Home Automation Setup with Apple #HomeKit

I’ve been asked to blog out my current home setup and this is an attempt to do that. As well, I’m also posting some video reviews of different HomeKit accessories. Work in process, but I’ll do the short version here.

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Apple HomeKit

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I chose to use the Apple homeKit framework as the base for my home automation journey for a few reason. The biggest one is that I already owned a couple of Apple TV (gen4) devices which fit the home automation hub role. These devices are a homeKit hub and are the always-on/always-present devices that are used to perform orchestration/automation actions when I’m home or away. These also tie directly into Apple’s iCloud which allows me remote access to my homeKit gear without having to VPN into my home network.

 

Home Setup Room-By-Room

There’s a lot to talk about here, but I thought I would just do a quick description of what’s going on room-by-room with any specific features or automations that I’ve got setup. 

 

Front Entrance (outside)

DoorBell

I’ve got a Ring Pro Doorbell which is NOT HomeKit compatible yet. They’ve been promising for a couple of years and have assured me, both publicly and in DMs, that they are committed to updating the Ring Pro for HomeKit support. Small issues with the wiring of my house, but I was able to eliminate the doorbell chime itself and get the Ring Pro up and running. The Ring Chime Pro was a nice addition as well which I’ve got setup in the living room. 

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Lights

For the lights, I’ve got the front entrance lights tied to a Luton Caseta light switch in the house which is setup with an automation to turn the lights on at Sundown and turn them off at Sunrise. This is nice in that the system automatically checks the internet to see exactly what time those will be everyday. Living in a Northern country, Sunrise/Sunset can vary pretty wildly throughout the year. This automation lets me get the benefits of a timer system but without the hassle of changing the timer every month as the times change. 

The one thing I haven’t automation yet is the flood motion light.  I would really like to get a ring floodlight cam but I’m not investing any more money into Ring until they deliver on their promise around the doorbell. 

Front Entrance (inside)

Lock

I decided to not replace the whole deadbolt system and just use the August lock which fits nicely on top of most existing locks.  I particularly like the August iPhone App feature which automatically unlocks your front door as you pull in the driveway. Really nice to not have to mess around with keys. 🙂

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Sensor

In addition to the lock, I also installed an Elgato Eve Door & Window sensor on the front door. Just because it’s locked, doesn’t mean it’s closed. 🙂 Yes, I found that out the hardware. 

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Lights

In the mud-room, I’ve got a light which is connected to the same Lutron Caseta which controls the outdoor lights. Once you’re in the house, I’ve got a Philips Hue motion sensor which turns on a Philipps Hue GU10 light bulb at the bottom of the stairs. Unfortunately, the Philippe Hue motion sensors are not exposed directly to HomeKit, so I was forced to setup an on/off automation pair for a Lutron Caseta switch which controls 6 GU10 lights in the ceiling. 

Living Room

Sensors

I’ve got a Elgato Eve Degree for tracking general room stuff ( temperature, air pressure, humidity ). 

Cameras

I’ve got a Dlink Omna 180HD camera which, at the time of this writing, is the only camera on the market with official HomeKit support. I was unsure about it when I first installed it, but it’s started to grow on me.  The device is billed as a 180 degree camera which gives me full view of my kitchen/dining room/living room areas ( open concept ) and also provides night vision.  The one feature that seems to get used the most though is the 2-way audio which lets me talk with someone in the living room without having to be physically present.  

Parent note: Also handy to check in on the kids discretely to see what’s happening when you hear things starting to go sideways. 

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Lights

The living room definitely has the most complicated light setup in the whole house. I’ve got GU10 ( recessed lights.) through the whole upstairs which can be quite expensive with the Philipps Hue systems. So the living room is the only place I used the GU10 in mass. Typically, I would use a Lutron Caseta switch to power a bunch of GU10 bulbs ( anything over 2 bulbs and the Lutron is cheaper!!!), but for the entertainment area, I really wanted to have the ability to set different scenes.  Philipps Hue has a bunch of different models available and for the living room, I decided to use 

  • Philipps Hue GU10 lights ( both coloured and white )
  • Philipps Hue Bloom ( accent light )
  • Philipps Hue Light Strip

The combination of these products let’s me go from regular family to chill movie watching with the touch of a button.  I’ve also got a coupe of IFTT automations setup to help manage the kids schedule.

