Category Archives: Home Automation

Sleep Well with Philips Hue at CES



Announced at CES, Philips Hue will closely integrate with Google Assistant to activate sleep and wake lighting effects to replicate the best lighting for winding down before bed time and waking up naturally in the morning. This is the first integration of the Philips Hue sleep and wake up feature with a digital assistant platform.

From launch, the features will include:

  • One-time alarm sync: Users can say “Hey Google, turn on gentle wake up” which will sync their Philips Hue lights with subsequent morning alarms on Google Assistant. Every time the user sets their alarm on the Google Assistant, Philips Hue lights will naturally wake the user up with a sunrise effect commencing 30 minutes beforehand.
  • Scheduled sleep / wake: Users will be able to set sleep by saying “Hey Google, sleep the lights at 10pm”, changing the lights to a warm tone of white light which gradually fades over thirty minutes. It’s the reverse of the wake up process.
  • Direct action: Users can instruct their Philips Hue lights via the Google Assistant to sleep and wake immediately, meaning the Philips Hue lights will activate the sleep and wake process directly for the 30-minute duration.
  • Multi Person activation: Just like the Hue app, the Google Home app lets you manage your lights in different rooms which means you can set the wake-up routine not only for your own bedroom, but also for other rooms, e.g. Kids’ bedroom, Jimmy’s bedroom, etc

I have an Hue Iris as my bedside light and can attest to the benefits of having a light-based alarm clock.

Research is increasingly showing the important role light plays in how we feel and how well we sleep. Melatonin, the hormone that helps to regulate our wake and sleep cycle, is influenced by light, whether that’s natural or artificial light. By having the right light as we prepare for bed, we can get a better night’s sleep, whereas waking up with the right light can help us start the day feeling more energised.

While many people need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, by using light that simulates sunrise by gradually increasing light levels before the alarm goes off, you can improve well-being, mood and cognitive performance even much later in the day.

Sleep plays such an important role in our health and well-being, so we’re pleased to be adding yet another option for our users to help them relax before bedtime and wake up in a way that prepares them well for the day ahead,” says Duncan McCue, Head of Partnerships for Philips Hue at Signify.
Signify is the new name for Philips Lighting – not sure on pronunciation, though…Sig-nify or Sign-ify? Probably the latter.

The new feature will be accessible to all consumers in English speaking countries by March 2019.

For more information about Philips Hue products visit www.meethue.com.


Philips Hue Expands Outdoors at CES



The Philips Hue range has been extended into the garden at this year’s CES with new outdoor luminaires and, more importantly, there’s now a Hue Outdoor motion sensor.

With a premium on indoor space, outdoor spaces are now an affordable extension of your home. Hue’s outdoor lighting range gives you more choice than ever before to brighten up gardens with 16 million colours or bright white light. Whether it’s welcoming a guest at your front door, enjoying a BBQ on the patio or a quiet drink as the sun goes down, you can add a touch of light and ambience for the perfect moment with the new Philips Hue Outdoor fixtures.

Your home is not only the space within your four walls, but includes your outdoor areas, too. We saw tremendous enthusiasm for our initial Philips Hue Outdoor range and we’re now giving our consumers even more ways to bring their front and backyards to life with light,” said Jasper Vervoort, Business Leader, Home Systems and Luminaires at Signify. “We’re happy to expand our Hue Outdoor range so our users can set the right light for each moment of the day. Most importantly, we’re helping them feel safe and secure at home with powerful lighting options while allowing them to personalize their outdoor ambiance.

The addition of a wireless, battery-powered and weather-resistant motion sensor to the Hue range is much needed. With this, Hue can turn on lights automatically when you arrive in the dark, welcoming you home with light as you approach. Via the Philips Hue app, you can choose which lights – inside or out – go on when someone passes by the sensor, and make it look like someone is always at home.

Place the Hue Outdoor sensor on a flat wall in your garage, around your door or where it matters most in your garden. It has a detection range of 12m (39ft) and an integrated dusk-to-dawn sensor, ensuring that your lights will only turn on when it is dark outside. The sensor (RRP: EUR 49.95 / USD 49.95) will be available for purchase in Europe and North America in February 2019.

