All over the internet there are four issues that keep arising with regards to false information about the Apple Watch. I’m a REAL Apple Watch user and I would like to dispel them below.
1. You can’t use the Apple Watch without being near Bluetooth range of your phone
False. The Apple Watch uses WiFi when not connected directly to your device. Yes, you need to first pair your device with the phone and then you can walk all over as long as you are connected to a previously setup WiFi network (on the phone).
Apple Watch uses Bluetooth® wireless technology to connect to its paired iPhone and uses the iPhone for many wireless functions. Apple Watch can’t configure new Wi-Fi networks on its own, but it can connect to Wi-Fi networks you’ve set up on the paired iPhone.
2. The battery will not last a day
False. I have had an Apple Watch for three weeks and not once has it gone into reserve mode. I usually end up with 30-50% of my battery left over. I also use the watch a lot using Siri, ‘Workout mode’ for 30 minutes a day (it uses the heart rate monitor to calculate calories), get a ton of emails and texts etc. I’m not quite sure why this is still talked about.
3. The Apple Watch doesn’t do much
This is quite hilarious to me as I literally can almost do everything on my watch that I can do on my phone. Right now, my phone stays in my pocket unless the Apple Watch Siri doesn’t quite translate what I’m asking it to do so well. In conjunction with this Siri hack, I can make it do anything. Things that people don’t realize that it does are as follows:
- Check the LIVE view on an IP camera
- Control iTunes on your PC through the native Remote app
- Check my current nutrient levels through MyFitnessPal
- Pay with Apple Pay
- Make calls on the watch
- Messaging is definitely the best part. Using a button for Siri and then texting messages makes communication extremely easy
- Reminding yourself becomes extremely easy with the Reminders Nano app (with the Glance enabled).
- Take it for runs and use it as my Music Controller (it holds music) and can Bluetooth to it’s own devices.
- Home Automation is awesome with the Home Remote app. I have been in direct contact with the developer and he is extremely responsive and is in the middle of making some awesome changes to the app to enable smart iBeacons (the ability to click notification actions based on hyper-location)
While Apple said that it’s not officially waterproof, there are countless people out there that are making swimming apps and hoping that Apple approves them.
We hope that clears up some confusion about the Apple Watch. Most of the major concerns people have with regards to the above issues aren’t issues. The biggest issue I have with it is going to be fixed with WatchOS 2.
There are several ways to automate your music at home. There are several purposes for this:
- You wake up in the morning and want the local radio station to play while you’re getting ready.
- You want weather news/radio while getting dressed.
- You want new spotify workout music play when you enter the gym at 730pm
- You want the music to lower volume (or turn off) when your wife enters the room.
- You want a scene for a dance party to play all over your house.
- You only want your living room and basement playing music.
There are many options to do it. They are:
- Control4, Crestron
- Multi-room Receiver with amps built-in
- XBMC and Airplay
- Bluetooth Receivers to Speakers
Each provide unique advantages and ease of use along with different levels of quality. It goes without saying that using WiFi to sync audio around your house is pretty much a bad idea. WiFi can be spotty at times, routers can get slow and things aren’t reliable. Always aim for a wired solution.
Option 1: Sonos with their speakers
For comparison of all the products we will use an example of 6 rooms.
Calculation: (219 (speakers) X6 +50 (bridge))=$1364 (depending on source)
- Sonos is the easy way. Plug them in and download the app and begin.
- You can easily integrate Sonos with most automation systems very easily.
- They have several options for integrating your system with the major hubs. There are plugins available.
- This one works well with Tasker: Macronos for Sonos
- Easy to plug into Connect, Play:5 and Connect AMP to listen to another source
- A lot more expensive than Airfoil, Moxivo and on par with some Multiroom (craigslist) amp solutions
- Can’t be in the wall (not a clean install)
- Not really easy to expand VS using a CPU with airfoil or XMBC to locally play video files to the same speakers
Option 2: Control4 and Crestron
These solutions are by far the most expensive and are very hard to really compare to these others. A 6 room system will definitely cost you $XXXX.00. You will not have to think about the technical aspects of it. You get get a Rep to come in and do it for you.
- It gets done for you.
- The sound is great and integrated perfectly the way YOU want it right from the install.
- If you have a problem you call someone in to fix it (also a disadvantage).
