Quick show of hands: How many of you smart home owners actively use scenes in your house? This might surprise you but, my hand is not raised.
Scenes are arguably one of the most useful features of a smart home for many people. These are customized shortcuts that typically tie together several device actions for a specific purpose, such as watching a movie. In that particular case, your “movie time” scene might dim your living room lights, turn on your connected television set and then fire up Netflix, for example.
While I realize this is a very specific and personal scenario, scenes like this don’t work in my house for a few reasons.
For starters, I’m the only one who actively uses the many smart speakers and displays we have installed. And there are plenty of them: Two Sonos One speakers that can use either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, two Nest Hub smart displays, one 10-inch Lenovo SmartDisplay, a Google Home speaker, two Google Home Mini speakers and a pair of Nvidia Shield TV set-top boxes, which both have the Assistant built in. So too does my Pixel Slate tablet and my Pixel 3XL phone. I also have Amazon Alexa capabilities in my slowly dying Vector robot and an Echo Dot that I use solely for testing since I’m generally all-in with Google in my smart home at the moment.
Even with all of these assistant devices, neither my wife nor my daughter will speak to the home except in very rare instances. I have my living room lights power down at 11 pm each night, for example, so if my daughter is up late watching TV, she’ll occasionally ask Google to turn the lights back on. More often than not, she’ll just continue watching in the dark.
Since my wife is also averse to telling Google what to do in the house, I’ve had to replace a scene with timed automations for her.
She wakes every morning for work around 5:15 am and generally heads down to the kitchen by 5:45 am. Instead of creating a “good morning” scene that she won’t use, I have the kitchen lights automatically turned on for her by 5:30 am so that she won’t walk downstairs into a dark room. If I join her in the morning, I ask the smart display to watch the local news on its 10-inch screen. She seems to enjoy the news when I’m there, but if I’m not, or if I join her late – the news isn’t on. Why? Because she won’t ask Google to tune in.
Ideally, a good morning scene would handle both of these tasks for her – as well as preheating the June oven for her morning hash browns, but the June oven doesn’t yet integrate with Google Home — but again, she simply won’t speak the magic words to make this happen.
Of course, if her schedule changes, which it does in the summer as she sleeps in a little later, the current automation is essentially wasting energy.
Another reason I don’t have scenes like the “movie time” example is because I watch my content on just about every room in the house. No, we don’t have TVs everywhere, but much of my content consumption takes place on my Pixel Slate via YouTube TV, Netflix, and Hulu. If my wife is catching up with The Bachelorette on the big screen, I’ll just zone out with House Hunters International (don’t judge me!) in another room on my tablet. A scene isn’t going to help me there.
Even if I go to another room with a TV, the scene — technically a native “routine” in Google-land — has to be specifically set up for that room. Creating the same scene over and over for different rooms with unique screens simply isn’t worth it for me. Ideally, I’d like to see scenes for the Google Home be room location independent so the home knows which TV and lights to modify for that “movie time” scene.
I suppose if swapped out the Wink Hub that controls many of my devices, or added other bridges and hubs, I could create complex scenes for specific rooms. The time and effort of doing so, in addition to being the only person in my house that would actually use them, doesn’t seem worth it to me.
I’m probably an outlier and maybe my issue is that I rely on a limited Wink hub, but I’d like to hear from folks that both do and don’t use scenes in their smart home. Are you too the only person in the house or apartment using them? Have you bothered to set them up and/or do you use them daily or just once in a while? Let me know in the comments and maybe you’ll change my mind on being scene-averse.