Telling the family that dinner’s ready or reminding the kids it’s time for bed doesn’t require as much shouting if you have a smart home. If you’ve got two or more smart speakers dotted around the house – maybe a Google Home Mini upstairs and a Home Hub in the kitchen – you can use them to communicate within the house. This means you can essentially use smart speakers as an in-home intercom system to relay messages, even if you’re not in the same location as the speaker.

Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa both let you use their smart home speakers as an intercom system. They both make life easier by allowing you to make announcements to the entire household instead of shouting.

On Alexa the feature is called “Drop In” while on Google it’s called “broadcast”. Alexa Drop In is comparable to a calling system, but unlike in regular calls, it uses an auto-answer system. Google Broadcast on the other hand can be compared to a PA system. You can only use it to make announcements to connected devices and receive responses from individual speakers.

To use this useful feature, all you have to do is say “Hey Google, broadcast,” using the Google Assistant app or a Google Home speaker. “Alexa, tell everyone…” and “Alexa, broadcast…” will also trigger the simultaneous one-way broadcasts. The speaker will then relay your message via the other smart speakers associated with your account. (If you use the Google Assistant app, it must be tied to the same Google account as the speakers you wish to broadcast to.)

Pre-built broadcasts

If you have a Google Home device, Google has provided a list of commands that will trigger specific sounds. Here are some to try:

  • Hey Google, broadcast breakfast is ready.
  • Hey Google, tell everyone breakfast is ready.
  • Hey Google, announce breakfast is ready.
  • Hey Google, broadcast wake up everyone.
  • Hey Google, broadcast it’s lunchtime
  • Hey Google, broadcast lunch is ready
  • Hey Google, broadcast it’s time for dinner.
  • Hey Google, tell everyone it’s time to leave.
  • Hey Google, announce I’m home.
  • Hey Google, broadcast it’s time for bed.
  • Hey Google, tell everyone the show is about to start.
  • Hey Google, broadcast I’ll be home soon (from Google Assistant on your mobile).

Broadcasting to a specific speaker

While Amazon Echo and Alexa have had the ability to broadcast a message to a specific speaker since 2017, Google have just announced a similar feature will now be available for Google Assistant and Google Home. This means that instead of startling the entire house, you can send a message to a specific speaker or room.

To use this feature on a Google Assistant device, simply say “Hey Google broadcast to [name of speaker]”.

How to send a reply

It is possible to reply to a message, and the reply will only be transmitted to the originating device. To reply to a message, say, “OK Google, reply [message]” or “OK Google, send a reply [message].”

If the message originated from a phone, the reply will be transcribed, arriving in the form of a notification. But if you want to hear the original audio message, you can do so by playing back the audio clip. Additionally, it comes with a reply button so you can keep the conversation going.

When using the Google Home Hub Smart Display, you can reply to broadcast messages by pressing its reply button.

Tips for better broadcasts

Here are a few tips and helpful things to know about using Google Home as an intercom.

Think first, speak second

Think through what you’re going to say before you start recording a broadcast. Google doesn’t give you an opportunity to preview your message or change it once you record it.

Reply quickly

The advice to think first, speak second isn’t easy to follow when it comes to replying. After you receive a message, you only have a short window when you can send a message back, about 10 to 12 seconds.

Recognize that it’s not a real-time intercom

There’s a reason Google calls its feature Broadcast rather than Intercom: It’s not a true intercom system. Intercoms let you have a real-time conversation, so two or more people can talk back and forth somewhat freely (although intercoms typically let only one person speak at a time). Broadcast doesn’t. Plus, there’s a noticeable delay, so you wouldn’t want to use it for anything truly urgent.

Happy broadcasting and enjoy having a less shouty household.