Connected Home

Get Hue or LIFX light alerts for Dona Sarkar Build Tweets

flight If you’re a hard core Windows Insider, you’ll want to be one of the first to know when new Insider Builds are available for download and corresponding blog posts go up. You can always watch @donasarkars Twitter stream (and check the hints that builds are coming in images she posts), but if you have Hue or LIFX connected bulbs, you can use IFTTT to set up an Applet (used to be called a recipe) to get a visual alert.

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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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Taking Alexa with me everywhere using Lexi

 

Just yesterday I was away from home and thinking I needed to add a few things to my Alexa powered shopping list and wishing there was an easy way to do this without typing into the Alexa App on my iPhone or using a web browser on my tablet. And I’ve often cursed out Siri for not turning on lights when I’ve summoned her to action this  from a distance using HomeKit via my Apple TV.

Today I discovered Lexi –a $5 iOS app that changed everything. Press and hold the button, watch the animation, add items to my shopping list, turn lights on or off. This is Alexa “on the road”, giving me control of my Connected Home when I’m miles away from home.

lexi

If you are on the fence about buying an Amazon Echo, you can use this App to try out many of the features of Alexa, as this app will handle shopping lists, queries and many of the Alexa Skills. (But not Amazon Music). And I truly think every home should be Alexa powered.

The open Alexa ecosystem (and it really is an ecosystem) makes the Amazon Echo a really compelling Smart Home controller and virtual assistant. I’m continually amazed and pleased by how developers, like the Lexi team, are extending the Alexa experience and making my life so easy (and fun).

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

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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.

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