My Insanely Automated Home & Morning Routine

My efficiency has gotten out of hand. :-p

Note: If you can’t see the video above, something went wrong. Eek! You can check out the video here.

As many of you know, I am in the middle of an extremely rigid and meathead focused workout and diet routine while I pursue my next Life List item. As such, I have had a lot of time and energy to work on more intellectual pursuits. In addition to working on my upcoming book, I have been obsessing over home automation and efficiency. As you can see in this week’s video, phase 1 is complete. It has been a fun and nerdy process.

For those of you who are curious about the two training resources I use in the morning (for Chess and for Music), here are the links:

For those who are curious about home automation, here are my recommendations for the best home automation gear.

Best Home Automation Gear: 2015

I have a firm set of rules when it comes to home automation technologies. Each piece of gear that I purchase and install must:

  1. Be Practical – Too many home automation products simply add a wow factor without being actually useful. While this might be fine for some early adopters, it isn’t fine with me. I want the house that I live in to serve me and get smarter as software improves. I don’t want it to complicate my life with unnecessary shiny objects.
  2. Add Functionality Without Removing Any Features – The greatest smart home gear in the world is useless to me if it doesn’t include at least the same features of a cheaper, simpler version of the same product. This means that light switches need to work regardless of whether the Wifi is working and smart plugs need to have manual on/off buttons in case a smart phone isn’t within reach.
  3. Be Instantly Usable by a Layman – If smart home gear prevents a layman from using something simple light a light switch, then the gear has failed. Smart gear needs to be both smart and simple.

Best Smart Home Platform

Apple’s HomeKit – There are several good smart home platforms out right now. When making my choice, I went with the one that is compatible with the most devices (Apple’s HomeKit works with any Apple device that can run iOS 8 or higher) and shows the strongest historical technology record (Apple has historically made fantastic software and hardware). HomeKit isn’t perfect now (triggers are sloppy and the remote connection is cumbersome) but I am confident that it will improve and stand the test of time.

Best HomeKit App

Home – Aptly named and full featured, Home is the best HomeKit controller that is available on the app store. It includes full support for all of the HomeKit iOS 9 features and is easy to configure and use.

Best Smart Lights

Lutron Dimmer – This is the best complete solution that is compatible with HomeKit. Lutron’s methodology is to replace the light switch rather than the bulb. The alternative, independently controlling the bulb (as Phillips Hue bulbs shows), makes very little sense as the bulbs are overwritten (turned off) when someone takes the very normal action of flipping a light switch (which breaks my 1st and 3rd rules). Although I am happy with my Lutron purchases, I have been annoyed that their scenes and remote connection works outside the scope of the Apple ecosystem. While this doesn’t affect day-to-day operations, it makes me worried about their long term plans. As of right now this is actually fine as Lutron’s proprietary system is actually better than the current version of HomeKit.

Best Smart Plug

iHome Smart Plug – This switch is simple, comparably inexpensive, works with and without HomeKit and has an app that is useful for controlling all other HomeKit enabled devices. Smart plugs are fantastic because they make any dumb device (like my water heater), a smart device.

Being nomadic, I do not own the home featured in this video. Instead, I built and installed the automation system as a gift to the home owner for letting me stay there while I am in town.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I love the idea of having things happening around the house, forcing you through your morning routine! My only problem with these hyper-automated routines is the rigidity, how much effort does it take to stop these things from happening if you’re sick/ have guests over? And having them work for more than one person’s routine must become a nightmare! I would love to see this done though (my partner and I already have very synchronised morning routines).

    • I was worried about the rigidity too. Turns out not to be a problem as you can just stop the triggers from firing or reset the scenes from your phone (either siri or the Home app). The guests issue is mostly not an issue too as the whole routine (minus my bedroom lights) are triggered from standing on my scale. Guests don’t tend to walk into my room and do that :-p

      • That is a very good point! Having that initial trigger of the scales would make it much more convenient if your day differs from the normal schedule. You could just skip the scales and then take your morning as you please or shift your morning forwards or backwards depending on when you hop on the scales- very clever!

    • Getting this to work for multiple people is still something I am working on, so far the trick has been to just use sensible scenes for all of the common rooms.

  • I’m waiting for the HomeKit lock (deadbolt) to become available her in Canada – very soon I’m told :-)

    • Which one you going with? I like the Scalage lock for the trusted brand but the August lock for the fast innovation and close companionship with Apple.

  • samuel_bell

    really enjoyed this video. Morning routines are always hard for me to stick with for any length of time but I love your idea of having things start automatically to spur you along through the wake up process.

    • I hear you! Sometimes it is just easier with machines :-p

  • SpencerPadway

    Do you know anything about automated shades? I really want to get something that pulls up on my alarm so i can wake up with the sun..

    • I don’t have any personal experience but have been looking at these as they are already compatible with HomeKit and the rest of my system. Automated shades actually seem really straightforward (motor direction and motor on/off) so it seems hard to go wrong.

  • Steven Zhang

    This is cool! I assume you’re spending most of your days being nomadic. Do you setup an automation routine everytime you move somewhere, or…?

    • I have spent about half of my time nomadic this year. When I am on the move I do not have an automated routine as logistics make it difficult (I don’t have the necessary hardware when I travel and if I did, I wouldn’t want the extra weight or extra security risk). My home base is the only place I keep automated.

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