Kill time setting up a killer home-auto system – The Australian Financial Review

Kill time setting up a killer home-auto system – The Australian Financial Review

It’s also important to know because, when you go looking to attach your Connect SmartHome devices to other systems such as LIFX lights using an automation platform like IFTTT or OpenHAB, you need to search for “Smart Life” or “Tuya” rather than “Connect SmartHome” or “Laser” – something which, due to the scant documentation that comes with the devices we tested, took us about three hours to figure out.

But that’s three hours when we otherwise would have been sitting around in the house, watching the paint peel, so the system is already a winner as far as we’re concerned!

Laser Connect SmartHome sensors

Laser’s system includes a battery-powered door and window sensor that’s easy to set up … but difficult to automate properly. 

Setting up the devices is disappointingly quick and easy, though.

Like most home-automation systems, you just install an app on your phone, power up the gadget and put it in pairing mode, and then wait till the app finds the gadget and adds it to your system.

If the gadget is, say, Laser’s Wi-Fi-based, battery-powered door or window sensor, that’s all you need to do in step one. If it’s, say, the Wi-Fi-based universal infrared remote, you then need to teach it to control your TV or your airconditioner, so they in turn can be controlled by the Laser app.

That, too, won’t suck up much time. We had the remote control controlling an LG TV, a Samsung Blu-Ray player and a Daiken airconditioner in a matter of minutes. And in just two minutes more, we were able to control those devices with voice, by connecting the Laser app to the Google Assistant app and saying things like “Hey, Google, turn on the airconditioning”. It’s all too quick and all too easy.

Where the Laser system does get a little time-consuming, though, is figuring out how to get all those devices to work together once they’re attached.

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The app gives you the ability to create reasonably sophisticated automations so that, for instance, the Laser infrared remote automatically tells your aircon to heat the room to 23 degrees the moment the Laser door sensor detects the door has been opened and the Laser motion sensor detects movement in the living room.

A two- or three-day project

Unfortunately, though, the automations aren’t quite as sophisticated as you might hope. We created an automation that turned on the TV for 10 minutes whenever motion was detected in the living room between the hours of sunset and sunrise, hoping that it would simply restart the 10-minute timer every time more motion was detected when the TV was on.

But it did the opposite. The second time motion was detected, the system tried to turn the TV on again, but since it was already on, it turned it off by mistake. The only way we could make the automation work as desired was to sit dead still in front of the TV for 10 minutes, wait for the TV to switch off, and then move a little to switch it back on again.

An alternative approach would be to use IFTTT to do automations, but as far as we can tell IFTTT doesn’t work with any of the Laser/Tuya sensors, meaning you couldn’t use it to turn on a TV or, say, a LIFX light (as we were hoping) when a sensor detects motion.

That leaves only the third approach, which is to use an ultra-sophisticated home automation platform such as OpenHAB, integrate it with the Tuya IoT back-end, and write scripts that do exactly what you want.

That’s not easy. Not only will you have to set up a server running OpenHAB and learn OpenHAB’s programming language, you’ll also have to do the roughly 50-step procedure to get OpenHAB to receive signals from the Laser/Tuya system.

My guess is, setting it all up to work the way you want it, with automations that work the way home automations ought to work, is a two- or three-day job at least, and one that will require ongoing maintenance to make sure everything is talking to everything else.

The alternative, of course, is just to turn the TV on yourself when you walk into the room. But turning on a TV takes almost no time whatsoever, whereas automations take up oodles of time to get just right.

And it’s time we’re all trying to kill here, isn’t it, stuck inside, waiting for this year to end?

Published at Mon, 13 Apr 2020 03:52:00 +0000

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