This is the fifth and final part of the IoT unravelled blog series. Part 1 was all about what a mess the IoT landscape is, but then there's Home Assistant to unify it all. In part 2 I delved into networking bits and pieces, namely IP addresses, my Ubiquiti UniFi gear and Zigbee. Part 3 was all about security and how that's all a bit of a mess too, particularly as it relates to firmware patching and device isolation on networks. Then in part 4 I focussed on the user experience because whilst it's great having all that digitised stuff in the home, it can't degrade the experience of the less technical users of the house.
Now in part 5, let's look at how it all works together, and I've done 11 short videos showing different parts of my house and how the IoT bits work there. If you want to just watch them all back to back, I've put everything in a YouTube playlist embedded here:
Alternatively, you can watch each individual video below complete with some additional commentary about how things work or how I'd do them differently. All these videos are unedited, candid versions of precisely how my house works, enjoy 🙂
Opening the Garage Door Remotely
The original goal of this whole IoT journey! This is enormously useful and not a day goes by where I don't use Apple Home Kit to open the garage door in one way or another. Yesterday morning whilst out Christmas shopping, UniFi Protect popped up on my watch as there was someone at the door. A quick look showed it was the gardeners who normally give advanced notice, but this time showed up unannounced and didn't have access to the property. Over to Home Kit, pop open the garage door, job done!
Playing a Sonos Station with My Watch
This seems like a minor benefit but switching to the station I want via the Sonos app is a bit painful. Open it up, scroll through the favourites, choose the station, sync it to both my Sonos units, set the volume, done. But it's 2 taps on the Apple Watch; one to open the Home Assistant app and a second to "Play ABC Radio". It's the little things like this that I really appreciate.
The Washing Machine Just Finished
Raising alerts when events occur is one of the joys of home automation and whilst I didn't see the value in it at purchase time, having connectivity on the washing machine is actually kinda neat. There's a Samsung SmartThings integration in HA which makes it dead simple to track the washing machine state and let us know once a wash cycle is complete and the clothes are ready to hang on the line.
Is the Coffee Machine Out of Water?
This automation is far more useful than what it probably seems, namely because once the machine is out of water and cools down, there's a quite a lead time to warm back up again. It bugged me, and the solution was simple using the HS110 energy monitoring plugs. I'm using to track a bunch of other things around the house too, it just takes a little tweaking to associate the change in power usage to an event in the appliance you're tracking.
Ring Ring, Ring Ring, There's Someone at the Door
I couldn't wait to get this doorbell in place as it's another piece of the automation puzzle that gets a daily workout. The Ubiquiti UniFi Protect G4 doorbell has an awesome 1080p picture quality and not only does all the stuff in the video, but is also used as a motion sensor to trigger lights should someone walk up to the door after sunset. Plus, it's permanently recording everything and flagging the timeline with events based on motion within predefined zones.
Managing My Office Lights Based on Movement and Stream Deck Buttons
My office lighting was one of the first things I did with home automation as it's continuously changing. I'm writing this with lots of natural light flooding into the room, but later I'll be livestreaming with the curtains closed and 5 artificial lights on, all easily triggered on or off. What I didn't mention in this video is that that lights are only turned on automatically when the light is beneath a certain level; there's no need to automatically turn them on when it's already well lit.
Stair Lights and Kids' Bedroom Lights with Aqara Motion Sensors
The stair lighting is one of the most useful automations in the house and it's another IoT feature we use daily. The kids love their rooms and take great pleasure in showing visitors not just the lights themselves, but how they can ask Alexa to change them to their hearts' desire. I wouldn't do this in our master bedroom, but it's great fun for the kids 😊
Triggering Lights with Ubiquiti UniFi Protect Cameras
The UniFi Protect integration has been fantastic for triggering lights on, especially outdoors where different lights are triggered by movement in different areas. I love this as a security precaution, but do often find a little bit of lag for use in an indoor room where you want the light coming on pretty much immediately when motion appears (although strangely, it performed very well in the video below!)
It's Almost Sunset, Set the Lights
There's just something about coming back to a dark house that feels kinda... lonely. I've put Shellys behind a bunch of the lights both indoors and outdoors to make sure the place always feels welcoming after sunset. Combined with the Aqara button in the video, it's super easy for any family member to either turn them on earlier or turn them off all at once when heading to bed.
The Sun Has Set and the Garage Door is Open
This might seem like a minor one and it's only occasionally triggered as I'm pretty good at keeping the garage door shut, but I really don't want to be going to bed leaving it wide open. A combination of this automation and another Ubiquiti cam pointing at the garage door makes it easy to ensure the place is left how I want it before all the lights go out.
Backlighting Around the TV
I like the backlighting as it makes the black TV pop out from the (very dark blue) wall. I'm not completely happy with the diodes on the Hue being individually visible and would really like a diffuser on them but that said, they're only visible when you're offset from the TV like I am in the video. You only see a nice warm glow when you're directly in front of the TV.
I hope you've enjoyed this series, it's the culmination of many months of work I've been gradually adding to as I've progressed on my own IoT journey. I think this is a fascinating area of technology that's in its absolute infancy and clearly there are many rough edges to be ironed out. But that's also what makes it exciting, and I'm really looking forward to being more involved in the future of IoT.
Scott Helme and I will be livestreaming a discussion about our IoT journeys later today my time (Friday 27 November), watch for the video below 👇
- Part 1: It's a Mess... But Then There's Home Assistant
- Part 2: IP Addresses, Network, Zigbee, Custom Firmware and Soldering
- Part 3: Security
- Part 4: Making it All Work for Humans
- Part 5: Practical Use Case Videos