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Tag: home automation

D-Link expands home automation line with motion sensor

Posted by Alan at 6:33 AM on June 23, 2014

DCH-S150 FrontHome automation, or the “internet of things” is one of the fastest growing fields in technology. It seems everyone is getting into the market, from electronics makers to retail stores — you can even buy certain product lines at Staples and Lowes now.

The latest to jump into the market is D-Link, most famous for its routers and switches. Not long ago, the company released the Wi-Fi Smart Plug, which allows for easy remote control of items such as lamps and more. Now, to compliment that, comes a new motion sensor called the DCH-S150.

“The compact motion sensor plugs into an open power outlet and alerts users of activity at home with a push or text notification as soon as it detects motion. Whether you want to know when the kids get in from school, make sure the puppy goes outside during the day, or receive an alert when the garage door opens, the Wi-Fi Motion sensor makes it simple to stay aware of what’s happening at home”, the company states in its announcement.

The motion sensor is on sale now from both the D-Link site, as well as other locations such as Amazon. It retails for $39.99.

D-Link releases Smart Plug for home automation

Posted by Alan at 4:46 AM on May 18, 2014

DSP W215 Front

Home automation and the internet of things have become the catch phrases lately, and there is an ever growing universe of items for the home that can be connected. The market has become flooded, but there is always room for more competition, as it is good for consumers. Now D-Link, famous for its routers, is getting into the market.

The company has unveiled a new Smart Plug that allows the device that is plugged into it to be controlled easily from a mobile device using Android or iOS. Simply plug the little device into an outlet, then plug the item of choice into the DSP-W215 Wi-Fi Smart Plug. Features include:

  • WiFi — 802.11n; supports WPS (WiFi Protected Setup)
  • LEDs — power, status
  • Dimensions — 90 x 61 x 36mm (3.6 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches)
  • Voltage input — 100-125VAC
  • Maximum power to plugged in device — 1800W
  • Power consumption — approx. 0.8W idle; 5W max. (not including power supplied to plugged-in device)

In addition, there is a thermal sensor that is designed to prevent devices from over-heating. That’s a handy feature with today’s devices, and legends of meltdowns. The DSP-W215 Wi-Fi Smart Plug is on sale now on the D-Link web site, retailing for $50.

Remote Control Lighting

Posted by tomwiles at 11:06 AM on May 16, 2014

2-pack-gateway_LRGFor the past couple of years I have gotten interested in home remote access devices and methods. Initially I started with inexpensive remote-access IP cameras. I next moved on to getting the original Nest thermostat, which I still have and has been worth every penny. You can read about my experiences here.

Lately I’ve been wanting to be able to remotely turn lights on and off. Let’s say I come home after dark. It would be nice to be able to turn on a porch light from my smartphone. How to accomplish this?

My initial thought was a Belkin Wemo light switch. However, this presents some problems. The current Belkin Wemo light switch only seems to come in a single switch format, so it would be unusable in a 3 switch in one setup. Additionally, Belkin Wemo light switches and wall-mounted plugs only work with wiring schemes that have a so-called “neutral” wire as part of the wiring mix. I know nothing about home electrical wiring, preferring to leave that to the professionals, so I’m not sure it would work with my home wiring.

My next thought was the Phillips Hue lighting kit. The Phillips Hue would certainly work for what I was trying to accomplish, but it seemed to be rather expensive overkill. The Phillips Hue kit of 3 bulbs and the controller sells for $200, with additional Hue bulbs priced at $60 each. Sure, the Phillips Hue can display up to 16 million colors, as well as connect to really cool services such as If This, Then That, but that really seemed a waste for exterior deck lights.

I continued to look, and I ran across an even better solution on the Home Depot website. Home Depot currently sells the TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit with (2) A19 LED Light Bulbs for $79.97 which is substantially cheaper than the Phillips Hue 3 bulb kit. They also sell the TCP Connected A19 bulbs sell for $16.97 each on their website. The TCP controller which must be plugged in to an Ethernet port on the home router can handle up to 50 bulbs each.

