Sunday, June 3, 2018

RECOMMENDED: iDevices --- the Smart Home Realized

There are lots of devices available for a Smart Home. The Nest thermostat was one of the first that truly ushered in the current batch of tools. Sure, before that, you could use X-10 to automate as much of the house as possible and there were always custom solutions but the current idea of the automated home made it feel so much closer to reality than ever before.

I have a Nest thermostat as well as a Nest Protect. When Nest was purchased by Google, I was excited about the possibilities but then discouraged by the founder leaving. But still there was a lot of promise in other areas.

I purchased an outlet switch at the Apple Store for an iDevices switch. It worked as a HomeKit device. We used it for patio lights and they worked amazing.

They offer an Foundation Kit which includes two plugs and an outside adapter. ALMOST a perfect fit. I did have some troubles with the outside adapter communicating with our at home network. Company sent a new one after a number of troubleshooting episodes. End result? Outside adapter for the win! Christmas lights are no longer an issue.

WAIT - surely, we could have been using one of those dusk-to-dawn dimmers for outside lights and in fact, we have. They work great - but when they get buried in the snow and you want to change them, the trouble isn't really worth it. Cue the stories of how spoiled the current generation is. It's not enough to have to turn on lights, you have to turn them on from inside. Don't want to put up lights? Buy one of those outside laser light shows. But seriously, it's not just a geek thing - if you can do it and it makes your life better, why wouldn't you?

So when iDevices introduced their new wall switches, I knew I had to try them out. At $99, they aren't cheap. I was able to purchase several during various sale periods, reducing the price to about $75 but dealing with duties, it brings it back up. The competition is getting fierce as well. Non-HomeKit devices can be fifty dollars cheaper and even the Eve and Koogeek switches are cheaper.

I don't know if there are problems with mixing and matching switch devices but I do know consistency in a home is important. While we may use other devices for different parts, I would like the overall home to look the same. The other thing I really like about the iDevices switches is the nightlight feature. They have a small strip in the middle of the switch that can change colour as you choose to fit in with the wall colours or other decor. They are also close to flush against the wall.

iDevices aren't strictly HomeKit either. While they have their own app, they are also Google and Alexa compatible. Of course, it now sounds like we have a full house ("Siri, turn on downstairs", "Alexa turn on the backyard") - but unless Apple figures out how to offer an affordable HomePod in Canada, Alexa is the best go to (disclosure - I haven't tried a Google device yet). Cross system compatibility is really nice while the entire home automation market tries to establish clear winners.

So there are some gotchas with the switches:

1) they don't work well with certain mesh devices (I have an Orbi). A firmware update caused my lights to turn on and off sporadically so I reset it back to the older version - problem solved. Before buying, check the compatibility list.

2) the dimmer and single switch aren't compatible. When you have a three way switch (two switches that control the same light), you have to have the same type of switch for both switches.

What makes this troubling is that they recently introduced a new "child" device called the Instant switch which links to existing plugs. That switch doesn't have the nightlight feature - so you can't really use it with the same look as the others. They should offer an option on this that doesn't have the nightlight to address the complaint as well as a nightlight option.

The iDevice family is pretty close to all encompassing: wall outlets, wall switches, wall plugs (indoor and outdoor) and thermostats (at one point, they offered a Shower and Grill piece but they weren't really HomeKit devices). My wish list includes USB switches or perhaps an extension strip. By focusing on the key home areas, rather than trying to deal with the whole health aspect, I feel very comfortable in using iDevices as a base for my home automation framework.

I hope their prices do come down a bit so I can finish off the rest of the house but I can still wait for the sales or better combination packs.

iDevices - definitely recommended.

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