Using Google’s Assistant to run your smart home in Mauritius…

Who has not seen the smart home advert whereby a guy gets locked out of his house after a visit to the dentist 🦷 or the one in which his house (and treadmill) gets uncontrollable πŸ™ƒ ? Well, each time I watch it, I cannot stop laughing because these can happen when you have smart devices around in your house. In fact, this actually happens frequently at home. It is not a shame to admit it.

Putting the small inconveniences aside, a smart home can have numerous advantages, including intelligent usage of electricity ⚑️ and automatisation of repetitive daily tasks or actions. You can make your home smart running on various systems. They can be off-the-shelf solutions provided by the powerful giants such as Google, Apple and Amazon but also, if you are more adventurous with plenty of time to configure and fix, you can have custom systems such as a local Home Assistant server running on an old computer or simply a rasberry pie device.

Being an Apple user since 2017, I was recently assessing the pros and cons of using an iOS device vs moving to the latest Google Pixel 7. But I finally decided to keep the smart home and the smart phone in two separate worlds. So, Google will power the smart home while I will continue using an iPhone as a smart phone. Additionally, having the Google Home app will allow me to use and manage my smart home without any issues.

Sonoff devices

My smart home adventure started in 2019 back, when I purchased Sonoff devices (Read more here). Since then, I have them in every part of the house, either to control lights or electrical sockets using the app eWeLink. When using the app Google Home, I was able to nicely assign and organise the smart-controlled lights/sockets into rooms. Then, Devika came into the house, along with a nice integration in the same app.

I have different models installed around in the house:

Sonoff T1 and Sonoff Basic

Sonoff 4CH PRO

Sonoff Switchman M5

Sonoff Plugs

Sonoff dimmable WIFI RGB bulbs

The Google Home Hub (1st generation)

While I was regularly looking for good deals online, things got even more serious when I found a Google Home Hub from the first generation at $39 + $36 shipping from the US. It took 1 month πŸ—“οΈ to reach my hands, after which I wrote an update for parcels and online shipping.

At that time, I wrote the following quick review:

Although being released in 2018, and replaced by the second generation in 2021, this first version of Google Hub still seem to be a great device for controlling your smart devices in your house, receiving Google Duo calls, playing your netflix or youtube videos on the 7inches screen. With this one placed in the kitchen, it becomes easy to ask Google to switch on / off the Sonoff lightsstart cleaning the house with Devika or step by step instructions for cooking. With Voice Match, up to 6 different Google accounts can connect to the same device and provide customized results according to who is asking the question.

It was fun playing with the Google Home Hub, as you could see all smart lights which you can trigger via the screen or just, by issuing a command, like

“Ok Google, switch on all lights πŸ’‘”

“Ok Google, switch on the garage light “

“Hey Google, turn the lamp to Blue and decrease brightness to 20%”

And to trigger the Devika, the robot vacuum cleaner, you just say

“Ok Google, clean the house”

To play a youtube video, you just have to ask politely

“Ok Google, play some music videos” or “Ok Google, play the Avatar trailer”

Adding the Mi Box S πŸ“Ί

Since I was planning to cancel the myT channels and replace the subscription with a Fibre without myT channels, I had to look for an Android box in order to make an old tv smart. While going through Facebook Marketplace, I got this barely-used Mi Box S at only Rs2000.

Very decent purchase. Good performance. Kids have not complained about anything lagging yet.

Being powered by Android, the Mi Box S does have Google Assistant built-in, along with a dedicated button on the remote. This means, that you could control the connected lights just by using the remote control!

All was nice, running on smoothly….

But still, something was missing…. I needed more!!!

Google Nest Mini speakers πŸ”Š (2nd Generation)

This made me order a Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) from eBay for $35 including shipping.

The Nest mini is a little speaker, with Wifi and bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to connect to your smart home and issue commands via Google Assistant. So, it is just a Google Hub, without a screen.

⏰ While waiting for the Google Nest Mini…

Facebook Marketplace is really full of gems.

After the Mi Box S, I stumbled on something really amazing!

An American guy, who was in the island for several months, had to fly back. Since he was not going to carry some stuff back, he was selling the following for a total of only Rs 5,000 :

  • 2 Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) along with a
  • 1 Google Home Hub

I was overwhelmed! I quickly got in touch, and within one hour, we met in the parking of Phoenix Mall. And since I had to test the items, I carried my UPS along with me in the πŸš— car’s trunk!