- The huge downside to this is integration with other products you want to add to your system you can’t unless you get one of their reps to do it.
- The three people I know with these systems are extremely happy with the results but they all don’t want to call a rep back in for extra work. This is for the automator with cash.
- From my knowledge there is no GET API to integrate third party products. To me this is a deal breaker but I already thought that by the price.
Airfoil | A great AirPlay app for every platform
What is it?
Airfoil is an app you can install on your PC or Mac and have it transmit any audio source from your PC to any AirPlay or Airfoil Speakers. You can install Airfoil speakers on almost every platform. Therefore you can have an instant multiroom audio setup almost instantly if you have tablets, phones and PC’s already in each room.
- This is where it gets tricky. You need a license for your Windows and Macs. Once you purchase those you can download the free airfoil speakers apps and begin.
- Approximately 50-80 dollars in apps/licenses + Your cost in purchasing other tablets, PC’s etc.
- Depending on the type of AirPlay device there is latency time that can make or break the audio experience. Using Airfoil and Airfoil Speakers keeps that in check.
- Great support
- Very easy
- Easy to select different sources on the PC (spotify)
- Has an API to create scene based selectors for certain airplay devices
- Can also then send audio TO any speaker easily using an iPhone since they are all airplay speakers.
- If you could hardwire all your PC’s and MAC’s to and use Airfoil Speakers then it could be slick.
- If you have a busy wifi network and are using wifi only with this you will not be happy
- Different AirPlay speakers have different timing to output and you can hear it
Option 4: Moxivo | MultiRoom Audio through your Phone System
What is it?
It’s a cable to use your regular old school phone jack as an audio network throughout your house. You plug your source into the wall using the RCA or HEADPHONE to rj-45 and then plug in any powered speakers throughout the house anywhere there is a phone plug. Most houses have them in everyroom which makes this a really easy solution.
How would we make this smart?
Logitech computer speakers once plugged and powered on (with the button) in will stay on as long as there is power. The goal would be to power off the speaker that you are not using a AC Z-wave Switch. That way you could easily create scenes which control the rooms just by turning power on and off to each ‘speaker’.
Cost of 6 rooms
- 7 cables (40 bucks)
- CPU (you probably have one that you already control your music with)
- Logitech speakers (30 each on craigslist for decent 2.1 sound)
- Z-Wave AC 6 pack (100)
- Total: $320
- Using already there phone system
- Easy to create audio scenes as you just control the power to the speakers in your automation hub
- Use your existing app to control the CPU music
- You could get premium speakers and also double up them for other uses in each room.
- No automatic control of audio sound level as you have to manually change it by the physical dial in each room. It’s either ON or OFF.
- If there is noise on your phone line network it’s going to come through on your speakers.
- Not digital sound straight to the speakers (digital to analog).
Option 5: Multi-Room Amplifiers with 6 zones and Remote Control of them
A sample can be found on craigslist to control 6 zones. This one is $800 and then you’ll need to buy speakers. Since you do not need an amplifier you can just get any speakers you want to use and thus the sound will be of much higher quality and also has the potential to be a cleaner finish than say having stereos (with amps everywhere). MonoPrice.com in ceiling speakers can run around $50 each for the pair so you’re looking at $300+800+60(for cable)=$1160.
- Potential to have the best sound VS the Sonos, Airfoil and Moxivo
- Cleaner in-wall finish if you choose to go this route
- There are more expensive models but this one is a reasonable solution.
- New builds should go this route
- Can be controlled with an app, or IR tablet
- More expensive
- Need to run the speaker cable everywhere where you want speakers from the source.
- Not really a retrofit solution.
Option 6: XBMC/KODI with Airplay
XBMC (Or Kodi) is an amazing open sourced media solution. It allows you to share the same media source throughout the home. It also has an Airplay feature so you can turn any XBMC server into a speaker that can be selected.
The cost is all in the devices that you choose to run XBMC and if they have speakers you’ll need to get some.
- 6 XBMC Amazon FireTV‘s will cost 600. These will get you six locations around your home that you can then run a screen on and have a sound bar to.
- Can have one shared server with a shared database to combine your audio and video solution. It will be seamless and it’s what I use for my video.
- Your audio should be synced properly as long as all your devices are wired to a decent router.
- Easy to setup the Airplay solution.
- Can then stream any source form an iOS device to any room. Could also use the video option this way.
