So this is continuing the series looking at Home Automation solutions, both in terms of the technology that’s available and what it can do for you.
Continuing my theme of available options, I wanted to mention an option I didn’t mention last time, an option that I’ve discovered during my hunt for the home automation holy grail that I hadn’t heard of before. I started to see references to the Vera system quite often, so I’ve looked into it a little bit.
Vera seems to be more of a competitor of the older home automation systems and whilst they’ve got smartphone apps etc, they don’t seem to have quite the power and flexibility of either the SmartThings or NinjaBlocks systems. For instance the Vera system only supports Z-Wave, whereas NinjaBlocks supports Bluetooth, ZigBee, some Z-Wave and those cheapy 433MHz devices. Vera, however, costs more than the NinjaSphere. Personally I know which way I’d go.
So let’s take a look at some more reasons to take another look at home automation. These are just a small selection
Turn on a cooker on your way home
Let’s start again with another relatively trivial example. Let’s say you want to cook something in the slow cooker, but you don’t want it on all day. You want that dish tender but not disintegrated. Maybe it’s a hotpot that’s already been cooked once and you just want to bring it up to temperature without drying it out too much, and you don’t want to use the microwave.
Of course you could just use a timer, but what if you’re late? You could set the timer later just in case, it won’t be too inconvenient to wait for your hotpot. But why not use technology to help yourself out here? There are at least these two options:
Start the reheating with a press of a button on your phone – that might be a button in a controller app, or maybe a text to tell the slow cooker to turn on.
Or if we want to get really clever, have your phone detect when you leave work and start the slow-cooker for you automatically. Look mother, no hands…
Track your pets
If you’ve got pets you’d probably find it interesting to track what they’re doing. You might want to know when the cat is home, maybe you want to know which of the dogs is destroying the sofa every day. Most of the tracking devices that are already available for pets would work with either of the home automation platforms, and they also have additional features that may be of interest.
You could turn off the sprinklers when the dog walks through the back garden, lock the cat flap once the cat is in for the night and get a text message when the dog leaves the garden.
You can also stick tracking tags to all sorts of other things, maybe things you don’t want to be moved – something valuable, perhaps, or just the biscuit barrel…
Intelligent and zoned smoke alarms
If you haven’t already seen the Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide sensors, I highly recommend taking a look! Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here for you…
They’re truly amazing devices, that go far and beyond the bog standard and slightly annoying smoke detectors and word has it that they may work with the NinjaSphere, I’m not sure whether they will work with the SmartThings hub.
The biggest problem with the Nest Protect is that it is £89 per unit and if you want to put one in each room, as they really ought to be, you’re looking at £712 for a typical 3-bed house. Plus, like other smoke detectors, they’ll need to be replaced after a while. 7 years for the current generation of Nest devices.
But if you already have a smart home controller, you could also implement much of what the nest can do using cheaper wireless devices.
This means that you can be told in multiple ways of the first signs of a fire and exactly which room the fire is currently within. Lights can be activated at night, as well as sirens. If you have electronic locks, these can be automatically unlocked to aid your escape. Lastly, if you’re tracking your pets you could be told exactly where in the house they are, so that you can get them out or tell the professionals where they are.
Set the room up for movie night
Lastly, here’s a bit more of a complex example. If you’re a big fan of movie night, but you’re not a fan of effort, how about a single button that closes the curtains, sets the lights, turns on the TV and media centre, sets the right channel and starts the movie. One button.
You can add things to this list if you want, maybe you want to turn on the popcorn machine or silence your phone. If you’re running a home PBX you could forward all calls to voicemail while the film is on.
If it’s electronic or it can be electronically controlled you can control it; if you can stick a tag on it you can track it.
Still not sure? I’ll be doing one more blog post on the possibly endless possibilities of home automation. If you’ve got a scenario and you’d like to know if it’s possible, contact me on here, write a comment or tweet me @CyberneticDave.