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Single Smart Plug — Multi Smart Plug

Dave's Smart Home Family — Page 2

Smart Devices

Let me skip to the smart home with the Google Home. (I'll get back to the audio later.) A Smart Home can mean a lot of different things. This includes lighting, thermostats, switched outlets, door locks. The main thing you need to look for is that what you want to purchase, will work with the GH.

Smart Plugs (SP) Smart Plugs are little enclosures which have a plug that plugs into your electric outlet and a socket you plug a lamp, fan or anything else in to. These are available from many makers. My favorite smart plug style is a small rectangular box that will allow two of them to be plugged in to a duplex US 120 volt wall outlet. Just about everyone makes them and some cost around $12. each. (Update: I just bought some at Amazon for $16 for a package of three!)

Apps A popular app is the Smart Life app, available on iOS and Android. Look carefully at the SP you want to buy, and somewhere you might see the Smart Life app listed. The TP-Link SP's also work well but use the Kasa app.

App To App Connection Once you get your switches and wifi bulbs connected to the app and working, then you need to tell your GH about this app that you are using. In the Google Home App, click on the user settings icon in the lower right corner of the screen. Next click on Settings. Then click on Assistant near the top of the screen. Scroll down and look for Home Control and click on it. Once you are there, to add another smart home service, click on the blue + icon in the lower right side of the screen. Click the icon and you'll be presented with a long list of smart home service. Scroll down the list until you find the app that you need to link with. You enter your userID and password and you are connected. So after you make changes in your Smart Life app, say to your GH: Hey Gooogle, sync my devices. It's as simple as that!

Hardware Hubs Some SP's and wifi bulbs require a hub connected to your router. I don't use hubs as I've purchased Hub-Free devices. My devices connect to a server located somewhere in the world (China?). If the servers don't work, your lights don't switch.

I think that a hub would give you quicker responses because the hub handles your request, rather than a distant server. There is extra cost for a hub, but the prices are getting lower all the time. (Remember that first LED light bulb you bought for $30 or more?)

One more thing™. You can chain up to three commands in one GH waking. An example is, "Hey Google, turn off the floor light and turn on the table light and stream cfos 560.". Note:For this to work, you must use the real device name, not the shortcut alias (discussed later). You can turn on or off multiple devices with the same room command. "Hey Google, turn off the kitchen lights and turn on the living room lights".

Setting Up and Naming Conventions

Device Naming I've already discussed naming the GH's. Now we need to discuss sensible naming of your smart home devices. The concepts remind me of the Boolean algebra I learned 50 years ago, and Venn diagrams.

Every device has a name assigned to it, starting with your Google Homes, down to each switch or wifi lamp. In my setup, everything is either a light or a fan. (A dozen or so lights and three fans.)

I can then say: Turn on [off] the lights [fans]. Every lamp or fan will switch on or off.

All names are assigned a location name. This can be a whole room, or a special area. Some of the names are: Bedroom, Kitchen Living Room, Porch, Chair, Office and Mood. "Chair" isn't a room but it identifies two wifi bulbs near my chair. These wifi bulbs I want to control separately from the living room.

Finally, in my smart home, each bulb, or fan, wether controlled with a smart plug or a wifi bulb had a unique name. This makes it easier to identify which device I am talking to.

In my living room, I have lights called Ceiling, Table, Floor Vertical. These names are not repeated, even in another room.

Another example are my two wifi bulbs in a fixture near my living room chair, called the chair light. In this case, there was an extra step. In my Smart Life App, I named the two wifi bulbs, Alpha and Bravo. Those two bulbs are placed in their own group with a unique name - Chair. That ends up being the room. When I ask GH to dim Chair Lights, both bulbs dim the same, or change color the same. I can, if I like ask GH to change the Alpha Light to yellow and the Bravo Light to blue. (I have to be careful not to change the Porch Light to red.) Just saying... :)

Another example is in my kitchen. I have two under cabinet lights to light my counters. I named one Left Counter Light and the other Right Counter Light.

