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249 posts

Master Geek
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Topic # 247716 18-Feb-2019 21:15
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I'm beginning to plan going down the home automation path and would like some feedback to make sure I'm doing it right.

 

At present, my wife and I both have iPhones as our primary devices. We have a newish Sony 50" smart TV (KDL-50W660F) and a Chromecast. Also a couple of Goldair 400W flat panel heaters that although are WiFi-connected have their own app so I'm not sure how smart they actually are. Additionally, we have a dumb heat pump, don't know if that can be made smarter but it's not at all critical. We have a family subscription to Office 365. I use Spotify, my wife prefers YouTube Music and we have UFB. Kids are around 10 years old.

 

So the idea is firstly to get some smart lighting and then some kind of smart speakers. Later I want to put in garden lighting and a water feature that I can control remotely plus home security, garage and front door controllers, garden watering/moisture monitoring and so on.

 

My research indicates that Philips Hue and a Hue bridge is the place to start. I'm leaning towards Amazon Home. I'm after plug-and-play as I don't want to be hacking niche hardware to get things done.

 

My questions- 

 

  • How does Alexa handle kiwi accents? Siri? Google?
  • How well does Alexa integrate with O365 (calender and so on)? Again, how does this compare to the competition?
  • Should I consider the Apple Homekit ecosystem? I think the Homekit Hue bridge and Philips Hue bridge are identical?
  • What reliance do I have on external servers, in other words if a Philips or Amazon server goes offline, do the lights and Spotify etc stop working? I have heard stories of people being unable to open their garage when their smarthome garage door servers went away.
  • How accessible is the smarthome network when remote from the house?
  • How paranoid should I be about network security? Again, stories of hard-coded device passwords, cleartext WiFi password storage etc.
  • Futureproofing? Compatibility with other ecosystems/new devices?
  • What other options should I consider?

Cheers

 

Jon





I reject your reality and substitute my own!
- Adam Savage, Mythbuster

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3842 posts

Uber Geek
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  Reply # 2183294 18-Feb-2019 21:57
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Points 3,4,5,6 is why I personally prefer the DIY approach.

Anything you buy off the shelf is going to be linked to their own "cloud connected" app. You've got no real idea what info is being collected and who gets that data. Lots of them say "privacy is our number one concern"... but hey so do apple and Google lol.

Google and Alexa have no issue with Kiwi accents.

Although you say no hacking, take a look at Node-Red - its amazingly easy to set up and you will learn plenty if you dont already have the knowledge.
Then for devices look at ESP8266 based things... then flash with either ESP Easy (for general purpose devices where you need flexibility), or Tasmota (aimed mainly towards lighting).

You then begin building something you solely control

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  Reply # 2183400 19-Feb-2019 08:31
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You've not said how hands on you want to be or if you want turnkey.  There's a lot to home automation, from get a bloke in, buy a product/system, to cobbled together diy hardware and an infinite spectrum in between.

 

For my money, OpenHAB/Home Assistant are the way to go.  They're both pretty much free, run on low cost hardware, and have connectivity to pretty much everything that can be connected (apart from the really proprietary cloud connected devices....and given the horror stories you yourself have heard about, they're to be avoided).  But I've heard fairly good things about the vera Home Center and a bit more of a turn key solution but with some flexibility you wont get with individual cloud connected products.

 

You also need to determine you comfort level with getting in a doing it, and the comfort level with cloud connectivity.  Me, I want everything to be local control only.  That drives some of the hardware choices you make.   For external control, I have openhab/home assistant connected to Apples; homekit, which exposes some of my items to the internet....outside lights and the alarm.  90% of my devices are locally use only (of course, I also have a vpn at home if I need to be able to monitor/drive those).

 

 

 

Oh and my advice is to start small.

 

  • implement Home assistant or openhab (both work on a pc/raspberry pi)
  • try out some soft sensors.....weather via web site, other sensors via http that don't require any hardware. 
  • Investigate your heaters..you say they're wifi controllable....have they already gained integration with HA/OH and be easily integrated.   
  • There's a slack channel here (mostly Wellington based where we talk this sort of stuff also: https://wham-slack-inviter.herokuapp.com/)
  • Buy some cheap toys and experiment.  You may end up with 3 or 4 different hardware platforms, eps8288, zwave, zibgee, wifi, each have benefits and disadvantages.  This is where OpenHAB and Home Assistant really come into their own, as they'll talk to everything, and not tie you to one platform.

 

 

 





Previously known as psycik

OpenHAB: Gigabyte AMD A8 BrixOpenHAB with Aeotech ZWave Controller, Raspberry PI, Wemos D1 Mini, Zwave, Xiaomi Humidity and Temperature sensors and Bluetooth LE Sensors
Media:Chromecast v2, ATV4, Roku3, HDHomeRun Dual
Windows 10
Host (Plex Server/Crashplan): 2x2TB, 2x3TB, 1x4TB using DriveBender, Samsung 850 evo 512 GB SSD, Hyper-V Server with 1xW10, 1xW2k8, 2xUbuntu 16.04 LTS, Crashplan, NextPVR channel for Plex,NextPVR Metadata Agent and Scanner for Plex


 
 
 
 


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Master Geek
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  Reply # 2183407 19-Feb-2019 08:53
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Home Automation is still in its 'early adopter' stage of development, so an ideal time to get started as long as you recognise that today's latest development can be rendered obsolete by tomorrow's latest development.

 

I've personally tried, tested and rejected a motley collection of technologies to manage my dumb heat pumps, smart TVs, electric lighting, garage doors and weather stations. 

