Improvised Portable Smart Speaker
My Google Home Mini connected to a USB battery bank.
This is a quick post, but I feel that it’s worth sharing. This hack might be super obvious, but it didn’t come to me until after searching for more conventional options.
TL;DR Connect a USB battery bank to a Google Home Mini and take it outside with you (assuming you have Wifi coverage outside).
At my house, the kids (2 and 5) like playing out in the backyard. We have a patio with seating under a gazebo, so it is overall quite blissful. The only thing missing is some light music to enjoy.
There are plenty of options to get music into the backyard:
In our house, we’ve gotten pretty used to having many smart speakers (namely Google Home Minis) for music and other random things (timers, weather, questions, etc…). I had my sights on bringing that technology outside to the backyard patio.
To note, if I had used another company smart speaker then this might have gone a different path, but ultimately this approach would still work.
I wanted to get Google Assistant outside, as that was the key part of the smart speaker – responding to voice commands. We’re a household of Apple products, except for Google with respect to our house automation aspect. Using our phones wasn’t ideal to drive this system – we’d need a dedicated product.
Looking around led me to the JBL Link series of Voice-Activated Speakers, which looked perfect… except for the price ($200+).
I then realized I had the product in front of me the whole time – the Google Home Mini.
The only problem is powering it outside and ensuring it gets a Wifi signal.
I ensured that my backyard patio would get sufficient Wifi (I have a mesh network) so that connectivity was done.
It looks like it might be possible to use a mobile hotspot to make this work as well, but it looked more involved (I was seeing two phones are needed). Fortunately, I just didn’t need to do that.
Powering was pretty simple as well… I just pulled out one of my many USB battery banks. I then connected it to the Google Home Mini with a USB micro cable (to note – the 1st Generation of Google Home Minis use USB micro, while the 2nd Generations use a barrel-style connection). Simple solution and I get enough power for my usage. In the worse case, I just get a second battery bank. I also considered just using an outdoor outlet, but for my house, it wasn’t positioned in a good location, and then the likelihood of it being forgotten outside increases.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the solution even though it looks fairly hacky. I keep the USB cable and battery bank next to the Google Home Mini closest to the patio, making it easy to unplug and move outside as needed.
There are third-party products that seamlessly add this portability to your smart speaker, but it was just another thing to buy (and the availability wasn’t there in Canada).
One concern I have is with respect to weather resistance (i.e., rain or splashes of water from the kids), but it’s something that I’m willing to gamble with for how much it costs ;).