To control individually, I would say "Turn on [off] the left [right] counter light". I can also switch both by saying: "Turn on [off] the counter lights". I could say "Turn on [off] Kitchen Lights" but any additional lights assigned to the kitchen would also switch.

Stream or Play? for audio services there are two general code words to use. These are stream and play. Stream is used when you listen to a radio station, or podcast from TuneIn or another service that Google might pass your request on to. (no need to pay TuneIn anything, unless you want their premium services.)

Play is used to listen to recordings from one of several music services. When you say "play...", the command is routed to the external servers that bring you those tunes. Examples are Google Play (YouTube Red) and Spotify. You can set which service you subscribe to in the Google Home app during the set up, or at anytime. Then Google will query those services first.

One other comment on naming. When you name your GH to a room, and also name your smart lamps to the same room name, that doesn't (it does now!) provide any relationship between a GH and smart lamps room names. It would be nice to say to your bedroom GH to turn off the lights, the smarts aren't there (they are now) to turn off the correct lights.

Routines (Customizable)

Ready Made routines are discussed on the next page.

Routines on Google Home is my favorite feature. Shortcuts (now routines) were added about 6 months after the GH was first released, and it has made using the GH much easier. The basis behind routines is there is a lookup table stored at the Google servers that is checked every time a command is issued. It checks the routines to see if what was said is a routine, before processing the request with other servers or sending the command off to an outside server, such as TuneIn.

Updated 12/18 The latest procedure to reach the routines editor is, from the home page of the Google Home App, click on the Routines button near the top of the page.

At the top of this screen, you are presented with a routines executer. At the top right, click on the edit button and select the speaker where the routine is to operate from. Then you can select from the list of your routines, which one to execute. I'm not sure how useful this really is, but I have a feeling that the routine execute feature might end up on the smart screens in the future. (speculation)

At the bottom of the screen, click on Manage Routines. At this point, you are in the editor.

In the Routines page, there are some Ready Made routines you can enable, or click the + sign in the lower right corner to add a new shortcut.

A routine consists of one or more alias's and what that alias is supposed to mean. There are some reserved words or phrases that should be avoided because they could block other actions. Example, don't use the word Play or Stream in an alias name. You could confuse Ms. Google

I use shortcuts to switch multiple lights on or off. For instance, the shortcut Dinner Start would be: "turn on the counter lights and turn on the meal area light". The requested lights would come on. After the meal, I would say Dinner Finish, turning off the same lights.

To set this up, once in the Routines section, click the Plus (+) icon in the lower right. Then click on the "when I say" and then click again on the (+) in the lower right corner. Fill what alias name you wish to use for this routine and click OK. At this point you add another alias to the same routine, or click the left arrow in the upper left. Then you click on ADD ACTION or ADD MEDIA.

In this case, we ADD ACTION. If possible you always want to select ADD POPULAR ACTIONS. Choose the "adjust lights, plugs and more". Then select the switches you wish to change. (While you are there, look at all the other popular actions available!)

Then click the left arrow in the upper left corner to return. Then click on the ADD in the upper right side. When finished, click the check mark in the upper right corner. That's it!

Routines are also handy in cases where the GH just doesn't 'get it'. This includes some radio stations. Examples are stations with hard to pronounce or understand foreign words. (hint: pronounce the foreign word as an American would.)

Below are some examples how I use routines. First is the alias and what I want to do. The routine names you use are up to you.

Radio stations and other audio sources are taken care of in the ADD MEDIA section of the routine. You only have to put the station name or call sign (frequency may help too) to identify which station you want. You can add other instructions after, such as where to stream or for how long. Examples are shown below.

Volume Adjustment: Recently I started setting up routines to play music stations through my two Chromecast Audio connected sound bars. The routine worked fine, except the volume was pretty high.

