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Matt
 

QOTW: This week we talk home automation

This week, we were inspired to discuss home automation after @Joel R raised the question in a topic.

With so many commercial options available now, such as Alexa, Siri and Google Home, we started discussing what automation we have in our homes. This week we'll focus on the a few team members who have heavily automated teams. Although @bfarber's answer "I have kids to help automate the home" was a clear winner.

Marc S (Support technician & cycle injury enthusiast)

For me I just have Hive, which is automation for my central heating system, and an Echo. So I can tell my heating to switch on and off by speaking to the echo if I wish, but to be honest its very rare that I do so. I tend to just use my phone, as it would rely on me being in the same room as my echo. 

I have some lights which are on sensors in my en-suite, and in my entrance hall. I have thought about getting bulbs I can switch on and off with voice control, but I'm honestly not sure how much they would be used in comparison to what they cost to buy. Because of the way my lights are configured, it would cost a fortune to do (for example my living room would need 5 bulbs for the main light). If I decided to go down that route, I would be looking for lightswitch adaptations, rather than bulbs.

Andy  (Developer and Support technician)

This is a hobby of mine so might be a long answer! When I fully renovated my apartment I took the opportunity to go wild and put structured cabling and do all the prep work for a complete system. I use a system designed and manufactured by a company in my local area (Idratek.com) as the “controller” which handles heating, lighting, presence detection, intercoms, door locks etc and binds everything together. I installed everything myself and in total used about 2km worth of cat5e wiring with hidden magnetic reed switches recessed in door and window jams. I’ve then extended this by adding integrations with other things such as Hue lighting, automated curtains, zoned heating, a smart kettle and cameras etc. A particular favourite of mine is the integration with Logitech Squeezebox. If somebody rings the doorbell or calls me on Skype then the volume automatically decreases in the room I’m in so I can take the call.

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This system goes beyond the mainstream ad hoc automation kits such as Hue and other retail “smart” products in that it’s not just motion detection but presence. So for example if you’re in a room and the doors and windows are closed the system knows you are in that room until the door is opened. So if you’re sat still reading the light won’t turn off on you but it will still turn off automatically as soon as you leave. There’s no relying on extended 10 minute time outs. Lighting is controlled using internal and external light level sensors too so there’s no messing about adjusting the on/off times with seasonal changes.

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The system has all the usual smartphone controls but the idea is that it is truly “smart” in that once set up there is little intervention required. Heating is weather compensated for example and although curtains open automatically once the sun comes up, they won’t do so if you’re still in the room to prevent inadvertent flashing to neighbours. If you open a window in a room then the radiators in that room and connecting rooms are automatically switched off so you’re not wasting money heating the outside. I like to kid myself that I’m saving money but in reality the money I have spent probably exceeds any savings I will make in two lifetimes. So if I’m not saving money at least I’m being eco friendly whilst having some fun seeing how far I can push the tech.

Mark W (The Senior Developer)

I'm not as crazy as Andy, but I do have quite a bit of stuff:

  • All the lights in the house are Hue. These are coupled with motion sensors (Hue motion sensors which also handily double as temperature and light sensors) but for completeness, I took all of the light switches off the walls, replaced the switches with a blank plate which I then added Hue Dimmer Switches on top of - this means that I can still use "normal" light switches when I want to.
  • I have a Hive thermostat, and wrote a Homebridge plugin (https://github.com/mark-wade/homebridge-hive) to allow me to control it with Homekit, which is what I use to tie all my stuff together (Homebridge itself is running on a Raspberry Pi)
  • I have a coffee machine and kettle from Smarter, which I also have Homebridge plugins for.
  • Every room has a Sonos (Play:1 in bedroom and bathroom, Play:3 in office, kitchen and living room), again with Homebridge plugins

I have automation set up to:

  • Turns the lights and music on and off as I move throughout the house
  • Turn the coffee machine on after I go into my office in the morning
  • Turn everything off and turn the thermostat down once everyone has left the house

But, because I use Homekit to tie it all together, I also use Siri quite a lot. "Hey Siri, turn the coffee machine on" literally never gets old.

I'd really like to get a smart door lock and window blinds, but I'm still waiting for products that are actually decent to arrive on the market (there's a lot of US-centric stuff available, but here in the UK we normally need to wait a bit longer).

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Mark H (Support Technician and part-time Phil)

I use an ISY-994i by Universal Devices, which controls *almost* all lights in the house, the door locks (Schlage Z-wave), and is integrated with my: 

  • Elk security system
  • OneLink fire/CO alarms
  • 3 Raspberry PI's with temperature sensors (DS2482-100 I2C to 1-Wire IC) 
  • Logitech Harmony
  • Davis weather station (Vantage Pro 2)

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The mobile App I use to control this all, is Orchestrated Mobilinc.

Daniel (Support Technician and Developer)

A Raspberry Pis running HomeBridge
2 Amazon Dots + 3 Logitech Harmony Hubs & Elite Controllers allow me to control everything via remote controls, phone or voice.

Lights: Hue
Sound: Sonos in all rooms
I have also dozen of homekit compatible sockets to control some none smart devices via the system.
The Harmony Hub but also the Raspberry allow me also to control Dyson Fans.
Since I moved to a Samsung Phone it's quite a mess because I had to find an alternative to control the homekit stuff

Quite clearly, giving developers a box of gadgets and some spare time can lead to very creative things. Do you have any home automation? Do you prefer Alexa to Google Home? Do you also want to move into Andy's house? Let us know.

 


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