My Personal Challenge for 2017: Hardware my Home Automation Solution needs to work with
First of all, I would like to apologize to my loyal readers for not posting in a while. I’ve had to take care of some private matters and therefore just couldn’t find the time or focus to post anything. At the same time, I haven’t been able to make as much of progress as I wanted to, as a result of these matters, but I still believe I’ve already made some good progress.
Now, before talking more about the open source software I’m using, I want to share with you all the hardware I currently own and/or is installed in my house, and I want my Home Automation Solution to run on or communicate with. There are many alternatives in the market of varying quality and price ranges, but in this article I will share the items that I have chosen to use. To make it easier for those of you who want to use (some of) the same products, I will include a link to the exact product I’m using on Amazon, so you can make sure you order the right product. Now, let’s dive in.
Running the Home Automation Solution
Now, to run your Home Automation Solution you can often use almost any computer device you want, as long as you meet the minimum requirements of the software of your choice. You may have an old PC or laptop laying around, or an old server. All of these can be great choices, especially since they won’t cost you any money. However, I want my Home Automation Solution to use as little power as possible, I want it to be reliable, and I also like the unit to be as compact as possible so that I can easily hide it somewhere, while still not breaking the bank. Therefore, I have chosen to purchase a new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. There are complete packages being offered on Amazon and other website, but, since I didn’t like any of them, I decided to create my own package by ordering the following parts:
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Motherboard
- Official Raspberry Pi 3 Case — Red/White
- CanaKit 5V 2.5A Raspberry Pi 3 Power Supply / Adapter / Charger (UL Listed)
- Raspberry Pi 16GB Preloaded (NOOBS) SD Card
Since my household uses Z-wave enabled devices and switches as well, I did some research on the best Z-wave USB adapters/controllers in the market, and purchased the one that guaranteed the highest success rate and least amount of reported issues:
In our household there are a number of devices, varying from new to old, but below are the 3 devices we use most for testing, controlling and using the home automation solution. However, you can obviously use whatever mobile devices you already own, since a working internet connection is the only requirement.
- Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
- Apple iPhone 7
- Apple iPhone 5S
- Apple iPad Mini
I mainly use my Sonos devices to play music using Spotify or Tune.in, but with the home automation solution I also use it to get spoken feedback from the solution. For example, getting a reminder when it’s time to leave for my next appointment (but only when I am at home), as well as 15 minutes before that, so I have time to get ready, or to provide me with a summary of the weather forecast for today and my travel time to work in the morning.
- Samsung UE-46C6730 LED-TV 46"
- Sony PlayStation 3 system 500GB
I don’t have any specific plans or use for my TV yet within the whole system, other than remote controlling the TV. But I’m thinking about maybe displaying the security camera footage as picture-in-picture when motion is detected or someone rings the doorbell, or displaying answers to requests such as weather forecast, traffic, or appointment reminders. But to be able to do that and make sure it’s meaningful at the same time, I would have to implement presence detection first and place sensors in different rooms in the house. Which are all nice things to play with in the future, but not something I plan on working on in the near future.
These items are both pretty new and I’m not too familiar with them yet. It seems that Lutron is unwilling (up to this date) to release their API publicly, so it might become a challenge to integrate this. I’ve seen some articles of people trying to SSH into the Lutron Smart Bridge, but with mixed successes. So far, it seems you definitely need to buy a PRO Smart Bridge to be able to SSH into it, because the non-Pro ones don’t seem to support it. Future plans are obviously to control the lights with automation (i.e. turn them on around sunset or off when everyone leaves the room) or voice control (i.e. activate a movie scene or romantic scene, or simply turn them on/off ).
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is an area where, in my humble opinion, home automation is very important from a user perspective. Not only is this of the easiest ways to save money by using you HVAC more efficiently, it is also a very easy way to make life more pleasant, enjoyable and comfortable. Wouldn’t it be nice if your home was already at the perfect temperature when you come home on a wet, cold winter day? Or when you come home after a long commute on a hot summer day, and your house is nice and cool? With a Home Automation Solution you can instruct your home to start heating/cooling the house when you’re X minutes away or when you leave work, for example. This way you don’t have to program your thermostat to a fixed time every day to start heating/cooling the house, but can make sure it only turns on when you are actually on your way home and will be arriving at home in about 15 minutes.
Now, as far as I know, this thermostat is not Z-wave or WiFi enabled, so it will probably need to be replaced to be able to control the heating and cooling from the home automation system.
We have a multitude of door and window sensors throughout the house, but these are all connected to, and installed with, the alarm system. So, it might be challenging to access these as the alarm system seems to put an exclusive lock on them. I will see if I can find a way to by-pass this or might buy some other sensors to start experimenting with (i.e. air quality sensors, motion sensors, presence sensors).
Many home automation solutions will allow you to automate things based on motion sensors and/or using cameras. I found a perfect and cheap solution to start testing (your custom code for) these automations, by using a simple old PlayStation camera, which you can buy for less than $7, called the PlayStation Eye
We use a pretty complete and sophisticated ADT alarm system in our house. Unfortunately, ADT is a bit of a pain and has created a closed system, so as long as it doesn’t release a public API it is almost impossible to communicate with this system and integrate it with any home automation solution. But, I think I have found a way around it and plan on creating my own plugin that at least will do the following:
- get the current alarm state (i.e. Armed/Disarmed) in version 0.1
- enable you to change the alarm state (i.e. Disarmed/Arm Away/Arm Stay) in version 0.2
As soon as I have version 0.1 working, there is a Proof of Concept (PoC) that the solution I have in mind is a valid workaround, and after adding some buttons to arm/disarm the alarm I will try to get access to the different connected sensors as well. But, more on that in another blog post if I can get it to work.
So, this is all the hardware I can think of at this point in time. Obviously, there are also multiple network devices and laptops, but they’re irrelevant for the setup and the home automation solution. I would love to learn what kind of hardware you are using and what your experiences are with them, so please share your home automation solutions and experiences with hardware/gadgets in the comments below.