Marvin: Automating my Smart Home Devices

Part of the process of designing Marvin is to carefully ensure that all devices within my home fit well into the ecosystem.  I severely underestimated the time it would take to carefully plan out each part of my ecosystem.

I’ve started buying and implementing smart home / IoT devices over the last year or so. The devices were implemented with the idea that they will all be managed a central device / hub in the future.  For a while, my hub of choice was the Wink Hub. But as smart home hubs evolved, SmartThings continued to get better.  While Wink is a terrific hub, SmartThings allows for far more complex automation routines or even create your own SmartApp.

While the hub itself was a difficult choice, the other devices were not a whole lot simpler unfortunately.  For one, I’ve been avoiding maintenance costs, as some devices have, like Nest Cams. Secondly, I tend to go for devices that support Windows devices as much as Android and iOS. Thirdly, the devices need to be user friendly enough that I would enjoy tinkering with it. Lastly, I try to choose devices that have mostly favorable reviews.  For devices to meet all 4 requirements has been surprisingly difficult.

Have a look at my device list below. The list includes completed implementations, implementations in progress and planned future implementations.  Beyond the ones I identified, I have been looking at suggests for other devices.  Feel free to suggest some that you believe may help complete my ecosystem.

Completed Implementations:

  • Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat with 3 sensors
    • I’ve had issues with my house being the wrong temperature. The remote sensors ensure that the room I am in is at the correct temperature
  • Philips Hue (100% complete)
    • Used for light fixtures without a wall switch
  • Netgear Arlo cameras
    • These cameras are perfect for what I needed, allowing me to detect sound or movement
    • There is no fee to run these cameras, but plans are available to enable further functionality
  • Wemo Smartplugs
    • Used to automate some devices that require simple on and off capabilities.
  • Denon AV
    • Surround sound system that is setup as 2 zones – zone 1 downstairs and zone 2 upstairs
    • The system is WiFi and Bluetooth capable, capable of being remotely controlled through a WiFi API
  • Ooma VOIP Phone
    • This falls under smart home because it allows for implementations that typical home phones do not allow, such as IFTTT
  • Keen Home Smart Vent
    • Works in tandem with Ecobee to determine where all the air should go, by closing vents that don’t expect air

Implementations in Progress:

  • Mi-Light LED strip controllers (20% complete)
    • 100m of RGBW LED strips
    • Cut, soldered and adding to furniture and as house accents
  • SmartThings Hub
    • Used to communicate with all devices through ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Wifi, etc
    • Central location for automation scripts that would be triggered

Upcoming Implementations:

  • GlanceClock (Awaiting delivery, ETA Nov 2017)
    • A great Indiegogo campaign that I funded on day 1, turning great looking clocks into smart clocks
    • The clock has an array of LEDs and an LED display, allowing me to send notifications and build out automations
  • Lutron Caseta light switches
    • Allows full manual control of the lights, with dimming capability
  • Lutron Shades
    • Automations to automatically draw or close shades depending on time of day
    • Help regulate the temperature throughout the day by managing the shades, based on time of year
  • Kevo Locks
    • Great for unlocking doors automatically without searching for keys
    • Allows me to remote unlock or give temporary access to guests
  • SmartThings GeoLocation tags
    • This would be used to help identify who is coming home and help determine which automations to trigger
  • SmartThings water sensors
    • Water heaters could go at any time, often without warning. This would be more for piece of mind.
  • First Alert Z-Wave Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Undetermined (and could use suggestions):

  • Motion sensor
    • I’m looking for motion sensors that either have a very long battery life or that can be easily (and discretely) powered / placed
  • Door and window sensor
    • I’ve gotten a few suggestions for the Fibaro Miniature Z-Wave door and window sensors. For the price, not sure it is worth it.
  • Voice Controller
    • I’m debating building one myself, not sure how the devices out there can be extended
    • I’m also in Canada, which means that devices like Echo sadly do not work here
  • Smart Doorbell
    • Are these really worth it?  How reliable can they be?
    • Current ones look and feel bulky to me
  • Exterior cameras
    • Like my interior cameras, I am looking for ones that can be easy on the bank while offering me the flexibility that I need
    • I’d need one in which I could tap into and eventually add facial recognition