Dueling Automation


google home hub

People in the 1960s: “I better not say that or the FBI will wiretap my house.”
People today: “Hey wiretap, do you have a recipe for pancakes?”

This blog post is a twofer: brief commentary on two related subjects.

So I’ve been messing around on a fairly casual basis with different DYI home control.

Currently my house is home to Apple Home, Google Home, Roomie Remote, and a plethora of IP-controllable devices around the house.

Without passing judgment on any one ecosystem, it’s all kind of a mess.

I’ll just come right out and say it, but most of the issues boil down to ID10T errors. I freely admit it.

And the fact that, like I said, I’m messing around on a casual basis, as opposed to tackling it in a more rigorous, organized fashion is part of the issue why things aren’t totally seamless.

What I have observed, and it’s not all my fault, is that each eco-system can do some things well but can’t do everything. And that has to do with the fractured, ad-hoc nature of off-the-shelf home automation.

Roomie Remote, and its integration with Apple Home and Siri voice control do a very good job of running the sources and display in our living room, mostly.

The exception is the Telus OptikTV box which, for reasons known only to Telus, isn’t IP controllable, and whose remote uses a mysterious combination of IR and RF impulses.

BUT, Telus advertises that OptikTV offers voice control from Google Home and Alexa.

So, that means that members of my family can say “Siri, watch TV” and the display will turn on, and the AVR turns on and switches to CBL/SAT. Great.

But, from there you either have to have the Telus remote in hand, or say “Hey Google, go to Food Network!”

It’s a work in progress, and I won’t blame anyone but myself at this point. But it’s inelegant.

I will also say that Google Home is okay and all, and maybe things have changed but at least back when I was still on that side of the business your kids couldn’t hijack a Crestron system and tell it to make farting noises all day.

THAT, in my opinion, is the biggest weakness of digital assistants.

On a separate, and only tangential note, I was reminded of a time years ago at my old employer. One of our clients had residences in Edmonton, Calgary, and Victoria BC, and we managed the AV and automation at all of them.

My coworker Jeff was making some adjustments to the automation for the Calgary penthouse. However, he thought I was running the test mode on a saved file. He didn’t realize that he was actually logged in to the lighting and shade control of the Calgary penthouse’s Crestron controller.

So there he is, in our office, making adjustments and testing the lights and shades when we get a call from our client. I think she was in Phoenix Arizona at the time. I put her on speakerphone.

“Are you guys doing something to our place in Calgary?” she asked.

“I was just testing some adjustments to the automation in test mode.” Jeff replied.

“Well, our housekeeper just called us in a panic. They’re telling us the apartment is haunted!”

That’s when Jeff double-checked and realized that he was logged in there. And that’s why from the housekeeper’s perspective the lights were turning off an on randomly and the window shades were rolling up and down by the themselves.

We all had a good laugh about that, but we did endeavor to be more careful in the future.