Automation in a whole new light

I’ve had most of my media automated for a while now.  I’ve been a big proponent of Plex for many years, and with every new release it’s a tool that gets better and better.  For sometime now I’ve wanted to automate more of my house.  For good or bad as much as Apple have been pushing HomeKit, the reality is the Ecosystem is still very much North American based.  Whilst that’s changing, we have to live in the present, so what’s available for a UK household? – I set out to find out.  

The most visible of HomeKit compatible product is the Philips Hue lighting system.  I’d tried Hue sometime back and was unsuccessful due to “my GU-10 fittings” not being standard (standards, gotta love a standard!).  Apple have started to launch in store demos of the HomeKit product lines, with a lovely demo of Hue, and whilst in town a few weekends ago, I decided to give it another go.  I knew that nothing had changed with my downlighter in my house (which has a 134 for anyone keeping count) so I had to go a different route.  I picked up a 3 bulb + hub starter kit and started there.  I decided to focus on my main open-plan living room, which has my living room, kitchen, dining room and office space.  I popped a bulb into my standing lamp in my winter garden, and one into the large table lamp at the centre of the room.  The bridge was installed in my AV cupboard on my main switch and software setup was about as easy as you could expect, simply a case of downloading the hue app, finding the bridge and pairing the lights.  I won’t go into too much detail of the setting up of rooms and lamps, suffice to say, it’s probably easier to think of your room as areas if you have open planning living like I do.  Whilst I was at it I decided to go ahead and lay out the 2 bedrooms, hall, 2 bathrooms and utility room just to be safe.

With the lights in, I was able to turn the lamps off individually, change their colour, brightness and turn them off.  As a proof of concept I bonded them into a single room and was able to turn the “room” on and off.  Separating them again into their respective rooms again, I started to look at the more advanced things.  A light you can switch on and off, bit 1800s, a lamp you can dim well thats definitely in the 1900s, light changing – OK 2000s maybe, but I want more, I want automation.  So next stop was to dive into the HomeKit App, the sync between the hue App and Home app can be a bit temperamental, but I found all the lights and rooms declared.  The interface of Home shows who has more UI dollars, especially nice is the use of force touch to jump into individual lamps.  So home and hue thus far did similar things nothing to impressive, but as the great man said “there is one more thing”.  Jump out of home, and say to Siri “Turn all the lights off” and bang – we’re definitely now bang up to date.  There’s something really next gen about talking to your house!  Next up to play with scenes, again easily setup in Home app (I chose to do this in Home as I’ve read numerous reviewers comment that it’s a bit flakey to call up hue app created scenes from Siri).  I setup a couple of scenes “Early Evening”, “Orange Night”, “Watch sports” and “Watch a Movie”.  In each scene you can choose the lamps you want to be part of the scene, and then set their colour and brightness.  I made sure that each of my initial test scenes were very different with plenty of brightness changes and colours.  Once saved, as is typical for an Apple product- things just worked.  It’s hard to describe the feeling of just saying “Hey Siri- Let’s Watch a Movie” and the whole rooms mood change – it’s some transformeresque shit!

So with all that done, what was stage 2 – turn it up to 11, time to hurt the credit card, and pick up some lightstrips and some additional different sized bulbs.  On top of this I’ve also added Eve Elegato Smart plugs (for dumb lamps that don’t have any compatible Hue bulbs) and some Hue Switches.  All in my total bill of materials for the now complete Living Area is:

1 x Philips Hue Colour Wireless Bulbs Starter Kit – E27 = £135

3 x Hue Lightstrip Plus 2M kits = £195

3 x Hue Lightstrip Plus 1M extensions = £60

1 x Philips – Hue White Ambience E14 Candle Lamp = £30

1 x Elgato Eve Energy Plug £45

3 x Philips Hue Dim Switch £60

1 x Philips Hue Motion Sensor £35

Total Room cost: £560

Whilst this is not an insignificant amount of money it’s worth pointing out a couple of things.  Firstly the room includes the one time cost of the Hue bridge which inflates the headline number.  Secondly it would be entirely possible to remove the Eve plug and the motion detector (even the dimmer switches) but these are more to aid the automation.  Finally this room is huge, and in fact is 4 different spaces.  

I’ve priced up what I believe each bedroom will cost me:

2 x Philips – Hue Colour Ambiance Wireless B22 LED Light Bulb £100

1 x Hue Lightstrip Plus 2M kits = £65

1 x Philips Hue Dim Switch £20

Total room cost: £185

Whilst I was at it I priced out the hall:

1 x Philips Hue LivingColors Bloom £65

1 x Philips Hue Dim Switch £20

Total room cost £85

And that will complete my initial design/build for the lighting.  I’ll be doing this over the next few months.

I’ve already tied the gateway into the Apple TV which means the Home App (and Siri) work when away from home, and will be tuning the colouring scenes, automation and routines over this weekend.  

Future integrations:

I’m looking at moving over to Nest thermometer, Smoke alarm and maybe further out some form of video surveillance. For now though, I’m just going to go watch some sports “Hey Siri Let’s watch sports”…..


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