The Key is The Switch


There’s this thing happening out there called “the internet of things.” Basically, manufacturers want to sell you the best and greatest and must have thing. They ran out of options once they put a TV in your refrigerator so they had to come up with something new. So they decided the internet should be everywhere and it should connect into your life in every possible way.

One of those ways is “the connected home” or home automation. Imagine pulling into your driveway and the lights come on. Heck, imagine pulling into your neighborhood and the garage door automatically opens. Imagine saying into the empty room, “Turn off the lights,” and the lights turn off.

That is where we are headed.

In my home, I have a wife who hates electronics. My wife would rather die in a ditch than dare shout out, “Hey Siri, call 911.” She sure as hell is not going to say, “Alexa, turn on the living room lights.” I know this from experience.

For the past few weeks I have experimented with Lifx’s LED bulb, Belkin’s WeMo system, and the Philips Hue system. With Belkin, I had two LED bulbs that could change colors. I had one Lifx bulb. I have several Philips Hue bulbs.

First, I like the Lifx software and design, but it does not work with Amazon’s Echo, which I have been using, and that gets to the problem with both the Lifx and the WeMo.

Allegedly, the WeMo system works with Amazon’s Echo — the black cylinder with the name “Alexa.” In theory, I should be able to say “Alexa, turn off the lights,” and the lights go out. For the life of me though, I couldn’t do that with the WeMo. It is in theory possible with WeMo and not at all with Lifx.

So I either had to turn the lamp off physically or find my phone and open an app to do it. I’ll take the switch.

That leaves me with the Philips Hue system. I love it. I have three A19 standard light bulbs, four in ceiling cans, and two light strips. It works with Amazon’s Echo. In the morning, as the kids get up for school, the living room lamps come on as the kids head downstairs.

My office lamps are now Hue bulbs. I tell Amazon’s Echo to turn the lights on or off. The kitchen has two light strips that can come on. The other night my wife left her phone downstairs and, while in bed, I was able to use my iPhone app to turn on the lights downstairs for her as she went down. It was great.

At least it was great for me. I don’t mind talking to Amazon’s Echo. My wife hates it.

The key is going to be switches, which is why I am hoping Insteon and Apple’s Homekit work out well. I’m mostly an Apple guy anyway. It would be terrific if Apple came out with a version of Amazon’s Echo. I do not like to keep my phone with me. Sometimes the watch and phone do not stay connected even in my house. Being able to call across the room for a weather forecast or to get the lights on would be great.

But back to the switches — my wife is not going to talk to Siri. Heck, she has a Samsung phone. She will not talk to Alexa. She hates Alexa. She would rather sit in the dark.

So having wall switches would be nice — switches that she can turn on and off physically while I just tell Siri or Alexa to do it. Switches that can be controlled from somewhere out of town would be nice. Insteon makes a lot of switches and plugs that, in theory, should work with Apple’s Homekit.

Likewise, the bulbs are expensive. I also have more bulbs in my house than switches. For the connected home to work, I want switches.

Once the Insteon Hub comes out in September (it was released, but is now backordered till after Apple releases iOS 9.0), I may try some more.

Right now, it is just simply a pain to turn on my phone and open an app instead of just flipping a switch. And while Alexa is great, my wife can’t and won’t touch it. She wants a switch.

Maybe Apple’s Homekit will resolve the issue. It sure would be convenient.

About the author

Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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