I recalled on my pre-made routines that there was a media volume adjust. In the customizable routines, after setting the trigger word. click on My Assistant Should... and look for Adjust Media Volume. You'll see that the default setting is 50%. (no wonder why it was so loud.) Try different settings to find the perfect level for each station.

Chained Routine Commands: One never knows what can be done unless it is tried. I added a routine that plays a radio station to my whole house and stops playing after a set period of time.

An example, in the media/radio section, I entered, "Bloomberg 960 on whole house for 30 minutes". As hoped, the station played on every speaker in my whole house group for 30 minutes. How great is that?

One more thing: In mid summer 2018, a new routine feature was added. You can now set up a routine to function at a certain time and day(s) of the week.

First, give the routine the name before you continue to this step. The next option is Set a time and day(optional).

The reason I say enter the routine name first is that I believe this was the cause of a problem that caused my app to crash on my Android boxes. I fiddled with this as the feature was being rolled out and I entered the time without first naming the routine. I had to delete all routines, and reenter them!

To continue, when you are in this date and time section, you can select the trigger time and which day or days to act. I set up timed routines to play a specific audio file at a certain time each weekday. You can also set smart plugs and lights to operate, as well as play a specific radio station. Once a week, I have it tell me that a video podcast is about the start. Another announcement is made at a certain time each weekday that a favorite tv show is on. Unfortunately, at this time, you can only select one speaker (no groups) to sound off. Have at it and enjoy!

Bloomberg: Bloomberg 960 on whole house (Bloomberg Everywhere!)
Bloom sleep: Bloomberg 960 for 30 minutes (sleep timer on one speaker)
Clad Rite: Cladrite Radio on whole house (GH didn't understand spoken "Cladrite")
Clad Rite One: Cladrite Radio. (Stream only to the speaker being spoken to)
Electro Bar: Electro Swing Revolution Radio on whole bar (sound bar group)
Nashville: WSM 650 on whole house (Easy to remember city name)
K A B L [cable] [San Francisco]: KABL on whole house (several aliases)
Twit: twit live on whole house (this fixes the two ways to pronounce "live")
Security Now: stream twit live for 60 minutes (Steve G. always makes me drowsy) :)

Many more routines on Google Docs: Here is my worksheet.

Favorite Radio, Podcasts And Other Noise

Some hints for adding stations: First, see if the station is streaming on the internet. Go to their website and have a look around. Sometimes the station will announce how to stream their station on voice assistants.

If you have trouble with a simple request of the call sign, it is time to add further words. Add the following modifiers to your request, such as: Station location, Frequency, AM or FM, Country, Nickname Genre.

Here are some of my favorites. You can add a group or a sleep timer. You can add a group and a sleep timer in the same command.

Radio from around the world! (Some of these are geoblocked outside of the US.)

Routine [alternate routine name]      command      Commentary

K N E W 960: Bloomberg 960
Berlin: Berliner Rundfunk (Germany)
Brocken [Magdeburg]: Radio Brocken (German hits)
Caroline [Caroline Flashback]: Caroline flashback (UK sixties oldies)
Electro Swing: electro swing revolution radio (Modern swing with old big band sound)
Five o plus: radio five o plus (Australian oldies station)
Kay bird: KBRD 680 (Commercial free 20's-50's, big band, western swing, 50's oldies)
Moscow: retro FM Moscow (Moscow Russia)
Owen Sound: cfos 560 (Canadian oldies station)
Rewound radio [sixties radio]: rewound radio (Interesting sixties style radio)
W E H H [Elmira]: WEHH 1600 (local AM station, oldies, Sunday polka music, of course)
Zoomer: Zoomer radio (80 year old or older. :) CFZedM 740, Toronto Ontario)

Sounds & Noises

Sounds are available in the ADD MEDIA part of the routine. Just select SLEEP SOUNDS Sounds play for a fixed one hour period.