Initial setup of the TCP light kit is a breeze. I installed the TCP LED light bulbs into the external deck light fixtures. They are the same size and shape as a traditional incandescent bulb so there was no problem making them fit in the fixtures. They initially perform exactly the way you would expect a light bulb to perform, turning them on and off with the wall switch. Next, I simply plugged in the TCP controller bridge into an unused Ethernet port on my router with the supplied Ethernet cable, and plugged the controller bridge into power. Next, I downloaded the TCP Lighting app to my smartphone (there are both Android and iOS versions). Making sure my phone was connected to my home WiFi network, I ran the TCP Lighting app.

TCP Lighting AppThe first time the app is ran it will pop up with a login screen. You initially click past this screen leaving the fields blank. The app then quickly finds the TCP controller bridge and the TCP LED light bulbs.

Next, I was able to name the lights. During the individual light naming process with the bulbs turned on, they will automatically dim to let you easily identify which bulb is which.

The final step was creating an account on the TCP server, right from within the app. It asks for an email address and a password and quickly creates an account. This allows remote control of my TCP lights anywhere I have a data connection literally anywhere in the world.

I installed the TCP Lighting app on another mobile device, and all I had to do to get it to work was to enter my TCP account credentials into the initial app login screen.

The app also includes the ability to schedule the lights to automatically be turned on and off. The bulbs can also be dimmed from within the app.

The TCP A19 LED bulb produces a warm color temperature similar to conventional incandescent bulbs. They also put out about 800 lumens which is close to what a conventional 60 watt bulb produces. They are rated for 25,000 hours of use.

From an external network, the bulbs will respond to on and off and dimming commands with about a half a second delay which is more than acceptable.

Also of course, the wall light switch must be left in the “on” position in order for remote access to function.

So, problem solved at a more reasonable price than either the Phillips Hue kit or 2 Belkin Wemo WiFi wall switches which wouldn’t have worked anyway since I need a 3-in-1 wall switch version.

 

HAL TV Remote Set Top Box, Watch and Ring at CES

Posted by Mike Dell at 10:13 PM on January 22, 2014

HAL logo

Todd and Don interview Eric Stalker from HAL.tv about the new Remote Set Top box for controlling your TV with hand gesture or voice control.  Once the box is setup, it allows you all kinds features like Hand control of your TV, Phone Calls, Reminders and a “mirror” mode.

HAL is also coming out with a smart watch and smart RING that will work with your smart phone. Details can be found at hal.tv.

Prices for the TV box and  the Watch will be $199 and the ring is $99. All these products will be available in the Fall of 2014.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Connected crock-pot is a new WeMo-enabled device (CES)

Posted by Alan at 10:13 AM on January 8, 2014

belkin-wemo-crockpotMany of us place dinner in a slow cooker and wonder off to run errands, even go to work. For the most part, this works out well. The stew or chili is perfect when we arrive back home to eat.

But, things happen. We can get delayed in our travels, or perhaps even realize that we’ll be arriving ahead of schedule. So, while an internet-connected crock-pot may sound like a strange, or even unnecessary, idea, it actually could prove quite useful. And Belkin, through the WeMo line of home automation, is bringing you just such a thing.

“The WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker is the first WeMo equipped product stemming from Belkin’s collaboration with Jarden Consumer Solutions, a family of household appliance brands. The Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker is the first smartphone controllable slow cooker, which allows you to adjust the cooker’s settings from anywhere giving you greater flexibility and control over life’s unexpected moments”, the company announces.

The new crock-pot will retail for $99.99 and is available immediately.

Belkin shows WeMo Smart LED Bulb at CES

Posted by Alan at 6:29 AM on January 8, 2014

belkin-wemo-lightsHome automation has quietly become one of the big product lines at CES in Las Vegas. Many of the primary manufacturers in the field are there, showing off new devices, including Belkin.

The company, commonly thought of in the networking world, has a lineup it calls WeMo. One of the new additions to the line is a smart LED bulb, which works similar to the Philips Hue. “Belkin’s new LED Lighting Starter Set and WeMo Smart LED Bulbs allow you to control, schedule and dim your smart LED bulbs from anywhere”.

