Smart lights are the easiest, most affordable entryway into the smart home. In terms of convenience, scheduling your lights is one of the biggest perks, especially if you’ve got a set routine, your hands are tied, or you are going away for a few days. This is why it was really annoying that Google Assistant couldn’t do much more than turn your lights on or off when commanded. Thankfully, it looks like Google’s finally fixed that.
According to Android Police and Reddit forums, you can now ask Google Assistant to schedule your lights on and off, both based on specific time and duration. For instance, you can ask Google Assistant to turn your lights off at 11 p.m. or to turn them on in ten minutes. You can also ask Google Assistant to turn on or off lights for five minutes. Sunrise and sunset can also be specified as triggers.
The ability comes via the Scheduled Actions feature, which Google added with zero fanfare at the end of last month. One reason it may have flown under the radar is that it appears that there are still a few kinks. For example, if a user asks for a general time, like “tomorrow” or “next week” without specifying the exact time, Google Assistant will return an error. Some users have also pointed out that although Google says you can cancel these actions, it doesn’t appear that you can just yet. Also, while Google says you can schedule up to seven days in advance, Android Police found it wasn’t able to beyond the next day.
It’s not that these scheduling options are completely new to smart lights. They’ve been around for a long time. It’s more that you had to schedule routines to get voice assistants to do it. With Amazon Alexa, for example, that requires you to whip out an app to pre-set those routines, and then you have to remember to schedule a routine and not necessarily the lights themselves. It’s not impossible, just unintuitive. (And while I was testing smart light scheduling for this blog, sometimes Alexa just doesn’t get the “at so-and-so time” aspect.) These new scheduling voice commands with Google Assistant feel more natural.
I tried out a few of the time-based scheduling options for myself and was pleasantly surprised by how well they worked. I was particularly impressed by the ability to turn on/off lights for a specific duration of time. That’s helpful for areas like hallways, where you might want a little light to tie your shoes but would rather issue one voice command instead of two.
Programming smart homes is a huge pain in the butt, so anything that makes it more intuitive to interact with your devices is a good thing. And since this reduces my need to schedule or tweak routines? That’s an A+ in my book.