- This is my favourite solution since Tasker can be added to android boxes making this very easy to control.
- Might be expensive if you have to purchase 6 screens, 6 sound bars along with 6 android boxes
Option 7: Bluetooth Speakers
This option is very flexible and can retrofit any situation into a multiroom setup. The basics are as follows:
- Add Bluetooth receivers or Bluetooth speakers around where you want to have music
- Pair them to your audio source (will need Bluetooth) and then select where you want the music to play
- Retrofit any situation
- Moving around speakers is easy
- Doesn’t need a complicated API
- Could easily integrate with Tasker to turn the bluetooth connection on at any moment
- You could use a Bluetooth receiver and then plug in a more expensive audio system.
- Most Bluetooth speakers don’t usually have good bass
- Could not sync properly with all your rooms. You are at the mercy of the devices Bluetooth transfer rate and timing.
There are a lot of options and I probably missed a few but those are the majority of the decently priced options. There are always more expensive options with the multiroom receivers but based on the above my current solution is a combination of XBMC and AirFoil. I need the ability to display any video in any room and having a screen in each room with a media center there is easy to interact with using all the apps Android has. Airfoil gives me the ability to use iTunes as my server app and I can use AirFoil and scripts to select speakers when I walk into rooms (using iBeacons). I have a friend who uses the amp route and his sounds far better than my current Airfoil setup. It comes down to what your situation is and thinking about what you want to do with it. If you are looking to extend into one or two extra rooms you might want to go with the bluetooth option and see if that works for you.
Either way, let us know what you think in our forums below and if you think there is a better solution. Don’t forget to signup for our newsletter and Facebook page to get the latest updates and deals.[bbp-single-topic id=3920]
Z-Wave Dimmer Modules
Z-wave technology can control your lights through a specific radio frequency to a base hub or stick. You can purchase Z-Wave dimmers switches which control the lights locally and then update the system with the specific level the light is at. Advantages over WiFi
- No router needed
- Arguably more secure
- Allows for mesh networking
- Faster real world response (from my own observations)
- Can buy in bulk for cheap
- Z-Wave Technology
- Works well with halogen and incandescent
- Does not work well with LEDs
- Large housing for installation
- Minimum wattage amount required
- Works great with LED’s
- No buzzing when dimming
- Works with most Z-wave hubs well
- No Buzzing
- Max 500W
- Great reviews
- Great product
- Good brand
- Good reviews
- Downside: Higher price
- Works great with LED’s
- Best brand name
- Doesn’t work well with LED (needs minimum wattage:40w)
- Not completely silent
- No neutral wire required
The Z-Wave Dimmer Switch Winner
Based on my experience, rumors and reviews from online the Linear is the one I would pick as the dimmer of choice for a retrofit design of a house. At $35 a pop it’s very easy to use your existing LED’s/Halogens or Incandescents to become smart and controlled. Second place goes to the Evolve dimmers but at $12 more per dimmer you could get some LED lighting strips.
WiFi lights aren’t preferred unless you can change all your ‘switches’ to be able to control the lights. Changing out all the switches is an expensive solution. There are some solutions for this (LIFX Remotes) but for the most part the easiest transition to use Z-Wave Dimmers instead.
- Created WiFi Lights Sector
- Philips is a high quality product
- Great reviews
- Great support
- Great API
- Great integration
- BR30 Base Option
- $95 is for 4 bulbs, gateway, wall remote (below)
- Cheapest option
- Full API
- RGBW Color LED Light Bulbs (AKA: 60W)
- Can replace your entire local switches on the wall as they are pretty cheap.
[/plan][plan title=”GE Link” color=”grey-lite” price=”80″ target=”_self”]
- $80 Includes 4 links and the Wink Hub
- Zigbee (so will not improve your z-wave mesh network)
- 60w equivelent
- GE brand (big name)
- See below for sample checkout
- $380 for 4 bulbs
- No hub required
- 75w equivalent
- WAY too expensive compared to LimitlessLED
- Stick out a lot and wont be good for 80% of lamps or fixtures
- What about wall switches?! Once you cut the power to the bulb it wont get any power.
The Best WiFi Smart Lighting Is…
1. IF PRICE NOT A CONCERN
If price is not an option than we personally like the Philips Hue as it is the most professional looking lights of the bunch (also the most expensive) and there is the best integration with all the other smart products out in the market. There is also plugins for Smartwatches for the hue (Pebble), a great API and is one of the biggest names in lighting.
