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Smart Home Tech You Need for a More Productive Morning

Ever since watching Disney’s TV movie Smart House as a kid in the early 2000s, I’ve found myself fascinated with building a home that automates my daily routines. As an adult, I’ve been able to streamline my wake-up process to look like something out of the future. At 8 a.m. my blinds slowly open to let natural sunlight gently rouse me awake. Fifteen minutes later, a cup of coffee starts brewing while my garage door opens. By 8:35, my bedside Google Nest Hub plays an alarm, opens a report of my sleep efficiency, and tells me about my day with information including time to get to work, current weather conditions, and calendar events. After this briefing my TV turns on automatically to the morning news. I’m the Test Editor of Consumer Tech for Popular Mechanics, and this is how I’ve configured my smart home to wake me up every morning. Using theses tips, you too can sleep in, save time, and wake up feeling more refreshed to tackle the day ahead.


8 a.m.: Smart Blinds Open To Let In Some Light

Trevor Raab

automated smart home

Trevor Raab

Sunsa’s Smart Blind Wand opens my bedroom’s blinds to let in sunlight, providing a natural wake up. I chose the Sunsa system over others because the easily integrates into any existing horizontal or vertical blinds by using two pieces to retrofit the setup within two minutes. You simply detach your old wand, install the Sunsa in its place, and stick on an adhesive support bracket. While Sunsa delivers on battery life and performance, the motor is a bit loud. If you’re a light sleeper, the turning mechanism may startle you awake. However, the turning process happens in less than three seconds and you become deaf to itas it integrates into your daily routine. While the wand has a built-in light sensor to open exactly at sunrise and close at sunset, I’ve set my wand to open and close the blinds at set times. I prefer this over a full automation because I can sleep in until I need to and use the closing of the blinds at 6 p.m. to wind down from work. When it’s time to start the day, light gently fills my room, a far cry from a blaring phone alarm. At night, the closing of my blinds signals that it’s time to wind down from work. Fitting an entirely new system would cost hundreds of dollars as opposed to a $100 wand powered by four AA batteries. The ease of use and price drew me to it immediately.

Sunsa Wand

  • Quick installation
  • Variety of control options

✖ Install It In Your Home ✖

STEP 1: Unbox your Sunsa wand and detach your current wand while noting the connection method at the top of it. Use one of the included fitting kits that come with the Sunsa to match the blind control mechanism. With your Sunsa hooked up, peel off and adhere the support bracket to keep your wand out of the way and free to rotate.

STEP 2: Open the Sunsa app. From here you can schedule routines, manage your devices, and set up integrations. For now we’ll want to head into the menu to add a device (the + button in the top right corner) and pair the wand over Bluetooth.

Step 3: With the device paired, the calibration process will have you use the app to turn the blinds open and closed, setting their positions so the wand knows how much it needs to travel in order to fully open or close the blinds.

Step 4: Set your schedule within the Sunsa app for automated blind control at specific times. While you can control the device from your phone, it supports both Google Assistant and Alexa integration. Link your Sunsa account to your smart assistant of choice and you can control your blinds by voice or work them into more complex automations.


8:15 a.m.: Smart Lights Gradually Turn On

For rooms that lack blinds or windows, you can mimic a natural sunrise or set the mood using Sengled bulbs. I went with the Sengled Starter Kit for a few reasons; Sengled bulbs change colors through the app and smart displays, gradually turn on or off for a gentle wake up or wind down, and pack a price-to-performance ratio that puts much more expensive competitors to shame. Most importantly, this kit includes the hub needed to function with your preferred smart assistant. The bulbs screw into any lighting fixture that accepts A19 sizing from ceiling lights to budget stick lamps. My bedroom bulbs are set to gradually start brightening from 8:00 AM to full blast by 8:30 AM. On dreary overcast days, the mimicked natural sunrise helps me get out of bed despite damp conditions. While I love to use the color lighting feature, I find the bulbs to be too dim to properly illuminate the room as well as the shades of white light do.

