Dabbling in Home Automation and The Internet of Things

Now that I own my own house, and some of the technologies involved are a bit more stable, I’ve gotten into the idea of home automation a bit more. Here’s a quick run down of my current configuration.

At the center of most things, I have a wink hub (first generation). I configure as much as possible through that, since it simplifies interacting with them if they’re all available in one place.

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From there, I have 2 Schlage Connect deadbolts (house and garage doors), which are both programmed with the same set of user codes (has to be done manually). It’s nice to be able to control codes from within the wink app, vs using the on-pad controls.

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To control lights, we have 3 rooms converted over to Lutron Caseta light switches (so far, I’d like to do a few more). This makes it easy to control an entire circuit (all 3 rooms are controlling either 3 or 6 bulbs, so they’d be expensive to convert using individual smart bulbs). They’re super easy to install, and you don’t need their hub thing if you have the wink, which is compatible. I also have 3 iHome Smartplugs, which plug into an outlet, and then let you plug in any standard lamp/appliance, and control it. I don’t love the Smartplugs, and have had some trouble with them dropping their connections, but when they work they’re fine.

Separately, I also have 2 LIFX bulbs, which can be controlled directly, so they are in a couple of lamps that could otherwise be controlled via Smartplugs (I got these bulbs from their Kickstarter way back).

To control all of the above, I actually have everything configured in both an Amazon Echo, and a Google Home. Redundancy FTW, and it’s fun to experiment with each platform.

Technically, also connected to the wink hub, we have some Nest Outdoor security cameras, which have been really fun to play with. I’ve even hooked up a system to automatically take snapshots, which is interesting for comparing seasonal shade profiles for gardening purposes.

Apart from those power/control/security devices, we’ve also current got an Apple TV, a Chromecast (integrates really nicely with the Google Home), and I use Automatic in my truck.

I’ve played around a bit with configuring shortcuts and “robots” (automations), but really haven’t found many that are that useful to be honest. Probably the best one is one that just turns on our kitchen light when we open the back door (which opens basically into the kitchen). I think one of the biggest problems is that I don’t have a great system for handling “presence”, which needs to take me and Erika into account. Without that, anything I automate based on my presence is likely to just be an annoyance for her if she happens to be at home when I’m not (or vice versa).

Areas that I’d be curious to look into automating would be thermostat control (long story as to why I haven’t done this already), external temperature/precipitation, combined with irrigation, and possibly window coverings.

4 thoughts on “Dabbling in Home Automation and The Internet of Things

  1. We use Home Assistant, which provides presence handling for us. In our case, HA has an integration with our Asus router, so presence is tracked by MAC address. We’ve rarely had issues with false positives.

    1. Oh interesting; so when your router sees your devices (phones, I assume) connect, then it marks you as “home”, and when you disconnect, you’re “away”? That’s a pretty neat way of doing it.

      1. Exactly. The integration generates a “known devices” file in Home Assistant, which includes a flag as to whether or not the MAC should be tracked. We only track phones, but we could use laptops and tablets too.

  2. I’m also on Home Assistant. I use [Locative](https://www.locative.io) – a mobile app that makes an HTTPS request to Home Assistant when my phone enters or leaves home. The router is a bit dicey with iOS due to aggressive sleeping, but Locative has been pretty solid. The only caveat is that when Home Assistant restarts it defaults to away.

    The nice thing about Home Assistant is that when you create a group of devices (e.g. my phone and my wife’s) it sets the status as “home” if either is home, and “away” if all devices are away. That makes it easy to create scripts around home vs away status.

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