How to Have Santa Siri Turn On Your Christmas Lights

I already mentioned one amazing Christmas Light project. This one is amazing to people who aren't aware of how it works, but is pretty easy to set up. I'm going to start with my handiwork:

Awesome, right? Here's how you set that up, starting with materials:

  • WeMo (any outlet or switch should work.)
  • Tree with Christmas Lights plugged in to the above WeMo unit
  • An account at If This Then That, aka IFTTT
  • A phone with SMS capability and voice control (that's what makes this whole thing cool).

First off, make sure your tree lights are plugged into the WeMo. Try using the WeMo app on your device to make sure you can turn them on and off successfully.

Now go to IFTTT and activate the appropriate WeMo Channel (my example is the switch) and the SMS Channel. You'll get an "IFTTT Phone Number" when you do this. Here's the magic: Take that phone number and save it to your contacts with the first name "Santa". Add whatever else you like, but that's the part that really levels up this bit of festive nerdery.

Then you can use my IFTTT Recipe for running the lights, just customize it for your phone number and specific WeMo.

Here's where the semantics come into play: If you hold down Home and say "Tell Jeff I'm on my way over for happy hour," Siri interprets that as "Send Jeff an SMS which contains the text 'I'm on my way over for happy hour'." So now you hold down Home and say "Tell Santa to turn on my Christmas tree," and the recipe doesn't care what the SMS actually says, if it gets any SMS it will run. What's really happening is you are sending a text to IFTTT which sends a command to the WeMo to go from off to on. But that doesn't sound nearly as awesome as having Santa run your Christmas lights.

This all began last year when I thought it would be nifty to run the lights with a WeMo instead of crawling around under the tree or having a long extension cord to a more reachable outlet. And Belkin's site says to only use WeMo switches indoors, so this won't work for your outside lights. We'll discuss those in a future post.