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  • Writer's picturejosh linney

Creating A Smart Home #1

It’s currently month 4 of Lockdown for most of us, and it’s given me time to start projects I would usually have no time for. Since getting my first apartment I have been in love with the idea of having Smart Home. Now in my 3rd home and over 42 different accessories, I cannot look back on the days I used a traditional light switch.

To be looking for smart accessories, you have to come up with a plan of what you want them to do. For example; do you want the lights to be adaptable to different color temperatures, having a motion sensor detect when someone is in a certain place so a light turns on when a switch is pressed at a certain time a scene runs.

The goal is to make your life easier And to make your home apart of your personality so you control it, not it control you.

The first category we will explore is lighting. Lights are the easiest way to start to build your home. Now, there are many many choices you can go with, and with a starter kit, I would recommend picking up the Philips Hue starter pack retailing for about $150/£149 depending on deals and offers floating around. The reason I recommend this starter kit is because you get a bridge, 3 lights, and usually a remote. Philips hue works with all software such as Google, Alexa, and HomeKit. The bridge acts as a connection to add support for HomeKit and allows for lights to be controlled even when you aren't at home. Personally, if you have an iPhone or any Apple devices including Apple TV or HomePod then go with HomeKit, as its secure, and everything is synced across everyone's devices in the home at ease. Also adding people from outside is just a few taps away, with controls to limit what they use and the duration they can be connected making life easy for guests.

I use a 2020 iPad pro to set up my home and automation. Later on, I will talk about Alexa and Google and their setups but for now, I'm going to talk about HomeKit as I feel it doesn't get the limelight it deserves. To date, you have to download the app according to the company you bought the lights from, the Philips Hue app is easy to download on all platforms and once you set up an account and connected your hub to your router, you can start adding your lights.

Once all lights are added you can head over to the Home app, scan the HomeKit code on the bridge, and see all the lights you have added. From here you can add rooms,

If you don't want a hub LIFX offers a very similar experience with bulbs that connect over Wifi, you still have to download the LIFX app but the setup is fairly similar and they also offer a great selection of lights and strips. Bulbs start at around $20/£20 depending on what kind of light you would like. The amazing thing is anything HomeKit compatible can be used and mixed about, so don’t worry if you buy some Philips hue lights and then want to buy LIFX or any other company after. They will all work seamlessly in the Home app.

Once you have your first room set up: for example, the living room, you want to think about what you want your lights to do and when you want them done. This is where scenes come in. In the morning I have a routine that I can press in the app or say "Hey Siri, start my day" This scene turns on my hallway lights to a cool white and my kitchen cupboard lights to a set color theme. In my living room, I have a projector so in the evening when we are watching movies we say “Hey Siri, Movie time” and all the living room lights set to 10% which then triggers an automation which I will come back to later. If you got a Philips starter pack with a dimmer switch you can also program that in HomeKit so when a button is pressed a scene will run. My living room switch has 4 scenes set so that my living room can adapt throughout the day, as I said a smart home should adapt to you, not you to it. Switches run the argument of wireless lights being pointless if you still use a switch, in reality, you are making the switch adaptable and smarter than a traditional switch, it also helps when short stay guest are over to ease them into the experience. Never should you feel like it’s a gimmick, if it does, then a little bit of tweaking and building up accessories can help.

You should now have a basic setup in a room or two, with scenes that adapt around you. Next week I will talk more about accessories, LED strips and Automations.

Be sure to Follow Us on Twitter at @mtechup and @joshblinney for updates and stories. See you next week at the Tech-Up!


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