I’ve now moved into my new rental home on Bainbridge Island, and it’s awesome. But as I started setting up my old devices and eyeing new ones, I found a few surprises that threw me for a loop. Let’s talk about them.
Where am I? The first devices I set up after my routers were the Amazon Echo and Echo Show products, which involved changing their Wi-Fi networks. This time around I changed my WiFi SSID and password to something new because after seven years I figured it would be more secure to change things up. If I had wanted a more seamless transition of all of my devices I could have kept the same SSID and password and my devices would have hopped on automatically.
Changing the Wi-Fi network for my Echo devices and later, for my Google Home devices, was easy. However, after a day or two, I noticed that neither of the Echo devices, which actually had both my IP address and my new home address thanks to my settings on Amazon, still gave me the time and weather in Austin rather than in Seattle. I figured both devices would be smart enough to realize that my new home was in the Pacific Time zone and would likely be able to pull a fairly close weather report from IP information. In Amazon’s case, I thought it would pull my address from Amazon’s customer profile data.
But in both cases, I had to manually set address and time zone on each individual device. This really surprised me, but I’m curious why these products aren’t smarter. Is there a reason someone might not want this sort of thing automatically detected? Are my privacy settings perhaps to blame?
New network, who ‘dis? Another surprise was that a few of my products such as the Awair Glow and my WeMo switches required a full device reset before allowing me to change the Wi-Fi network. While I was fine with this, it also means that I should have reset my Amazon Echos and Google Homes for a less glitchy onboarding process. I can manually delete all of my old gear from the Echoes and Google products, but I prefer to just reset everything and start fresh. Hasta la vista “Alexa, Turn on Christmas.”
Smart home? Meh. Finally, I was surprised by how much I don’t miss my smart devices. Sure, I set up my Philips Hue hub and bulbs so I could put a motion detector on my laundry room, and the June oven has a place of honor on the counter, but other than adding a new MyQ garage door opener and the smart speakers, I’m not really disappointed by my lack of smart locks (there is a keypad lock), a smart thermostat or many connected lights. My husband is eager to set up the Nanoleaf lights because he thinks they might help him deal with the looming gray Seattle skies, and my daughter did try to ask Alexa turn on the television once, but overall we don’t really miss the functionality we used to have.
Part of this is because we don’t have the massive shades that were nice to open on a schedule or via voice and because the layout of our house makes previously useful automations moot. I no longer need my closet light to come on using motion detection because it’s inside my bedroom and I never forget to turn it off before bed. But really I find myself asking if I really need to replace a $250 device that may add a bit of convenience in exchange for several hours of troubleshooting. In most cases, the answer is no.
As smart home reporter, I wish I could say that this was the most surprising thing I learned, but as a longtime user of smart home gear, I am forced to admit that I’m not. Seven years after I got started playing with this stuff it’s still too expensive, requires too much work on an ongoing basis, and offers pretty low utility outside a few specific use cases.