The long-lasting bulbs are 60-watt equivalent with 800 Lumens and 3000 Kelvin for a bright warm white light. The lights can be controlled either individually or in groups, and are fully dimmable.

The bulbs can be purchased as a starter kit, which includes a WeMo Link that can control up to 50 bulbs. The set is available for $129.99, and individual bulbs retail for $39.99 each.

Philips Hue and IFTTT

Posted by Andrew at 3:48 AM on January 2, 2014

Hue Personal Wireless LightingIn my first post on Philips Hue, I referred to “The Internet of things” where normally dumb devices such as fridges and washing machines are connected to the network. Having a washing machine with an IP address may mean that I can check whether the spin cycle has finished without getting out of my chair, but the real value of the internet of things comes when the devices start communicating among themselves. Not in a nefarious SkyNet way, but in a more practical sense: the washing machine counts the number of washes and when the soap is getting low, automatically orders your preferred brand from your preferred grocery service.

Obviously, it’s going to take a little while until this is a reality, but the web site IFTTT is beginning to show what is possible as more and more services are on-line and cloud-based. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “IThis, Then That” and reflects what IFTTT can do. It automates “If something happens, then I want that to happen”. In IFTTT-speak, a trigger on a channel generates an action on another (or the same) channel. A channel is typically an on-line or cloud-based service such as Twitter, Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote or Weather. An example of what could happen is, “If I get a tweet on Twitter, copy it to Evernote” or “Every morning at 7.00 am, text me the weather forecast”. These are recipes, as IFTTT calls them, and there’s a large range of them already cooked up on the IFTTT web site.

It’s at this point in the story that Philips Hue comes in as a channel on IFTTT, which means that the lights in your home can be controlled by external events via the recipes on IFTTT. Here are some examples of recipes already available; at sunset, turn on the lights; when it’s freezing outside, turn the lights blue; when you receive an email from a particular person, blink the links; when the stockmarket closes down, turn the lights red. Some recipes are perhaps more useful than others, but the range of channels means that there’s tremendous flexibility. There are currently 77 channels on IFTTT and you can browse by channel, so it’s easy to see all the recipes that involve Philips Hue.

Setting up your Hue to work with IFTTT is two step process but it only has to be done once. The first step is to register with the Philips Hue website and allow the site to access the bridge unit within your home. Once you’ve done this and have a username and password, you can control your lights from outside your home using the Hue app on your smartphone too, so it’s probably something that most Hue owners have already done.

Back at IFTTT, the second step is then to activate your Hue channel. You’ll need to supply your Hue username and password, and authorise IFTTT to access your account.

Activate Hue

Now I’m going reuse a recipe that someone else has already created. In this instance, I’m going to flash the lights when I receive an email with the latest GNC podcast. I’ve already activated my Gmail channel.

Gmail to Hue

All I have to do is put in the email address - geeknews at gmail.com - and any time I get an email from Todd, the lights flash. This is the basic recipe; there are others that use keywords or other information likely to be in an email. If I want to, I can choose one particular light or all of them. Once the information is typed in and the recipe has been activated, all I have to do is sit back and wait for the latest podcast email to come in. Blink, blink.

That’s it. All pretty straightforward. If you are more adventurous, you can delve deeper into the recipes to customise them to your needs but there are plenty on IFTTT to get you started and provide inspiration. Philips Hue aside, the insight into the possibilities of the “Internet of things” is incredible.

I hope you have enjoyed this short series of articles on Philips Hue. It’s the first time that I’ve done this kind of short serial, so I’d welcome feedback in the comments on whether to actively search out similar opportunities.

Thanks again to Philips for the loan of the Hue Personal Wireless Lighting System.

Philips Hue Chrome App

Posted by Andrew at 7:00 AM on December 29, 2013

Hue Personal Wireless LightingWhile researching the Philips Hue Android apps, I discovered that currently there is a single Hue app for Chrome. It’s called Hueful and while it’s fairly basic, it deserves a mention as (a) it’s the only app on Chrome but (b) it shows that Chrome can support this kind of hardware-oriented app. Previously I would have discounted Chrome from being an option but Hueful works fine on my Chromebook.

