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Tag: home automation

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.

Lowe’s Iris Home Automation Program for Security

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2013

Kevin Meagher from Lowe’s  talked to Todd and Daniel about the Lowe’s Iris Program.  The idea behind the Lowe’s Iris program is to bring home automation to the masses. The base program which is a security program starts at $175. You control the program through a smart phone or a computer. The base program is very easy to set up you simply plug the base unit into the router, hang the sensors up and do the setup and you are ready to go. The total setup should take about an hour to complete. Lowe’s is working with their vendors to make sure that the vendors devices work with Iris.  If you’re looking for device that can run under Iris just look for the Iris logo.

There is no subscription for the entry-level program. The more advanced program which is known as Magic is an all-inclusive program and is available for $10 a month. The Iris program is fairly new and its development is continuing.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and Daniel J Lewis of The Audacity to Podcast

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Iris Security Smart Home

Posted by Alan at 3:43 PM on February 3, 2013

Iris is a new home security system being offered through Lowes, the home improvement giant that has stores around the country. The Iris system is not new, but a lot more upcoming features were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and Andy McCaskey stopped by the booth to take a look.

Iris is about more than just security. It is also home automation. For instance, the system can tie into your irrigation system and keep your plants watered. Each feature will require a separate controller, but the good news is that each is affordable — think X-10 type pricing, but with better features. You can even put a tag on your dog’s collar to control pet doors. All of this can be handled from an app via iOS or Android.

All of this is available for $15 per month. You will need to purchase the individual sensors, but that is, of course, a one time cost. Those interested can visit this Lowes site for more information.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net

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New Honeywell Thermostat Takes On Nest

Posted by Alan at 7:00 AM on October 7, 2012

Nest has been the darling of the tech industry in recent months, with their innovative thermostat solution, but Honeywell, a long-established manufacturer in this market is taking them on with a new WiFi enabled thermostat of their own.  It brings along most of the features of the Nest, but in a slightly larger format.

The new model from Honeywell features the ability to program for seven days in advance, and you can do so from a computer, tablet or smartphone from anywhere in your home or around the world.  Free mobile apps are available for both Android and iOS, plus you can manage multiple thermostats from the same app, so you can control home and business or multiple zones in the same location.  The apps also allow you to view local weather conditions and forecasts and the thermostat can send you high and low temperature alerts via email or text.

At the moment, the Honeywell WiFi Enabled Programmable Thermostat seems to be exclusive to Home Depot (you can buy online from them as well) for $149.  It’s likely to appear in other locations as well, although nothing has yet been announced.  You can get more info from the WiFiThermostat.com.

$49 Monostrip Home Automation Product Released

Posted by Alan at 5:21 AM on September 11, 2012

Home automation has become a hot topic these days, with more services and hardware becoming available at increasingly better prices.  Now another new product has hit the market, this one from a company called Visible Energy.  The item, known as the “Monostrip”, provides some unique features at a very good price.

The Monostrip essentially looks like a mini powerstrip, but has WiFi and smart technology built into it.  Plug this outlet into any standard wall outlet and then plug your device of choice into the Monostrip.  The device is designed to handle even heavy-duty appliances (up to 20 Amperes).

“As with other Visible Energy Smart Outlets products, energy usage for the device plugged into its outlet is acquired every 5 minutes and stored for 4 months. A text display shows power and other usage consumption data together with status information. The Monostrip connects through WiFi communication to the home network and Internet.”

Once you have set up the Monostrip and plugged in your device of choice then you can begin monitoring energy consumption and cost via the internet or using an iOS app called “Energy UFO”.  Unfortunately there isn’t an Android or Windows Phone app as of yet.

There are two models of the Monostrip available – a U.S. standard 110-120 volt model and a European standard 250 volt version.  The Monostrip is available now for $49 from the Visible Energy web site.

Video of Home Automation System in a $55 Million Mansion

Posted by Alan at 10:21 AM on June 7, 2012

Tech news web site BGR introduced their new BGR Show today and episode one is a big one for tech, home theater, and home automation fans.  The show is slated to run weekly and, in addition to a little cool technology like this week, they also promise interviews with celebrities and some behind-the-scenes segments with manufacturers.

The home featured in episode one may be beautiful, but the statistics surrounding it’s internal electronics are nothing short of breath-taking.  Try to grasp these numbers – over 2,000 lights, 48 TVs, 50 miles of wiring, 35 security cameras and hundreds of speakers.  All of this can be controlled from touchscreens, tablets, computers, and smartphones.

The home is located in New Jersey and the show features the man behind implementing all of the electronics – Gabriel Karlis from JD AV Design.  I would try to describe the level of sophistication seen in the video, but it’s really worth just watching to get a real idea of what exactly is possible if you have the money to do what you want, including controlling virtually every aspect of your home from lights to security to HVAC with the click of a button.

Nexia Home Intelligence

Posted by Alan at 1:04 AM on February 6, 2012

Some of you may be familiar with Schlage Link, but they are now rebranded as Nexia Home Intelligence to give users more of an idea what they are all about.  They are working to bring total control of a user’s home right to the fingertips.  From security, to heating and air conditioning to home automation, you can control it all from the web or from an app on your phone.  Currently there are apps for iOS and Android, but Windows Phone is on the way.

Nexia Home Intelligence is using Z-Wave technology and their products are compatible with many others on the market.  In the video below you will get a look at the control interface in action.  You will find a lot of features in this demo, like the ability to lock and unlock doors remotely, text messages when someone enters your home, control lights, record video, and open and close shades.  You can check out the video below and also visit Nexia Home.

Interview by Scott Ertz of F5 Live.

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Somfy Tahoma – Beyond Home Automation

Posted by Andrew at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2011

Steve Iommi chats to Todd and Tom about Somfy‘s new Tahoma system which takes home automation to the next level. It’s based round the concept of “scenes” – a scene might be “weekday-morning” which has certain set of actions, e.g. open blinds at 7.30am, whereas the “weekend-morning” opens the blinds at 8.30. With a whole a range of scenes, everything from blinds to thermostats can be controlled according to the day of the week and the activities of the owner.

As with all things these days, the Tahoma system is connected to the Internet via the homeowner’s Wifi, meaning that the owner can connect via a web browser back to the system to make any changes that might be needed, say, because of changes in the weather.

The underlying technology is the Z-Wave RF home automation wireless standard, so upgrading a home to for automation doesn’t involving lots of recabling. It’s simply a case of replacing the controllers with Z-Wave-compatible ones.

A basic Tahoma system can be professionally installed for under $2000.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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