Home Automation

I haven’t written in a while. As you may imagine, life has had a lot to do with it. But the other large contributing factor is the time I have invested into building out a (sweet) home automation system.

I’d love to say it is done, but let’s be honest, is any product ever done? The reality of Marvin, as I am calling my home automation, is that it is in a somewhat functional state. To date, it does a lot of the basics, with nothing more than a few minor bugs. As with any other product, I am prioritizing some of these bug fixes for later.

Here are some of it’s current capabilities:

  • Control Switches (On and Off)
  • Trigger Predefined Routines
  • Display Contact and Tilt Sensor status
  • Control Alarm (Armed, Home, Disarmed)
  • Control Locks
  • Control Garage Doors
  • Control Thermostat and View Temperature
  • Weather and 1 day Forecast
  • Control Entertainment through Spotify
  • Display Reminders and Events

Though the list of capabilities is expected to grow over the next few weeks or months, the above is enough to control at least 90% of my devices. Controlling switches is enough to turn lights on or off, displaying contact status used to display whether doors are open or closed, or the reminders and events used to show garage pickup information from the municipality.

Here is a short (and far from exhaustive) demo of what it looks like so far:

From here, I am looking to focus on entertainment, ensuring that those devices work well together, that mood is more easily set, and that rooms can be better defined and easy to navigate between. The ultimate goal being that this is a system that will compliment our lives and make things better.

My stretch goal, one that I constantly keep at the back of my mind: is there a possibility of making this publicly available. Short answer is yes. Hint: Check out my featured image to see just how easy it is for me to add a fully functioning tile/

Disruptive Companies, Passionate Teams

I’ve come to the realization that I like companies that try to disrupt a market. Whether it be phones, IoT devices, or software. Love rooting for the next up and coming success story, even if it means some growing pains along the way. I tend to be a very passionate person when it comes to technology.  I find myself pouring over details, specs, and features with each new thing. It’s rewarding to engage their teams over the details, as you get to see their drive and dedication.

The products trying to disrupt the market are often ones that bring in their own special flare. Even though they may not offer all the same features as the industry leaders, you can tell they are making a difference through the details. The communications coming out of these teams show their passion.  They don’t often generate hostility. As a result, their message tends to be softer and they normally try to rally others to join them.  As a result of a more neutral tone, hoping to rally people together, you often find that these teams often offer the best support. With good support comes a good and lasting impression on the market, because the best form of marketing is word of mouth.

Because of my passion for technology and great products, I often find myself going out of my way to find these new and upcoming products or technologies.  Over the years, I’ve bought into or crowdfunded numerous products that were either help achieve a personal or professional need.  I don’t always buy into products solely for the product itself, I often do it for the experience and the support. I’ve had the opportunity to follow a number of companies who were just starting out to flourishing into companies now competing against some industry leaders or going through large acquisitions. These teams were huge on gathering feedback and interacting with their communities or “evangelists”.

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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.

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Marvin – Personalized and Smart Virtual Assistant

Over the last two years, I’ve been buying into Internet of Things (IoT) devices. While the devices themselves may be smart, they do not make a smart home.  In comes Marvin.  Unlike many who have gone for Jarvis as a name, I chose the name Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guild to the Galaxy. Marvin has a brain the size of a planet, which is fitting considering the information it will be processing.
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