2. IF PRICE IS A CONCERN
We LOVE the idea of replacing our existing wall switches with those remotes from limitlessled.com. They aren’t the best looking but give you far more control over the mood and color of every light in the area at the touch of a button. They are super cheap and are always on sale (don’t be fooled). We went through the pricing up the same package as the philips (4 bulbs and a gateway) and it’s about half price.
For 100 bucks you could use this as a test to see what your whole house will respond like.
3. IF YOU WANT ON AND OFF AND CHEAP
The GE Link is a decent option and comes in at 80 dollars. It’s an ok solution and works with Zigbee hubs (Wink). Below is a sample checkout of 4 bulbs with the hub at HomeDepot.com:
Bluetooth Smart Lights
Bluetooth lights from my perspective are a fail from the start. There is no mesh network, the range is only 20-30 feet, you need a bluetooth controller that is on and I just don’t see the point VS the other options mentioned above.
- Poor range
- Need a bluetooth controller
- Just a bad idea overall
There are a lot of options coming out with smart lighting products. The ones that will succeed will be the ones that just let us keep our current solution and then add to it.
BEST OPTION FOR A NEW BUILD
The LimitlessLED option to me seems like the best option for the money. It provides full color LEDs, remotes with wall plate options at a good price, a good API and other bases. I would choose that option if you could build a custom ‘wall plate’ for the remotes to make it as seemless as a regular wall switch.
BEST OPTION FOR A RETROFIT
The Linear dimmer switches with a z-wave hub will make your significant other happy as from their eyes nothing will change. You can program and automate all you want. They will just have a different button to push.
SmartThings VS Wink VS Vera VS Insteon VS Aeon USB Stick VS Tasker
Below is a comparison of the current major players in the home automation world. Since this is just getting competitive now the prices are still somewhat high. Prices will drop with the more entrants into this game. Ideally you have a box that isn’t dependant on a server but if price is an issue than you can try a different route (such as a USB stick or Tasker). Things to look for: Open API’s, Apps, Plugins, Z-wave, Wifi, Zigbee, Google Now or HomeKit Integration (iOS), Android Wear and iOS ‘Watch’ apps. Technologies: Z-wave is the technology you should be looking for as it has the biggest product catalog support and it’s extremely secure. BLE may be the future but right now the current future isn’t as developed as it should be. Zigbee is great but you are limited in the type of products you can purchase. WiFi only hubs such as a Tab 3 can be used to control your Philips Hue lights but there are far more Z-wave products to purchase.
Update Oct 18th, 2015:
There has been a lot of changes in the past year and the items below reflect the changes.
Above is V1 and the price is very low to reflect the older technology inside. It’s a great start if you’re looking for something cheap to get into the smart home technology.
- Open Platform
- Samsung purchased in 2014
- Works with X10, Zwave, BLE (V2 only)
- No monthy fees
- Easy visual builder
- Battery backup V2
- Need to open app and ‘clunk’ around to turn things on.
- Last time I checked they didn’t have a dimmer option. It was just turning lights on and off
Version two of the Smartthings hub have added bluetooth, an battery as a backup incase the power goes out, better processor and more RAM. It improves the speed of actions and provides a more reliable connection to your smart home. It also supports more video cameras (not just DropCam).
Here is a comparison image between V1 and V2: [/plan][plan title=”Vera Edge” featured=”true” price=”$99″ color=”teal-lite”]
- Newest Model (Late 2014-2015 Design)
- Best API and Plugins
- Biggest community
- Decent Apps
- Integration with Tasker
- Easy setup
- Great support
- Good design
We replace the VeraLite with the Vera Edge as it is a newer model with possible device connections (can connect up to 220 devices), more video camera controllers, latest gen technology.
We purchased this model and had some issues but their support team quickly rectified the issue and got it working. [/plan][plan title=”Insteon Hub” price=”$99-150″]
- SmartLinc has an API
- Apple, Android
- Been around for a long time
- X10 Compatible
- Can find cheap products on craigslist
- Not Z-Wave device compatible
- Not ZigBee device compatible
Why not the new Smart Hub PRO and a HomeKit Solution?
