For Christmas two years ago I gave my mom a SmartThings hub and a few Phillips Hue lights. I’d seen her fight constantly with those old wonky mechanical lamp timers, and thought this would be a better solution. It worked … kind of.  The problem is that when Mom gets home, she puts her phone down.  Whereas, I keep my phone within arm’s reach at all times. So for me turning on and off lights was a lot easier. For her, it now meant she had to go find her phone. So, instead of giving up on, I decided the solution was … even more technology! I had an old tablet that was laying in a drawer, and new about an awesome dashboard designed specifically for SmartThings called SmartTiles. It creates a simple layout that lets you toggle lights on and off, see whether doors are open, etc. Justifiably Mom was skeptical about adding another doo-dad to this already complicated system. I was learning After Effects at the time, so I threw together a quick video to show her how it would work. Ignore the ironing board. This was not intended for public consumption.

The video worked, and she was sold, yipee! Then, I got my Amazon Echo, and realized walking over to a wall mounted tablet was just too much work. The Echo is the best way to interface with a home automation system. Once you get over the initial weirdness of talking to a robot, it’s great. Forgot to turn off the kitchen light? No need to get out of bed. Just yell at Alexa, and she does your bidding. It’s fantastic. I’ll write more about turning my home into a sentient being, but here’s the most important thing I’ve learned so far. Use smart lights/bulbs for lamps not turned on and off by a wall switch. For lights controlled by a wall switch, use an in-wall smart switch like this one. I have three installed in my home right now, and two more in boxes waiting for me to find the time to install them.

tl;dr Watch the video I made for After Effects practice, and then go out and buy an Echo.