If you’re ready to level up your smart home, it’s time to think about geofencing. This refers to smart routines that program devices to act in a certain way, based on their location. For example, you can set up a geofence action for your address so that when your phone is detected returning to its docile position, the smart lock on your front door will unlock.
Geofencing can be really useful in the right homes, and Google makes it easy with features like the Home and Away routines found in the Google Home app. Let’s go over how they work, how to set them up correctly, and everything else you need to know.
How to use Home and Away routines with Google
For an Away routine to work, you’ll want to have the Google Home app installed and configured before you begin. It is a free download and is available on many platforms including Android and iOS. If you have the Google Home app, make sure it’s updated and ready for a new routine.
Step 1: Make sure you have compatible smart devices. You absolutely want devices that are listed as compatible with Google Home/Google Assistant. That includes all Nest devices and many smart lights, smart plugs, smart locks, smart switches, etc. You have many options, and with time more will come. If you’re buying a new smart device, look for compatibility with Matter, as this will ensure it will work with Google Home and other apps if you ever decide to switch.
The smart devices you intend to use must be set up and connected to Google Home before you begin these steps.
Step 2: Open the Google Home app. The home screen will suggest what you can do, and one of the options should be Set up home and away routines on top. Select it to start.
Step 3: Google Home provides a few examples of what you can set up, like turning on the lights when someone comes home or turning on Eco mode for your Nest Thermostat when you leave the house. These are just suggestions and you will see all the available options later. Select Set up continue.
Step 4: You will now see two sections, one for home routine and one for out of routine. You can program them both as you like. In the sections, your compatible connected devices will be listed. Select one to get started.
Step 5: Depending on the device, Google Home will give you a range of options to program. This feature is especially easy with Nest devices, as Google has pre-built geofence suggestions, but it’s a simple system to use with any compatible device. Choose how you want the device to behave, like a thermostat that switches to and from Eco mode. Select next When you finish.
Step 6: Do the same with the Away routine. Remember, you can program multiple devices to act in different ways based on their geofenced location. When you’re done, select next.
Step 7: Google Home will now tell you about presence detection and ask if you want to use your phone’s location for presence detection. This is how geolocation works: it uses the location of your phone to decide if you are at home or not. For this to work, you will need to enable always on location-based services for the app. Location services can make some people uncomfortable, and we’ll explore an alternative below, but it’s the most accurate option. To choose To accept to continue and make any necessary configuration changes.
Step 8: Google will now ask if you want to enable additional devices in your home with presence detection. Home will use this alternative by default if you choose not to use location services. The problem is that you need a device with presence detection technology that can detect if people are moving around the house or not. Nest and Nest Protect thermostats, along with Nest Hubs, have this technology, so you’ll need one of these to enable this option.
On the plus side, this alternative doesn’t need location-based activity on your phone, and you can tell when everyone is out of the house, not just you. The downside is that it’s not always as accurate (can be triggered by pets, kids, etc.) as location services on your phone, and it can trigger Home routines even if you’re not there at the time.
Step 9: Add your home address. Google needs this to use geofencing properly, so it’s necessary if you’re using your phone to track location. Confirm your location on a map when you’re done. You should now be ready to select To finalize and put your routines into practice.
What about other types of geofencing with Google?
The Home and Away routines are Google Home’s method of adding geofencing to your smart home. If you’re interested in more customizable geofencing options, i.e. choosing what devices do when you get to work, you may want to take a look at Alexa’s geofencing options as they offer more address scheduling options.