At 8:10pm, the coloured GU10 lights go purple which is a visual signal for them to stop what they’re doing and get ready for bed. If they are quick, they can come back and finish whatever they are doing. At 8:30, every light in the living room flashes to let them know it’s time to go to bed.  To be honest, the flashing light is pretty rough, but it is definitely impossible to ignore, even for a kid who’s deep into a Minecraft session. 

Other

The other thing I added to the Living room is a Logitech Pop button with the HomeKit Bridge.  Voice control with Siri is great and all, but it’s also nice to be able to just tap a button to set the scene.  You can set three different scenes with the button which I’ve chosen as follow

  • Single Press – Turns on the Living Room lights bright scene. This is “normal” mode
  • Double Press – Turns on Movie time Scene. Dims lights and turns on the Philipps Hue lights for accent lighting.
  • Long Press – Turns on Good night Scene which turns off all the lights, locks the doors, etc… 

Dining Room

Lights

Dining Room is pretty simple. I have 6 lights controlled by a Lutron Caseta light switch. I also got a couple of Ikea Accent Light Boxes which are hooked up to an iDevice plug. This gives me a candle-light vibe without the fire. 

BackDoor

The dining room opens directly onto a small deck. This is an entry point with I wanted to add a bit of security to. I used the Elgato Eve Door & Window sensors

To let me know when the door opens and closes. This is really nice when you’re leaving the house for a quick “Hey, Did I close the back door?” check.  It doesn’t tell me if I locked it or not. Still haven’t found a solution to that problem.

Kitchen

Lights

Kitchen lights are also pretty simple. Overhead is 6 GU10 bulbs controller by a single Lutron Caseta switch. I’ve got under cabinet lighting as well that I’m planning on adding another Lutron switch to control.  Idea here is to setup a motion sensor to turn on the under cabinet lighting at night. No need to blind anyone, right?

Sensors

 I have an iHome iS550 5-1 sensor in the kitchen. No particular reason to be honest. I originally bought this for the master bedroom but it didn’t work out at all. Constantly lost wifi signal and the fact that it’s a wall-powered device makes it difficult to hide. 

Hallway to Bedrooms

Lights

In the hallway to bedrooms I have a couple of Philipe Hue GU10 bulbs with a motion sensor setup. This automatically turns on the lights as you walk down the hallways. I have young kids ( 6 -10 -11) who need to get up at night, so I also setup a rule that turns the lights in to a “nightlight” mode if motion is detected after 9pm. Keeps the blinding of the children down and makes sure that they can still hit the target in the ‘wee hours of the morning. 

Kids Bedrooms

Kid1

Lutron Caseta Switch for the ceiling lights. I also setup a Philipps Hue bloom with the sunrise scene turned on to help him get out of bed in the morning. His room is in the basement, so I also got a fibaro window & door sensor as his room is in the basement. 

Kid2

I’ve got a Philipps Hue color light bulb paired with the Philipps Hue Light switch.  He’s also got a colorful “moonlight” which is connected to an iDevice plug. This is connected to a time-of-day based automation which turns it on at bedtime and off at midnight ( after he’s fallen asleep). The Philipps Hue color bulb is also setup for the sunrise scene

Kid3

Of the three kids room, this was the hardest. We had legacy fluorescent light that simply didn’t work with the Lutron Caseta light switch. I ended up replacing the light fixture completely as I REALLY like the Lutron switches. I also have a Philipps Bloom setup with, you guessed it, the sunrise scene.

Master BedRoom

Lights

No ceiling lights in the master bedroom, so I use a couple of different lamps. One lamp I’ve used a Philipps Color bulb, and then other large lamp I use a Lutron Caseta wall plug.  The large lamp uses small candle bulbs ( not sure the exact model ) and it was far easier to just grab the Lurtron Caseta wall plug. The Caseta wall plug also acts as a repeater extending the range and reliability of the Lutron automation. ( Luton uses a protocol called ClearConnect, not wi-fi or bluetooth).   There’s also a Philipps Go light in the master bedroom as well. The Philipps Go is great as it’s got an internal battery. This came in handy recently when we got hit by a power outage. 🙂 

Sensors

 I originally used the iHome iS550 sensor in the master bedroom, but it just didn’t work out. Iswapped it for the Elgato Eve Room Sensor which has been working great. The Elgato Eve Room sensor is a bluetooth device and is power by batteries, so no issues with disconnecting wifi networks or losing the device completely during a power outage.  The Eve room sensor gives me temperature and humidity. I then use this measurement as a trigger to either turn on the humidifier if the air is too dry. 

