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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Do you have any home automation projects in the works?

Whether built, bought, or somewhere in between, what are the robots in your home doing these days?

Top comments (28)

mortoray profile image
edA‑qa mort‑ora‑y

I was hoping to get a general purpose home automation system so I tried investing in these things called "children", but they are proving to be a tricky technology. The learning time is extremely long, and the voice command system doesn't appear to work well. It's almost like they've developed their own thought processes and somehow consider me a servant. There's apparently no refund system either. I'm not sure it was a wise investment into home automation.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern


crewsycrews profile image
🎲Danil Rodin🎲

Man! You did my day!😂

mfurmaniuk profile image

This one really worked for me, broke them down into a technical language I can understand.

architectak profile image
Ankit Kumar


mythrex profile image
Shivam Kaushik


moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I don't have anything on the go at the moment, but a couple of projects I did a while back:

I made a raspberry pi into an alexa-controlled pc turner-on-offer. Used the wemo API (there's a Python module for it) to respond to switch commands and made the pi send wake-on-lan to turn machines on and use an SSH command or RPC to shutdown Linux or
Windows respectively.

I made an IoT Teasmade. Tweets when tea is ready, makes tea etc. It's in bits at the moment.

The part of this that I liked the most is that I used the MW/VHF switch to choose between two playlists, one of 70s music and one of 80s music stations. When you turn the tuning knob (or issue the command from the API) it turns a salvaged mouse scroll wheel which can just be read from Python and basically does next or previous on the playlist. Every other track on the playlist is a 5-second recording of the tuning noises you used to get on radios when you were between stations so it sounds like someone is actually doing that.

pbouillon profile image
Pierre Bouillon

Would you mind sharing how do you trigger your tea-pot from your program? I'm trying to do kinda the same for my coffee machine and i'm looking for idea, thanks!

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

The whole tea cycle is triggered by a switch linked to the clock - literally a metal contact on the hour hand. It uses mains voltages for that which is a little insane. I bought a cheap 4-relay board off ebay (about £5) and wired it directly to that switch and the GPIO pins so I can trigger the tea-making cycle, the heater, or the light separately. Once the tea is made the power shuts off automatically, so I don't have to do anything clever

itsasine profile image
ItsASine (Kayla) • Edited

Things in my apartment right now:

  • Hue lights in every personal light system (so lamps but not ceiling fixtures)
    • Turns itself on when boyfriend is getting ready for work and off by the time he should have left
    • Dims a half hour before bed, gradually turning off by the time its bedtime
  • Alexa with an Echo and Echo Dot (though boyfriend has a Google Home... I don't touch it)
    • Mostly used to check the weather or yell at it to turn on/off the Hue lights
    • It now can play Skyrim too
  • Logitech Bridge that barely works. It will turn on the TV but it is terribly finicky about my wifi. I need to fix it since it basically can automate anything with a remote.
  • Wemo Smart Plug that I used for Christmas lights
  • Withings (now Nokia) Smart Scale to sync my weight to The Cloud so various health apps can yell at me
  • IFTTT to tie everything together with the general internet (most useful right now is to get the scale to talk to Fitbit)
  • I have a firewall on its way to secure the whole set up, too
  • A Petcube and Amazon Cloud Cam to watch my cats while I'm at work. The Cloud Cam has a better app and quality but the Petcube, being actually designed for this, has a laser pointer to play with them. I still vote Cloud Cam, to be honest.

If I ever own a place, I'll deck out more and install fixtures like locks and stuff. But for now, I like this set up with my little apartment. Only things I'm tempted to improve are 1. a wifi Roomba since I hate cleaning 2. a wifi slow cooker so I can check on it while I'm at work and 3. an IoT router to play with.

gabeguz profile image
Gabriel Guzman

I've been setting up a "home dashboard" to collect a bunch of metrics that I expect to one day send to it! I also have a few temperature sensors sitting on my desk that I'm meaning to sprinkle around my apartment to see how temperature distribution works in my apartment. Otherwise, I have a few IoT connected lights that turn on and off automatically. Nothing out of the ordinary!

ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

Just lights. I started a few years ago with Lifx bulbs off the first post "sponsors" run of the product (I missed the Kickstarter by a couple months). Color production capabilities - especially compared HUE's is amazing. I've had them on schedules since the day I installed them. Finally added a Google Home last year when Google had them on fire sale. Sorta completed the picture since, now, I can interactively use the lights without having to tote my phone around to open the app.

guitarkat profile image
Kat • Edited

My number one thing is to try to make my tassimo wireless. Why? Because I am lazy but the initial design has a couple of assumptions. That a cup is there and the coffee is in place.

I want to do it for fun mostly, no profit and the fact that I got the tassimo for free helps things.

It doesn't make things faster and it's mostly as a hobby project. Gains are in skills acquired I guess.

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Ben Halpern

I recently moved and have been getting my new place set up nicely. Any recommendations on hardware to play with would be much loved.

ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

Speaking as an early-adopter...

For retail stuff:

  • If you're considering HUEs, I'd go with Lifx, instead. Much better color production. Plus, their ecosystem of non-conventional lighting formats is pretty good.
  • Alexa still beats Google Home as far as integration with other IoT stuff: if an IoT device integrates with any given home assistant, it will support Alexa before any other with Home being the next soonest and Apple/Cortana falling well into the "afterthought" support-category ...that said, I distrust Amazon with that kind of access to my home more than I distrust Google. So, I opted for Home
  • I love the idea of the various smart door lock systems, but:
    • The really interesting devices come from companies I don't trust to be there in ten years
    • Nothing has given me the warm-n-fuzzies about hacker-resistence
    • Most seem to be deadbolt-oriented rather than targeted at the door handle
  • When I see commercials for the IoT appliances, I look at the historically shit patch-support for every phone I've ever had and ask myself, "does it make sense to drop 10x the cost of a phone on an appliance that's likely to have similar support reliability?"
  • Most of the retail IoT stuff is cloud-enabled:
    • When a storm knocks out your internet, things suck
    • When an IoT company goes out of business, gets bought or decides, "I don't want to support that model any more" you end up with a brick
    • I'd really much rather these companies' services come from per-user Docker images so that I controlled my data and, if the company decides my device is no longer worth supporting, I could potentially keep my device useful by finding a new place to host the container that maintains my service
  • Even when everything works acceptably well for a geek, other household members might not be so forgiving. Understand the heartburn "works well enough for a geek" may cause you by way of other household members.

Still, it's great to be able to manage and look after your house, remotely - especially when you either travel for business or pleasure.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

What are your thoughts on going with single ecosystems or not, like certain lighting products from one company and some from another?

The simple path would be to commit to certain ecosystems but if I can wrap my head around my own architecture and have a handle on the gateways myself, it would be a good place to be.

Any idea if the products play nicely at all in this regard?

Thread Thread
ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

I'm a fan of heterogenous environments: I hate-lock-in. Unfortunately, as always, the the price of "freedom" is that you definitely increase the headache-factor.

I have both HUE and Lifx. I've mostly relegated my HUEs to areas where I don't care about color reproduction or brightness. Where I just care about brightness, I get the Lifx Day and Dusk. Where I care about color production - true colors and saturate colors - I go for the Lifx Mini Color. When it comes to alternative lighting form-factors, I haven't bought-in, yet ...mostly because I've got some outstanding household wiring-repairs to budget for. Lifx has their Beam and Tiles that look really nice, but I've no first-hand experience with, yet. That said, the Nanoleafs look compelling from a flexibility of deployment standpoint.

While Lifx has the best color and brightness, you pay for it: their lights are more expensive than HUE (haven't compared to NanoLeaf) and, if you've got a bigger house, you need to design your network to take into account that every Lifx light requires its own IP address. Further, if you have network blips (e.g. thunderstorm makes your wifi blink), need to be aware that it can take a couple minutes from when your wifi blinks till all of your Lifx lights are fully back on the network and controllable. Lastly, because each Lifx is individually configured, if you upgrade your wifi router and don't want to have to re-configure each and every light, you need to give your new router the same SSID and credentials as your prior router.

