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The 5 best automations for your dorm room

With the summer days numbered, there are plenty of reminders at our go-to shopping centers that the academic year is upon us. For college students, a new semester brings new goals, challenges, and various other matriculation responsibilities. Whether you’re a first-time pupil or returning to school for a second, third, or fourth year, we’re betting there’s plenty on your plate to weigh and consider.

So how exactly are you going to tackle the tribulations and expectations that your university demands of you? And, with that boatload of coursework heading your way, how in the world are you going to remain engaged enough when it comes to socializing with friends and family? Not to worry, for the world of smart home tech has got you covered.

You’ve said it a million times in front of the bathroom mirror: “This year is going to be different.” We’re right there with you and want to help get you elevated, successful, and, most of all, automated. With a simple smart home setup, you can transform your dorm room from a shaded lair of late-night study crams into an all-knowing and ultra-inspiring student residence. Here are five recommended automations to get you started.

Smart schedules, reminders, and routines

The Homepod mini side-top table angle.

Between your six classes, part-time job, and fragments of a social life you’re trying to keep together, remembering vital due dates can be quite the chore for a college student. While we’re all wont to slip up now and then when it comes to our coursework, falling into forgetful habits can quickly become a major problem. And, once you’ve really fallen, it can be tough to get back up.

If you’re feeling the weight of your collegial workload, a great way to keep things in check is to use a smart voice assistant to keep things in check. For starters, you’ll want to invest in a smart hub device for your dorm. Stick with big names like Amazon, Google, and Apple. An Echo Dot, Nest mini, or HomePod Mini can be purchased for around $50. If you and your dorm mates care to split the cost, you could opt for the more robust versions of these mini-speakers for bigger and better sound (more on that later).

Once you’ve connected your hub to Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to do a few things to help manage your day-to-day. For starters, you’ll be able to sync most calendar applications with your hub. This will allow voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri to add, remove, and read off coming events.

Using Alexa and Google Assistant Routines, as well as Siri Suggestions, you can also set up go-to automations that will quickly read out your forthcoming calendar events and daily schedule when you say something as simple as “Alexa, what’s my day like?” or “Hey Siri, what does my week look like?”

Additionally, you can use voice assistants to add reminders on the fly, in case there’s something pressing on today’s docket you don’t want to miss.

Smart security for when you’re away or asleep

Wyze Cam Spotlight mounted on wall.

Planning to head home for a holiday weekend? Whether you’re locking up your dorm for a few days or you want to put your pad under lock-and-key when you hit the hay each night, smart security automations make all the difference when it comes to your peace of mind.

To get things started, you’ll want to make sure to have some kind of voice assistant device, whether that’s a smart speaker or smart display. Next, you’ll want to get your hands on some smart security products. We understand that you may not want to splurge on high-priced gear, but you can build a decent security system on a budget. Lifx smart bulbs and Wyze security cams are a great place to start, offering you plenty of on-the-go controls and customizations at a reduced price.

Once everything is connected to Wi-Fi, you can start building your actual security automation. A “Hey Google, goodnight” voice command, when issued, can be programmed to arm your cameras and motion sensors when you’re turning in for the night or plan on being away from the dorm for a majority of the day. If you’re heading home for a while, adding smart bulbs to this equation can help to deter would-be intruders by making it seem like someone is actually in the dorm.

Want even more protection? Consider adding a smart lock to this automation for extra peace of mind. You’ll be notified instantly if someone messes with your door and you can use the lock’s companion app to remotely lock/unlock your dorm’s door as you’re coming and going.

A smart kitchen for quick bites

AmazonBasics Microwave on a counter.

Let’s face it: Sometimes the worst part of any college student’s day is simply waking up. Getting ready for classes, catching up on homework, studying, and going to work are all activities that await us the moment our eyes open, but there’s a way to take the pressure off when that first alarm rings.

There’s nothing a good cup of coffee can’t combat, and with a smart assistant, a smart plug or two, and some select small appliances, you can start the day off with a hot cup of Pike’s Place with a handy automation.

By connecting your coffee maker to a smart plug, you can wake up, say “Alexa, make coffee” and have your Echo speaker cue the plug to begin brewing that much-needed morning joe.

Better yet, say you’re running late for Development of Western Civilization and need a quick breakfast. If this is a habitual occurrence, tell Alexa to remind you to toss a burrito in your AmazonBasics Microwave the night before. Then, when you’re scrambling to get out the door, use Routines to build an automation for when you say “Alexa, I’m hungry.”

Doing so is a quick way to get your voice assistant to fire up the microwave so that you’ll have enough time to gather your belongings, check your hair, and snag that fresh, hot burrito on your way out the door.

Throw a smart party

A 4th of July celebration.

While we won’t advocate for the off-the-wall shindigs that many colleges are host to, we also won’t pretend that college parties don’t exist and that you may end up at one. If so, do your mom a favor and be responsible. But what if you and your dorm mates are the host(s) of your own gathering? In addition to keeping mom appeased, there’s a myriad of guests you’ll need to entertain, too. Fortunately, your smart hardware can help you throw a killer party.

To get things started, you can build some incredible lighting and music automations using just a few smart bulbs and your handy smart assistant. This is where a heavier hub like a standard Echo, Echo Studio, or Nest Audio will come in handy. Using Routines, along with various If This Then That (IFTTT) plugins if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can make your smart lights rhythmically change colors and pulsate to whatever playlist you’re blasting.

Let’s say you’re throwing a gaming party. Using IFTTT, you can create custom automations that send your smart lights into a firework-like flurry whenever someone scores a goal, makes a kill, or completes a mission. Never has a fraternal PS5 experience been so fun.

Automate your moment of zen

A Napatek desk lamp near someone writing.

In the wake of your grueling scholastic week, long work hours, and last night’s “smart” party, we’re betting you’re beyond exhausted. But what about the week ahead, and the essays you haven’t written, and the homework you haven’t done? Be easy, grasshopper. Let’s not run before we take some relaxing mental baby steps.

For those with access to some kind of smart restoration light, your pathway to peace is but an automation away. Using whatever Routine-building application is at your disposal, you can pre-program your smart lights to dim, your restoration light to brighten, and your meditation music to kick on with a simple command like “Alexa, it’s time to rest.”

Along with the luminance and tunes, you can also add smart blinds to the mix. With the aforementioned command, your blinds will lower, keeping your environment calm and free of stimuli from the outside world. Better yet, you can also integrate smart lighting into your wake-up automations for a welcome greeting from Mr. Sun come Monday morning.

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Michael Bizzaco
Michael Bizzaco has been writing about and working with consumer tech for well over a decade, writing about everything from…
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