The room also measures VoC ( volatile organic compound ) or air quality. As allergy season is about to hit, I’m going to get an indoor room air-purifier and use the VoC measurement to turn the purifier on or off. 

Humidifier

The humidifier is a generic Honeywell humidifier. I got lucky in this is an analog switch based unit. This means that if it’s in the ON position and you plug it in, it just starts working. I use an iDevices wall plug (with Nightlight!) to control whether or not the power is turned on to the humidifier. Basically, if it gets to dry, as measured by the Elgato Eve Room sensor, a trigger is sent to the iDevices wall plug to turn on and start pumping a little moisture into the air. 

Air Purifier

 I don’t have the air purifier setup yet, but planning on this as my next purchase. Same basic principal as the Humidifier, but replace with the purifier. If the air quality is poor, as measured by the Eve Elgato room sensor, then the power to the plug turns on and the air starts getting clearer. 

Home Office

Lights

 The home office lights are using the Lutron Caseta switch. I also included an Elgato Eve Motion Sensor to automatically turn on the lights when I walk in the office. The Eve is Bluetooth based and doesn’t have the response that the Philipps Hue motion sensor does, but the 2-3 second delay doesn’t bother me at all when I know I’m going to be in the office for awhile.  The Eve motion sensor also turns on some desk accent lighting which has been plugged into an Eve Elgato Energy wall plug.  In a nutshell, the lights turns on when I walk in the office and the lights turn off when I’m no longer there ( after a 15 minute period of no movement detected ). 

Sensors

In addition to the Eve Elgato motion sensor mentioned above, My home office is in the basement, so I also included a couple of Eve Elgato Door & Window sensors to make sure the house is secured.  Living in a northern country, leaving the window open can have consequences. 

Laundry Hallway

Lights

This was my latest addition. I noticed that when I walked downstairs with the laundry basket in my hands, I had to put it down to turn on the light. I know. The horror!!!!   I installed 2 Philipps Hue GU10 bulbs with a Philipps Hue Motion sensor to automatically turn on the lights as I carry my basket.  Kid1’s room is also at the end of this hallway, so I also setup the nightlight ( 5% light.) to trigger if it’s after 9pm. No need to blind the kid, right?

BackYard

Plug

I have a single iDevices outdoor plug which I use to plug in my electric lawn mower. Although this is a dual-plug unit, both plugs are controller simultaneously meaning that they are both ON or OFF.  The plug is set up to be off during the week and power on at 9pm on Friday night. Just enough time to get a full charge to mow the lawn on the weekend.  

As the season gets colder, I’m planning on using this to power the Christmas lights as well. Plan is to setup a time-based trigger to turn on the lights at Sundown to save a little electricity. 

Garage

Lights

I have a single Philipps A19 bulb with a Philipps Hue motion detector installed to run on as motion is detected in the garage. I also had a spare Koogeek Smartsocket that I plugged a regular A19 light bulb into. I’ve setup an ON/OFF trigger pair to turn the Koogeek light to match the Philipps hue light.

The one other thing to note in the garage is a time-of-day automation I setup to prevent me from banging my head until the wee hours of the morning. At 11pm, the lights go into nightlight mode reminding me to go to bed and work on it tomorrow.  

Boiler Room

This is really just a small closet which contains the hot water tank and my furnace. I installed a Fibaro flood sensor in here to detect any leaks before they become a big problem. The hot water tank is a little bit older. Installing the leak sensor just gives me a little peace of mind. This sensor also includes a temperature sensor which is super important for a water tank in a northern country. If it starts to get cold, bad things can happen. Not a bill I’m interested in seeing. 

Downstairs Windows

There are a few different windows in my basement that I installed the Elgato Eve Door & Window sensors on. Peace of mind to make sure that we’re all locked up when we leave at night. Already mentioned, but also important when you live in a Northern country. Bad things can happen when the inside of your house goes below freezing temperatures. 

