In many cases the technology that is marked as smart is just something that you’re already familiar with, but now remotely control using apps.
That’s great, but it’s only really the beginning.
Routines – or Shortcuts as Apple calls them – offer you the chance to spend less time talking to your digital assistant, while getting more of what you want done.
The essential idea of Routines (Alexa, Google Assistant) or Shortcuts (Apple) is to connect a number of different actions to a single voice command of your choice.
So, for example, you might want to say ‘Alexa, good morning’ and have the lights come on, your choice of music start playing, the power to the kettle switched on and even your shower started (if your shower is suitably equipped with the relevant smart technology).
Despite the obvious utility of such a feature, it is a relatively new arrival on Google Assistant, and it reached Apple devices even more recently (although it has been very elegantly implemented).
Because of this, it’s important to make sure you’ve updated your software or you might not find the feature at all.
HOW TO SET UP A GOOGLE ASSISTANT ROUTINE?
- Open the Settings menu (or More settings section of the Google Assistant app) and, under Services, you'll find Routines.
- Select one of the available routines.
- Choose from the 'When I say ... ' options or add your own trigger phrase if you prefer.
- Choose the tasks you'd like to add.
HOW TO SET UP AN ALEXA ROUTINE?
- In the Alexa app, select Routines, then Create Routine.
- Create rigger by choosing 'When you say something', though it's useful to be able to set specific times too.
- Choose from the suggested trigger phrases, or type your own.
- Add an action by pressing the Add Action plus, then selecting from the options. You'll find Smart Home devices (if you have a lot of smart bulbs this can be a long menu). The News/Traffic/ Weather options simply play your flash briefing, but you can change the provider in Settings> Flash Briefing.
HOW TO SET UP AN APPLE SHORTCUT?
- Launch the Shortcuts app.
- Choose the Gallery option from the menu bar to browse pre-set Routines, or if you want to create your own go to the Library page and press the+ button in the top-right corner.
IDEAS FOR YOUR ROUTINES
Strangely enough, when technology suddenly grants you the power to do a lot at once, it can be difficult to know where to start.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for Routines you might want to create...
As you wake up, before you even get out of bed, there's a lot that you might want someone else to handle for you.
- Set the thermostat to your daytime temperature first thing, especially if you save energy at night by running the temperature low (in winter). Imagine how much nicer it will be to take the blankets off and emerge into an already warm room.
- Turn off any overnight mode on your security system.
- Get a weather briefing. Looking out of your window gives you an idea, but a forecast with temperature and wind-chill will help you pick the right clothing for the day.
- Be reminded of your calendar events, especially any annoying early meetings (or ones where you'll need to dress extra smart).
- Keep up-to-date with a news briefing -the most current headlines from your journal of choice.
- Turn on a coffee maker with a smart socket.
- Get a traffic report for your commute in.
- Stream the radio or your favorite music.
When you're heading out, you can take advantage of the smart home to power down unwanted devices and lights, as well as speeding your exit.
- Drive out of the garage using a Wi-Fi-enabled smart door.
- Adjust the thermostat again now the toasty warmth/cooling air-conditioning is no longer required (delete as applicable), setting your thermostat to an economical position.
- Unlock the front door, paving your way for a smoother exit (especially if you're confident it'll lock behind you).
- Turn off the lights, perhaps set with an additional timer delay so they go out a little after you initiate the Routine.
- Unleash your robot vacuum on the empty home.
- Turn on appliances (for example a dishwasher, as long as you remembered to fill it and add a tablet).
While you're travelling, you can turn your car into a personalized data center, either improving your mood or your productivity depending on your choices.
- Lock the front door behind you, and close the garage door.
- Get traffic information about your normal commute, or train journey.
- Play the latest episode of your favorite podcast, your pre-work playlist or an audiobook.
- Read your emails to you, if you like getting a head start on the day.
When you decide to return home, you might want to let others know.
- Get directions with latest travel updates.
- Text your partner that you're 'Heading Home' and possibly even add an ETA based on the travel information by sending a text.
- Play some music or your favorite radio station; perhaps you have a different playlist to suit your mood as you escape the working day.
- Turn the lights up and tweak the thermostat so you walk into a welcoming environment.
As you go to bed, especially if you're the last one, features you'll want to look at are:
- Turning off the lights downstairs, maybe leaving a porch light on. You could even switch the lights in your bedroom on (at 50 per cent brightness) at the same time.
- Locking the doors and enabling a security system in 'at home' mode, which will protect against intruders but not be activated by indoor movement.
- Turning heating down to economy settings.
There's absolutely no reason why Routines or Shortcuts you create should be dictated by your day-to-day diary.
- Play your party mix through all speakers at a high volume.
- Set your lighting system to party mode, or a colorful scene you have already defined.