Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Things to monitor and control

People often ask for ideas of what to do next. I say if you can count your devices, you need more.

Some of the things I'm doing:



Still on the to-do list:


  • Find smart door locks that can tell me the doors lock status at a reasonable price. The weather is so variable here in central Texas, heat and humidity wise that exterior doors change shape enough that doors tend to need a push or a pull for the dead bolt to align so I've given up on actually being able to lock/unlock them. Wish now I'd wired the dead bolt holes with recessed switches.
  • Open garage door on command though mainly for the "Goodbye" routine that puts the site into away mode only after checking the alarm is ready to arm. Seen too many glitches to feel good about it opening automatically on return.
  • Smarter motion recognition. Ultimate goal is to be able to have it tell me what is sees moving and tell me where a pet was last seen. Would prefer a Blue Iris plugin or similar but might look at a separate system like YOLO I can send triggered images to.
  • Want GPS tracking of pets when practical. Which seems soon.
  • Of course wild critters are getting to be big deal here which accounts for many of the cameras. For example I recently added 4 just trying to find a snake that got in the shop. Lately feral hogs are the thing.
  • Well and water softener monitor so know if the well has tripped, a filter has clogged or a pipe is leaking / burst.

Other stuff some have mentioned but not on my list:

  • Smart or controllable blinds.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Alexa still not an entry level hub replacement

I was writing up a response to someone about IFTTT and Alexa / Wireless Tag integration which will probably but useful later so I'm saving it here as it reflects on Alexa's poor support for sensors. Note Alexa's home automation interface is still better than Google's almost non existent one. (See compare below.)

Why go through IFTTT when you can integrate Wireless Tags direct with Kumo? As in as in my fridge / freezer monitoring setup which updates values as they change in my Homeseer instance which then can trigger any action Homeseer can perform. Which is just about anything. Plus IFTTT was become very unreliable this year.

Alexa Wireless Tag integration sort of works. I can ask the temperature of a sensor for example, "Alexa, what is the temperature of the freezer" and it tells me the reading from my regular sensor in the freezer. Though oddly in the device list I only see motion values for the regular tags and what appears to be temperature for the soil moisture tags. (Not all my soil moisture tags are dead.) Again oddly you can't use the sensor values in routines. Though finding anything in the Alexa device list is almost impossible since it is designed for people the just have a few things. Even stranger:

  • You can sort the device list in the web interface but not the android one. 
  • The web interface does not let you do anything with the devices on the list other than forget the device.
  • Routine management is missing from the web interface.
  • The android list interface does have some groups to narrow down the list but way to few. For example, the only way to see a list of the 12 of my 348 devices Alexa sees as "sensors" is to try to create a routine with one. 
  • My Homeseer sees 3137 "devices" as I write this. (Note a "device" is data stream or parent. As in a Hue Sensor would be seen as 5 "devices". A parent and 4 sensors, light level, temperature, motion and battery level.) Alexa only sees 348 of those (note some of the 348 are Alexa devices not in the Homeseer count) and only 12 of those as sensors from SmartThings, Wyze, Ring and Hue so far. Even then for example the Hue sensors report motion, temp and light gut Alexa only sees motion info.


When you have 348 devices (that Alexa sees) like I do, it is almost useless. Amazon REALLY needs to improve their interface so it can scale if they want people to use their routine framework for any logic. So while it would be nice to have Wireless Tags usable as sensors in Alexa to, for instance, announce the fridge is too warm, I do not really see it as big deal till Amazon makes their configuration interface more usable.

To be fair when Alexa is compared to Google's Home:

Cons:


  • Google does not even have a web interface so everything must be done via phone or tablet.
  • Often skills like Harmony where with Alexa you would say "Alexa, turn on Netflix". With Google that worked then it went to you had to say "Hey Google, Ask Harmony to turn on Netflix." and then often tells me it did not recognize me and would not do it. Now it seems to be back to just "turn on" BUT for instance when I say "turn on Hero" (my PC's name) to Alexa is just works. I say "turn on Hero" to Google it starts playing something from Pandora.
  • It appears too that at some point Google Home lost some of the account links I had setup.


  • Lately the Googles (I have a Home and 3 minis) seem to say try again in a few seconds a lot.
  • To discover new devices you say "Alexa, discover devices." You say this to Google and it finds phones and asks if you want to ring them. Ask "how do I get you to discover devices", you get "I don't understand" and "I found a related how to get Alexa to discover devices"! It is also easy to do from the Alexa app with a swipe down. Instructions I found online say Google's Home should do that too but it appears to do nothing for me.
  • Google appears to allow one Harmony hub to be connected while Alexa allows many. (I have 5 currently)
  • Adding skills to Home is an egg hunt compared to Alexa. I just tried to add the Wyze skill for example and I had to search on line to even figure it out. Then while trying to link the account it just exited half way through me entering my login info.
  • WyzeAlexa sees all the cams, motion and contact sensors I have. Google sees on the cameras and contact sensors.
  • Google routines still appear to be voice command triggered only while Alexa's allow triggering using voice, time, some sensors (see above), location, alarms, echo button presses and "Guard state".

Pros:

  • The devices list in Google does seem to use the room from Homeseer. However I had to add each Wyze and Wireless Tag device to a room during the setup process manually.