What’s next?

As you can tell, I’ve really developed a passion for home automation. I currently only have two projects I’m planning, but as new HomeKit enabled devices come out, I expect this list to grow. 

HomeBridge Nest Thermostat integration

The Nest thermostat is not currently Apple homeKit compatible. The Homebridge project exists to let non-Homekit devices participate in a HomeKit ecosystem. I recently purchased a RaspberryPi3 for this purpose. My goal here is basic thermostat integration into the rest of my smart home. 

Soma Smart Shades

Soma has recently announced a HomeKit bridge for pre-order. I’m pretty wary about ordering any products without the HomeKit certification. Too many companies which have announced HomeKit support and never delivered. Soma is an after-market device which connects to your existing shades and allows you to control them as part of your smart home.  Combine this with the different temp sensors and we can do some interesting things such as 

  • Shut Blinds at 12pm every day
  • Shut blinds when outdoor temperature exceeds desired indoor temperature
  • Open blinds at 4pm
  • Shut blinds for Movie Time scene

 

Hopefully this was interesting. If you have any questions or want more information, feel free to post in the comments below or to reach out on twitter 

@netmanchris

iHome iS550 5:1 Sensor Review – I always feel like Somebodies watching me…

Product

Protocol

Ecosystems

Rating

 iHome  iSS50 5:1 Sensor  Wifi ( 2.4 Ghz )   NewImage

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 Two Stars

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Overview

From the product page 

5-in-1 SmartMonitor, 24/7 Home monitoring from anywhere

Your home is now the “home of the future”. Monitor crucial aspects of your home environment from anywhere in the world. The free iHome Control app allows users to further automate their home. Works with SmartPlugs (sold separately) connected to lights or appliances. Set rules with iHome Control app to control connected devices based on any of the 5 sensors.

The iS550 is supposed to be an all-in-one sensor. It covers

  • motion
  • temperature
  • sound
  • light
  • humidity
One of my goals with my SmartHome setup is to allow the house to dynamically act on the world around it. Not just automating time-of-day routines, but actually reacting to whatever is happening in the house at a specific point in time. At face value, the 5:1 is a potential gold-mine given all the different sensors embedded in this thing. Lots of potential scenes that can be triggered based on the various measurements that the iS550 can provide.
 
Off the top of my head, some of the triggers and scenes I would like to setup might be
  • Trigger Lights and Cameras on Large Sound – After all, a window sensor probably won’t notify you if the window is broken. 
  • Turn on Humidifier when the room becomes too dry
  • Turn on the lights based on the motion sensor, but only when the daylights below a certain level
  • Turn on the furnace when the temperature in the room drops below a certain temperature
  • Turn on the air conditioner when the temperature in the room raises above a certain threshold
  • Close the curtains when the light is brighter than a certain threshold

There are a ton of possibilities with this thing and they only increase as you add more devices to your SmartHome setup!

Setup

Setup was easy. That’s one of the big usability improvements that Apple HomeKit brings to the table. You simply scan in the HomeKit code and the device is added. The WSC (Wireless Simple Configuration ) protocol is used to automatically transfer over your current wi-fi settings to the device so there’s no requirement to manually type in long WPA2 or passphrase or deal with any of the wireless configuration details at all. I’m sure that some of my wireless engineer friends might not like the lack of configurability, but from as typical home-user I’m sure this simplicity is much appreciated. 

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Aesthetics

The iS550 is a bit chunky for my tastes. The fact that it’s also USB powered is also a drawback for me. I’m not a big fan of the dangling cords. A bit of cable management might spruce this up, but the cable and USB power supply are both pieces which I would rather not have to deal with. The fonts on the display screen are built to be able to see across the room, not for fashion. It’s definitely a utility piece, not a conversation piece. 

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Usability

 The iS550 was supposed to be a centre piece for me, but unfortunately, it really hasn’t worked out that way. Some of this is an issue with the iHome design. Some of this is an issue with the Apple Home application. The biggest problem I have with the 5:1 sensor is that fact that it REQUIRES me to plug it into a wall. This really limits my ability to place this where I want to. I’m limited by the distance between the device and the closet electrical socket, as well the requirement for an ugly USB cable dangling out the back (as mentioned above) ruins the appeal of this device, at least for me.  Yes, in theory I could hide it behind something, but then the sensors would lose their effectiveness. Light would be filtered out, sounds would be muffled, motion would be blocked. Definitely not something we’re looking for from a sensor with these capabilities. 

