How to Make Your Smarthome Easier for Other People to Use

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A couple sitting on the sofa controls all the functions of the house such as wi-fi, heating, lighting, television through holography. Concept of, home automation, automations, future, technology
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Smarthomes are a convenience that can automate your home and give you easy control from anywhere. But with children, extended family, and guests, things quickly get complicated. Here are a few ways to make your smarthome easier for other people to use.

Smarthomes Are Only As Powerful As The User

If you’ve already installed smart locks, a smart thermostat, smart lights, and smart plugs, you’re well on your way to a home filled with convenience and remote control. But the problem is often with the people in your home who aren’t tech savvy enough to set up a smarthome. They may feel unsure of how to turn on and off devices and awkward trying to use voice commands. With a few simple steps, you can make things easier for small children, extended family, and even first-time guests.

Create Straight Forward Voice Commands

Google Assistant App showing devices grouped in living room

One of the best things about a smarthome is telling it what to do with your voice. Sure you can control them the traditional way, but the ability to talk to your house and turn off lights, turn on the TV, and change the thermostat is very satisfying. However, that’s only true when it works on the first try. If you have trouble successfully using voice commands, then everyone else will have a worse go of it. So be sure to group your devices, and adequately name those groups and the devices themselves.

If you have small children in the house, you may need to change up the names of your devices and groups somewhat. Try to aim for words with fewer syllables that are easy to enunciate. Both Google Assistant and Alexa perform admirably when listening to a five-year-old, and surprisingly well with a three-year-old. But the harder it is for a child to say a command, the harder it will be for your voice assistant to understand them.

Shorter and fewer words are the best option, and that’s one of the benefits of grouping items correctly. With proper groups they can say “turn on the light” in a room instead of “turn on the living room light” or kitchen light, and so on. Family members and guests will benefit from this as well, as there’s less to remember to say.

Provide Traditional Controls When Possible

Two smart light switches, and a third traditional light switch
The two outer switches are smart; the middle switch is traditional. The left switch is off.

Smart bulbs are fantastic, but if the other people in your house are reluctant to use voice assistants, then the only way they can control your smart bulbs is with an app. That’s not always a good option, especially for children or houseguests. Another option is to use smart light switches instead. These look very similar to a toggle light switch and have the benefit of controlling multiple lights (if the switch normally would) while communicating with your smarthome about the current light state (on or off).

With a smart switch, your lights are never out of sync with your apps and voice assistants, and anyone reluctant to use smarthome options can still control the lights. The same is true for smart locks with a traditional keyhole or pin code option. With a key or PIN code, your children and guests won’t need to download an app to unlock your door.

Create a Dashboard if Traditional Controls Aren’t Available

Smart home, intelligent house automation remote control technology concept on smart phone / tablet working with smarthome app
Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to provide a traditional control option, like with smart LED strips or smart plugs. Voice Assistants can help, but if that won’t work then repurposing an old tablet as a smarthome dashboard might be the best solution. A dashboard can give an overall view of the possible controls in the house and are simple to use as on and off buttons. If possible, mount the tablet somewhere so it can easily be found.

Alternatively, the Google Home Hub, Echo Show, Echo Spot, and other smart displays provide onscreen smart home controls. They require some navigation to get to the proper screen though, so a dedicated dashboard may be a more intuitive option to guests and children.

Post Instructions in Visible Places

If all else fails, especially with houseguests, sometimes it’s helpful to have well-written instructions in easy to find places. Place signs in commonly used areas with what to say to your Google Home or Alexa next to those devices, such as “to turn the lights off, say Alexa turn off the light” and perhaps other helpful suggestions as timers.

The more you ease your guests into using voice commands, the more comfortable they will be trying them on their own. It can be helpful to have some suggestions outside of the smarthome arena, such as timers and measurement conversions in the kitchen. If you need the signs to be visible frequently, consider something that blends in with the look of your house like a chalkboard for the kitchen.

You can even use Alexa blueprints to create your own Alexa skills so that people can ask Alexa for some basic instructions that you provide. Amazon provides built-in skills you can quickly build to give instructions to house guests, babysitters, and even pet sitters—and they’re even smart enough to provide different instructions at different times of the day. But you could also set up your own skill to help people learn how to control your smarthome.

With any new tech, the best thing to do is lower the barrier of entry as much as possible. If you make using your smarthome devices seem less intimidating, then children, family, and guests will have more courage to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Often, that experimentation may teach you a few things about smart homes you didn’t realize, or help identify areas that could be improved. Just avoid overwhelming people, and you should be on the way to a more useful smarthome for everyone.

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