Smart Assistants

Amazon Echo Dot V1

Amazon Echo Dot

Our first smart assistant was an Amazon echo dot, buying it not too long after it was released.
The kids loved asking it questions and I messed around linking it with the home automation systems.

It mainly lived in the kitchen where the voice request for timers soon became a norm all be it with some frustrations when Alexa didn’t hear us.

I very quickly hit some limitations on its integration to our home automation system (Homeseer). These have since been resolved but at that time I decided to try Googles offerings.

Google Home Mini

Google Home Mini

This was the first Google assistant product we bought, I couldn’t justify buying the larger home for only a better speaker as initially this isn’t what we were going to be using them for.

I wanted it for home automation, along with the star trek esc way of asking a device for information and timers.
In my opinion it’s also styled far better than the original Amazon Echo Dot which clearly Amazon picked up on and have now since rectified.

Home automation

The Google assistant links nicely into the Homeseer system. Homeseer has a dedicated app on Google Home which allows you to import all the devices into Googles ecosystem. Once into google home you can group all the devices into rooms giving each new names.

IOS Google Home App

Google Play Home App

This works well the majority of the time but every now and then we get periods of time where we get “Homeseer cannot be found at this time”.

Google Nest Hub Max

We struggled with both the Amazon Dot and the home mini in the kitchen for two reasons. They struggled to hear over the top of the everyday kitchen noises especially the extractor fan, you had to keep asking how long is left on my timer to keep track of things as there was no display. But the timer and asking for measurement conversions, cooking tips and information was extremely useful.

The nest hubs have been sold with the kitchen in mind and this is what swayed me to buying one.

Nest hub max Multiple Timers


The nest hub max makes timers a lot more usable in the kitchen. Especially when you have more than one timer, these can be displayed one after the other on a ribbon display and all can be given names.

Nest hub max Recipes


With the hubs display its possible to have recipes displayed and a lot of these seem to be made for the assistant as it talks you through the steps pausing for you at each stage. The BBC Good Food seems to be one of the more popular sites for the assistant to get its recipes from.

Nest hub max Music


We didn’t initially buy the assistants for music but since we now have a Spotify account this is becoming one of the prime uses. I have music playing whilst Im cooking, the display shows an image of the album artwork and on some displays information about the music and the lyrics.

Nest Hub Camera


Another item packaged with the Hub is a camera to allow video calls, this isn’t a feature we use but I have used it as an extension to our home security as while away this camera can monitor for movement and send the images to your phone. At all other times I just leave it disabled.

The camera can also be used to control the hub with gestures but again a feature I don’t really take advantage of.

There are still issues..

The Nest Hub Max still struggles with the extractor fan and background kitchen noise. I think its time I bought a new quieter fan (will review that for you when I do).

The Hub software is continually being updated and improved in the background however we have had a period where timers seemed to disappear for no reason which got really frustrating – this seems to have resolved itself now. We also have times when timers like disappearing off the screen, they are still running in the background but its impossible to pin them to the front of the screen to see them as your cooking.

Siri Logo

Apple Siri

We have a lot of apple devices and where we are fans of their products (not to the level of queuing for them), their unwillingness to interact with others is an issue and a big frustration. Apples home automation HomeKit does now support loads of device but I already have a home automation system and I am not willing to change again just to have things work on my watch!

There is a way to link our home automation system (Homeseer) to apple’s ecosystem called HomeBridge. I spent some considerable time getting this to work on my Synology NAS and link it to homeseer but the process is very labour intensive and broke after a synology system update.

I have now given up trying to integrate to Siri even though the thought of interacting with everything on my phone and watch would be cool the pain of implementation and maintenance is too great.

I still use siri on my phone and watch but primarily in the car to control Spotify, send txt messages, ask for traffic information or set reminders easily on my phone.

Current Situation

Smart Assistants are an integral part of our house and home automation, we have now got so many google / nest products :

It’s now easier for us to continue with them. Which isn’t a bad thing as other than a few minor niggles these seem to be working well.

In the house its google throughout but out of the house its Siri on our phones and watches.

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