Home Automation

Home Automation

Change Hue Light Colors with Alexa

Hue and Lifx bulbs have been supported with Amazon’s Echo/Alexa ecosystem for a long time. One of the missing elements, the ability to specify specific colors or temperatures, was missing, although cool third party integration with Yonomi allowed you to create routines to handle specifying colors.

While Hue has been supported natively for a long time, to turn on the new functionality, go to the Alexa app or web page, search for “Hue” and enable the skill.

hue alexa colors

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Alexa, turn on my home theater–AnyMote Awesomeness

Heaven forbid that I should have to lift a handheld remote in my very Smart Home. I got to thinking that with everything I’ve voice enabled here, I had not done anything with my home theater equipment. I’ve got a bunch of stuff downstairs in the Living Room and a bunch of stuff in the Master Bedroom. I’ve already got a Harmony Ultimate Hub/Remote in the Bedroom and an old and dying Harmony 1100 in the Living Room that I’m replacing with AnyMote Home.

I decided it was time to experiment with Alexa voice control. The TLDR; version of this post is that AnyMote, which takes concentration and time to set up (and is pretty geeky when it comes to advanced functions), coupled with the Alexa AnyMote skill is awesome.

Here’s a quick list of what my two Home Theater’s include for major components:

Living Room Bedroom
Samsung LN52B750 TV

Sony STR-DA4ES Receiver

Samsung BD-F5900 BD Player

Comcast DCX 3400 DVR

Apple TV

Amazon Fire TV

WD Live Hub

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

5.1 Surround Speakers

Old Yamaha Receiver

Old LT-P326W Samsung TV

Comcast DCX 3400 DVR

Samsung BD-5900 BD Player

5.1 Surround Speakers

anymoteHarmony 1100 harmony hub

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Netgear’s Arlo Q Security Cam is a Winner

 

I’ve had quite a few different IP/Security Cameras from various vendors like D-Link, Foscam, Insteon, etc. going back to my first IP based wifi camera that was an 802.11b DCS1000W from D-Link. The early cameras were for geeks only (like me) and required knowledge of networking protocols like port forwarding and more to get the most out of these first and second generation cameras.

IP Cameras are now an integral part of Home Security and the field of DIY Security Camera players has grown considerably.

Netgear asked me to take a look at their newest camera, the Arlo Q indoor camera, and provided me with a review sample for this purpose. The TL; DR version of this post is “this is the camera to get”.

Like some of the current crop of cameras, the Arlo Q offers 1080p HD streaming, audio and video motion sensing/alerts, but unlike the other contenders for this market, Arlo Q offers FREE event based 7 day cloud video storage (you can buy more and even set up continuous video recording, but 7 days revolving storage for FREE sets it apart from the others). Plan details are at https://community.netgear.com/t5/Arlo-Knowledge-Base/What-are-the-available-Arlo-subscription-plans-and-how-much/ta-p/88 (my opinion is that the Basic Free Plan is great and should be enough for most folks).

There are multiple ways to actually mount the camera, including a magnetic base for metal surfaces (the mag mount is strong). A nice long power cord (really a long USB adapter and wall wart plug with USB slot) is included. There’s also a wall mount and mounting screws, etc. included in the box, so there’s lots of flexibility.

in the box

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Insteon and Sonos Happy Together

 

insteon

I’ve had my Sonos Play 5’s since 2010 and started my Insteon Connected Home in 2012. And now, I’m happy to say that Insteon has made it possible to incorporate Sonos speakers in my little connected world. As announced at CES 2016, Insteon integration makes it possible to incorporate music into your Insteon scenes, control scenes and playback via keypads, mini remotes and more, and use the Insteon App to control speakers.

Supported features are as follows:

Control play, pause, volume, and tracks for a Sonos Player from an Insteon Keypad, Mini Remote or Wall Switch

Trigger a Sonos preset from an Insteon Keypad, Mini Remote or Wall Switch

Use a scene to trigger a Sonos preset

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HomeKit, Philips Hue Bridge 2.0, and Siri Stops Working

 

Philips Hue has some awesome lights and devices for decorating your home with light and providing home automation. The original Philips Bridge enabled me to control lights via an iPhone app and a few third party iOS apps let me sync to music and movies. It was cool. Then Philips released Bridge 2.0, a HomeKit enabled device that added Siri voice control from iOS devices and the Apple Watch. I already had Insteon and Lutron HomeKit enabled bridges and products and went rushing around to buy the new bridge.

It sure was great to push a button on my Apple Watch and let Siri turn on some lights, especially from my car as I was pulling up to my front door. I’ve set up some scenes, defined by color and lights, so when I tell Siri to turn on TV time, I get red and blue Hue Bloom lighting turned on.

tv time bloom

I’ve got a daylight and blue light scene for my kitchen. (And I can even tell Siri to set the Kitchen to Pink if that is my current mood).

 

kitchen

And I’ve got a bunch of color scheme scenes for the stairway going from the first floor to the second floor.

 

stairway

Siri can dim individual lights by percent and more. It’s pretty handy. And of course Siri turns on my individual Insteon powered and Lutron powered devices, scenes, rooms, zones and more. Between my iPhone and my Apple Watch, I can use Siri to control everything. (Note: Amazon’s Alexa voice control can turn my Insteon powered lights and some of my Hue devices, excluding Lightstrips for some reason, on and off.)

Except when it all stops working with Siri.  https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7275389  and Reddit and elsewhere all have posts from unhappy users.

While bridges from other vendors seem to work without glitches, Hue’s Bridge 2.0 suffers from some kind of bug where there are several conditions that will cause Siri and HomeKit to stop working (only for the Hue devices, the other devices continue to work fine). Resetting HomeKit in certain situations will also not fix the issue as the Hue App reports “Another user already paired the HomeKit enabled bridge. Please ask the user to share his / her home kit settings in order for you to start using Siri voice control“. There’s nothing you can do to fix this. Reset your bridge and it may work for a while, but one to four hours later, bang, stops working. Rinse and repeat. In fact, simply resetting HomeKit may trigger this issue. It’s a mess.

The scenarios that cause this may be related to owning more than one iOS device configured with the SAME iCloud ID.https://discussions.apple.com/message/29148317#29148317 And whether or not having bridges from multiple vendors is part of the recipe for failure is also unknown. I’ve heard of related issues with folks sharing their Home as well https://discussions.apple.com/message/29148317#29148317. Apparently the user you share with has to delete a “Primary Home” and then possibly can control a Shared Home. I haven’t tried myself.

I probably called support 8 times. I kept asking for a replacement bridge. I was turned down multiple times. I was told a fix was coming. Sometimes I was told it was Philips App fix and other times I was told it was a HomeKit/iOS fix. Escalation said that engineering could not reproduce the issues. After a few more calls a week ago, Philips agreed to replace my bridge.

I changed my two other iOS devices to a different iCloud ID and reset HomeKit on those devices. I left the iPhone as it was. I set up the new bridge (had to use the serial number/mac addresses of all my lights) and for a while the Hue App saw both the old and new bridge even though the old bridge was offline and reset. But Siri/HomeKit functionality returned and is still working 5 days later.

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