Just One Thing Will Make Your Smart Home Stupid

It all works great, until it doesn’t.

George “Ace” Acevedo

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Photo by Mark Farías on Unsplash

My wife and I bought a new home, and during some remodeling, I thought it would be a great opportunity to add smart home devices.

I thought the tech was ready. I was wrong.

The brains of the outfit we decided on is from a company called Brilliant (not an affiliate link). They pass themselves off as a master controller that you put in place of your light switches. We bought several. They have a nifty touchscreen that’s intended to control your lights, your music system, your thermostat, and more from a variety of manufacturers. They have cameras (that you can cover, if needed), and also work with other camera systems like Ring to show you who’s at the door.

It accepts voice control. It works with Sonos, it works with Philips Hue lights. It sounded like, well, a Brilliant idea.

My mistake may be that I was hoping to take the best of each IoT ecosystem and get them to cooperate. Should be easy, right? Instead, I can barely get everything to talk to each other. Every system uses its own app with its own setup, and then you link them, say, to Alexa. Then you struggle with the Alexa app to name devices, get them in groups, and set timers and schedules, only to find that sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.

Were you aware that if you put two Alexa devices too close to one another, they become confused as to which one should be listening? If I speak a command, often the one in the next room over will respond. A timer set on one device will go off on another.

Renaming is a nightmare. We moved a device from the entryway to the kitchen, so I tried changing the name of the device in the app to “kitchen,” but it still only responds to “entryway.” My wife and I have gotten used to it, but friends raise an eyebrow when they hear it.

Sonos was a big problem.

A couple of years ago, they made their earlier speakers incompatible with their latest app, and you couldn’t mix them with their newer speakers. Sure, phones and computers become obsolete, but speakers? I have to replace speakers?!

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George “Ace” Acevedo

Writer. Noisemaker. Visual Artist. Former radio guy who knows a little about a lot.