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October 29, 2018

Scaring people is a treat with these smart home tricks

by John_A


Halloween may seem like an old-school holiday, filled with bedroom sheet ghosts and dollar-store candy corn and fog machines that smell weird and never seem to work right, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Halloween is a holiday where the bleeding edge of smart home tech proves that you don’t need buckets of fake syrupy blood to scare your guests socks off. Whether you’re looking to scare trick-or-treaters away and keep all that candy to yourself or looking to spook guests at your mysterious masquerade, there are a lot of tools at your disposal.

“Let’s get spooky”

Google Home Mini


For blending into your spiderweb-covered foyers and controlling your ‘haunted’ home, the Google Home Mini is the price-performer. Google Assistant is compatible with over 10,000 smart home devices from 1,000 brands, and this compact speaker has dozens of mounts, covers, and bases to hide it away or dress it up.

$50 at Best Buy

Big sound, big spooks

Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen)


Amazon’s speakers are great for home control, but the upgraded Echo Plus is the best of the best. This chubby speaker has a big, beautiful sound, and there’s a Zigbee smart home hub built right in, meaning it can control thousands of smart products without needing an extra hub to interface through, such as the Philips Hue bulb that is bundled free with the Echo Plus right now!

$150 at Amazon

All-night noisemaker

Anker Soundcore 2


Almost no smart speakers are portable or waterproof, but Google Home and Amazon Echo devices can pair with Bluetooth speakers that are both, like this one! Once connected, summon and control spooky sounds or terrorizing tunes from up to 60 ft away — oh, and you wanna make some parents run screaming for the hills? Start playing Let it Go! You’re welcome!!

$40 at Amazon

Waterproof Wonder-BOO

Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM

UE makes some of the best portable speakers money can buy, and the WONDERBOOM packs a big sound inside a compact, (dare I say) cute IPX7 waterproof shell. Just hide it behind one of your skeletons and watch kids run away in terror when you Broadcast your loudest evil laugh to the Google Home or Amazon Echo paired to it.

$68 at Amazon

Let there be (creepy) light!

Philips Hue Starter Kit


Philips Hue lights are easy to set up, easy to control via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and this kit will give you a Hue Bridge and two A19 color bulbs to use in any standard socket. Dip your toe in the world of smart lighting and flicker the lights without having to jiggle a lightswitch all night, just say “OK Google, let’s get spooky!”

$100 at Amazon

Strip down your lighting

Nexlux LED Strip Lights


If Hue lights are a bit much for your wallet, no problem! These lightbulbs are more affordable, and they don’t rely on a proprietary hub that steals one of your router’s LAN ports or clutters up your office. Strip lights are also easier to spread out your spooky lighting over a wider area, mounting them under the edge of your roof or a bar area.

$30 at Amazon

Old-school goes new-school

Maxcio 2-Socket Outdoor Wi-Fi Outlet


Smart plugs can control just about any old-school Halloween effect that operates off a traditional plug and can be left switched on; this smart switch will simply cut off power to the plug when you don’t want it running. This smart plug is a two-fer: two smart plugs off one outlet, and it’s IP44 water-resistant for using with outdoor effects, like that inflatable hydra on the front lawn.

$29 at Amazon

Smartest Alexa plug around

Amazon Smart Plug


Smart plugs are seemingly everywhere these days, but Amazon’s is the easiest to set up if you have a second-gen Echo device: plug in the Smart Plug and your Alexa app will buzz you a few seconds later telling you setup has been completed. Not started, completed! This plug is indoor-only and Alexa-only; sorry, Google Assistant users.

$25 at Amazon

They’re heeeeeeereee

Arlo Security Light


Smart home effects are only useful if you can trigger them when someone’s nearby. Arlo Security Light buzzes your phone when it detects invading trick-or-treaters, and then you can spring your trap on them. Once the holiday’s over, this weatherproof, wire-free sensor and intelligent dusk-to-dawn light can help keep your yard safe all winter long.

$75 at Amazon

Ding Dong

Ring Doorbell


This outdoor motion sensor option gives you live video of your prey — ahem, “neighbors” — so that you can see who is walking up and which effects you should trigger for them. Like the Security Light, the Ring Doorbell can help secure your home long after the jack-o-lanterns rot away — and help you defend your holiday shopping from porch pirates!

$100 at Amazon

Scaring people with a smart home is suprisingly easy, especially if you’ve got some smart lights your Google Home Mini is tied into: simply say “OK, Google, let’s get spooky” and Google will flicker the lights and play a creepy, creaky sound of some kind. If you’re wanting to spook people before they reach your doorstep, I suggest either investing in a Hue motion sensor to trigger lighting effects as trick-or-treaters approach — just be mindful that it’s not really fortified for outdoor use, especially in damp locales — or a Ring doorbell to show you who is approaching so you can trigger the proper music or effects based on the age group.

After all, playing death metal to an incoming group of grade-schoolers isn’t exactly polite. But ’tis the season for villains.

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