DIY Doctor

Smart Technology - Are you Getting any use From it?

Postby elthwatez » Wed Mar 20, 2019 9:54 pm

Hi,

First post on the forum and it's a question. I have a fascination with smart technology, it seems to be appearing everywhere and every company seems to be advertising every possibility as the next big thing. But, in my mind, a lot of that is gimmicky and still misses the point - for example a washing machine that orders its own washing powder is not helpful if you have to sit in for a day for the guy to deliver it; or if it buys from the most expensive vendor.

I ended up thinking that really, the value of smart technology in homes is to make the simple stuff smarter or make life cheaper, now, rather than in the future. My assumption is that handy folk who are interested in home automation have found their own way through this and have been for ages, but it's a bit of a secret!

So my question is, what is the single most useful home smart enhancement you've made to your house?

My cards on the table, i think in-line switches have the potential to be great and I could bang on about this (in another post perhaps :-) ); but the market doesn't seem to agree!

Cheers,
Dan
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Postby ericmark » Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:07 pm

Well I have got some automation, in fact just starting to remove it ready to move house. It all started to help look after my mother with dementia, broad band installed in her house and a camera fitted.

It helped, it did stop having to do the 15 mile round trip a good few times, it also told me when central heating had gone wrong as it had a thermometer built in, however it also failed far too often, we would get a call from monitoring station that mother was out of bed, we would go to camera and only 70% of the time did it work, when it did we could speak using the camera and often get her back to bed without going there. And one time we could hear mother shouting help so mad dash after she fell, why the monitoring station set up with council social services could not hear her shouting is another question.

After some problems with central heating both too hot and too cold I fitted a pair of TRV heads so I could better control heating, shortly after we had to go and live with mother, she had got too bad.

So next problem was her wandering off in the night, the council came and fitted an alarm, the sounder and controller was out side our bedrooms upstairs, however visitors were a problem, we had to run upstairs to switch off alarm every time we opened the door. Tried both timers and plug in remote controlled sockets, but neither worked well as either not reset after or times wrong, so tried a socket with both timer and remote control so it auto switched back on 3 times a day so even if we did not press remote control button long enough it still switched back on.

So to start with the devices were a god send, however after mothers death we did look at some of the other functions since we already by this time had a double socket, a plug in energy monitor, a light switch, and 4 TRV heads.

The TRV heads were designed to work with Nest and Nest 3 can connect using OpenTherm so it seemed a natural progression. However found Bosch Worcester does not support OpenTherm and our old one did not even support Wave. So either control boiler with return water, or with simple off/on.

So thermostats only job is to turn off boiler when all rooms satisfied, traditionally this means put thermostat in the room kept the coldest, down stairs, with no alternative heating and no door to outside. Well simply put there was no such room. So closest was the hall, which has a huge radiator to re-heat room when front door opened, adjusting the lock shield simply did not work, so did what it says don't do, fitted a TRV in the hall, set to around 17 degs and wall thermostat to 19 degs this actually worked, hall radiator heats hall fast, to 17 then slows down allowing rest of house to catch up, before turning boiler off.

So the TRV heads by now we had 4 have the option of geofencing, and we can have them set so room starts at 20 deg C then drops to 18 then evening at 22 and over night 16 degs. Sounds great, however it simply did not happen.

The eTRV does keep room spot on, two sensors one for air and one for water means the temperature of radiator is compensated for so set to 19 you get 19, however speed of change was the problem, it has anti hysteresis software so room at 16 and set to 20 the room soon heats to 18 degs but then can take 2 hours to settle at 20 degs can cheat and set to 22 for hour then back down to 20 but it means the whole idea of it sensing phone and using geofencing to get house right as we arrive home, is useless, also cooling the same, house well insulated so switch to 14 degs over night and even on coldest night in morning still only cooled to 17 degs.

So the eTRV is set with times from the computer, then not touched, which means instead of £80 a pair (plus hub) could have got non computer linked at £40 a pair to do same job. Like the Terrier i30.

It would be nice to be able to switch heating simply off/on, however pointless being able to set temperature. And off/on relays are quite cheap to work from phone.