Huawei WiFi Mesh

Good to know that you should have a solid internet infrastructure at home in order to get everything connected on top of other devices you normally have ( mobile phones, tablets, tv etc). Normal cheap internet routers might not be able to manage a large number of πŸ’» devices.

This made me buy a Huawei WIFI Mesh some months ago.

The 3 units are placed in such a way that Wifi is available in every corner of the house, all under the same wifi name (SSID). Also, when moving around in the house, you do not have to worry about which wifi you are connected as your device will always connect to the best signal from one of the units for the Huawei WIFI Mesh.

Along with the myT fibre router, this router allows me to handle all the internet-connected devices, without losing performance or connectivity. Also, the Huawei WIFI Mesh work altogether to provide the best internet connection, wherever you are in the house.

The total set up πŸ’―

The smart home craze now comprises of

  • Few dozens of Sonoff devices
  • 2 Google Home Hubs
  • 3 Google Mini speakers
  • 1 Mi Box S
  • 1 Xiaomi robot vacuum cleaner
  • 1 Huawei WiFi Mesh

Additionally, I have FireAngel Fire alarm systems which have their own hub but the system cannot connect to the smart home. Read more about these battery powered wireless alarm systems here.

Each of the rooms have a google mini and their dimmable wifi bulbs πŸ’‘ while the hubs are found in the kitchen and the dining room. In addition to the individual bulbs, a large majority of lights are controlled by the Sonoff devices (plugs, basics & switches).

Lights are programmed to be switched on at specific times and turned off as per their schedule. As a precaution, some lights are set to turn off early in the morning in case anyone forgot to turn them off when getting out of the bed etc. Although possible, Devika can also start cleaning 🧹 the house automatically daily but I have not turned on this option as you normally need to clear any unknown obstables before she runs daily.

From any room, you can broadcast a message to any other rooms (or the whole house), for example:

From the kitchen, you can just say “Hey Google, broadcast ‘Dinner is ready!’ ” and you will hear your voice saying “Dinner is ready” from each of the Google Home Hub and Mini speakers.

From the hub or the mini speakers, I can also ask Google Assistant to call for example Dhaneesha, and she will get a Google DUO call from my Google account. Also, if someone calls me on Google DUO and I am home, all my Google hubs and Speakers will ring.

Music 🎢 Services

Youtube videos stream correctly on both the Google Home Hub but you cannot use it on the mini speakers. So, other options normally available are Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer and etc but because we are in Mauritius, none of these work, except Spotify.

Being an Apple Music subscriber, I so wanted to use it but unfortunately, it is impossible, at least for now. So, I had to subscribe to an individual Spotify plan as this is the only one available in Mauritius.

Once linked in Google Home, any music requests from Google Nest Minis are redirected via Spotify. But the limitation is that only 1 device can use an individual plan at a time. So, if I use Spotify on another speaker or my mobile phone, any previously-playing devices will be disconnected.

Good to know that you can create Speaker groups and tell Google to play music in a specific group or in the whole house 🏠

What’s next?

I always love writing this section! It is a kind of my personal wish list

  • A water πŸ’§ stopping valve (to restore / cut off water supply – useful if you have leaking water somewhere)
  • Smart cameras πŸŽ₯ which can be controlled and viewed on Google’s ecosystem.
  • Smart door πŸšͺ lock (with WiFi and fingerprint access system)

Other additions can be thermostats, smart alarm systems, irrigation / plant watering systems. Nowadays you even have

  • washing machines which can send you a notification when it has finished working
  • cooking ovens letting you know that food is ready
  • water leaking sensors sending a warning when you tank is over-flowing

You can also read this article at VSOnline if you feel more connected to Amazon and Alexa.

Thank you for reading this long post.

Questions and comments are the most welcomed.

I will end this post with the following :

“Hey Google, broadcast ‘ πŸŽ„Merry Christmas πŸŽ… and Happy New Year 2023 πŸŽ‡ everyone!‘ “

4 thoughts on “Using Google’s Assistant to run your smart home in Mauritius…

Add yours

  1. Very nice post. Was looking more for ideas on which brands to buy when purchasing for smart home? Also why not apple HomeKit ? I am surprised actually. Keep it up!

    Like

    1. Too expensive to run on Apple 😝

      Coming to brands, there is a whole range available and some might be compatible with eWeLink while some with Tuya etc. The most important thing to look for : compatibility with Google / Amazon / Homekit ( the one which you will use mainly)

      Like

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