What I learned from automating my house during the pandemic

An empty mind is an engineer's workshop. That saying is as old as time. Two things happened simultaneously in 2020 - The Pandemic hit, causing many jobs in IT to move from working from the office to working from home. We were expecting a baby and therefore had to take additional precautions, which meant a complete disconnect from human civilization, barring the occasional video calls.

The second thing during this period was moving into a brand-new flat. As you scour through manuals from Ikea, you start understanding the patterns. You can see which manual is copy pasted from other manuals; you can empathize with the manual-making team and how overworked they are to churn out new assembly guides for every new piece of furniture in the market.

That was when I looked at the house carefully and asked a pertinent question, why in the 22nd century, do we need switches? The light control is a stone-age activity; you move from your position, drop what you are doing, reach this non-descript mechanical plastic breaker circuit, and hit it with a click, causing the course to complete, and electricity passes through. Humans came to the moon in 1969; we have Voyager about to go to the outer edges of the solar system. Humans now can launch not one or two but 104 satellites in orbit with the mathematical precision in mm, so why on earn should I drop my cup of frothy coffee, rise and walk to the small plastic thingy on the wall to get more light in the room?

So I went complete hardware mode and picked up intelligent devices. 

  1. For GU10 Spotlights, I used the INNR multi-coloured bulbs for living areas connected with Hue Bridge.
  2. For the Screw Bulbs, I used TP-Link TAPO Yellow bulbs for the bedroom.
  3. For the smart blinds, I used Louvolite electronic blinds that can be configured and used the Louvolite hub.
  4. I have a Cubo AI camera for the nursery with motion sensing that detects when the baby moves closer to the edge of his cot.
  5. Everyone has a robotic hoover in the house, but if you haven't, I recommend you get one. For the robotic hoover, I have used the Ecovacs Deebot 920 for automatic cleaning and mopping the house.
  6. For orchestration, I had Alexa Echo for ages, but I decided to upgrade to Alexa Show, which is wall-mounted for the new house. Having Alexa Show, which is mounted on the wall, gave a sense of a control panel for the whole place when we did not want to use the voice command.

Here are some of the most comical takeaways I experienced along the way:

Compatibility is Key (But Not Always Easy): I quickly learned that compatibility is crucial for a smooth-running smart home. But, when I thought I had everything set up perfectly, one of my devices would suddenly go rogue and refuse to play nice with the others. It was like trying to herd cats, but with technology.

The Joy of Voice Integration (or the Lack Thereof): Integrating my smart lights and blinds with Alexa was much fun - when it worked. But, when Alexa refused to listen to me or misheard my commands, it was like talking to a stubborn child who wouldn't listen.

Scheduling and Automation: Setting up schedules and automation for my smart lights and blinds was a real hoot. I felt like a mad scientist, coming up with elaborate plans to outsmart my devices. Of course, they usually didn't follow my commands, but it was still a good laugh.

Debugging and Troubleshooting: This was where the real fun began. Debugging and troubleshooting my smart lights and blinds was like trying to solve a mystery, complete with red herrings and false leads. As a result, I learned to be creative in my troubleshooting methods, like shaking the device, shouting at it, or even trying to bribe it with treats (kidding, of course).

In conclusion, automating the lights and blinds in my home was a hilarious adventure filled with laughs, frustration, and much learning. 

And as I write this article, I can ask Alexa to turn on my living room lights or close the blinds without moving an inch from my seat; that gives a sense of power.

P.s. Many of my devices happened before Matter protocol came into being. Therefore, my devices were already orchestrated before 'matter', and consequently, it didn't affect me.