The other point is unless the boiler is able to modulate from a wall thermostat, then why have a wall thermostat? As it does modulate with temperature of return water. OK things are about to change gas boiler output 8 kW to 28 kW so modulating boiler makes sense, oil boiler however output 18 kW to 24 kW is there really any point, OK ticks box it is a modulating boiler, but why bother?

The remote energy meter was interesting, watching battery chargers work, freezer work, etc. I have learnt a lot, however once learnt what then?
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Postby collectors » Wed Mar 27, 2019 3:49 pm

Totally agree we ericmark there are lots of things that wont work with each other. There are also a lot of dangers with switching things remotely. IE: many things will tell you that it has sent the signal to switch an item on or off, but you dont get any conformation/feed back that tells you it is actually on or off, which is not a good thing when you want it off. It needs 2 way signaling to recipicate whats happened. Some things need to improve. Just on something slightly different, what has improved with radio? "Nothing" We had MW which was fine & no problems. Then we had FM when you could get it. It was useless in a car if travelling a lot. Now we have DAB, which is great if you live in a city, but i am in the country & lucky if i can get any more than 4 DAB station's with a roof aerial. But one thing that's great about modern tec is the internet, it has saved me thousands over the years.
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Postby Dr. Strange » Sat May 18, 2019 1:58 pm

I'm not completely sold to the idea of making everything smart, might be generational, but I believe there is still value in doing things manually when electronic devices are not without faults and could go awry no matter how efficient they should be. That said, I do not think I am a Luddite either, I am open to few help here and there. I only have one device currently, and that is because I got it for free, the Google Home Mini, but I admit I struggle sometimes and I'm not comfortable giving too much personal information but no matter which how to article I find like https://www.meccanohome.com/how-to-set-up-google-home-mini/ it seems there is no way around it. Don't mean to hijack the thread but I am open to suggestions!

Bottom line for the topic at hand though, not completely trusting smart tech but not dismissing it entirely either. There should be balance.
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Postby ericmark » Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:47 am

Balance I agree with, however the biggest problem is getting information about the product before you buy.

I have bought 5 of nearly the cheapest TRV heads, I have bluetooth version at £15 each, there is a non bluetooth at £10 each. All the blue tooth does is stop be having to use a mirror to see what it says on the display, as mounted horizontal. Whole idea is to be able to turn off rooms when not required. Either by pushing local button or using local phone, or setting a schedule, however there are some features not found on the more expensive version I am using in rooms around the wall thermostat.

Looking at an advert we get
[size=85][size=50]Specification
Brand Drayton
Central Heating Control Type Smart Controls
Colour White
Compatible Boiler Type Combi & System Boilers
Display Type LED Display
ERP Control Class Not in Scope
Hub Required Requires Hub
Manufacturer Guarantee 1 Year Guarantee
Model Name/No WV704R0A29
Pack Size 1
Parent Colour White
Pieces in Pack/Case 1
Product Depth 61 mm
Product Height 94 mm
Product Length 121 mm
Product Type Wiser Radiator Thermostat
Programme Facility 7 Day Programmable
Smart Compatibility Smart
Works with Amazon Alexa Works with Amazon Alexa
Works with Android App Works with Android App
Works with Apple HomeKit Does Not Work with Apple HomeKit
Works with Google Home Does Not Work with Google Home
Works with IFTTT Does Not Work with IFTTT
Works with iOS App Works with iOS App
Works with Microsoft Cortana Does Not Work with Microsoft Cortana
Works with Nest Does Not Work with Nest
Works with Samsung SmartThings Does Not Work with Samsung SmartThings
Zoning Level One [/size][/size]
That's all well and good, but what one needs is all the makes together, so we can see what best suits us. No where in that list does it say has open door detector, or that it has a fixed exercise time, just hearing mine exercising at 12:00 on Saturday.
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Postby KDM » Sun Dec 08, 2019 4:35 pm