The newest additions to the outdoor lighting range, available in North America and Europe in February 2019.

  • The Philips Hue Welcome Flood Light (RRP: EUR 129.99 / USD 109.99), a wall-mounted fixture in one shade of bright white light
  • The Philips Hue Discover Flood Light (RRP: EUR 149.99 / USD 139.99), a wall-mounted fixture with White and Color Ambiance light
  • The Philips Hue Econic family of wall lights (RRP: EUR 139.99 / USD 129.99 and EUR 139.99 / USD 129.99)

Available in Europe only, in February 2019.

  • The Philips Hue Econic pedestal and post (RRP: EUR 129.99 and 159.99)
  • The Philips Hue Fuzo family (RRP: from EUR 79.99), which includes a pedestal, a post and three wall lights, with white light.
  • The Philips Hue Calla large bollard (RRP: EUR 149.99, extension available for EUR 119.99), which is a bigger version of the already available Calla path light and has White and Colour Ambiance light

For more information about the new Philips Hue Outdoor smart lighting products, please visit meethue.com.


Ikea Tradfri Outlet with Samsung SmartThings



Samsung’s SmartThings might be one of the smarthome market leaders but its branded sensors aren’t the cheapest by a long way. Savvy SmartThings specialists are constantly on the hunt for cheaper devices from other vendors but these often require custom code (device handlers) or strange steps to get them linked up.

Coming from the other direction, Swedish homemakers Ikea have their own smart home system called Tradfri. It’s currently more of a Philips Hue competitor as it focuses on lighting but it is expanding and has recently brought a smart plug to market….or as Ikea calls it, a wireless control outlet. It uses Zigbee for communication, and best of all, it only costs GB£9 compared with over GB£40 for the SmartThings variant. Let’s take a look.

 

The Tradfri wireless outlet isn’t going to be winning any design awards. It’s plain white plastic all round, with a hidden white LED at the bottom. Right underneath is a small pinhole for resetting the device with a paperclip. There’s no override button to turn the plug on or off, so keep a smartphone or tablet handy. The unit is rated at 13A / 3kW but not for inductive loads, i.e. no washing machines.

 

Enough of what it looks like…can the Tradfri smart socket work with SmartThings? It certainly can! It just takes a little care and some simple configuration via the SmartThings portal. There’s no need for device handlers or any advanced SmartThings tweaking.

The first step is to get the outlet paired with SmartThings. Fire up the SmartThings app (I’m still using Classic) on your phone or tablet and choose “Add a Thing”. The app will start looking for devices and there’s two gotchas here. One, the Tradfri device needs to be reasonably close to the SmartThings hub and two, the device needs to be reset via the pin hole on the bottom of the case. Just push in with a paper clip for a few seconds and the little LED will pulse at the bottom.

Within a few seconds, SmartThings will find a Thing but won’t know what type of Thing it is or what features it has. This is where the SmartThings IDE comes in at https://graph.api.smartthings.com/. You’ll need to login with either a Samsung or SmartThings account.

Once logged, in go to My Locations and choose your place. I’ve had to redact a few items for my privacy.

Now click on devices to get all the devices in the location. Scroll down through the list until you find the Thing. To make it easy, it’s in alphabetical order.

Click on Thing and then Edit to see the device’s current properties.

Change where it says 2015 Samsung Smart TV to ZigBee Switch and then hit the Update button.

The Thing’s revised entry now has ZigBee Switch and Local processing, which is a good thing. Simply it means that any activity by the sensor is processed locally by the SmartThings hub and isn’t handed off for cloud processing.

Returning to the SmartThings app on the phone, the system now knows that the Thing is a power outlet and has updated the functionality.

Tapping on the screen toggles the Tradfri smart plug with the relay clicking almost instantly. Of course, “Thing” can be renamed to something more sensible, like “Fish Tank Lights”.

And that’s it. The Tradfri wireless outlet is now an integrated part of the SmartThings setup and can be used in Automations and SmartApps, and all for only GB£9, which is a total bargain. As a further benefit, the outlet works as a Zigbee repeater which strengthens the Zigbee wireless network. The only downside I have found is that there’s no physical override button to turn it on or off, but that’s a minor quibble.

