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Connected Home

Yonomi, LifX, Alexa and Routines (Scenes)

 

I recently discovered the Yonomi App which was the result of a narrow quest to enable voice control for my Sonos stations using Alexa. The Connected Home landscape is still filled with detours and roadblocks, but Amazon’s Alexa (Echo) is what Siri should have been and there is support for far more devices and vendors on the Alexa platform. With the Alexa Skills for developers, the platform is open and growing.

The best of the bunch of existing Alexa Skills is Yonomi. That was my opinion even before the nice folks at Yonomi sent me a LifX 1000 color bulb and a Vita Copenhagen EOS mini feather lamp to add to my connected home. I’ve got some Hue bulbs, lightstrips and Hue Blooms, and I was already enamored of what color does in my home. To me, it is “internal landscaping with light”, but also very functional. Unlike Hue, which needs a hub, LifX is Wi-Fi (and cloud) based. LifX app setup is a little quirky as you need to go and reset your password as no password is configured at all when you set up your light(s), which I see as a huge flaw. Most consumers won’t figure this out as resetting a non-existent password isn’t exactly logicial. But, all in all, my LifX color bulb nestled in my new feather lamp in the guest bedroom is a nice addition to my connected home.

small lifx whitelifx pink

LifX has a nice iOS app, an Android app (that I have no experience with) and wonder of wonders, a Windows App. LifX is possibly alone in official support of the Windows Platform. Insteon made an initial attempt to support the platform, but has seemingly abandoned it, as their Windows App broke around October 2015 and has not been fixed, nor has it been updated with the new functionality available to iOS and Android. Hue has done nothing for Windows users and their iOS app is not very robust. Lutron has done nothing for Windows users. So a shoutout to LifX for being an equal opportunity developer.

windows app

 

I’ve recently added an Echo Dot to my connected home and it resides on my nightstand connected to my first generation Bose Wave/PC radio. Alexa can hear me in the Master Bedroom, the Guestroom. and my Home Office in the Loft above the bedroom. Perfect. Running Smarthome discovery again in the Echo app got my new Feather Lamp discovered immediately. Alexa controls this beautifully including dimming and color changes. The official commands are listed at http://www.lifx.com/pages/alexa – and I customized what I need for my new Feather lamp.

I love my new LifX bulb. Wish I could afford a few more…

Loving the Yonomi App

The Connected Home isn’t about single devices. It’s about getting disparate devices from a variety of vendors to play nice together and create scenes that include mutliple vendors. Alexa has groups, but they don’t handle everything, especially fine control of my Sonos speakers. And here is where Yonomi shines. Yonomi has a long (and growing) list of supported devices. (I’d love to see Yonomi add Insteon and Lutron Caseta hubs to the mix – this would cover everything I currently have in my connected home.)

Yonomi allows you to create both time and geofencing based “routines” (many vendors call these scenes). You can create these and use them from the Yonomi App AND run device discovery in the Amazon Echo app to allow voice control via Alexa for these same routines. At the simplest level, you can create a routine without a time or location dependency by configuring (or leaving on the default setting) Date & Time without any parameters. Then add your action items for your device(s). I created two routines. Feather on and Feather off (shown below). I’ll be adding my Hue gear to the Yonomi authorized list soon and create some more complex “routines” involving turning on lights and Sonos music. Once I complete this, I’ll ask Alexa to run the routine. More information is available from Yonomi on this type of usage.

yonomi sceneyonomi2

My personal style is to set up what I need in the Yonomi App and use Alexa voice control for on demand connected home actions/routines. The location based (geofencing) routines just work automatically, as do the time based routines. So once configured, while I could run routines from the Yonomi app, I prefer voice control. I suspect that when my list of routines gets big, I’ll need to depend more on the app to remind me what I’ve configured, but over time, I intend to use voice control whenever possible.

Roomba!

I’m a geek and proud of it, so when my 26 year old canister vacuum’s motor seized up and died and ugly death, it was a choice of which “connected” vacuum to purchase and not a “should I” purchase decision. There were only two to consider, iRobot’s Roomba 980 and a Neato Botvac Connected Vacuum. While Neato’s vacuum was cheaper, iRobot has been in the business a long time, and I ultimately used that plus reviews and am the happy owner of a Roomba 980.

roomba

There’s no question that these Wi-Fi controllable robotic vacuums are expensive, but using my (admittedly skewed) justification math, if I value my time at $50 an hour (a low ball as I know my time is worth more than that) and compare to a Dyson, or an Electrolux, the extra $$ don’t seem very large. And I get back a couple of extra hours a week that I don’t have to spend dragging the old canister around my home. And if I didn’t mention it, I loathe vacuuming.