This problem is, however, not unique to Lifx. You can run into it with hubbed devices, too, if a given IoT vendor requires the use of their hub. Other unfun thing with hubbed devices is you can end up with a stack of hubs. One other nod to HUE, in this regard, is that some competing products will integrate with the HUE hub, cutting down on the amount of hub-sprawl (and you can supplement your HUE-branded bulbs with cheaper bulbs — the TRÅDFRIs from Ikea — and manage them all via your HUE hub and app).

rhymes profile image

Everything I know about home automation (next to nothing) I learned by following one of my favorite Twitter accounts:

ben profile image
Ben Halpern


tbd profile image

after searching the internets for months I went with (local, with minimal cloud features, API, software and hardware, free software, reliable)

if you want to go on DIY route has a lot of details on hardware and software ideas.

go with cheap "dumb" easy replaceable hardware and wired if it is possible.

mmphego profile image
Mpho Mphego

A while back, I created a home automation project as part of my degree requirement and fortunately enough I documented most of my work.
Check it out

In short: it is a Smart Home Automation using Raspberry Pi and Arduino

monknomo profile image
Gunnar Gissel

I am way too suspicious of computers (especially networked) to trust running anything more critical in my home than a stereo to them

rapidnerd profile image
George Marr

I recently bought a new kettle but didn't realise that it could be connected to a phone and alexa. I'm currently working on hooking it into my raspbery pi so that when i turn my alarm clock off in the morning it'll start boiling the water, all ready for the tea!

computersmiths profile image

I do a lot of temperature/humidity/power monitoring with Raspberry Pi and other linux boxes. Control is dicey, my big question is “ what is the fallback when it fails and I’m away? “. You would not belive the number of times I’ve gotten the “There’s no {Water, Power, Internet, etc}!!!” call from my wife. Just set the probability of something failing to 100% and see if it’s survivable. Monitoring good, control bad. 🙈 Cloud services will fail at random and when the company goes out of business, I know folks who can’t turn their lights on without a 15-year old X-10 master control box. 🤪

darkain profile image
Vincent Milum Jr <<< WiFi enabled Christmas tree. The controller is accessible over HTTP and animations are written in Lua, so easy updating without recompiling or uploading via a serial cable.

ohffs profile image

I've got a bunch of Ikea 'Tradfri' lights and a Netatmo 'smart' thermostat. They're all hooked up to Alexa and Homekit and I've been playing around with some homeassistant stuff running off a raspberry pi. One of the especially pointless things I did was make the lamp beside my work desk pulse a little when a torrent file finishes downloading on the headless pi ;-) I felt ridiculously pleased with myself ;-)

qm3ster profile image
Mihail Malo • Edited

I have a home that should be finished in the summer, and I am very much at a loss of how to outfit it.
Probably Xiaomi sensors and TRÅDFRI bulbs on Texas Instruments CC2530 ZigBee dongles, some KNX stuff for other light fixtures, shutters, and heating, and networked Mitsubishi HVAC equipment.
Most of it will probably be home-assistant(, because:

  1. It understands the difference between events, state reports, and commands. (instead of trying to shove them all into a flat table where commands overwrite state, and identical state reports fire events)
  2. It has a pleasant and ergonomic, mobile-ready end user UI, with material design and smart defaults (eg, all values can be expanded as time-based graphs), instead of iOS4/jQuery mobile style or skeuomorphic devices on a map.
  3. It bets strongly on the Apple HomeKit protocol. I never intend to use an Apple TV, handheld, or hub, but they are also working (with results) on consuming HomeKit-native appliances, which will only proliferate, into itself, not only exposing its own devices to your iCloud.

Please tell me why I'm wrong and generally stupid, and what I should use instead. Save me from myself.

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Ashish Kapoor

Yeah I keep an eye of my home office's temperature with an RPI and trying to turn Air-conditioning on before I enter there each morning.