To summarise…..if you have SmartThings, the Tradfri wireless outlet works perfectly with it and costs GB£9. Get down to your local Ikea and get stocked up.

Or watch my video below for more details.


Smarten up the Garage Door with SkyLink at CES 2018



Converting a house into a smart home shouldn’t mean replacing every electrical device for a new smart model. A cheaper and greener way is to add smart features in with wireless accessories. A good example here is SkyLink Nova which adds smart capabilities to automatic garage doors at relatively low cost. Don and Frank take a closer look at SkyLink Nova and its accompanying ecosystem.

The SkyLink Nova is wired into an existing garage door opener using the standard connections used for the interior open/close button. Once connected up, the Nova can be remotely controlled with the SkyLink smartphone app (iOS and Android). Nova is also compatible with If This Then That (IFTTT) platform and Alexa so the garage door can be opened (or closed) by talking to an Echo.

The Nova itself looks like an LED light fixture and works as a smart home hub too, communicating with up to 100 smart devices. In addition, it can detect sirens from smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house. When one of those is heard, Nova will automatically open your garage door to aid in ventilation in the case of an emergency.

SkyLink‘s Nova will be on sale in the spring for under US$100.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and gives lectures at TheGadgetProfessor.com.

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Fibaro Doubles Up With HomeKit at CES 2018



Fibaro are one of the bigger names in smart homes with a wide range of products from simple light switches to complex controllers. Originally based around Z-wave, their accessories now work with Apple HomeKit, and integrate with other systems like Philips Hue. Allante and Rich take a quick spin through some of Fibaro’s new products.

First up is a smart power plug with a USB charging port and a coloured LED which changes colour according to the amount of power being drawn through the socket. Although the colour-changing is fun, the measured power can be used within a smart home to initiate other actions or send a warning. Should the iron have been on for a hour?

Next is the big The Button which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a big red button, though it does come in seven different colour. Press it and stuff happens. What happens is configurable by the user – turn on the lights, sound an alarm, play music.

All the products are on sale now, priced between US$49 and $59.

Allante Sparks is a video producer at PLuGHiTz Live Special Events.

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SkyLink Brings the Garage into the Smart Home at CES 2018



Remote controlled garage doors haven’t been particularly secure in the past and many people have disabled the feature because of the risk of break-ins to their homes through the garage. Todd and Frank discuss the problem and look at SkyLink Nova, a retrofit WiFi door opener.

The SkyLink Nova is wired into an existing garage door opener using the standard connections used for the interior open/close button. Once connected up, the Nova can be remotely controlled with the SkyLink smartphone app (iOS and Android). Nova is also compatible with If This Then That (IFTTT) platform and Alexa so the garage door can be opened (or closed) by talking to an Echo.

The Nova itself looks like an LED light fixture and works as a smart home hub too, communicating with up to 100 smart devices. In addition, it can detect sirens from smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house. When one of those is heard, Nova will automatically open your garage door to aid in ventilation in the case of an emergency. (I can see how this might help with CO poisoning but surely opening the door during a fire could make things worse?)

SkyLink‘s Nova will be on sale in the spring for under US$100.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Flic Gets Smarter with Flic Hub at CES 2018



Flic‘s smart Bluetooth buttons will be familiar to GNC readers as I reviewed them back in 2017. To be honest, the buttons aren’t that smart but it’s the clever smartphone software that does all the cool stuff. Consequently, if the Flic button is out of range of the owner’s smartphone, it’s somewhat useless. Fortunately Flic recognised this and announced an Indiegogo campaign for a Flic Hub that would take away the reliance on a nearby smartphone. Todd clicks with Elin to find out what’s new at Flic.

The new Flic Hub removes the need for a nearby smartphone in a home or office environment and lets Flic smart buttons integrate more closely with other automation and process management systems. Flic is looking to grow in the enterprise with customers focusing in the safety and hospitality industries.

The Hub can communicate with more Flic buttons so in theory, there could be hundreds of buttons in a location, and the integrity of the overall system is improved without dependence on the smartphone vendors. This creates a more reliable and dependable platform that enterprise customers are looking for, taking Flic beyond smart buttons.

The Flic Hub is expected to go on-sale shortly.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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