Roomba does an awesome job on my carpeted and linoleum floors, switching transparently from carpet mode to floor mode. And Roomba is actually quieter than my old canister.

Roomba 980 comes with a Home Base Docking Station and this amazing little guy finds his way back to the Home Base when a cleaning job is finished or when it needs to recharge in the middle of a cleaning job if the battery runs low. Once charged, Roomba just picks up where it left off. This vacuum comes with these two battery powered virtual lighthouses that work in two different modes that allow you to “mark” areas off limits. So I don’t have to worry about that tangled mess of cords and wires around my Living Room home theater setup.

While you can operate Roomba from the button controls on the top of the device itself, the real advantage is control from your smartphone. Only iOS and Android are supported (same story for the Neato Botvac), but I’ve become accustomed (sadly) to lack of Windows and Windows device support in the Connected Home arena. Fortunately, I have an iPhone.

And the real joy of owning a Roomba is remote control using the smartphone app.

 

 

The App is Everything

On a basic level, the app displays the battery information and all you have to do is tap Clean and let Roomba do its thing. However, you can tap your way down to more functionality that lets you view Care (what parts need cleaning), a History of cleaning jobs/cycles, Settings and even Help.

clean and chargemorecarejob history

 

Cleaning the appliance takes maybe all of 5-10 minutes and the Care status screen lets you visually see what might need attention. While the bin needs to be emptied after each job and the HEPA filter banged against the inside of a trash can a few times after every job, other Care tasks can be done weekly or monthly, depending on usage. The app provides all the info needed to perform these tasks, including videos on “how to” do these things.

 

clean debris extractorshelp videos

If you can’t tell that I’m impressed with this latest addition to my Connected Home.. I can assure you I am.

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

 

 

 

Setting it Up for the First Time

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discover sonosIt takes a few steps to get all of the new features this set up, starting with discovering your Sonos speakers. You can add up to four speakers; they all should be discovered, but you will need to go back and add them one at a time (those already added will be greyed out).

If you have trouble setting up your Sonos speakers, check http://www.insteon.com/support-knowledgebase/ for a solution.

Once you’ve added your Sonos speakers, you can immediately use the Sonos transport controls within the iOS app (Play, Pause, skip, volume up or down, next, previous, etc.).

In order to reap the full benefits of Sonos integration with Insteon, you’ll need to setup presets using the Insteon App in combination with the Sonos app.

 

 

 

 

 

Set Up Presets

Currently, up to 10 presets are supported (and these are shared among all Sonos speakers controlled by Insteon). Also, only Pandora stations are officially supported at this time. I don’t know if other music services will be added over time.

To get started adding presets, the first step is to open the Sonos App on your iPhone and start playing the station you want to configure in the Insteon app.

1. Open the Sonos App and play the station you want to use as an Insteon preset.

2. Go to Devices, Edit Devices, and select a Sonos player and then select Add a Preset.

3. If the station you want is playing, tap Next when prompted.

4. Change the name if you don’t like what is automatically configured and then tap Done.

 

steps add preset

 

Setup Scenes that Include Sonos

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scheduleThis is a very big deal for me. Previously, I could set Sonos Alarms to wake me to music and separately set some schedules scenes in Insteon to turn on lights at the same time. With this new functionality, I’ve been able to create a scene that turns on lights and wake me to the Doobie Brothers Pandora station and use Insteon to schedule an ON time and and OFF time. Once you’ve configured your presets, if you’re familiar with the Insteon App, it’s very easy to setup a scene that includes Sonos speakers, and then configure a schedule.

I’ve got my two Sonos players grouped, using the Sonos App on my iPhone so I’ve got the same music playing upstairs and downstairs. My home office is a loft room that shares a cathedral ceiling with the master bedroom, and the Office Sonos sits on the railing and fills both the loft and the bedroom with sound.

I don’t think I’ve had a better “wake up and get out of bed” alarm, ever.

 

Use Remotes and Keypads and More to Control Sonos Playback

In addition to all the above, Insteon devices such as wireless mini remotes, keypads, plug in modules/on off switches, etc. can be used to control Sonos functions. Using an 8 button Insteon mini remote, you can assign a preset to each button and have an arm chair remote for your favorite 8 stations. Or set up a motion sensor to trigger Sonos music.

Bottom line, if you’re an Insteon user with Sonos speakers, all of this is coming your way in the very near future. Watch http://www.insteon.com/sonos/ for news.

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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