The other issue I has is the lack of automation triggers within the Apple Home app itself. I’ve got a 5:1 sensor here, but unfortunately, the Apple Home app only allows be to create triggers based on the motion sensor. 

Setting Triggers

Native Apple Home App

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Home App

Fortunately the Home app (not to be confused with the Apple’s native Home app) has the ability to create triggers based on Humidity, Light, Motion, and Temperature sensors. No sounds yet, but I did make the request to the developer so hopefully that’s coming soon. 

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And in some true silliness, the triggers created in the Home app DO in fact appear in the Apple native Home app, you just can’t create them there.

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iHome Native App

The iHome app, as can be expected, has the most capabilities. When setting up triggers in the iHome App,you can choose to either get a notification or control a plug (the Koogeek plugs do show up as an option here as well!), and the rule type can be

– time based ( schedule)

– sensor based ( the iS550)

– Nest Home/Away Based – Uses the Nest Home/Away 

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Random Loss of Network

The one other major drawback that I place at iHome alone is the random loss of connectivity from the wireless network. I’ve emailed iHome support on this particular case and there response was that I should move the unit blaming my wireless network. This would work except for two things…

  1. All my other devices work fine in this particular room
  2. I’ve got 3 access points covering my house, so the chances of poor signal are minimal to say the least
  3. The device needs to be plugged in!!!!! Where do they expect me to move it?
I’m hoping this may be fixed in a future firmware, but currently this severely lowers my trust in this device. 

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SDK

I was not able to find any SDK available and when I contacted support they were “not aware” of any such thing.   

Pros

 The iHome IS550 is the only HomeKit compatible sensor on the market that has this many sensors. The possibilities with this many inputs are truly staggering. Imagine

Security Application – If the host is set for AWAY and there’s a large sound ( like a broken window ) a notification could be sent to your phone. As well, you could potentially trigger a camera to turn on and send pictures to your phone. 

Don’t Turn on Lights when Sunny – Combine the motion sensor and the light sensor to only turn on the lights when the motion sensor is triggered AND the light sensor is beneath a specific value.

Turn on Humidifier when Air is too dry – If the humidity in the room drops below a certain threshold, turn on a smart plug that has a humidifier in it. Or alternately, if the humidity sensor raises above a certain threshold turn on the wall socket with a dehumidifier in it. 

Save $$$ –  If temperature raises above a threshold and the light sensor is above a certain threshold, automatically close the curtains.

There are a ton of different applications you could use with this thing!   

Cons

Limited Support in Apple Home App: The Apple Native Home app only supports the motion sensor to create triggers. The other sensors can only be accessed through the iHome or other application. The sound sensor isn’t available at all. (Note: There is currently no HomeKit support for Sound sensors, so this really isn’t a problem with the iHome iS550, but rather the HomeKit framework itself ).  

No SDK:  public facing SDK. Speaks for itself here.

Limited compatibility: This device does work with my Nest thermostat, which is nice, but no support for Amazon Alexa or Googlehome. (Note: iHome just announced Googlehome support for their line of smart plugs, so hoping this support may be added in future firmware. )

Unreliable Network Connection: The fact that this device looses network connectivity means that I can’t depend on it for any security applications based on the sound or motion sensor. 


Final Thoughts

The iHome iS550 is a device that has a lot of potential. It’s definitely the most capable device in the market as far as sensors. This was the major factor in deciding to add this to my SmartHome setup, but the reality leaves a lot to be desired. The loss of network connectivity and the requirement for USB power and the ugly cable it brings along means that it’s pretty limited in where I can place it and how much I can hide it. 

If what you’re looking for is a convenience device that can be used to trigger various SmartHome scenes while you’re home, this is probably not a bad buy. Especially as it’s the only product on the market that I’m aware of with the sensor capabilities that the iS550 brings to the table.  But if you were looking for a sensor to use as part of your home security strategy, I would keep looking. Too much of a chance that the device is going to loose network connectivity when you need it the most. 

Questions, Comments, Corrections?  Feel free to comment below!