HomeKit isn’t ready yet for home automation; everything on your network has to be HomeKit compatible for Siri to see it. I wouldn’t recommend it yet and there are far better solutions (see Beecon voice technology) to control your system from your voice.[/plan][plan title=”USB Stick S.S. 2 ($35) or Gen 5 ($49)” price=”$35-50″]
- Need a windows PC to host software like InControl
- Cheap solution to integrate Z-Wave
- Lots of flexibility
- Integration with EventGhost
- Apple and Android Apps you can use
There is also a Generation 5 device (2015) like the one below
This model allows for all Aeon gen 5 products like their new LED’s. It will hopefully provide a more reliable connection than their Series 2 stick as well. [/plan][plan title=”Tasker with Wifi Solutions” price=”4.99″]
- Too many features to list with a ton of plugins
- Great app
- Cheapest Solution
- Software Based
- NO Z-wave or Zigbee
- Easy to learn
- Tons of tutorials
- Great for WiFi Only devices
- Need to be willing to learn
- The most flexibility
- Can be integrated with all these other hubs
- Can use Philips Hue (lights), Lockitron, or any other BLE connected device and skip the Z-Wave system products.
Sample GET request with Tasker[/plan][plan title=”Wink Connected Hub (NOTE!!!! Wink went bankrupt)” featured=”true” price=”49.99″]
- Lowest Price (they have also gone belly up and I dont recommend this solution)
- Great Technologies: WiFi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron, Android Wear
- Good API
- Poor documentation (No setup)
- Spotty Z-Wave Support for all devices. Click the above link and browse through the reviews. They aren’t all pretty.
- Decent apps
- Once they improve on the integration with all Z-Wave products you will have a clear winner
- All of these products do pretty much the same thing
- They mostly all support WiFi, Z-Wave or ZigBee
- The Wink Connected hub that controls BLE, WiFi, Z-Wave, ZigBee is clearly the one that has the greatest potential. They just need to improve their firmware to work with all devices.
I personally like the Vera solution as it has enough features for the advanced techie but enough tutorials and help to support a mid to moderate newbie. There are a ton of plugins available and can easily integrate with Tasker. I do like the fact that it has it’s own hardware versus a USB stick as having a server running all the time isn’t very ‘green’. This is a long race so expect a few new players to enter the game and surprise us. We will keep you posted. Let us know what other
Since the ideal tablet is the one that you can see from anywhere in your house it has to be the following:
- A really good price (buying 8 Nexus 7’s isn’t cheap).
- Have enough RAM not to lag. This would be a minimum of 1GB RAM and have any bloatware removed.
- Have as many sensors as we could on it. The most important features:
- Decent front camera
- Good microphones
- Good WiFi (Most of the cheap tablets you buy from dealextreme and focalprice have terrible range)
- Ideally has IR for adding the cheapest automation products to your home
What is the most functional tablet to hang on your wall?
After considering all these factors and checking with the available tablets on deal sites the answer is…
Without a doubt it’s a seven inch Samsung Tab 3 with IR Control can be found on craigslist and ebay for under $80.
These are pretty awesome for many reasons:
- 1 GIG RAM can JUST handle what you need to do without crazy lag.
- Can act as full Voice Control with autolistening on.
- Easy to Root for full admin control
- Tasker, AutoRemote, SmartIR are necessities and make great companions to this device
- It can replace expensive IR only controllers
- It can be an IP cam that can integrate into Netcam Studio Server
- Very light and yet big enough to see from a distance
I will go on to say that these tablets aren’t the BEST ones but they do provide the best value for home automation and can be placed all around the home for easy integration into most home automation systems.
What are some things you’ve done with it?
1. Voice control with an always listening capability.
2. Use my iPhone to use Google Now and Search my Home PC to play whatever music I would like.
3. Use Yatse to auto play videos on my XBMC PC.
4. When you enter a room you can have it tell you that you’ve entered.
Why not the Tab 4, Nexus 7, Asus, Fire etc?
It’s all based on price and what’s the best value for what you want to do with it. Some of those are overkill for just having a tablet on the wall to do basic home automation tasks. Most do not require a fast processor or lots of ram as most tasks are done with one open application at a time.
There are plenty of better and faster tablets available but this one is the one you should be looking for on deal sites and second hand from friends. They can have so many uses and are pretty amazing little devices.
As of today, June 4th, 2015 you can buy it on Amazon for 84.99 Used or 119.99 New