Home Automation

 

The Internet of Things isn’t arriving fast enough for me, but I’ve managed to jumpstart my Connected Home’s entrance into this brave new world thanks to Apple’s iOS HomeKit.

What I have now using HomeKit is a preview of things to come, and I’m hoping that iOS9 brings some improvements and refinement, as has been rumored by many who more actively follow the iOS ecosystem. And I’m happy to play with what I have today, a somewhat fragile but working system that lets me control HomeKit enabled devices from multiple vendors both from my iPhone 6 and by voice command using Siri over my home network.

Most of the top tier Home Automation and Control vendors like Insteon and Lutron, who already had bridges and addressable devices in the marketplace, are introducing HomeKit enabled bridges or have introduced them. Existing dimmer switches and on/off switches should work with the new bridges, but battery powered devices like motion sensors most likely will not work. There may be support for motion sensors in iOS9, but it’s not known if existing sensors will need to be replaced by a new HomeKit enabled sensor.

HomeKit can control devices, scenes that control multiple devices, rooms, and zones, depending on the iOS app. You need to add/discover a particular vendor’s HomeKit enabled bridge and you’ll need to add devices from a particular vendor using that vendor’s app. Once devices are enabled, you can use any vendor’s app to configure scenes, rooms, and zones, provided that the app supports this.

There are only a few apps in the iTunes Store that work with HomeKit devices. Lutron’s App is sandboxed and only controls Lutron devices. It does recognize Rooms created by other apps. It can create Scenes, but only using Lutron devices as HomeKit devices from other Vendors don’t appear in their app.

 

lutron scenes

 

Insteon’s HomeKit enabled Insteon+ App has full HomeKit integration and no restriction on using other vendor HomeKit devices in scenes. I can include Lutron dimmers in scenes I create in the Insteon+ app.

 

insteon scenes

 

While I don’t have any Elgato devices, I actually like the Elgato Eve app best because it is easier for me to read. The Elgato Eve app also lets me add/edit scenes and rooms.

 

elgato eve

I’ve got Hey Siri enabled on my iPhone 6. And I’ve got a charging cradle in my Bedroom where my iPhone spends the night. Siri integration with HomeKit is not perfect, but it’s pretty cool to tell Siri to run on a light or a scene, as shown in my video.

To control devices over cellular or while away from home, a 3rd generation Apple TV with firmware 7+ is required. I found that I had to move my Apple TV from Ethernet to Wireless for this to work. I also had to sign out and in to iCloud a few times. HomeKit works remotely using iCloud integration. Siri commands over cellular didn’t work, but using the actual Apps on my iPhone worked fine (with a short delay).

All in all, this is great fun for an over the bleeding edge geek.

 

I’ve got a great set up for Home Automation and Security, thanks to my Insteon devices and software, including the newly released Windows 8 Insteon for Hub App. While I can set up my motion sensors to send email and text/SMS notifications from within both the iOS and Windows 8 apps, currently there is no way to configure alerts from the Insteon Indoor 75790 cameras. These cameras support both video and audio alerts, and I’d love to see  an interface for configuring this, as well as other advanced features, inside the Insteon for Hub apps.

I sat down this morning to figure out how to do this, and it was extremely easy.

Start by logging into the web interface for your camera. You’ll need the IP and the Port you configured (don’t leave these cameras configured on Port 80). In other words, open your web browser and go to the address that looks like http://192.168.0.114:25114 that you set up when you configured your camera. Log in with your configured username and password.

Next, navigate to the Mail Service Settings to configure the sender account and the receiver. You can designate multiple receivers, so you can send text, SMS and MMS or whatever combination suits your needs.

I tested sending with both a Comcast and a Gmail address. Comcast’s SMTP server is smtp.comcast.net and Google’s is smtp.gmail.com. Both require the same settings, use port 587, STARTTLS, and need authentication. Configure your Receiver(s). For MMS, use your 10 digit phone number and your carriers email to SMS gateway address which you can normally find at your carrier’s web site. There is a large list at http://www.tech-faq.com/how-to-send-text-messages-free.html but I don’t know how current/accurate it is. For example, you can’t send images to Verizon phones via MMS using vtext.com. You can, however, do this with vzwpix.com.

set email for mms

When you’ve finished configuring your mail and receiver settings, select Submit, then navigate to Alarm Service Settings

turn motion detection on

Check Motion Detection Alarmed and select Submit. Return to the Mail Service Settings and then select Test to insure your configuration is correct.

Here is a sample of a received MMS alert:

 

 sms received

I’d really like to see the ability to configure these alerts included in the various Insteon Apps, so that everything is part of a single, easily accessible interface.

 

Yesterday, I wrote about my disappointment with the initial release of the Insteon for Hub App that was released to the Windows Store. An update was made available early this morning to the app which fixed both the inability to login and the non connect camera issue. Note that if you install the app, you should also immediately check for an update to insure you have the fixme version. Open the Windows Store, select Charms, Settings, App Updates to do this.

insteon fixed

Above image shows one of my cameras in the Windows 8.1 app interface. I can pan and tilt, etc. and also hear the audio on my Windows 8.1 devices.

While I’d like to see some GUI improvements and some usability enhancements, it’s a great first step.

 

Insteon’s Director of Marketing reached out to me today (a great sign that they’re serious about insuring a great end user experience). It appears that for whatever reason, the first version uploaded to the Windows Store was not designated ready for release and the folks at Microsoft fast tracked it through certification (which makes some sense as Microsoft is now selling the Insteon hardware online as of today.

I’m a big fan of Insteon products. With the new Microsoft+Insteon partnership, you should look seriously at Insteon products for Home Automation and Security.

I’ll be writing more about Insteon in the near future.

 

I was so looking forward to the release of the SmartHome Insteon App as I have  multiple devices. I’ve been controlling them from the Insteon iPhone App, the web site at connect.insteon.com, and from a home made app I made myself.

The app appeared a little while ago when I searched the Windows Store for Insteon. I immediately installed it.

It failed right off the bat with an error “Get hub information failed” when I tried to use my existing credential (that work on the iPhone and on the web portal)

insteon1

I tried from two computers and a tablet with the same bad results.

Next, I decided to see what would happen if i tried to set up a new account.

Not unexpectedly, I received “registered to another owner”

insteon 2

Strangely, after trying and failing to set up a new user, I was able to log in with the existing  credentials. I can turn lights on and off, but the Insteon Cameras have not displayed. The cursor just spins forever. It doesn’t mater which screen I navigate to, same result.

 

insteon 3

The quality of this long awaited app is disappointing to say the least. Fortunately, I have other options as I wrote about recently.

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