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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.

Apps A popular app is the Smart Life app, available on iOS or 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 any changes that you made in the app. So after changes, say to your GH: Hey Gooogle, sync my devices. It is as simple as that! (Not so easy on other voice assistants.)

Smart Home 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 two commands in one GH waking. An example is, "Hey Google, turn off the floor light and turn on the table light". 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 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 to turn off the correct lights. Maybe someday. Maybe not because when I speak to one GH, sometimes a distant GH answers.


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

To edit your Shortcuts, go to the Google Home app, click on the hamburger menu button in the upper left corner. Then click on More Settings... and near the bottom is the Shortcuts link. In the Shortcuts page, there are some pre-set shortcuts you can enable, or click the + sign in the lower right corner to add a new shortcut. Make sure to click the Save in the upper right corner before continuing.

A shortcut 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

Shortcuts 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 shortcuts. First is the shortcut and what I want to do. The shortcut names you use are up to you.

Bloomberg: stream Bloomberg 960 to whole house (Bloomberg Everywhere!)
Bloom sleep: stream Bloomberg 960 for 30 minutes (sleep timer on one speaker)
Clad Rite: stream Cladrite Radio to whole house (GH didn't understand spoken "Cladrite")
Clad Rite One: stream Cladrite Radio. (Stream only to the speaker being spoken to)
Munich: stream BR Heimat Munich on whole house (GH doesn't understand my German) :)
Nashville: stream WSM 650 on whole house (Easy to remember city name)
K A B L [cable] [San Francisco]: stream k a b l to whole house (several aliases)
Twit: stream twit live to whole house (this fixes the two ways to pronounce "live")
Security Now: stream twit live for 30 minutes (Steve G. always makes me drowsy) :)

Tea Timer: Set a timer for 6 minutes

Table lamp off [Table off] [Turn off table lamp]: turn off the table light (several aliases)
Table lamp on [Table on] [Turn on table lamp]: turn on the table light You need both shortcuts

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.)

Shortcut [alternate shortcut]      command      Commentary

K N E W 960: stream Bloomberg 960
Berlin: stream Berliner Rundfunk (Germany)
Brocken [Magdeburg]: stream Radio Brocken (German hits)
Caroline [Caroline Flashback: stream Caroline flashback (UK sixties oldies)
Electro Swing: stream electro swing revolution radio (Modern swing with old big band sound)
Five o plus: stream radio five o plus (Australian oldies station)
Kay bird: stream k b r d 680 (Commercial free 20's-50's, big band, western swing, 50's oldies)
Moscow: stream retro FM Moscow (Moscow Russia)
Owen Sound: stream c f o s 560 (Canadian oldies station)
Rewound radio [sixties radio]: stream rewound radio (Interesting sixties style radio)
W E H H [Elmira]: stream W E H H (local AM station, oldies, Sunday polka music, of course)
Zoomer: stream Zoomer radio (80 year old or older. :) CFZedM 740, Toronto Ontario)
K Y W: stream k y w ten sixty (Philadelphia KYW 1060 news)
WCBS: stream w c b s eight eighty (New York WCBS 880 news)

Sounds & Noises

Rain: play rain sounds
Forest: stream forest sounds
Ocean: play an ocean sound (lots of other sounds and noises. Experiment)