When Google introduced the new Home & Away feature aware of space for its smart Google Home and Nest speakers, I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe I can finally say goodbye to Alexa on my Amazon Echo ($ 40 on Amazon) once for all.
I have an embarrassment about smart home appliances, so I need them to do their job with as little commitment from me as possible. For example, instead of running around screaming at everything before I leave the house, I want all the lights and other devices in my home to turn off automatically when I leave. Same thing when I get home, I want my smart home to start again. So far, Google Home had no way to automate such a thing, so I got Alexa to handle it.
The first thing I noticed when I configured Home & Away in the Google Home app was that it uses more information than Alexa to determine if someone is home. With Amazon Echo, all you can do is create a routine that is triggered when a specific device (such as your phone) leaves or arrives at a specific location (such as where you live). Google Home, on the other hand, can keep an eye on several devices that belong to anyone and everyone in your household. But not only that – Google Home may have some devices to keep an eye on you also.
Now that Home & Away has seemed to roll out to iPhones ($ 699 on Amazon) and Android phones everywhere, here’s all you need to do to set it up and start sunbathing in home automation.
Your Google Home app should prompt you to set it up
If you open the Google Home app and see a tab at the top that reads Set up home and away routines, press it to get started. If you closed that tab without setting it, just press Routines on the Google Home app’s home screen and then below Home routines tap Home. (If you have already set it but want to make changes, go to the next section.)
The first time you set up Home & Away, the app will ask for a lot of permissions, prompt you to set up your home and away routines and add your home address. Go ahead and press Agree, Start-up and Next until you get to Add your home address screen (there is an easier and better way to set both attendance settings and home and away routines when the installation is complete, so skip them for now). Enter your home address, press Next then End to complete the installation. Now for the fun part.
Set up your home and away routines
From The Google Home app home screen, press Routines then press either Home or Away. During How to start, it should be said When someone comes home or When everyone’s gone. You can tap it to adjust attendance settings (more on that a bit), but for now let’s look at what you want to happen when everyone leaves or someone comes home.
Tap Add action to see a list of all the devices you can control with these routines. Smart light bulbs will be listed first, below Light. You can set them to flip of or on and you can change theirs brightness, but unfortunately you can not set what color you want them to be (at least not with the Philips Hue lamps I have).
You should see smart plugs ($ 25 on Amazon) next under Studying. I have a large number of brands, but all can only be set to turn on or of. Min Nest Learning Thermostat ($ 159 at Back Market) is next on the list – it has an Eco mode to save costs when you are not at home, but I do not use it if I leave my dolls. You should also see all the Nest Aware cameras and other smart home devices you can control with this routine.
You can select multiple devices of the same type if, for example, you want a whole set of lights on or off. Just click the checkboxes next to the gadgets you want to check, and then tap Next. Decide what you want them to do (on, of, brightness) then press Add action.
Help Google know when someone is home
For any of this to work, yours Presence sensing the settings must be in place. Open The Google Home app and press settings tab, then press Presence sensing. Make sure the tab is turned on Allow this home to use telephone premises. Under the title PhonesYou should see your own phone plus others (including tablets) associated with everyone in your household, each with a switch. You may want to turn off the switch for all devices that remain when everyone leaves – for example, just tablets.
At the bottom of the screen you will see a list of all Google Home or Google Nest smart home devices that can also help determine if someone is home. For example, I have a third generation Nest Learning Thermostat, which has a motion sensor, so I have a switch for that. You may want to turn off some or all of these if, for example, you have a free pet that can trigger them. My dog goes either with me or in his box, so I have left mine on.
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