Sonos really makes some of the best-sounding home audio solutions you can buy and for many years when someone talked about a “smart” speaker it was almost always a product from Sonos that they were referring to.
Now with a new generation of truly “smart” AI-powered speakers and systems from companies like Amazon, Google and Apple have left Sonos as a company a bit on the back foot.
Sonos have responded to this huge market challenge in a pretty smart way. Instead of trying to create their own competitor to these products, future Sonos products will natively support them.
There’s still no solid date when we’ll see this new generation of speakers from Sonos, but you can be sure they aren’t going to wait any longer than needed.
IFTTT to the Rescue
Of course, a promise of future integration does nothing to make your existing Sonos products compete with things like the Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. Luckily there is a pretty simple way you can infuse smart home automation features into your Sonos gear.
It’s all thanks to an online service known as IFTTT or “if this, then that”. IFTTT allows you to connect all sorts of things together through the web. Of course, this requires that a device is connected to the web and Sonos does not yet have direct integration with IFTTT.
In order to connect your Sonos speaker to work with the many interesting and cool recipes on IFTTT, you need an intermediary device. So let’s look at some of the devices that you can use to make your Sonos truly smart.
The New Kids on the Block
While we wait for Sonos products to launch that officially have Alexa and the Google Assistant built-in, it turns out that you can sort of integrate these already just by using a short piece of wire.
As long as you have a Sonos device with a line-in socket (which is not all of them, so check) you can hook them up to the line-out socket of an Amazon Echo or Google Home product.
You would then use IFTTT recipes that target Google or Amazon platforms.
The main reason to do this is that the speakers that come with Echo or Home devices generally suck. This is not true integration however since it does not give you home-wide access to Alexa or the Google assistant. It’s basically just a sound upgrade.
If you’re keen on getting this method to work, be sure to check out my article on Amazon Echo and Sonos integration.
SmartThings Gets us There
Samsung offers us a solution to tighter control of Sonos products. Their SmartThings controller hubs can control a range of Sonos speakers and it’s officially supported.
You can actually find an official guide to connect your Sonos speakers to a SmartThings hub here.
Once you have done that you can use IFTTT to send instructions to your Sonos device via the SmartThings hub. Then you can do neat things like playing a specific song when your favorite team’s game is about to begin.
Sonos and Dropbox
You can also use IFTTT to connect Sonos to another cloud service called DropBox. DropBox is an online file storage service. It takes a bit more technical know-how than I’d would recommend for the casual user, but if you feel comfortable messing around with premade Python scripts and the like you can certainly give it a go.
Basically, most of these methods use Dropbox as an IFTTT trigger and then sends a special file to the Sonos device that makes it do something.
Here’s a very clever one that turns your Sonos into an alarm when a motion sensor detects movement.
By using Dropbox you can also do things like make your Sonos play automatically when you get home and then make it pause again when you leave. Not bad for a solution which uses a fancy network drive.
Hue Lights and Your Sonos
Philips Hue lights are probably the best-known smart home lighting products and although you can’t exactly make them do stuff with each other, but with IFTTT and some fiddling you can make it work.
It gets pretty complicated though. For example, this recipe takes the home automation platform Stringify and combines it with Hue, Logitech Harmony, and Sonos to start a party at the touch of a button.
Not So Fast
Many of these tricks using IFTTT are definitely cool, but in the end, this is the digital equivalent of jury rigging. Since none of these are truly integrated it means that as soon as any of the connected systems get updated it may break the recipe.
There’s also no intelligence. You have to explicitly make a recipe for each action. One for turning something on and another for turning it off.
The big limitation is the fact that IFTTT is a 3rd-party cloud platform. If your external internet goes down it stops working. If IFTTT is having server problems the same thing will happen.
This means that you should only use recipes for things that aren’t mission-critical. You don’t want things like security to absolutely rely on IFTTT.
True Integration is Coming
So it’s really important for Sonos fans that the company releases truly integrated products that incorporate Alexa, Google Home and maybe even more. As I write this they haven’t committed to any firm release dates.
In February the Sonos gave a public demo of their internal build for Alexa integration. Alexa will be the first platform built into new Sonos speakers and a beta will release in 2017. Which is as specific as Sonos will get.
Luckily we don’t have to wait with our home automation desires. It’s almost certain that, although old Sonos speakers won’t have integration, you can add one of the new speakers and still control the whole network.
In any case, home automation is so much more fun if you go the DIY route. If you’re itching to get in on the home automation craze then I suggest you head on over to my DIY home automation article to get all the dirty details.