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Connected Home

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.

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