Wish I'd seen this post some time ago. Could have contributed. these are all great points. But there's more.
Yes, the "standard" which underlies these devices doesn't tie them all together well. (Or at all, in some cases.) Importantly, everyone will have different expectations, and you'd need to be a software engineer to make a fully equipped smart home truly useful.
Importantly, for me, where these devices are WiFi connected, we have to program them with out WiFi details, so that they can connect to our WiFi router. I distrust that, since most of them are made in China.
Which is why, I have bought devices containing ESP-32 (A version of Arduino) and reprogrammed them with TASMOTA (which can talk most of the various protocols, but i stick to MQTT). I can see that the program is not nefarious and I trust it implicitly. These devies are all tied together using an MQTT "broker" (they all talk through this broker) which means the computer (an elderly, secondhand laptop) must remain on all the time. The interface I use is another program called "Home Assistant". It's basically a web server, which means I can access my devices and manage their interactions from any mobile phone or laptop.
...but it has taken me months to set up, and I'm a software engineer!

The strapline here is that the technologies are not actually customer ready yet for a totally smart home. Yes, on a small scale, you can control your heating from your phone, for example, but I want to switch off the radiator in the bedroom if someone has left the window open, and that takes some tuning.
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Postby oliver9523 » Wed Dec 11, 2019 11:47 am

KDM wrote:These devies are all tied together using an MQTT "broker".


Pretty similar to my setup too. I run MQTT on a raspberry pi and use NodeRED dashboard rather than going down the Home Assistant route.
I also create/program my own ESP8266 based sensors (it's reinventing the wheel a bit as tasmota does a lot but I enjoy doing it from scratch)

I've stared building a 3D interface too!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHzdfeWEFRA
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Postby KDM » Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:11 pm

Home Assistant is a very good web interface, but other than adding instruments, I find it very difficult to understand. In fact, I have an MQTT postprocessor in Python which reformats the topics for me to use in Home Assistant, because I can't be bothered figuring out the jargon!
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Postby ericmark » Sat Dec 21, 2019 5:13 pm

I have written the PLC program for a concrete press, so I have the ability at the moment, but as I get older, it will need some one else to keep what ever I have running.

So my question is, can my wife use it? and if it fails can she get some one the fix it? If not, then does not matter how good it is, don't want to fit it.

Had a plumber to look at central heating, and he had the skill required to fit motorised valves and solder up all the joints, but when it came to set up Nest, not a clue.

Boeing has a problem with one of their planes where the planes computer takes over and flies the plane into the ground and the pilot can't over ride it.

Same with things in the home, it there is a switch to disable the automated system and you can manually control the device, great, but it you can't revert to manual control, then there's a big problem, as often it takes weeks to find some one with the skill to repair it.
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Postby KDM » Sat Dec 21, 2019 9:45 pm

I'd have to say "no". This is absolutely not a consumer-ready solution. As far as being ready for a commercial enterprise, well, it would need to be a large enterprise to retain a full-time specialist.

737-MAX. Yes. Unfortunate. A pilot's eyes should always be able to take over from a pair of conflicting sensors.
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Postby ericmark » Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:45 am

Well where I live radio is useless, so Christmas we got Nest Mini to listen to radio, and for that they work well, however since they could I was tempted and I connected up the lights, TV, and heating, plus some random sockets.

Think I have got Stan from the Santander advert, hay google turn of radio, we get reply turning off 5 switches and not a clue which 5 switches, so got phone call at work, tumble drier will not work, and I have to turn it back on.

So say turn off music and it turns off lights, say turn lights back on and get don't know how to do that yet, but it has just switched them off! And it does not know how to stand in naughty corner either.

Radio 2, 3, 4 or Classic FM great, ask for fair ground music not a clue what you will actually get, it says if you don't want add to can pay for spotify, so we did, and still get adds.

They do what we wanted, now got radio back, but I am going to remove most of the things as it gets it wrong too often. Great blue tooth speaker for laptop, however when I start laptop any music playing stops.

Wife likes them, she has really got into "broadcast come and help me XYZ" tried I haven't learnt how to do that yet, Nest mini may get away with it, but I don't, it worse than big brother watching it's the wife.
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