The Ambient guide to summer entertaining in the smart home

The art of keeping guests happy with connected kit

Smart summer entertaining starts here
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Tunes? Check. Drinks? Check. Attention grabbing, beat matching smart light show? Well…

Summer is a great time to show off your meticulously crafted smart home to your Luddite friends and family with some first class connected entertaining. Whether it's getting Alexa assistance in the kitchen before a classy dinner party, making sure there's music in every room or setting up the big screen for a lairy one in the garden, tech can make or break a party.

Here, The Ambient editors share our top tips for summer smart home entertaining. Stick yours in the comments below, where horror stories about gadget related hosting fails are also very welcome.

First, book your virtual DJ

Music makes the night, no question, so ideally you'll want to set up a wireless, multi-room, AI assistant powered speaker system to keep things flowing. Once you've asked Alexa or Google Assistant to start playing your carefully curated playlist, you can jump onto your streaming service app, like Spotify, to skip tracks without interrupting the tunes if people aren't feeling it.

If you're less fussy, embrace guest modes so that people can shout out requests to Assistant et al without having access to all your personal info. And if your soiree guest list is full of music fans, let them know they can ask Siri questions like "Hey Siri, who's the drummer in this band?" too.

You could even use features like Alexa Announcements or Google Assistant Broadcast to get everyone around the house and garden together for the birthday cake/speech/karaoke/Jager Power Hour. Plus the kids can keep themselves occupied upstairs with voice assistant animal noises, Star Wars Easter eggs and sing-alongs.

The Ambient guide to summer entertaining in the smart home

Get your garden in the spirit

Most smart garden tech is for keeping your lawn lush all year round – there's not a great deal you can do last minute aside from distract, distract, distract. If that's what you're going for, then try a killer BBQ, lights, music and decoration – you might end up in the garden all night so don't save all your smart home show-and-tells for indoors.

Some connected multi-room audio systems, such as the Google Assistant-powered JBL Link series, have smaller, portable, wireless and waterproof options that will link up with larger, room-filling speakers inside.

The bowl-shaped Philips Hue Go is a cute smart lighting option to dot out on a balcony and the outdoor range of Hue lights – including the plant and flower bed illuminating Hue Lily spotlights – are arriving this summer. If you go all out you might want to consider a mesh system or Wi-Fi extender that will chill you out on the regular, not just for entertaining.

The Ambient guide to summer entertaining in the smart home

The bigger the screen, the better

If it's a 4K World Cup or 4K Wimbledon party, the first thing on your to-do list has got to be the screen. Whether you're going for a smart TV (works outdoors) or a projector (wow factor), there's a lot to consider – ideally you want to place it where everyone can see and hear even from wherever you're serving food.

Size wise, bigger is, in this case, better as is 4K – though for sports events like these, you need to sign up for the trial and just because you have say a 4K TV and the BBC iPlayer app, that doesn't mean you're automatically compatible. If not, you don't necessarily need a whole new TV, get a Roku Streaming Stick+ instead.

Finally, if you're sticking the TV outside – and even if you're inside to be honest – be prepared to hear people down the street with a slightly quicker feed than you. Such is life.

The Ambient guide to summer entertaining in the smart home

Lighting is everything

When the sun goes down, it's a good idea to enlist smart lighting to set the mood alongside whatever bangers you've got coming from DJ Siri. Smart lights are now much more than just Wi-Fi connected bulbs – try Lifx's light strips or Nanoleaf's modular Light Panels – but a cheap Ikea Tradfri bulb in the right lamp can do the trick just as nicely.

There's also a nice line in third party Philips Hue apps, including the excellent HueDisco. When it comes to sneaky app controls, it's not all about showy colour changing, either – the key to getting guests to loosen up? All in the dimming.

The Ambient guide to summer entertaining in the smart home

Keep things simple in the kitchen

Chances are you'll be out back or out on the balcony just grillin' but if you are spending time in the kitchen, you don't want too many whirring gadgets to stress you out. Even just using Alexa to set multiple timers via voice rather than faffing on your phone or oven could help to de-stress you on the day.

As for which smart kitchen devices to allow in, may we suggest the Meater Probe, a wireless smart meat thermometer; the WeMo-enabled CrockPot smart slow cooker; and the second gen Smarter Coffee 2.0 for after dinner espressos.

The Ambient guide to summer entertaining in the smart home

Add eye-catching ambient decoration

You might already be hunting down new tableware and stringing up bunting but don't forget that connected tech can be plenty decorative too – if you're willing to spend, that is.

Beyond lights, there's the luxe Meural connected art canvas that your party guests can interact with by swiping their hand in front of the digital frame. Or else an Instagram-friendly speaker like the Naim Mu-so. You could even go all out for the garden-inside vibe (should the weather disappoint you) with a Click and Grow indoor garden or even a Naava smart living wall.

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