and select Android phones.
3. Control Phone Setting
You can easily control many important phone settings with your voice including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi settings. Using a phrase like “OK Google, activate airplane mode”, or “OK Google, activate do not disturb” or “OK Google, activate the flashlight” you can communicate with Google on some of these more frequently used phone settings.
4. Make A Phone Call
You can easily make a phone call simply with voice commands. And it’s not just those in your personal contacts either. You can place a phone call to any publicly listed business. Another cool little hack, just say, “on speakerphone” after your request and Google Assistant will automatically activate your phone speaker so you don’t even have to touch your device.
5. Control Your Data And Settings
With Google Assistant, you can control and examine your data and activities. To control your data simply say: “OK Google, remove the last things I said to you.” Similarly, you can delete your data from the last week or month as well. To review your privacy settings and to learn more about how Google Assistant uses your personal data, you can also ask Google, “Ok Google, what do you do with my data?”
Using Google Assistant, you can easily get your location. Using location-based Google Assistant commands is one of the power features with Google. I just don’t think it is used enough. Even when running a task or errand to a location I’ve been to a hundred times, I’ll use location-based commands and I’ve avoided construction delays and traffic jams even going to places I know. This little nuance is not an exercise in futility. You also find out more about the location where you want to go and set reminders with general locations too. Again…leveraging your Google Assistant to tell you about directions and the distance from your destination (even if you know the location) is a valuable tip.
7. Google Assistant At The Lock Screen
You can communicate with Google Assistant even if your Android phone is locked. Ask for a weather prediction, or reminder, or get control without locking the screen. All you need to do is go to Assistant settings and under All settings select Lock screen. From there, turn Allow Assistant on the lock screen on or off.
Setting reminders is probably one of the most useful tips for using Google Assistant. These can be simple reminders such as “OK Google, remind me to call the doctor on Friday” or “OK Google, remind me to take out the trash every Tuesday at 9 PM.” Or they can be a little more complex like “OK Google, remind me to walk Gladys’ dog every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 AM this month at Riverside Park on Arthur Avenue.”
The voice-to-text technology with assistants has come a long way in just a few short years. At first, I wasn’t a big fan because I found myself going back and editing the text I said anyway. Wasn’t a valuable tool for me. But in recent years Google Assistant’s voice-to-text has been phenomenal. You can literally send a text without edits and without even lifting a finger. A little bonus: if you have the Messages app from Google, you can even ask Google Assistant to read text messages to you.
Here’s Your Challenge…
So here’s your homework assignment: this week I want you to use just one of these. Pick the one you think will be the easiest for you and use it this week. Google Assistant is a great tool that seriously makes remedial tasks in life really simple. And it’s not just for the professional who wants to stay more organized and streamline business operations. Anyone can benefit from these effective tips and tools in Google Assistant.
Maybe you’ve heard of Google Routines and maybe you haven’t. Want to get your life and home in order with a little help from Google? You can leverage the power of Google Home and Google Assistant to create Routines that just make life so much better. Not many people know about Routines, yet they have the technology to implement them. It baffles me.
I wanted to walk you through the process of setting up and personalizing Routines and showing how they work. It’s not just about turning off lights or having things turn on when we leave. It’s way more than that. It’s about having our smart homes always ready and working for us no matter when (and in some cases where). I absolutely love Routines and believe they are the key to unlocking the true potential of a smart home.
If you have Google Home and any smart devices that work with it and you aren’t using routines, you have one thing to do immediately after reading this post: create your first routine. Don’t worry if you don’t know how, we’re going to help you out with that. But you need to know what a Google Routine is first.
Google Routines are a way to automate tasks in your home using voice commands. It’s a series of actions you want your devices to do when you want them to do it. They’re really easy, straightforward, and can be implemented quickly with little effort. No seriously, they’re really easy. I love them because they make my tech work for me, not the other way around. Now, some Routines are a little more advanced, but generally speaking, they’re easy.
The idea of Routine is simple: you want certain actions done automatically when prompted by either Google Home or through the app on other devices like tablets/phones, thermostats, lights, etc. It’s not just outright speaking aloud “OK Google…do this” either. You can have these scheduled, which I love.
How To Set Up Routines
Setting up routines in Google Home is really easy. You’ll need the Google Home app. But…it’s the Google Assistant that carries out the routine (automation portion).