Smart Light Bulb Starter Kit

Sengled
Amazon.com

$55.00

  • Sunset and sunrise functions
  • Smart assistant integration
  • 16 million color options
  • Colors only dimly light a room

Install It In Your Home

STEP 1: Open the Sengled starter kit and take out the light bulbs and hub. Start by connecting the hub to your router with the included ethernet cable and installing the light bulbs.

STEP 2: Open the Sengled app and hit the plus sign to add your hub as a new device. Scan the QR code located on the hub to bring the connected bulbs online automatically.

Step 3: Set up your schedule from the SengledHome’s app routine section. You can set light brightness to gradually fade in for your wake up routine. You can even have the lights turn off at a certain time to indicate it’s time to get out of bed.

Step 4: Connect your Sengled account with the Alexa or Google smart assistant app of choice. If you have a smart display, you can visually see colors to choose from and set them with a touch, adjust brightness, and power individual bulbs on or off.


8:30 a.m.: Smart Button Pushers Make Coffee and Open Garage Door

While my breakfast setup doesn’t quite rival Peewee Herman’s, waking up to a freshly brewed cup of coffee from my budget Black & Decker coffee maker is more than enough for my needs. And I don’t mind having my garage door open by the time I get outside so that I can quickly jump into my car when it’s time to leave. Instead of spending serious cash on an internet-connected coffee machine or garage door opener, I use affordable SwitchBots to make my dumb home a little smarter with minimal effort and cost. These little bots simply press buttons and switches either through the app, voice commands, or scheduled automations to perform actions at a certain time. They quickly respond to your commands and are strong enough to stick to any surface. You can even program a bot to hold a press or repeat actions over designated intervals. It’s important to note you must buy the hub separately if you plan on controlling the bots over the internet or with a smart assistant. I was disappointed to find that the bot works with almost every switch type except for the toggle switches littered throughout my townhouse. As long as you don’t need to flip a switch up or down, the SwitchBot is a nifty gadget for streamlining your daily routine.

Smart Switch Button Pusher

  • Sticks to any device with 3M backing
  • Voice control and automations (with hub)
  • Incompatible with toggle switches

✖ Install It In Your Home ✖

Step 1: Gather your Switchbots and a Switchbot hub as well for voice commands and automations.

Step 2: Use the 3M tape to set your bots in your desired location. It’s important to make sure you get the adhesion correct on the first try as it weakens if you remove it. The push mechanism may be too strong and knock the bot down if not properly seated in the adhesive. While the device comes with an extra 3M backing, it’s best to get placement right the first time so you can move the gadget to a new device if you choose to in the future.

Step 3: Open the Switchbot app and pair your hub first by hitting the plus icon and adding a new device. Select your Wi-Fi network to get the hub online.

Step 4: Now pull the tab out of your bot and add it as a new device.

Step 5: Go into settings, select voice assistants, and then pick either Siri, Alexa, or Google to connect your Switchbots for voice commands.

Step 6: Open schedule and set times you want Switchbot to start its press and for how long.

Step 7: Optional. Fill your coffee machine with grinds and water, then place a mug underneath before you go to bed to wake up to coffee in the morning.

Step 8: Optional. If leaving your garage open freaks you out, you can grab cheap contact sensors like these ones I use from Wyze to notify you when the door is open or closed. This information is sent to to your phone as well as connected smart assistants.


8:35 a.m.: Smart Display Showing Sleep Quality And Schedule For The Day Ahead

automated smart home

Trevor Raab

Everything that has happened so far occurs while I’m asleep. At 8:35 A.M. if I’ve slept in, my Google Nest Hub’s alarm will go off. After I dismiss the alarm, my personalized daily briefing shows just how well I slept last night with restlessness, breathing disturbances, and light change events throughout the night. Once I’ve read my report, the Nest Hub presents upcoming tasks, events, and weather conditions. After this wraps up, Google turns on my living room TV to the morning news so I can grab my coffee and take a seat on the couch after I get out of bed. At under $100 the Nest Hub is a fast smart hub, excellent sleep tracker, and capable media display in one package.

Nest Hub 2nd Gen Smart Home Speaker and Display

  • Built-in sleep tracker
  • Integrates easily with calendars and reminders
  • Lacks room-filling sound quality

✖ Install It In Your Home ✖

Step 1: Open your Google Home or Alexa app and go to the routines section. You can add a new option, but both have a pretty good morning preset, which you can use as a starting point and customize.

