amazon echo speaker sitting in front of christmas tree lights

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A smart home guide to happier holidays

Looking for a more hands-free approach to the holidays? Read on.


Matthew Hughes


Posted on Dec 18, 2019   Updated on May 19, 2021, 8:10 pm CDT

Pull up a spot at the table for Alexa. She’s joining you for the holidays this year. While you can’t put an ugly sweater on a voice assistant, they can enrich your festive season in a significant way, no matter whether you are wedded to Amazon’s or Google’s offerings. Here are all the ways smart home gear and gadgets can deliver happy holidays.

The smart home guide to happy holidays

Before we start talking about specific smart home products that can help you enjoy happy holidays, it’s perhaps worth talking about how you will interface with them. As I alluded to at the start of this piece, voice assistants play a pivotal role in any Internet of Things (IoT) set-up. There are two dominant players: Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant.

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If you haven’t already invested in one of these devices, you may find yourself paralyzed at the thought of picking a single product. It’s almost akin to choosing between BluRay and HDDVD back when that was a serious dilemma.

Both products have their own merits. I would always personally encourage punters to stick with Alexa due to the thriving ecosystem of third-party apps and extensions. That said, Google’s Nest ecosystem easily rivals Amazon’s product, and you really can’t go wrong choosing between the two. Once you have, you’re ready to start your journey toward IoT-enabled happy holidays.


Sound, glorious sound

Christmas isn’t Christmas without Mariah Carey and the Pogues. Music is just as much an integral part of the happy holiday season as tinsel and overcooked turkey. Luckily, there is no shortage of Alexa- and Google Assistant-enabled speakers. And while Amazon and Google products are more than capable of blasting out the tunes, you might want to consider buying something with a little more oomph.

Those with deep pockets are should look towards Sonos’ Wi-Fi enabled speakers. Across the board, these support voice controls technology—even the older ones, which regularly crop up on deals websites for a fraction of the original selling price. That’s because the Sonos app acts as a bridge between Alexa and Assistant.

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It’s also worth mentioning that some of the newer Sonos speakers include built-in voice assistance, saving you from connecting two separate devices. The most notable is the current-generation Sonos One; a two-room set retails for a hair under $400.


Let there be light

After your holiday meals, you might be feeling bloated and tired. Perhaps the sherry has gone to your head and now you need to rest. Fortunately, you can control your room’s lighting thanks to the miracle of smart home tech. And the road to happy holidays is obviously well lit.

Phillips dominates the smart lightbulb category. While its Hue bulbs often the most expensive, they’re also capable, robust, and reliable. A Philips Hue starter kit retails at $150.

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That said, there are often cheaper options available. I’m fairly partial to Wyze’s bulbs, which work with both Alexa and the Google Assistant. These deliver the best compromise between price and performance and are handy if you’re merely concerned with adjusting the brightness and temperature of an ordinary white bulb. These retail at $38.

It’s also worth looking into rigging your holiday lighting with smart lights. Check out our guide to upgrading your seasonal light display.


Your voice assistant chef

Happy holidays required good food. If you regularly find yourself referring to recipes on an iPad or book, you might find it easier (and, dare I say, more hygienic), to invest in an Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub.

These voice assistant devices come with screens. which can easily retrieve and display online recipes and apps. The AllRecipes skill is one of the most comprehensive offerings available, with over 60,000 recipes.

Alexa and Assistant can also help you when it comes to converting measurements. Although imperial measurements are dominant in the U.S., Europeans are all about the metric system. Alexa and Assistant can also help you set multiple timers, saving you from cremating your turkey.

Separately, there are a bevy of Alexa- and Assistant-enabled kitchen appliances. Fans of the sous vide method will delight in Anova’s voice-enabled precision cooker. At the time of writing, you can grab this for $150.

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And if you are an Instant Pot enthusiast, you’ll want to check out their Wi-Fi model, which can be easily controlled by Amazon Alexa. There’s also a version that works with Google Assistant, too.


Stay safe

It’s no secret that property crimes spike around Christmas. All those presents under the tree are a tantalizing target for criminals. It’s a sensible idea to invest in a smart home security system that will allow you to remotely monitor your house. Happy holidays are also safe holidays.

One of the most sophisticated indoor cameras comes from Ring. The Ring Stick-Up camera retails for $100, and works with both Amazon and Google’s voice assistant products.

There’s also the Wyze range of security cameras. Not only are they extremely affordable, but they also come with Alexa and Assistant integration, a well-designed app, night vision, and an extremely clear HD sensor. These retail at just $20 from the company’s website.

Now, your smart home is set for happy holidays!


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*First Published: Dec 18, 2019, 9:40 am CST