On the front screen of the app, you’re going to want to open the Account section (look in the top right where your avatar is, then select Assistant Settings and then Routines.
From here you’ll see some pre-configured Routines, which Google has supplied. If you’ve never used Routines, I’d click on one of them to get a feel for what they look like and what they can do. For example, in the “Commuting to work” prebuilt Routine, the Starter should say something like “When I say to my Assistant ‘Let’s go to work” then the Actions are “Tell me about my commute to work + Tell me about the weather + Tell me about today’s calendar + Play Music.” It’s also important to note that every Routine you see here (pre-configured or custom-built by you) can always be edited and/or deleted.
Adding your own Routine to the mix is super easy. Just hit the colored “+ New” button in the top right-hand corner in the Routines section. From here you can select the Starter (how you will start it) and what Actions you want to include. What I love is you can have multiple Starter prompts. You’re not limited to just one. For example, I have a smart alarm set to wake me up every day at 6:30 a.m., but there are a lot of times I wake up before then and say my Starter command to begin the sequence before. These can be set on specific times and days of the week.
Configuring or customizing a Routine to work for you is where the real power lies in all this smart automation. It’s rather simple too. I know I’ve really become accustomed to Routines because I miss that smart home component whenever I stay in a hotel, Airbnb, or some other resort. They really do make your life easier. Customizing them for you is a big part of that.
There are two components you need to know that are crucial to run a Routine. There is the Starter (what you say, at a specific time, at sunrise or sunset, or when an alarm is dismissed ~ I like to think of this as the trigger of the routine) and then the Action (the thing you want Google Assistant to carry out through all of your smart connected devices). For example, on work days you can have Google Home wake you up at 6:30 am, announce the weather, tell you the news (from your favorite news source), turn your lights on at 50% brightness, start making your coffee, set the thermostat at 72, and on and on. Completely automated without you giving it a voice command.
For each Starter and Action, you can select each individual one and customize it. You can add and delete Starters and Actions. What I love is none of the customizations will become permanent until you hit the Save button. Just know there are thousands of things your Google Assistant can do. Anything the Google Assistant can do, you can add it as part of a Routine. This is why there are literally millions of different permutations of Routines you can create.
As a Dale tip, I’d start simple. Start with one Routine. Work it for a few days. As the week progresses, think of ways you can personalize it for yourself. For example, maybe you have a bedtime Routine set up that dims lights to 10% brightness, locks the door, and plays a Sleep Sound of a Babbling Brook. But you’re getting tired of the Babbling Brook and want your lights all the way off. You can go into each action and customize those and maybe add an announcement that tells you your battery level (no one likes to start the day with their phone battery at 20%).
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a small streaming device manufactured by Amazon that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of your TV. It’s one of my most used devices in the home. It’s one my kids use a lot as well. This device allows you to connect to the internet and stream videos on demand on your tv through apps. Just about any streaming app you can think of can be found in the Amazon App store.
When it comes to streaming content with apps, the Fire TV Stick works kinda like your smartphone. In most smart TVs, it’s often difficult or impossible to sideload other apps, so you are stuck with the apps that come from your smart TVs app store. Not the case with the Fire TV Stick. This device is much more flexible as you can install apps from a wide variety. But I’ll be honest, most people just use the device with its preset settings completely unaware that you can enhance the experience.
With roughly 40 million users of the Fire TV Stick, it’s a very popular device. But what really surprises me is the lack of leveraging features to give you a better viewing experience. Out of the box, the Fire TV Stick is great. No major complaints. But there are a bunch of little tips and tricks you can do that just make it so much better (and safer).
1. Pin Your Most-Used Apps
If you have installed dozens of apps from the Amazon App store, finding the ones you want to use frequently may become difficult. I think it’s a pain to find apps I use in the app section of the interface. You can pin the most frequently used ones to the home screen so they’re easy to find. All you do is take your highlight cursor over the app you want to pin (don’t select it). Hit the Menu button on your remote (three little lines) and select “Pin To Front”.
2. Disable Automatic Audio And Video Playback On Fire TV
The Featured Content page on the Fire TV home screen plays the most recent movies and TV shows from partner apps by default, which can be REALLY annoying. I also notice my Fire TV Stick getting glitchy when they auto-play as well. You can easily disable autoplay for audio and video by just doing a simple adjustment from the Settings menu. Go to your Settings and select Preferences from the options. Scroll until you find “Featured Content” and turn off the Allow Video Autoplay and Allow Audio Autoplay features. You can thank me later.
