In the internet age, it seems to me that the only technological marvel is “software.” Software is the stuff that helps make the world function better — whether it’s operating a computer, a self-driving car, a smart speaker, or a robotic service like Uber or Homesolo.
Software can be a little inscrutable, though. It’s hard to add smart devices to existing internet-connected devices, like you can with PCs, set-top boxes, and home automation. And lots of smart devices already exist, but few of them have been hacked into.
So I teamed up with a programmer friend of mine to create a way to make it easier to add smart devices to a Google Home or Google Assistant. It’s called SmartBot, and it takes just a few minutes.
Here’s how to do it:
Find a list of the most popular smart devices. You could start by Googling “smart home devices,” or you could narrow the search with names. Once you find some such devices, find their manufacturers on Google. Then search the same manufacturers’ website for “warranty.” In the most popular gadgets, you’ll find a “support” button at the top. Click on the button and a link will pop up to ask for your email address and password. A few minutes later, if you were already logged in to your Google account, you’ll see a series of emails that will automatically convert your password into a SmartBot password.
And that’s about it. Now that you’ve written the password, make sure that the SmartBot password is assigned to the device.
SmartBot is, at heart, a password manager. That’s why it comes with a bit of service. The first time I signed into it, for example, it asked me to agree to the device’s settings. If you’ve set the device to be your primary phone or voice-operated gadget — a smart speaker, say — you can avoid just having to remember a list of all the other things you use it for.
It’s a little odd that you have to agree to a device’s security permissions before you can add it. But if you’re going to automate much of your life, a lot of the settings are sensible. So don’t freak out.
Next, try to guess a random name of one of the devices. If it looks like a potential target, you can use SmartBot’s service to search for other devices linked to that name. In short order, you’ll have found (at least in spirit) all of your smart home devices.
Once you add a device, SmartBot automatically adds it to the “add to list” list. You can then send it a message letting it know that it’s found a new owner. You can also send a specific device a message, as well as any multiple-device list.
SmartBot lacks some of the usual features of password managers, such as digital signatures and expiration dates. But these aren’t features any of us needs, particularly for the ones we are adding to our smart devices. And nobody wants SmartBot’s services more than anyone else, including SmartBot’s owner.
SmartBot works like any password manager, which is why it’s cool to be able to make it your own.
There are few, if any, instances in which any specific personal data needs to be stored or decrypted. And any data, including the relevant details of how SmartBot configures the device, must be shared only with the device’s owner. In short, the only information shared is the unencrypted data that your device is sending out.
There’s no reason to store any data on the SmartBot server. That’s why SmartBot doesn’t include anything useful.
I guess I can’t say that SmartBot’s incognito function is convenient. But it’s also a way to do something amazing in a little time. And as the internet ages, our ability to add smart devices to our lives will only grow. You can help hasten the process by becoming a user of SmartBot.