Part 1 – The Basics
As of now there are many reviews out there about Google home. There are also lots and lots and lots and lots (did I mention LOTS?) of Amazon Echo vs. Google home videos and reviews. Well rest assured – this isn’t one of them. Rather, much like I did with my Cord Cutting series, I’m going to share with you my experiences and my setup of Google home and all of the gadgets that I have interacting with it to hopefully help you get a few ideas of how you would like to interact with Google home.
As of now there are at least a handful of devices at that effectively interact with Google home, and there are surely more to follow as we go forward. As such, the following is my initial setup. This is surely going to change and evolve over time, and as these changes and evolution happen I will share with you what I have found to be some exciting, and effective ways to enhance my Google home experience. Maybe this will be helpful and exciting for you as well. As usual, I’m not saying my setup is the best setup and it’s the only setup. One of the most exciting things about this sort of Technology is the fact that there are so many different ways that you could set this up and there are more ways coming!
So, what can it do?
This of course is usually the first, and most obvious question. If you go by what you see on commercials, it would appear that there is a lot that Google Home can do. However, it must be understood that it cannot do most of these things out of the box – especially things such as controlling lights. On its on, it can do “typical” Google things we’ve all come to know and love, such as answer questions or tell us the weather. It can play music and tell us our calendar entries (more on those two things later). Essentially, it’s like having Google packed in a stylish little speaker!
As many of you may know, I’m not one to typically rattle off specs. So for all of you spec junkies, that info can be found here.
Why do the commercials show it dimming lights if it actually can’t do that?
It may seem like a bit of false advertising, but the truth is Google Home can actually control the dimming and on/off functions of lights. But chances are, not the lights you already have (at least not without a little help). For that, you’re going to need to purchase a Hub. The Hub basically acts as the go-between interpreter for Home and Smart Devices. Without a Hub, Home has no way to communicate with these devices.
I decided to go with the well-known Samsung SmartThings. This hub is very easy to setup, and there is wealth of Smart Devices (or as Samsung refers to them as, – “Things”) that work with it. Simply download the SmartThings app for Android or iOS, power up the hub, launch the app and follow the onscreen directions. Quick and easy!
Once you have your SmartThings hub setup, you’re going to need to add some “things” – in this case, some lights. One of the cool things you will learn quickly is that the market already has some good options to choose from, and SmartThings works with most (if not all) of them. But some require extra purchases. Perhaps the most popular name you’ve heard kicked around is Philips Hue. Most of the time, you will see and/or hear about the multi-colored versions. I personally have no use for such bulbs, but you may want to consider them. Philips of course has a line of simple white LED bulbs as well that are also Smart Devices.
However, if you have decided to go with the SmartThings hub and want to use Philips Hue bulbs, you will also have to purchase a Philips Hue Bridge to do so. This bridge is the only way that Google Home can “talk to” Philips Hue bulbs by first sending commands to the SmartThings hub, which then sends to the Philips bridge, and then on to the Hue bulbs themselves.
But, fear not Nerds! With a visit to the “Works with SmartThings” section of the SmartThings website, you will find other options that don’t require a bridge.
Since I recently replaced all the bulbs in my house with LED bulbs, I had no plans to go through and replace them all again just for the sake of Google Home. As such, for the 2 lamps that are in my family room, I decided to grab a couple of SmartThings outlets.
These little guys would give me the ability to turn the lights on and off via Home, as well as schedule certain tasks through the SmartThings Hub to turn them on and off.
But alas, we were talking about the ability to dim the lights, weren’t we? To do that without a bridge, I picked up a couple of these OSRAM Lightify LED bulbs. Not only do these bulbs provide the ability to dim, they also allow you to adjust the light temperature. So, you can go from Warm White to Cool White, and a few stops in between.
Since I decided to use the OSRAM bulbs in these two lamps, the SmartThings outlets currently serve as on/off timers for our Christmas tree and mantle lights!
And last, but most certainly not least, what good would Google Home be for me if it has no way to communicate with my beloved TCL Roku TV? Thanks to a tip from a user in a Google Home community on Google Plus, I have the Logitech Harmony Hub to facilitate!
Though maybe not as robust as the SmartThings Hub, this hub fills in the gaps (by way of applets configured via IFTTT – more on that later as well!); specifically, controlling my TV as well as my Yamaha sound bar. I have it configured to turn the TV on and off, as well as launch Plex, Netflix, or regular broadcast TV all through Google Home.
One final thing (more of an honorable mention): there are also wall switches available for those of you who would rather not swap out bulbs. This was my initial intention with my kitchen lights, so I purchased these GE In-Wall Smart Switches. The one pictured here is the “main” switch – if you have 3-way switch connections (as do I), you will also have to purchase the Add-On switch. Unfortunately in my case, the switches are too far away from my SmartThings hub to work. The directions included with the switches point out one major short-coming: the main switch may have to be within 10 feet of the hub in order to connect. In my case, the hub is in the second story master bedroom, and the location of the switches for kitchen lighting is downstairs and on the opposite side of the house. Bummer. The good news is that with z-wave, the more devices you add the more the signal can daisy chain off of each of them, thus increasing the range. Hopefully, in the near future, I will be adding other devices to get these to work. In the meantime, you may want to go pick them up for yourself – perhaps you’ll have better luck with initial installation.
So there you have it! My basic Google Home setup thus far. Next, I will cover come configuration settings as well as IFTTT applets that I use. Hope you find this info helpful thus far, and please feel free to fire any questions or suggestions my way! Or, share some tips and tricks about your setup. Talk to ya’ soon!