The smart home is gaining ground, but it’s still a muddle of confusing standards, competing platforms, and gadgets that don’t do what you might expect. But the promise of products that can make your life a little easier is hard to resist, so I’m here to answer the inevitable questions that arise.
Whether it’s figuring out the best connected door lock to assembling the right recipe to wake you up with a faux sunrise at the optimal moment based on your fitness tracker’s data, I’ve got you covered. As the host of The Internet of Things Podcast, I install a lot of gear and spend hours testing hardware and software to see what works. Smart homes are still pretty dumb, but I want to help you feel smart.
If you have smart home questions you’d like me to answer, send an email to [email protected]. In this week’s column I’m answering questions I get often from everyone, so forgive the lack of names.
I recently just switched from a SmartThings Hub, which I like as a strong second hub to the Wink Hub 2.
I have two questions: Can you direct me to a site for toggle-type smart switches? I also would like to know of a candelabra base smart bulb? I would like the both to work with Wink Hub 2.
On your first question, the SmartThings compliance page includes these Z-wave toggle switches from GE that will work with the Wink hub. You can also put in Fibaro or Aeontec modules that should work if you want to keep using toggle switches. But the Wink Hub 2 may not support all of the features.
I have been looking for a candelabra base smart bulb for a while, and so far all I have found is a Bluetooth-compatible bulb. I’m not keen on Bluetooth for my smart lights, because if you’re too far away from the bulbs, you can’t control them with a smartphone. Currently, these bulbs do not support Wink, SmartThings, or the Amazon Echo.
I had to switch my candelabra-style lights to a smart dimmer because I couldn’t find a bulb. But if you just want to reduce energy consumption, these LED candelabra lights look promising. Another option is to install a smart lamp base, but for a candelabra, though it may look unattractive.
I would like to get my LiftMaster garage door to open when me or my wife arrive within a defined geo fence.
Joshua C., West Greenwich RI
After trying on my own and failing, I checked with Chamberlain and the answer is no. A spokesman for the company said, “Right now no, but we understand there’s a segment of people that want this.” My response to this was:
If you’re wondering why, this is a security feature. Chamberlain errs on the side of security in all things, which is awesome in cases where a hub-like device is hacked and no one can open your garage. But when it comes to convenience, this can put a damper on your efforts to automate things.
If you are willing to break the rules and are comfortable doing some programming, there is a way. After I told Joshua this wasn’t possible, he wrote back to tell me he made it work using If This Then That to get his wife’s location from her iPhone and his location from his Android phone. He then linked his Garage with openHAB, an open-source home automation hub project that you can run on a spare Raspberry Pi or a Pine 64 board.
If you want to go this route here are the best instructions to get started. I am testing this setup myself using a Pine 64 board with a Z-wave module attached, but am still waiting on my board. For Raspberry Pi users, the above instructions will get you started quickly, but for the Pine 64 folks, we’re waiting on a promised SD card image that will make setup easier.