A Day in a Smart Home

On days when I have an alarm set the bedside light will slowly start to brighten from red through yellow to full white just before the alarm is due, the house will speak a greeting such as “Good morning Nathan, it is 08:30, the temperature is 6.4 degrees and the weather is currently Partly Cloudy” and then the radio will turn on to Radio 4. A strategically positioned PIR sensor detects if I sit up or get out of bed, if the PIR has not detected me getting up within 5 minutes an alarm will sound, if it does detect me getting up the light and bedroom amplifier will turn off once motion is detected on the landing and the house will be switched to home mode which turns the downstairs amplifier and computer screens on. The radio will remain on but is now playing downstairs.

While I am getting ready in the morning I will ask the Amazon Echo to tell me what is on my to do list and my calendar for the day, what the weather forecast is and if I am going into the office what the traffic is like.

If I am going out I usually set away mode manually using the Echo or via a touchscreen or Flic button, a warning will sound if this is attempted when a window or external door is open, if all is well all connected appliances, lights and computer screens are turned off and the house enters away mode. If the house is in home mode and can’t detect the presence of my phone and Owntracks also says I am not at home then it sends me an email to ask me if I want to set it along with a link that will do it with one press.

If the house isn’t occupied after the sun sets various lights and a “fake TV” device activate to give the house an occupied appearance.

If the house detects the presence of my phone and away mode is set the light above the front door is turned on and when it detects that the door has been opened the light turns off and the house is put into home mode.

The Amazon Echo can be used to turn lights, appliance or scenes on manually, add things to my shopping list, to do list or calendar and using some custom skills it can be used to adjust the volume from the main amplifier, control the position of a pan/tilt camera or give a status update such as “Outside temperature is currently 12.5 degrees and humidity is 38.3 percent, indoor temperature is 21.2 degrees and humidity is 31.2 percent, current power usage is 865 Watts. The house is secure and is in home mode.” As the ground floor of my house is mostly open plan the Echo can be used from most of it or I can also use AlexaPi on the bedroom RaspberryPi or the Roger app on my phone or tablets.

When it is dark lights in the hall, stairs, landing, rear entry and bathroom are turned on and off when motion is detected, I don’t use automated lights in the main living areas as I haven’t yet perfected a reliable presence detection that won’t plunge me into darkness if I don’t move enough and I prefer to set light colours, brightness etc. manually depending on my mood here.

During home mode voice alerts will be spoken if an external door or a window is opened or closed, if this happens during away mode an urgent message is sent to my phone which acts as a backup to my traditional hardwired security system. If a smoke sensor is triggered or a temperature sensor exceeds a high temperature an urgent message is sent by all means available, audible, visual, email, SMS, Twitter, Pushbullet and Notify My Android.

If the fridge door isn’t closed properly after 5 minutes voice alerts will be spoken every two minutes.

If the doorbell is pressed or the letterbox is opened during home mode there is a spoken notification and a visual one on various displys and during away mode a message is sent to my phone along with a picture from the front door camera. There is also a camera in the hall that I can use to see what has been posted through the door if desired. If the letterbox is lodged open a voice alert is spoken every 5 minutes during home mode.

If movement is detected at the rear of the house and the back door is not open then a warning is spoken during home mode or a message is sent to my phone in away mode along with a picture from the rear camera facing the back door.

During the day alerts might be sent if one of the bins is due to be put out, if the level of the nearby River Mersey is higher than normal, if there are severe weather warnings or flood alerts, if the ISS is overhead or power usage is out of the normal range.

In the unlikely event that one of the few people on my whitelist ring my landline phone their name is announced via a spoken notification and on the displays and I can answer the call on a couple of IP phones, anyone else gets put through to Lenny.

If cinema mode is turned on the sound is switched to the front room speakers only, the LEDs on the rear of the TV are turned on and the lounge lights are gradually dimmed and then turned off. If the Kodi media center is paused or stopped the lights brighten slightly and dim again once playback is resumed.

At the end of the day I will usually set bed mode verbally using the Amazon Echo but this can also be done by pressing a Flic button or using a nearby touchscreen, all the appliances and computer screens are turned off, the stairs lights and bedside light are turned on and once motion is detected in the hall all the downstairs lights are turned off. The main dowstairs amplifier is turned off and the bedroom one is turned on. Three minutes later the stairs lights turn off automatically and once I am in bed I use the touchscreen (on a Raspberry Pi) by the bed to turn the bedside light off and play a radio station for an hour if desired. The bedside touchscreen Raspberry Pi also runs AlexaPi with a capacitive touch sensor on the top to activate it so I can also issue voice requests if required.

During the night a strategically positioned PIR sensor detects if I sit up in bed and brings the bedside light up to 15% red for 3 minutes before fading back down to off. If motion is detected in other parts of the house when bed mode is set and it is dark (eg. if I get up to go the toilet in the night) the lights in those areas will also turn on (dim and red where possible). When the house is in bed mode lights around the house will also periodically turn on and off so it looks like someone is still up and moving around.

Read about  how this is all accomplished here.

Last modified: 17 September 2016

2 thoughts on “A Day in a Smart Home

  1. Do you have a guest mode? Tricky to guess other people movements?

    So far, I’m finding the stuff we earlier worked on, very reliable. This Echo et al adds, but the reliance on it … is difficult.

    I’m also concerned about the quality of skills that Amazon publish. Clearly, most of them are hidden/unpublished (like all mine)?

    I just need Telldus and MQTT as skills. The port 1080 hosts hack (not tested again, but current setup okay, and the hosts file seems to quicken things (no issues with SSL so far)).

    Interested in the Google Home?

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