Just because you’re leaving home doesn’t mean you can’t take your smart home technology with you. Whether it’s camping, driving, or staying in a hotel, you can take some of your smart technology with you.
Put Google or Alexa in your car
Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you can’t have your favorite voice assistant. Some car manufacturers are bringing Google Assistant and Alexa to the infotainment system, but even if you have an older car, you still have options.
Anker makes an Alexa and Google version of their Roav product. The Roav looks like a standard car charger, but it syncs with your phone and your car’s speakers to give you a voice assistant on the go. You will need a data signal from your phone for the devices to work, of course.
Amazon did announce Echo Auto, but that invitation is just now, so third-party options are the only viable choice at this time.
Or, if you’re using a hotspot, you can bring an Echo Dot or Google Home mini with you. Some hotels are starting to include Echo devices in guest rooms.
Define your internet settings
Many smarthome gadgets require internet to work. Your video intercom, cameras, Wi-Fi devices all need network access to enable all the features they provide.
So, as a first step, determine what your Internet access will be. If you are in a campground, you may not have convenient internet access; or if you do it might be slow. But if you’re staying at a hotel or have a mobile hotspot with good reception, you have other options to consider.
Be aware that most hotels have a guest login page that may prevent Google home and other smart devices from accessing the internet. If you have an Amazon Echo, there is a process for working with web browser login pages. But for everything else, you might want to consider a travel router.
The routers can connect to the hotel’s network and then create their own Wi-Fi network to use. This process bypasses the login page for all your smart devices and bypasses any «only one device» rules that some hotels have.
The simplest thing to do is to make a plan for the absence of the Internet.
Consider Smarthome Hub with Local Management
Because you can’t guarantee internet access wherever you go, and mobile hotspots often have data access restrictions, managing your devices offline is the best way to go. The easiest way to deal with this is to use a hub running locally.
Both SmartThings and Wink centers have a bit of local management capability, but they still rely mostly on the cloud, so you might want to skip them for travel. Instead, you may want to consider Hubitat, HomeSeer, or OpenHab.
Local hubs are harder to set up than cloud hubs like Wink or SmartThings, but the fact that they can work offline is the main benefit of using them for travel. As long as you also choose smart gadgets that don’t rely on the internet (or you provide a mobile hotspot), your only concern will be electricity to power your gadgets.
Select Z-Wave or Zigbee devices
Another benefit of using a hub, especially a local control center, is Z-wave and Zigbee. Most SmartHome hubs support Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols, and they create a network in the form of cells. This means you can bring plugs, lights and sensors with you, even if you don’t have a way to provide internet access.
If you are outdoors, choose gadgets that work with the weather. Set everything up relatively close to the same experience at home, and that’s probably where you should do the tweaking anyway. That way, when you arrive, you will only plug everything in and provide internet if you have the opportunity.
With smart sensors, you can automate your check-in and check-out, and if you have Internet access, you can even create a lightweight security system that alerts you if anyone enters your room, car, or campsite.
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Bluetooth is a worthy alternative to smart hubs
As we mentioned above, locally controlled SmartHome hubs tend to be difficult to use. If you’d rather not work through it or spend the money on another hub, Bluetooth is another option. You can control your Bluetooth bulbs and plugs directly from your phone without having to install a hub. This option also works without the need for an Internet connection, although some devices offer Alexa or Google compatibility if you can provide network access.
In a hotel, placing Switchmates above the light switches will prevent you from getting out of bed again to find that switch you missed to turn off the last light. Your tired body will thank you for the simple handling. Just remember to put the original light bulbs back.
The main disadvantage of this option is the short range of Bluetooth. Chances are you won’t run into problems in a hotel or RV, but on a campsite you may need to keep things close by to stay within reach.
You can’t take everything with you
Some SmartHome devices will not travel well. Cameras like the Wyze Cam or Nest are an attractive option and will be helpful, especially from a security standpoint. But they use a lot of data and are likely to break through any cap that a mobile hotspot might have or that might suffer from choking.
Likewise, anything you would normally attach to your home, such as a smart lock, thermostat, or switch, is not a viable choice.
But as long as you properly plan for the options you have, you can take at least some of your smart amenities with you when you travel.