The steps needs to setup a Smart Home device can easily make or break the experience, as setup is easily one of the most important features when considering a new Smart Home device. But why?
To answer that, try picturing a common scenario we’ve all faced.
You arrive home from the store with a shiny new Smart Home device in tow. You’re excited to hook it up to the rest of your equipment. Next you scramble to get it unboxed, plugged in, and powered up. Now you think, what’s next? Is it working now?
You take a look at the box for instructions. You find a sticker that says something with a bunch of device setup steps, starting with something like this: “To setup, please download the Manufacture App on your phone”. Once you get the app installed you find yourself looking at a screen like this:
Hopefully the device setup steps aren’t too long, but lets start. You click on your new device type. Next you’re presented more instructions. Now it’s asking you to select and add WiFi passwords or press a button on your hub, and turn your device on and off. After you go through those steps, you’re presented yet another screen with a busy spinner for minutes.
If you’re lucky, these complicated instructions end with a “SUCCESS” screen, and you can then control your device from the manufacture’s app itself.
When things go bad
If you’re not so lucky, you’ll see some sort of vague error message with a retry button. Maybe some message regarding “no connection to the internet” or maybe something more vague like “unable to connect”.
At this point, all the excitement of setting up your new device is gone. The frustration of dealing with Smart Home devices sinks in. Now you either resolve yourself to dig in further and figure it out — burning up your patience in the process — or you put it back in the box, never to be looked at again. Both options seem reasonable to me.
Unfortunately, the above scenario is a common occurrence in the Smart Home space. Setting up new devices is a mixed bag of great ideas and frustrating experiences — requiring users to know and understand far more about the technology than they do. At this point, many people simply give up, and many more won’t go near Smart Home technology because of the technical depth needed to understand how to get it to work.
But not all is lost! Armed with some fundamental knowledge of what is truly going on in the setup process, you can solve any problem that comes up pretty quickly. You’ll also save yourself some trouble when buying new devices, as you’ll be equipped with the knowledge of which devices are known to have tricky setups.
The Setup Steps
Setting up Smart Home devices can be a major pain. Its easy to spend your weekend fighting with a Smart Light or a Smart Thermostat that won’t connect to your network, the internet, or your Smart Phone App, or display some other problem. Even more painful, some of these problems require deep understanding how these devices and your network truly works. Let’s go over some of the common steps seen in setting up these devices, which will help you troubleshoot when things go wrong.
When setting up a new device, there are typically several steps happening under the covers, each with their own challenges. Setup is broken down into 3 steps:
- Discovery: finding the new device
- Connecting to the network
Let’s break down each of these steps a bit further.
1. Discovery: Finding The New Device
When you open the manufacture’s app, the first thing the app tries to do is find the your new device,. This step is called “Discovery”. There are a few common ways this is done, depending on what sort of network capabilities your new device has.
- WiFi – The Smart Home device creates its own WiFi network, which the manufacture’s app looks for. Typically the more expensive Smart Home devices use WiFi.
- Bluetooth – The Smart Home device has a unique naming pattern, which the manufacture’s app looks for. Bluetooth is used by devices that aren’t accessed as often, like Smart Door Locks.
- Zigbee – This is a lesser known type of network that is used for Smart Home devices. Manufactures that require a “Hub”, like Phillips, use this protocol in combination with WiFi.
What can go wrong? If discovery fails, the manufacturer’s app won’t find the new device you’re connected to, which means you’ll see a screen like this:
This is one of the more frustrating errors. It’s tough to troubleshoot, as it could be a problem with any of the devices attempting to communicate: your phone, network, internet or device. At this point, you should try the steps below. Each manufacture likely has some troubleshooting tips you can take a look at, as well. Mostly this involves restarting your smart home device, phone, or network.
2. Connecting To Your Network
After discovery is completed and the manufacture’s app sees the new Smart Home device, your next step is to get your device connected to your network. To do this, the manufacture’s app needs to somehow connect to the device and send it your networking information, like the network name and the password.
What can go wrong? If your Smart Home device fails to connect to your network, there are a few common reasons as to why:
- No internet connection – The Smart Home device is attempting to talk to the manufacture’s services but can’t. Check your internet connection.
- Incompatible network – Some Smart Home devices don’t support all WiFi Network bands, like 5G. If this happens, you should get a more specific error. You might be able to configure your WiFi Network for the right band. Reaching out to the manufacturing at this point is solid option.
Once you make it this far, you’re typically home free. The Smart Home device is on your network and able to talk to the manufacture’s services. Next, registration will start. This is the process of adding the Smart Home device to your account and connecting your device to the manufacture’s services. There are a few other gotchas here too, like getting the device name right. Once this is complete, you should be able to use the device as intended.
What To Look For When Buying New Devices
When looking at new devices, pay attention to what sort of network protocols they use (WiFi, BlueTooth, Zigbee). See if you can find some reviews that explain how difficult it was to setup. Did users run into problems? If so, what sort of problems did they run into?
Some are simpler than others. Here are a few examples:
- Echo – Setting up the second Echo (not the first one) in your home is really easy. Amazon remembers the process for the first echo. All that’s needed is to plug it in and all of the steps above happen seamlessly.
- LifeX – Setting these Smart Lights up can be challenging. Getting devices to connect to your WiFi network is frustrating. It follows all the steps above and more steps to get Voice Assistant support enabled.
Asking these questions goes a long way. Make sure you find reviews for the device, both good and bad. Most likely you’ll find some detail regarding its setup process.
Smart Device setup steps can be a major pain to get through. It’s easy to spend your weekend fighting with a Smart Light or a Smart Thermostat that won’t connect to your network, the internet, or your Smart Phone App, or display some other problem. Even more painful, some of these problems require deep understanding how these devices and your network truly works. The information above should help you avoid frustrating Smart Home device setup experiences in the future.
Have a question or want to share your frustrating setup scenario? Comment below!