The NY Times reviews a tablet computer made just for seniors. This drew eye as part of my ongoing interest in aging-in-place. Sadly, it sounds like AARP put their name on a real dud of a product. It's just a clunky Android (sorry for the redundancy) tablet with a custom UI skin. I have a much better idea; spring for an iPad, which everyone loves. Your parents deserve it.
My Netatmo Welcome camera arrived yesterday. I ordered one as soon as it became available because it's the first camera that has a design I felt comfortable leaving out in my home. (The Withings Home is a close second place in this regard.)
The out-of-box experience was good, and I was able to get the camera up and running quickly. You need a My Netatmo Account, which I already had for the weather station. I had just two moments of confusion during the process. First, after initial setup you need to disconnect the camera from its USB connection to your computer and switch to its power supply. Secondly, as soon as the camera was connected to my Wi-Fi network it started downloading an update. (Is there any product left on the market that doesn't immediately need an update?!) However, there's no progress indicator and the unresponsiveness of the camera was disconcerting until, several minutes later, it finally displayed "update complete" and I figured out what was happening, in retrospect.
The camera's facial recognition feature is unique, but as the documentation notes, it needs an evenly lit full-frontal view to work. The camera has a very wide angle, but its vertical height is limited so camera is going to miss tall people (ahem) or need to be placed fairly high off the ground. I'm disappointed to see that there isn't a way to turn off "empty house" detection, which is based on the facial recognition.
Speaking of motion detection, there is no way to adjust the sensitivity or set zones where motion should be ignored. This is a very common feature in other cameras and I'm surprised to see it omitted. The sign of a 1.0 release, I suppose. Until this is supported, I'll turn motion detection off. When I had it on for testing, though, it seemed to work are common with other cameras. (Note: This is based on about 8 hours of testing, so don't bet the farm on it.)
Early verdict: Stylish, good picture, easy to use camera with a high Spousal Approval Factor. Motion detection is solid but inflexible. Facial Recognition smells like it has limited usefulness for my situation.
I've written about the Insteon Hub several times. Now that Revolv has been swallowed up by Google, it's once again my go-to recommendation for non-geeks who want to get into home automation and remote control.
Today, the third generation Hub is available. It works with Apple HomeKit. Yay! (Yes, if you have a previous generation of Hub, you do need to buy a new one. The price of progress.)
Smart Home has been selling their new INSTEON Hub v2 for just $40, so I couldn't resist upgrading my older hub. (Note that the new one is smaller and otherwise improved, but no longer supports X-10 devices, if that's important to you.)
When the new Hub arrived, I couldn't find any information about how to migrate from my old one. Worse yet, the iOS app would only associate with my old one, making the new one nothing more than a paperweight. I contacted Smart Home for help, but didn't get any reply.
Well, after some poking around in the slightly clumsy app, I discovered part of my answer. To add the new Hub 2, in the app, go to the "House Management" section of Settings. From there you can add the new Hub, which is quick and painless. (You'll need the Hub nearby as it involved scanning the QR Code on the bottom of the unit.)
There doesn't appear to be any way to migrate your devices from one hub to the other, though, so you'll have to re-add each device individually. Not a fun task, particularly for light bulbs that are inaccessible.
With the sad demise of Revolv, the INSTEON Hub is now the best choice for setting up quiet, simple, and easy home automation. It's not sophisticated enough for a DIY enthusiast, but for most, it's the way to go.
I've been helping to beta test the new iOS Numerous app and have really grown to love it. Yes, it's beautiful, but it also has just the right amount of openness and flexibility to make it truly useful, too.
What can you use it for? Anything you want or need to quantitatively track or measure: the number of times you've gone to the gym, how many days since you've watered the plants, your weight, the number of panic attacks you've had this week, and so on.
But you can also tap into "public" numbers, which are either automatically provided by Numerous (such as stock prices and weather) or have been created by other users as publicly available. That's right, you can share your data, with everyone or just those you invite. For example, perhaps you and a buddy want to each share the number of miles you've run this week. If you have an iPhone 5s, it's dead simple to track or share how many steps you've taken each day because Numerous supports the M7 coprocessor. It can also read from Location Services, so right now for example, it's telling me I am 607 feet above sea level and 1,841.4 miles from Cupertino.
But the best part, for us home automators, is that there is an API for updating any value. Your HA system can easily keep you up-to-date on whatever you'd like to track. Or, use the IFTTT channel to tie-in any of the many options that service supports. (For example, during beta testing, I kept track of my weekly tweet count, all automatically.)
I've been using a bedside iPad to control my Revolv home automation system, but I finally grew frustrated with that and sought out a replacement. (In brief, the in-humane double-tap icons in the Revolv app, coupled with the lack of a proper iPad version, pushed me over the edge.)
If you've read Smart Home Hacks then you know the solution I wanted was a tabletop controller. While I have Z-Wave controllers on hand, Revolv doesn't support those so I turned to INSTEON mini-remotes instead. I decided on the Mini-Remote Switch model, because for now, one state (asleep/awake) is all I need.
I've been struggling with the mini-remote and Revolv for about a day now. It worked fantastically the first time I tried it, then the next several times I tried it (including last night, when I really wanted it to work) the hub wouldn't respond to it. I'd press a button and nothing at all would happen. The lack of a debugging interface for the Revolv doesn't help here, but I decided that maybe my bedroom was out of range. So I swapped out a nearby Z-Wave lamp module for a dual-band INSTEON model. Still no luck.
I stumbled upon the answer completely by accident. The mini-remote is a lot more complicated sophisticated than it looks. Although there are only 2 buttons, each one can be pressed in a variety of ways, but only one way is recognized by Revolv. Sounds crazy, but a quick tap, long press, and double-tap are all different things to this switch. I was accidentally long pressing when I should have been quick-tapping. Problem solved.
Ironically, it was the finicky double-tap behavior of the Revolv app that drove me to the mini-remote, and now I have a finicky quick-tap to teach my family instead. ("You're pressing it wrong!" And people wonder why home automation is so slow to catch on?!)
A word about the mini-remote: Aside from the surprising feature set, I'm not impressed by the build quality. The switch is light, feels flimsy, and makes a disconcerting cracking sound when you use it. The battery situation is also interesting--you have to recharge the non-replaceable batteries using a USB connection. I hope each charge lasts a very long time as that seems like an unnecessary complication.