3. Adjust Fire TV’s Privacy Settings
This is another no-brainer option everyone should do. There are concerns regarding privacy because Fire TV devices must be connected to the internet. The content you watch, the amount of time you spend using the device, your location, your most used apps, and other details can all be tracked when you use a device. If you are uncomfortable with constant tracking, disable the behavior from the Privacy menu.
4. Make Use Of Your Phone’s Virtual Fire TV Remote
You can easily control your Fire TV using the Fire TV remote app on your iPhone or Android phone. There have been times (lots of times) when the Fire TV Stick remote gets lost or it runs out of batteries. That’s when this trick really comes in handy. The app offers the same buttons and functions as the remote.
5. Create Multi-User Profiles
On your Fire TV, you can create separate profiles for you, your spouse, and your kids. With recommendations for movies, TV shows, and pinned apps, users get a personalized Fire TV experience. This is one of my favorite and most underutilized features of the Fire TV Stick. You can create Kids profiles doing this which will give you more control over what your kids are watching.
Another quick tip on profiles. To easily switch in between profiles, press and hold the Home button on the remote and a pop-up will appear prompting you to switch profiles. You can also use this little Home button trick to open other Apps and put your device to sleep.
6. Access Diagnostics Information
This is for advanced users. There is a hidden diagnostics panel on the Amazon Firestick. You are granted access to a ton of information, many of which is essential for advanced settings. Frame rate, CPU load, video codecs, display resolution, memory usage, current internet streaming speed, and other diagnostic data are just a few examples. You’ll want to press and hold Select (Center button) for one second and while still holding it, press the hold the Down direction button for three seconds. Then release both and press the Menu button. From there a pop-up will appear and you’ll want to turn On the Advanced Options and System X-Ray.
7. Restart Your Device Using The Remote
You don’t have to turn off your television if your Fire TV Stick freezes. Using the remote, you can just restart it. It’s really easy to do. Hold down the Select and Play/Pause buttons at the same time for five seconds. Even if the screen is frozen (which doesn’t happen on the later generations as it did on earlier versions), this quick restarting tip will work. As a side note, you can also restart your device from the menu screen or by simply unplugging it as well.
8. Send Video Footage From Security Camera To The Fire TV
This is a pretty cool trick you can do with your Fire TV Stick: live video feeds from home security cameras can be directly displayed on Amazon Fire TV. You’ll only be able to use this feature with Alexa-enabled devices. If you utilize an IFTTT applet, you can actually have this feature automated.
9. Disable Interest-Based Ads On Your Fire TV Stick
Going to be honest, I wish there was a way to kill advertisements altogether, but I realize corporations have to make money. You may not know that your Fire TV is tracking your behavior for a lot of purposes, and advertising is one of them. However, Amazon does allow you to turn this feature off. Please note that you will still get ads, they just won’t be lasered in on what you were just talking about with your family at the dinner table. Go to Settings, then Preferences, then Privacy Settings, then Advertising ID and turn Interest-based Ads to off. Once enabled, the apps on your device won’t be able to use your advertising ID to build a persona profile to serve you personalized ads.
There is an argument to be made about the benefits and advantages of using interest-based ads. But I think the Cons far out-weight the Pros. One reason I enabled this is that if they are collecting that data and utilizing it, it’s going to take some amount of memory and bandwidth to transfer that data. That’s more input and output for your device. Without running any formal data test on if disabling this cuts down on bandwidth usage from your Fire TV, my gut tells me it does. The other issue is privacy. Less personal data on our behaviors being sent to the cloud is a positive.
Features Vs Privacy Vs Experience: How Do You Prioritize?
You’ll notice that a handful of these tips are putting data restrictions on what Amazon collects about you. Some would argue that turning these features off will dampen your user experience. It’s the “but we’re collecting data on you to give you a better experience” argument. There’s a little bit of credence to that as well. Amazon continues to develop features that enhance the user experience for its customers. I’m all for that. However, I have found that enabling these tips and tricks hasn’t interfered one bit with how I interact with my Fire TV Stick device. Personally, I think it helps the device run smoother. You don’t have to do all of these, but I highly recommend you adopt at least one. And if you’re serious about your personal data being stored in the cloud, I’d act on all those tips. Quite frankly, you can make your watching experience more enjoyable and safer by utilizing these Fire TV tips and tricks.