Starting the Home Automation Process

Feb 28, 2017

Starting the Home Automation Process

When it comes to new and exciting technology, I'm often one of the first to jump on the bandwagon to see how the latest-and-greatest tech can improve my daily life. As a software engineer, I love the idea that with the right hardware and software combination, my day-to-day can improve and become easier more rapidly than ever before.

But if that's the case, then why am I just now looking into home automation?

Honestly, I'm not sure. I can't really use the argument of not having any hardware, as I've had a Nest thermostat since 2013. I can't even use the argument of software-to-hardware incompatibility, as the amazing Homebridge project has been around for over a year. One thing I am certain of, though, is that I'm hooked!

My wife recently found a Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Opener at Meijer for \$25 (that's nearly 80% of the list price). That purchase led me to setting up a spare Raspberry Pi 2 as a Homebridge server, which then let me connect both the new garage door opener and the previously purchased Nest into HomeKit via one of the many awesome Homebridge npm packages.

I was having so much fun configuring the few pieces of hardware I had available, that I decided to integrate with a few of my IP cameras so that I can get a dashboard view of my entire house. To do this, I wrote an npm package to retrieve the latest snapshot from my account, as well as to channel the live MJPEG feed straight to my iPhone. You can find that project here (I'll have a write-up soon that dives into more detail): homebridge-camera-sensr on Github.

And just this past week, I picked up a Wemo Light Switch to start the bigger automation project: controlling lights and putting together "scenes" to automate our home life. I started experimenting with a "Good Night" scene, where I can utilize Siri with a quick "Hey Siri, Good Night" to start adjusting my home. HomeKit will make sure my garage door is close, the entry way and front porch lights are on, and set the thermostat to a comfortable nighttime temperature.

I have so many ideas for potential scenes, I can't wait to get more hardware. This year at Christmas will be fun. A simple, "Hey Siri, Let It Snow" and the Christmas lights turn on, the house lights dim, maybe an outdoor light display kicks in, the possibilities are endless.

And finally, I figured out how to configure my AppleTV 3rd Generation to allow me remote access to control my devices. After reviewing the guide that Apple has, it was just a matter of getting two-factor authentication enabled on my Apple ID and ensuring that I was using the iCloud Keychain. Once those were enabled on both my iPhone and AppleTV, they were able to communicate and expose my devices remotely (note: this does not work with automations or IP cameras; that requires an AppleTV 4th generation).

This is extremely useful, as there have been numerous times I've questioned whether I closed the garage door or not. If I decide to get a HomeKit-enabled lock for the front door, I'd be able to check on the status of that (we'll see; I may do that this summer). And not only can I control all of this from just the Home app, but a third panel gets added to the iOS control center showing my favorite accessories and scenes. Instant, easy access to my home devices and accessories.

Seriously, why didn't I do this sooner?