Step 2: In the “When It’s” trigger section, apply the event or time you’d like to start a series of actions. Since this is for waking up, my routine automatically starts at 8:30 A.M. with an alarm.

Step 3: Next, add briefings you care about such as upcoming calendar events, weather, and news highlights for your assistant to relay as you rise.

Step 4: (Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen Exclusive) Activate the Sleep Sense sleep-tracking feature by swiping down from the top of your Nest Hub and clicking the bed icon. While Google will walk you through calibration, make sure the hub’s position faces your torso while you rest. Once set up, the Nest Hub will track you as you sleep from the time you get into bed to the time you wake up.

Step 5: Connect your TV’s app to your smart assistant so that it has control access. While this varies by operating system, most popular operating systems such as Roku or Google TV require an account. Simply link this account to your smart assistant and the TV will automatically be detected by your hub.

Step 6: Set your TV’s power-on input options to display what is that you want to wake up to. For example, my Roku TV is set to open to Live TV instead of the home menu. This means that when my TV powers on, I load directly into ABC News automatically. If you have a cable box simply set the TV to tune to its HDMI input when powered on.


8:55 a.m.: Bluetooth Item Trackers Help Locate Everyday Essentials

automated smart home

Trevor Raab

When it’s time to head to the office, I often struggle with finding both my wallet and keys. With Tile’s smart assistant integration, I can ask my living room Alexa or the Google Nest in my kitchen to find my things so I don’t have to search in a rushed panic. A Tile is a tracking device that can be attached to a keyring or slid into a bag or wallet. Tile has a wide lineup of devices and I use them to track things like my keys, wallet, work laptop, and lighter. While testing Bluetooth trackers earlier this year, I found Tile’s Pro to be the best option available, as it’s the loudest, has the longest range, and easily integrates with a smart home hub.

Performance Pack (1 Pro, 1 Slim) Bluetooth Trackers

  • Loud
  • Long range
  • Attaches and slides onto all of your items

✖ Install It In Your Home ✖

Step 1: Download the Tile app on your iOS or Android device.

Step 2: Double press the Tile button on your tracker to pair it with the app.

Step 3: Sign into your Tile account on either the Google Home or Alexa apps to be able to ask smart home speakers and hubs to find your devices.


9 a.m.: Smart Lock Automatically Locks The Front Door

automated smart home

Trevor Raab

As I grab my backpack and walk outside, I simply close the door behind me and it locks automatically, sending a notification straight to my phone to confirm my door’s status. I chose Wyze’s smart lock because it easily installs over your existing deadbolt, uses a gyroscope to let you know if the door is open or closed without the need for extra sensors, and is affordable. Your original keys still work with the lock and you can share access with other members of the household or even send temporary keys to guests.

Lock and Keypad Bundle

  • Auto-unlock upon arrival
  • Auto-lock to ensure your door is secure
  • Keyless door entry
  • Not as resistant to strikes as other smart locks

✖ Install It In Your Home ✖

Step 1: Download the Wyze app on your iOS or Android device.

Step 2: Add the lock by hitting the “+” button in the top left corner and selecting add new lock in the “Home” category. Instructions will walk you through the installation directly from your screen.

Step 3: Tape the front of your lock to the exterior of your front door to leave it suspended in place. Remove the screws from the interior deadbolt and separate the two halves of your lock.

Step 4: Drill the mounting plate into your door while keeping the stick-like turning mechanism in the center of the frame.

Step 5: Attach the correct deadbolt shape to the back of the Wyze Lock and ensure the door lock extends and retracts before screwing in the device.

Step 6: Let the door calibrate and test the lock using the app to lock and unlock your door.

Step 7: Hit the “+” in the left corner again and select “add new device rule”. Select the “location trigger” option. Draw a boundary around your home so that when you arrive the door automatically unlocks.

While this is the tip of the iceberg, there’s plenty of automation combos you can craft for use while in your car, at the office, or just at home when you return from work. Mornings are the first part of everyone’s day and when most people struggle with energy levels. With these automations, waking up becomes easier and elevates your mood for the work day ahead.

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