Pocketnow Smart Home: adding sensors and devices

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In recent years, our smart phones have evolved into the “universal remote control” – not for our televisions, but for our homes. That’s where the Pocketnow Smart Home series comes in! Thanks to a combination of sensors and Internet of Things innovations, taking your old-fashioned home and turning it into a smart home isn’t as difficult, or as expensive as you might think – and it’s all controllable from your phone, phablet, or tablet.

So far in the series we’ve already covered the foundational part of our smart homes: the hub. We went with the Securifi Almond+ to power our smart home. In addition to serving as an 802.11ac router, it’s also supports sensors on both the ZigBee and Z-Wave standards, has got a very robust rules engine, and can take care of all its smart home duties without requiring a connection to the Internet.

In our last article we talked about securing your castle with a smart lock and some of the limitations today’s smart locks have with home automation hubs. Thankfully, most kinds of sensors and basic devices play nicely with smart hubs. Setting them up, then automating “stuff” based on the sensors’ input might not be quite as simple, and is decidedly the most difficult part of the whole process. Let’s get started on adding sensors and devices.

Adding Your Sensors

securifi sensor setupGetting your sensors and devices to talk to your smart hub might seem difficult – but it doesn’t have to be. The “confusing” part is that each type of device and sensor has a slightly different setup procedure.

We started out with two types of sensors, door/window sensors and motion sensors, and have subsequently added flood sensors to the mix. So far, the setup has been almost identical for all of them:

  1. On the smart hub, start the “add devices” process. On Securifi’s Almond products, this can be found on the touchscreen of the hub itself (rather than the web interface, pictured here).
  2. From there, install the battery in your sensor then press the pairing or “connect” button.
  3. Wait. Pairing can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few dozen seconds. Be patient.
  4. Once the sensor has been found, you’ll give it a name and location label. That’s it.
  5. Install the sensor where it’s going to live with screws or double-backed adhesive (or however else the particular sensor wants to be installed), and you’re good to go!

Adding Your Devices

Peanut smart plugDevices are different from sensors in that they are controllable (unlike sensors, which just report status). Some of the most popular types of sensors are smart switches and connected LED light bulbs.

The Peanut smart plug is a neat little device. Once it’s setup you can turn anything plugged into it (up to 15A) on or off either through the Almond app, or via a rule or scene (which we’ll get to in an upcoming article). To set the Peanut Plug up:

  1. On the smart hub, start the “add devices” process.
  2. Plug in the Peanut smart plug.
  3. Wait. This took about 45 seconds, but once it was paired, everything worked great.

The Peanut Plug is a nifty little gadget. Once it’s paired, you can move it to any other outlet that you want without worrying about re-pairing it. It’s also go a manual on/off button the side, so you can turn whatever is plugged in through it on or off without pulling out your phone and firing up the app. From the app or the web interface you can also check the power statistics as well (reported in watts, volts, and current).

cree bulbWe also hooked up a Cree dimmable LED lightbulb. The instructions are same as for the Peanut Plug – just make sure the bulb is off when you start the pairing process from the hub.

The app and the web interface are smart enough to know what kind of sensors and devices you’ve added, and expose their abilities to you in an easy-to-understand way.

There are lots of other types of sensors and devices out there, but the majority of them follow the same setup methods described above. The exception to these are those which are web-connected services: Nest, Hue, etc. Those devices connect to the Internet via their own configuration, and connect to the smart hub through their web services. Obviously, these won’t work in the same manner when the Internet is inaccessible (and is why we opted for the Cree bulbs rather than Hue).

Once you’ve added your sensors and devices you can start setting up scenes and rules – which is where the “smart” in smart home really comes into play. We’ll cover exactly how to do all that in the next installment of the Pocketnow Smart Home series.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.