Using Home Automation Systems
My preference for home automation is always going to be with HomeKit due to my liking for Apple and the components/accessories that will work with it. My experience so far with HomeKit accessories is that it’s been very easy to setup and use. The whole thing of – It just works! I have HomeKit accessories for my home automation from two sources at present. These are the Hue Lights from Philips and the security devices from Elgato Eve. I’m able to get the devices from these two different companies to work with each other. I can have lights turned on by the Elgato Eve motion detector or by the door and window sensors I have fitted. This does mean to a certain extent I will be stuck with keeping within the HomeKit environment or walled garden as some people like to call it. For my part I really don’t care just so long as it does what I want it to do. So far that has been the case and Homekit home automation systems are easy to setup. I am also drawn to looking at more good and geeky ways of achieving home automation. There are some fantastic videos on YouTube showing how people have used setups such as IFTTT, MQTT servers, Home Assistant, Raspberry Pi, Arduino and other microprocessors. These are not all HomeKit compatible, but it is possible to use these systems with some accessories that are in the HomeKit universe. I tested it today and saw it was possible to use Home Assistant running on a web browser and switch on the Philips Hue Lights.
Using the Amazon Echo for home automation
I am tempted to buy a Amazon echo or more likely a Amazon Dot. My wife doesn’t carry around her iOS devices and has the muscle memory of hitting the switch on the wall to turn lights off. When the lights are turned off at the switch then they do not react to controls via HomeKit. I have to admit it’s driving me nuts. She is doing her best and will apologise profusely when she realises what she’s done. I think she likes the automation’s I have set up but is just taking some time to get used to it. If we had an Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot it would be always listening and maybe she’d be more likely to speak the commands to turn the lights on and off. The kitchen lights are easy because they are turned on by an motion sensor after dusk. They are programmed to turn off after two minutes. I did have it set to 3 minutes but it was more likely that my wife would use the switch when it was set to 3 minutes. The person who pays a electricity bill is obviously going to be concerned by the cost of leaving lights on. The good thing about using these new fancy LED light bulbs is that they are extremely frugal using the electric juice. Last week during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales the Amazon Echo was reduced in price as was the Amazon Dot. I should have bought one when they were cheaper. I’m inclined to wait until the January sales and see if they will be more reductions available. The Echo devices are good choices for any Home automation systems you might set up.
Advantages of using Home Assistant rather than HomeKit
One advantage I can see with the Home Assistant is that you can have more control over the automation. The level of automation with HomeKit to a certain extent is about the same as you get with If This Then That. That comes down to one trigger and one effect happening based on the trigger. There are most heavily certain occasions when you want to have more than one trigger. This is easy enough to get around by duplicating the automation to have different triggers. It’s not so easy to get around the conditionals you might want to introduce. An example of this would be if I have the lights and television turnoff when I leave the house. This is fine in theory but if by wife is still at home and I leave. The trigger will activate based upon a the GPS location of my iPhone or it will trigger based upon the front door being closed. I need this to not work if my wife is still inside the house. I could see her getting quite miffed if she’s watching a television programme and everything is turned off by the automation. I can imagine there being steam coming out of her ears and a few choice words. From my initial browsing through the documentation for Home Assistant it seems you are able to add conditionals to the automation. This is why I’m interested in finding out more on how Home Assistant works. With luck, over time the automation features of HomeKit will improve and I’ll be able to keep it all in-house. What are your views on Home automation systems?
This is what I used to set up the Home Assistant sever on my Mac.
I might still put it on the Raspberry Pi instead.