In the first two parts of this series we’ve covered various Internet options and ways to get better network performance inside your casa. If you missed either of those, please read Internet Options in Loreto Bay Today and Tomorrow and Getting Strong Internet Service In Your Entire Loreto Bay Casa.
Most of you will use the Internet on your computer, phone or tablet to send and receive content on a somewhat regular basis. Today we’re going to look at the “Internet of Things” and ways you can use devices to automate your home. While I have not used every device listed in this post, I do use many of them on a daily basis. Links to purchase items from Amazon are included and I get a tiny commission if you do buy something. Nothing else was provided to me to write about these products.
Smart Speakers and Screens
At this point there are three major players in the smart speaker/screen ecosystem; Amazon, Apple and Google. I have no experience with the latter two so I will only be speaking about Amazon’s devices. This doesn’t mean the other two providers don’t have good devices or that they can’t do similar things. I simply have no experience to share on them.
While there are quite a few “Alexa” devices, I’m only going to list three of them here. You are certainly welcome to explore all the different Alexa products. The primary version is the Echo. Currently it is in its 4th generation and I got my first Echo when it was still in the 1st generation. One of mine is the 4th generation device and it is a nice improvement from before.
Before I go on to the other two variations, let’s talk about what you can do with it. Yes, it plays music using a command such as “Alexa, play Frank Sinatra” or “Alexa, play Classic Rock”. You can also ask questions such as “Alexa, what is the Loreto Mexico weather?” or “Alexa, what time is it?”. Those are pretty basic questions and you can dig much deeper. While my examples are in English, you can also use Spanish. Yes, the voice is a fairly generic female voice. But there are other voices, including famous one. As an example, I have Samuel L. Jackson installed on mine. And yes, he does use some of his favorite words if you allow it.
The Echo Show 8 contains a video screen as well as speakers. This allows photos to show, music lyrics to go with songs, a way to watch videos, recipes displayed, headlines shown and even video calls. There is a smaller version and a bigger version but the 8″ version really hits the sweet spot between price and performance.
Regardless of what other devices you add, you need one of these speakers to make it easier to control everything else. I have two Echo Dots, one Echo Show 8 and one Echo (4th generation). There is one other Echo in my arsenal that I’ll discuss in a future post.
Smart Switches and Plugs
The following products may not seem as exciting, but I find they make my life much easier.
I’m convinced that whoever chose the location for light switches in my Loreto Bay Casa were intentionally trying to make life difficult. If I was in a dark room, there are numerous obstacles between me and the switch that I’d have to navigate. For a single switch, go for the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch by TP-Link. Yes, you may need an electrician to help you install it. But it is not terribly difficult to install yourself if you are handy. Once installed, you configure it and give it a name. For example, one of mine is named Kitchen. So if I say “Alexa, turn on kitchen,” I’ll see the lights come on magically.
Some switches are “3-way” meaning that you can turn them on and off in two different locations. In my case, the lights on my stairs have a switch at the top and bottom of the stairs. For those situations, go for the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch, 3-Way Kit by TP-Link. It costs a bit more because it contains two switches in the box.
Want to spend more and get a really cool switch? Look no further than the Brilliant Smart Home Control. Not only does it have switches, it also has a small integrated screen and dimming ability. It comes in versions with one, two, three and four switches.
- Brilliant Smart Home Control (1-Switch Panel)
- Brilliant Smart Home Control (2-Switch Panel)
- Brilliant Smart Home Control (3-Switch Panel)
- Brilliant Smart Home Control (4-Switch Panel)
Switches are more integrated to your home, but they also require a bit more work. Another option is to get smart plugs (I have eight of them). Plug the smart plug into a wall outlet and then plug a device into the smart plug. Just like the switches, you give the plug a name. I have a lamps in my bedroom and the plugs are named Bedroom Left and Bedroom Right. Turning them on and off separately is a hassle, so I created a group named Bedroom. When I say “Alexa, turn on bedroom” and watch both lights come to life.
I use the grouping ability for two switches and two plugs in my living room to light up everything at once. It is an awesome feeling to walk into a dark room and be able to light it up by just asking for it. In fact, you can turn them on from anywhere. So I could be sitting at Wine Cellar having dinner and use my phone to turn on the lights for when I return.
Plugs are also cheaper so go for the 4-pack of Kasa Smart Plugs. The more you buy, the more uses you’ll find for them!
Another challenge we face in many Loreto Bay homes is that our front door is outdoors. There were numerous occasions where someone was knocking on my door and I heard absolutely nothing. I tried a basic wireless doorbell and it didn’t work all the time. Then I got the Ring Video Doorbell and my problems were solved. When someone pushes the button, all my Alexa devices say “Someone is at the front door”. The Echo Show 8 will display live video of whoever pushed the button. An app on my phone will do the same.
Given all the traffic on our sidewalks, I turn off the motion detection so the battery doesn’t train as quickly. Even though it has video, this is just a nice plus for me. Just the notification makes it a must for me. I’ve even answered my door from another country using the phone app!
There is one more smart device I’ll list and that is the Orbit B-hyve WiFi Sprinkler System. The sprinkler controller that most likely came with my casa was dead and needed to be replaced. I could buy a basic unit and it would work just fine. But it didn’t cost much more to get a smart controller. Yes, it can be controlled with Alexa. Honestly, I don’t. I simply use an app on my phone. The app makes it much easier to set timers for the watering and even to see when the watering happened. Heck, it can even look up the local weather and not run when it is raining. For the slightly higher price, it was worth it!
I could easily list a number of other products that can be controlled via your Alexa devices. I’ll leave it to you to explore items that may be useful to you. There really isn’t a limit to the possibilities! If you find a really cool one, I’d love to hear about it.
My next post will cover various devices for streaming video, streaming services and how to get content from outside Mexico.