 

Currently, I'm impressed with the ease of use of Amazon's Alexa and anything that works with it.

 

Good luck with your venture into the world of home automation, just don't expect a full developed and integrated solution from day one. 


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  Reply # 2183417 19-Feb-2019 09:07
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If I were you, I'd start with the Hue Hub and some bulbs, and an Amazon Echo Dot (or, get an Echo Plus, which has a Hue hub built in - it is slightly less functional than the Hue branded one, but saves $149 and is a pretty decent speaker).

 

You can connect the Echo Dot to the Hue hub and control lights with your voice. From there you can expand outwards. I don't think Alexa has skills for your Goldair heaters (doesn't mean it wont ever though I suppose), but you can easily get you heatpump going with Alexa (using a Sensibo is the easiest way), and your TV (Harmony Hub).

 

 

 

I started this way (and haven't moved on). I have my heatpump, lights and home theatre gear controlled by Alexa - WAF is high - she prefers to talk to it than use the remote, and we use the Echo Plus for listening to music. When my HT system dies (it is a Bose Lifestyle system - about 10 years old now) or I am allowed, I'll probably replace it with a sound bar or system with Alexa built in.

 

I've set up quite  a few routines in the Alexa app for turning lights on/off on timers as well as on key words (eg,. Alexa, goodnight will turn a couple of bulbs down to 10%, turn off the TV and turn off whatever other lights are on, then a timer turns off the 10% bulbs at about 12.30am). I have lights that turn on when my phone comes onto the property after a certain time.

 

I intend to experiment a bit with the IFTTT app, which works with Alexa as well (this may be a way to get your heaters working - if they are compatible with IFTTT?)


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  Reply # 2183418 19-Feb-2019 09:07
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I've read a bit recently on the lack of security being built into IOT products and the risk of these being harnessed into botnets.

 

Personally, I don't want a microphone in my house listening 24/7, nor, as an example, do I need my fridge to be connected to the internet - I just require it to keep things cold.

 

Yes, the IOT gives us convenience, but it comes with security risks, plus makes us much more vulnerable from cyber attacks in the future.

 

It's all incredibly interesting, but I'm happy to sit this out for the meantime and watch from the sidelines.


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  Reply # 2183421 19-Feb-2019 09:10
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dafman:

 

I've read a bit recently on the lack of security being built into IOT products and the risk of these being harnessed into botnets.

 

Personally, I don't want a microphone in my house listening 24/7, nor, as an example, do I need my fridge to be connected to the internet - I just require it to keep things cold.

 

Yes, the IOT gives us convenience, but it comes with security risks, plus makes us much more vulnerable from cyber attacks in the future.

 

It's all incredibly interesting, but I'm happy to sit this out for the meantime and watch from the sidelines.

 

 

Some store bought IOT comes with risks.....lets not tar all IOT with the same brush.   There's a lot under this umbrella of IOT and it muddies the water.





Previously known as psycik

OpenHAB: Gigabyte AMD A8 BrixOpenHAB with Aeotech ZWave Controller, Raspberry PI, Wemos D1 Mini, Zwave, Xiaomi Humidity and Temperature sensors and Bluetooth LE Sensors
Media:Chromecast v2, ATV4, Roku3, HDHomeRun Dual
Windows 10
Host (Plex Server/Crashplan): 2x2TB, 2x3TB, 1x4TB using DriveBender, Samsung 850 evo 512 GB SSD, Hyper-V Server with 1xW10, 1xW2k8, 2xUbuntu 16.04 LTS, Crashplan, NextPVR channel for Plex,NextPVR Metadata Agent and Scanner for Plex


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  Reply # 2183425 19-Feb-2019 09:21
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I've only just recently got into this myself.

 

I started with some Hue bulbs and an Amazon Echo dot just to get a feel for things. I soon realised that the Hue bulbs have some downsides like the fact that the wall switch has to remain on and if you want to be able to control them outside of voice or the app, you need to buy Hue switches that in my case sitting next to the old wall switch.

 

Cue Z-wave devices, with z-wave I can put nano-switches behind my traditional light switches that are wired into the electrics. This allows voice and app control as well as the traditional switch still working as normal. Of course, in order to use Z-wave, I needed a bridge so I tried OpenHAB on a Raspberry Pi first but got frustrated with it and just brought a Vera Plus - the Vera just works out of the box.

 

I've since purchased a 433.42mhz bridge for my Somfy electric blinds and have installed Homebridge (integrates Apple homekit) on a Pi. 

 

I now have a bunch of lights (Hue bulbs and Z-wave) and my blinds all controllable via Apple Homekit (Siri) and Amazon Alexa. I have routines set for the morning and when I go to bed and I'm slowly adding more lights to the mix.

 

I can also control my Heatpumps via Alexa as they are Mitsubishi which has direct integration but I mainly use them on timers so haven't voice controlled them a whole lot.

 

Be prepared for a bit of frustration and a lot of time to be spent installing and configuring stuff but I would say it is worth it. 





When you live your life on Twitter and Facebook, and are only friends with like minded people on Twitter and Facebook, you are not living in the real world. You are living in a narcissistic echo chamber.

 


My thoughts are my own and are in no way representative of my employer.


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Wannabe Geek
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  Reply # 2189855 2-Mar-2019 14:42
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I have an echo dot and philips hue bridge in the garage. It's great for turning the lights on/off when carrying things and easy to start/stop spotify music too.

 

Occasionally the hue bridge stops working but it's generally very good.

 

Alexa has no problems with kiwi accents. It can get the occasional word wrong but does a good job of deducing correct words from the context.


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