Smart home isn’t so smart without internet

In last week’s column I wrote about how much I love the technology that I have available to me, but the technology gods must have read that column and decided to punish me this week. 

While my home is not exactly a full-fledged smart home, over the years I’ve worked to increase the technology in my house. When we moved into our current home a couple of years ago, I installed a number of security cameras that can be viewed online, so we can check in on our house when we are gone. Our TV watching is all done on smart devices, like the Apple TV. And I installed Phillips Hue lights throughout much of my house, which can be turned on and off with one of the Google Nest Home devices in just about every room. 

In some ways, my home can feel a bit like Star Trek, as so much of it is connected to the internet. This includes the washer and dryer we purchased with the house, which allows them to send us a notification when the laundry is done. 

All this is great, and makes life so much easier when it all works. I walk downstairs in the morning and say, “OK Google, turn on downstairs lights,” and they all turn on. No looking for multiple switches, just one command and all the lights I want on turn on. 

However, on the occasion that something doesn’t work, it can be quite an exercise in frustration. Such was the case earlier this evening as I write this column. 

I’m still not sure exactly what made our router stop working — maybe the power went out for a few seconds thanks to the high winds. Maybe one of my children knocked it off the shelf when they were playing with a ball in the house for the 6,847th time despite being told the exact same number of times that they aren’t allowed to do that. Who knows? All I know is that when I came home from work, the internet was down. 

In some houses, the internet going down means just that — you can’t get online. But in my house, you might as well just leave, because nothing works. 

“OK Google,” I said, before immediately being cut off by the Google Assistant informing me, “there is no Wi-Fi signal available.”

The first thing to do, of course, is check the router. So I stumble through my living room in the dark, because the Hue lights won’t work, stepping on and tripping over the 387 dog toys littered across our floor. There are approximately 83 lights on the front of our router — it looks eerily like the spaceship from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” — and about half of them are blinking while the other half are dark. Despite my knowledge of technology, I have absolutely zero clue what this means. 

So I use my phone, which thankfully has data service, to access my internet service provider’s website to see if there is an outage in my area. There is not. So the question becomes, is it the router that is the problem, or is it the modem? 

The best way to check, of course, is to plug a computer into the modem via ethernet and see if we have internet. That’s great, except not a single device we have in our house actually has an ethernet port. 

I managed to find my wife’s old computer, an HP laptop that weighs roughly the same amount as my car, which fortunately does have an ethernet port, and plug it into the modem. After some finagling, I found the internet was working. So the router was the problem. 

I discovered then that the router’s Wi-Fi wasn’t working at all. So I needed to log into the router and reset the Wi-Fi. 

Quick question: Do you remember the password for your wireless router? Neither do I. 

I tried about 85 different combinations of username and password that I may have used, including the default one for the router, and nothing worked. Finally, I started the list over and was able to log in with the very first one I tried 45 minutes prior.

Rather than bore you with the rest of the nitty gritty of this story, I managed to get the Wi-Fi working again, though I’m still not sure exactly what I did. As far as I can tell, I picked up the router and held it upside down, and that seemed to fix it. I’m not sure. 

So approximately two hours after I came home from work, I was finally able to turn on the lights. 

Maybe a smart home wasn’t such a great idea. 

Eric Young is the editor of the Huron Daily Tribune. He can be reached at 


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