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How smart tech can improve your 4th of July BBQ

Last year, you had to jealously attend your older brother’s 4th of July gathering. You wanted to host the party, but he insisted. But the chump ran out of beer, had to order pizzas because he forgot to buy the burgers, and had a screaming match with your father about politics. Capri-Sun in hand, you sit in your lawn chair, holding back a devilish grin, and thinking: Next year will be my year.

So with Independence Day 2022 just several days away, if you’re gearing up for an unforgettable 4th of July event, and need to come up with a few ways to wow your guests and put big bro in his place. Our suggestion? Break out your Wi-Fi password, put your sibling rivalry aside, and deliver the best 4th of all time with some of these amazing smart home devices and features.

Illuminate the night with smart lighting

An outdoor gathering with Philips Hue lights being used.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Smart lighting is one of the easiest and most entertaining ways to experience the power of web-connected automation. With popular brands like Philips Hue, Sengled, and Wyze, homeowners can remotely power lights when away from home, change brightness and colors, create custom lighting schedules, and so much more. And these awesome features are not exclusive to indoor lighting.

If you’re hosting a 4th of July shindig and want to dazzle your guests with patriotic lighting or a simulated fireworks display, outdoor smart lighting applications are the way to go. And whether you decide to go with LED string lighting, floodlights, or some other kind of outdoor source, there are a few ways to get in the spirit of the summer holiday.

Philips Hue is one of the biggest names in both indoor and outdoor automated systems, and the Hue app (available for iOS and Android devices) can help you create some truly amazing 4th of July light displays.

After launching the app, go into the dynamic lighting scenario and choose red, white, and blue as your three colors to cycle between. With the dynamic function toggled on, your outdoor lights will pulse between the three different shades for an all-American extravaganza.

And if that’s enough, you can pick yourself up a Philips Hue Lily spotlight three-pack. Aim the spotlights into the trees, choose red, white, and blue as your three colors, and bask in the glow of our nation’s visible gamut.

Project a classic blockbuster

An outdoor projector set up on a small table.
Shutterstock By Pixel-Shot

Nothing screams summertime like a Hollywood tentpole film on a big screen. These days, splurging for movie tickets can be quite the expense, so why not treat your Independence Day gatherers to a movie night they’ll never forget?

Sure, many of today’s leading home theater projectors can cost upward of $1,000, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options available. One of our favorite pocket-sized projectors is the AAXA P7, a 1080p LED-powered unit, rocking up to 30,000 hours of lamp life and multiple ways to connect with your go-to A/V components.

All you’ll have to do is set up a screen (the P7 can project an image as large as 120 inches), connect your phone to the P7, launch Netflix, and start streaming a flick that all will know and love.

And if it’s quality over portability for you, then we recommend the Optoma UHD55. A brilliant 4K projector with a total brightness output of 3,600 lumens, the UHD55 is HDR-compatible, delivers a 240Hz refresh rate (through Enhanced Gaming Mode), and can project an image up to 302 inches. Let’s just say you’ll be the talk of the neighborhood when you screen Jaws for all your friends and family.

While many projectors feature some kind of onboard audio, the sound is typically a bit lackluster, so we’d suggest pairing up the gorgeous visuals with an external audio source for the best cinematic experience. And speaking of audio…

Rock the block with a smart speaker

Two Soundboks Go speakers paired together.
Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

Celebrating our nation’s independence is a practice best buttressed by good food, swimming pools, and our favorite Spotify playlists. And what better way to indulge in some patriotic anthems (or Top 40 hits) than with an awesome smart speaker?

With an Amazon Echo, you’ll be able to stream popular songs and podcasts from a number of different music platforms. Just tell Alexa what song, show, or playlist to fire up, and the voice assistant will begin broadcasting the source straight from the speaker — no in-app button-mashing required. Better yet, you can allow your guests to pair up with the speaker using Bluetooth, so that everyone gets to experience a variety of sounds, from Vitamin C to NSYNC (it’s a throwback Independence Day).

Two drawbacks with hardware like the Amazon Echo and Google’s Nest Audio speaker are that these speakers need to be wired for power, and also connected to Wi-Fi for most music-streaming capabilities to function. If you’re in short supply of outdoor outlets, a wire-free Bluetooth speaker may be your best bet.

Devices like the mighty Soundboks Go have long-lasting battery life, are durable and waterproof, and can get nice and loud to compete with the sound of illegal fireworks blasting off throughout your zip code.

Unleash your inner chef with a smart grill

A man using the Traegar Ironwood 885 grill.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Close your eyes, friend. Now, imagine the glorious sizzling sounds of hamburgers and hotdogs being cooked on the grill. Salivating much? An iconic staple of the 4th of July (and a testament to Pavlov’s drooling dogs), barbecued delicacies are what your pot-lucking pals are expecting from their party host. Sure, he’s bringing the brownies and she’s bringing the potato salad, but it’s your house, which means you need to dish out the meats.

Luckily, you can be hailed as the unforgettable grill champ with a web-connected smart grill. Wait, now outdoor grills can connect to Wi-Fi? You bet they can!

One of our favorite options is the Traeger Ironwood 885, a wood-pellet savant that you can pair to your Wi-Fi network. Once paired up, you’ll be able to download the Traeger app to monitor and adjust the cooking temperature of the grill, as well as use Alexa voice commands to adjust the temp, power the grill on and off, and set timers.

If you’re hosting a smaller group of people, the Traeger Pro Series 575 costs a little less, has a smaller cooking surface, and can also be linked to Wi-Fi for in-app controls and Alexa commands.

Safeguard your residence with a smart lock (or two)

August Wi-Fi, (4th Generation) Smart Lock
Image used with permission by copyright holder

There’s never anything wrong with erring on the safe side. While we’re assuming you’ll have a connection to all of your 4th of July attendees, a little too much adult beverage for one partygoer could lead to some poor decision-making. And sometimes it’s just hard to trust that your friend isn’t going to invite their friends (even though you explicitly told them not to).

Whatever the insecurity may be, it’s never a bad idea to outfit your home with smart locks and smart padlocks for big social occasions.

For your front, side, and backdoors, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock (4th Gen) easily fits over your existing deadbolt assembly, is compatible with numerous voice assistants, and features in-app monitoring and scheduling features.

And for your outdoor sheds and backyard gates, a great smart padlock is the MYPIN Smart Fingerprint Padlock. With its onboard fingerprint scanner that can store up to 10 prints at once, and Bluetooth connectivity for remote locking and unlocking with your phone, you’ll be able to keep your valuables under lock and key, allowing for the utmost peace of mind as you relish the good times with your loved ones.

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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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