Hueful isn’t a very advanced Hue app, being limited to setting colours of selected lamps and colour cycling. Sometimes lamps need to be told twice to take on a setting but they usually get there in the end.

Hueful

 

Hueful is free from the Chrome store.

Philips Hue Android Apps

Posted by Andrew at 6:14 PM on December 28, 2013

Hue Personal Wireless LightingLast week, I had a first look at the Hue “Personal Wireless Lighting” kit from Philips. As I mentioned in the review, Philips has opened up the lighting system to developers via an API and this week, I’ll take a look at some of the apps available, both from 3rd party developers. As you’d expect, they run the gamut from “could do with more work” all the way through to “brilliant” but broadly fall into two categories, firstly those that are primarily concerned with setting the colour of the lights, and secondly those that do more interesting things. This review covers the apps that are currently available from Google Play and there are many similar apps available for iOS.

Hue Limited Edition, Colorful, Light Control, Speedy Hue and LampShade are all variants on the “set the colour of the lights”. All offer grouping of lamps into sets and the saving of colour combinations into favourites or presets. Here are a few screenshots, showing the main screens from each. As you’ll see, they pretty much do the same thing in different ways.

Hue Limited Edition

Hue Limited Edition

Colorful

Colorful

Speedy Hue

Speedy Hue

LampShade

LampShade

Light Control

Light Control

All worked as advertised, but I found that in this instance, less was often more. If I wanted to run an app with favourites or presets, I tended to use the Philips Hue app to set all the lights at once. However to quickly set the colour of a single light, I used Hue Limited Edition, rather than anything else. Light Control came a close second and Speedy Hue gets an honourable mention for the inclusion of a scheduler which will turn the lights on and off at specified times.

Speaking of alarms, Hue Alarm Clock takes waking up to the next level. Instead of an incessant beeping, Alarm Clock gently fades in a colour of your choice to wake you from your slumber. The screenshot is from the limited free version, not the paid version which has more options.

Hue Alarm Clock

There are two apps which purport to support voice recognition, and like “Star Trek”, you too can walk into a room and say, “Lights!” and the illumination comes up. Hue Talk takes an almost canned approach to the voice recognition with the user able to predefine the voice commands for  around 20 features, from turning all the lights on, turning the lights up and down, and changing the colour. The suggested voice commands are memorable phrases, such as “Yellow Submarine” and “Purple Rain” turning the lights the respective colours. You can change the commands to whatever you prefer so there’s no real intelligence here but it works well.

Hue Talk

On the other hand, SpeechHue, looks like it supports natural language but I could never get the app to work in the way that I imagined it should work. Some of the comments in the Google Play store say that it’s good once you work it out. Sorry, if I need to work out how the app works, it’s failed. Zero stars.

SpeechHue

LampShade and Colorful (after paid upgrades) work with NFC to set the lights. In theory, each room could have an NFC tag (or tags) such that when the tag is swiped by the smartphone, the app sets the lights just for that room or mood. It’s a neat idea but I wasn’t able to test the NFC features as I don’t have any NFC tags. I’ve ordered so I may report back later.

I’ve been saving the best until last and we come to apps from IJS Design who make the best Hue apps on Android bar none. Currently, there are four IJS apps, of which three – Christmas, Halloween and Fireworks – link holidays into Hue. So for the Christmas app, which includes New Year too, you get sound effects linked into Hue colour changes and effects. Think of it as a soundboard with lights. The apps also have moods which are longer music pieces with light effects and are more atmospheric, which are especially good when the sound is passed through a hifi.

Hue Christmas

Huey New Year

And finally, IJS Design’s Hue Disco is the single best Hue app on the market (IMHO). Simply, you play music on your hifi, place your smartphone or tablet nearby and Hue Disco changes the colour of the Hue lights in time to the track. There’s loads of adjustment possible, including microphone sensitivity, transition speed, brightness, colour temperature and strobe effects. For something more subtle, there’s Mood Control which cycles the lights on themed colours, such as sunrise or Christmas. All-in-all, totally brilliant and money well spent.

