On our most recent IoT Podcast episode, Joe called in and left us several great questions on the IoT Podcast voicemail hotline. Joe just bought a new home and started to choose a number of products to make it smart. That’s a good first step!
But then Joe stopped because of a very valid concern: Will visitors, or even his significant other who will also live in the house, mess with the automations or not understand how to use the smart products? Additionally, should you explain to guests what smart devices you have or let them simply discover them on their own?
Given that I’m generally installing and removing various smart devices from my home for testing, and that this drives my wife crazy, I totally get where Joe is coming from. Here are some suggestions to get the most out of a new smart home when there are others under the same roof and when you tend to have many visitors.
First, it’s always a great idea to get buy-in from all family members before adding any smart products to your home. Some people aren’t comfortable with indoor cameras, for example. So while you can push the security aspect of cameras, it’s best to talk through concerns and see if any compromises need to be made.
In my case, I promised my wife that our indoor cameras would be set to a private mode outside of our normal waking hours, or when both of us were not at home. As a result, I got the OK for our Canary security cameras, which are only on during our sleep hours or if we both leave the geofenced home area in the Canary app. I’ve also shown these cameras to neighbors that visit us often, and I explain that we’re not recording anyone when they visit.
Sharing administrator privileges for your smart devices with others in the house is also a good idea. Or at least it’s worth discussing. This could increase the level of trust by others in the home when it comes to those cameras, connected locks and smart speakers: If they can view and modify settings, they may feel more comfortable with having a smart home.
You’ll also want to keep visitors off of the same network as your smart home devices if possible. That’s easy to accomplish with most routers these days; just set up a guest network and limit access for it to just the internet. If you decide to put your devices on a guest network, this isn’t the best option, of course.
In terms of visitors “breaking” your automations, consider adding products that will work regardless of whether the physical switch for it is on or off. Smart switches can help with this, as could wireless buttons and remotes; lights, for example, can be turned on by an automation rule with these, even if the switch is set to off.
To help make the smart home easier to use, I generally set up new devices with my family present. This way, they understand the device’s capabilities as well as, if needed, the name for a device. I let them pick light bulb names, for example.
And to help so that they don’t always have to remember the names, I group my lights with a single smart speaker in the same room where possible.
This way, anyone can just say to the digital assistant in our Family Room, “Lights on” or “Lights off” without worrying about the actual names of the individual lights.
Lastly, you can actually use your digital assistant to teach visitors how your home works. Stacey created a custom Alexa Blueprint to explain how to turn the TV on, how to adjust lights in the room and more.
To hear Joe’s question, as well as our discussion in full, tune in to the IoT Podcast below: