Geofences Make Your Home Work Better. Here’s How. – The New York Times

After trying your first smart device, you quickly discover the extra convenience, comfort, and even fun—using a simple voice command and having your lights instantly shut off is a unique thrill. But those sorts of remote-control-like interactions are just scratching the surface of what your smart-home devices can do. Most smart devices allow you to set them up to function so that they trigger automatically via a wonky-sounding technology called geofencing. That simply means enabling your smart devices to automatically activate when you leave home or return—an event that is (usually) determined by the location of your smartphone. For example, you can configure your smart home to automatically lock your front door and turn off the AC when you leave and turn on your lights when you pull into the driveway at night.

Geofencing isn’t necessarily a set-it-and-forget-it technology for all homes, though—it may take a modest amount of configuring. For instance, if you live with roommates or family, you wouldn’t want to have all the lights in your home flip off automatically whenever you leave, plunging everyone else still there into darkness. But if you’re willing to put in a little work, geofencing is a powerful but simple tool that can transform how you live with smart devices.

If you’re willing to put in a little work, geofencing is a powerful but simple tool that can transform how you live with smart devices.

How smart-home geofencing works

You can set up your devices to use geofencing a few ways. Typically the companion app you use to set up your smart device has a setting labeled Geofencing, but often the feature is enabled as part of the process in creating automatic actions (sometimes called Automations or Routines). For example, if you set up an Automation to turn something on or off when you leave or return home, you’re using geofencing. You may also be able to access geofencing through the control app for a smart-home platform such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit.

When enabling geofencing, your smart-home platform first creates a virtual zone that surrounds your home. Essentially, the smart-home device uses your phone’s various wireless signals, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, and GPS, to determine your location. After that, your system always knows whether your smartphone is inside or outside of this zone—and by extension, where you are, too. Your geofence then tells your smart-home devices to toggle between what are usually called Home and Away modes, which are the key parts of a geofencing setup.

Aside from switching between Home and Away modes, geofencing can do more sophisticated tricks, too. Since your smart home always knows your approximate location during the day, you can create Automations or Routines that anticipate when you’re leaving a location and prepare your home, well before you arrive.

Setting up your devices for autopilot

Using a device’s companion app (or a smart-home platform app), you can create a Routine or Automation—different terms for the same process of creating automated triggers for smart devices using an app—so that your devices are triggered whenever your home is set to Away mode.

For instance, using the Amazon Alexa app, you can create a Routine that automatically turns off your smart bulbs whenever you leave home. You might also have your thermostat set back the temperature. And depending on what smart devices you have, you may even be able …….



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