Hue Disco

A screenshot can’t show what it’s like in action, so here’s a video showing Hue Disco in action. You really can have a disco in your front room and it’s fantastic when paired with a music service like Spotify. I’ve been playing Christmas tracks non-stop.

That summarises the state of the Android Hue app space which appears to be growing healthily and similar apps are available for Apple devices. For me, the keeper apps are Hue Limited Edition and Hue Disco with Hue Talk close behind needing a bit of polishing. Have fun.

Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting Review

Posted by Andrew at 12:51 AM on December 16, 2013

Kevin Ashton coined the phrase “The Internet of Things” back in 1999, but a decade later most of the on-line gadgets in my house are still recognisable as being technology. My fridge is still a fridge, my front door still needs a key and my house doesn’t talk to me.

That was the situation until a couple of weeks when I received a Philips Hue “Personal Wireless Lighting” kit which lets me control the colour of light bulbs from my smartphone, both in the house and from outside across the internet. That’s the Internet of Things.

I can imagine that a number of GNC readers are going, “Huh? Why would I want to control the colour of my lightbulbs from my smartphone?” Until you see in action, you can’t believe how much fun and how cool it really is. Not only can you turn your house lights on as you drive up the road, you can co-ordinate the lighting with your mood or your decor. Want a Christmassy green and red? Not a problem. We’ll see exactly how it works a little later on.

So let’s take a quick look at what’s in the box of Philips Hue in more detail.

Philips Hue Box Exterior

Opening it up reveals two of the three main components, the wireless bridge and the bulbs themselves.

Philips Vue Interior

The bridge connects to your network via an ethernet cable and communicates with the light bulbs using Zigbee.

Hue Bridge

The bulbs are standard ES bulbs and there are GU10 and GR30 (SES) variants available as well. There doesn’t seem to be any bayonet cap versions (BC) so if you only have BC light fittings you might have to get some converters.

Hue Light Bulb

Setting up the system is very easy. Screw the bulbs into the lights. Connect the Hue bridge to the network with the ethernet cable and plug in the power adaptor. Load the Hue app onto your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. Job done. It’s that straightforward. The first time the app runs, it looks for the Hue bridge on the network and once it’s found, you authorise the app to access Hue by pressing the button in the middle of the bridge. It’s a layer of security that stops unauthorised people or apps from accessing the Hue.

The Hue app lets you control all the lights connected to your bridge mainly via “scenes” which act as presets for each light’s colour settings. Here’s the main screen. Each mini photograph is a preset for a number of lights and it can be just one or all three.

Main Screen

Typically the settings are based on colours picked out from the picture associated with the scene. The screenshot below shows that lamp 1 will be orange and lamp 2 will be magenta.

Colour Scenes

It’s all a bit abstract until you see it in action, so here’s a short video of my controlling one lamp using a series of the scenes to run through some colour changes. It was filmed with my smartphone, so don’t expect too much! Remember too, that this is just one light  and try to imagine all three lights working together to colour a single room.

Philips have opened up Hue to developers and are steadily building an ecosystem around both their products and other apps developed by third parties. If you are already have a Philips TV with Ambilight, Hue can further enhance the experience with additional colour lighting. Light strips and Philip’s Living Colors Bloom can take the lighting effects beyond lights and lamps.

There’s a solid community behind Hue with people contributing their own scenes and I’ll be taking a look at some of the 3rd party apps in a follow up post next week, along with a further look at the main Hue app.

Philips Hue is available from the Apple Store and the starter kit used here costs a little under £180, which isn’t cheap, but compared with the costs of some of the custom solutions in this space, it’s a bargain. Note that although it’s sold through the Apple Store, it works with both iOS and Android devices.

Finally, Philips are running a Facebook competition to come up with inspirational ways of using Hue, if you want to win some Hue goodies.

Thanks to Philips for the loan of the Hue starter kit.