How to teach your Logitech Harmony: Alexa, Hey Google turn on Roomba!

iRobot Roomba and Google Home

It must have been a strange moment for Mr. Colin M. Angle, CEO of iRobot, when he presumably announced summer 2017 his plans to sell the mapping data share maps for free with customer consent of his newest robotic vacuum cleaner (Roomba) models to one of the big three (Amazon, Apple, Google). Facing a broad push-back due to obvious privacy concerns, he communicated: “That’s a misunderstanding”, and stated, “iRobot will never sell your data.” Reuters, New York Times, and SmartEnlight had to change their article by replacing “sell maps” with “share maps for free with customer consent”.

Well, a perfect time to take our good old, reliable, mapping-data free, infrared (IR) controlled Roomba and make it compatible with Alexa and Google. It’s not only the voice control, which makes this tinkering with Logitech Harmony useful. We will see, how we can teach Harmony to control (almost) any IR device, plus we will be able to use Logitech’s Schedule Activity feature to conveniently program, when our little Roomba friend shall start his cleaning sessions throughout the week.

Preparing our Roomba

Assuming you have your entertainment center and your Harmony Hub in front of your couch, the probability is high, that if you park your Roomba under your couch, infrared might reach it. Roomba will be out of the way, for the rest of the day. If the Hub cannot reach it, an IR mini blaster placed on the floor of/under the media cabinet (where Roomba cannot reach it when cleaning) will help.

Setting up Harmony

Chances are that your Roomba model is already in the Logitech Harmony database. However, in this post we will teach Harmony the Roomba commands with the original remote, since Logitech’s configuration for this Roomba (model 871) did not work, and Logitech’s support forum is full of questions which state the same for other models.

Anyway, it’s good to see how we can teach Harmony ourselves, since you might end up or already have, with some IR controlled device which is not in Harmony’s database.

Note, you will need your original remote to add devices manually!

Adding the Roomba to Harmony

Logitech Harmony Roomba - adding an unknown device
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – give your Roomba a model number, which Logitech does not know.

We need to add a new device and name the model number our own way, e.g. manufacturer “iRobot”, model: “My871Roomba”. Harmony app will then come back with “We didn’t find your iRobot My871Roomba …”, confirm by tapping “My device is correct”.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Confirm Entering Unknown Device
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Confirm Entering an Unknown Device

Harmony will tell us now that we can add devices – which are not in the database –  manually, if we have the original remote. Confirm by tapping continue.

Harmony will ask us, which type of device our Roomba is. In fact, it does not matter what we enter here since robotic vacuum cleaners are not in Harmony’s list. We can select entertainment device, a list pops up, where we can select Home Control. In the next screen, we can select “none of the above”. Harmony will ask us, whether we have our original remote control, which we can confirm by tapping “yes”.

Teaching the Harmony Hub our IR Commands

This is going to be a bit time-consuming. But bear with me, as we will teach Harmony all 7 commands, to be able to use our Harmony app as a full original remote replacement to control our Roomba.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Teaching Commands Introduction
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching Commands Introduction

Note, there are IR teaching tips in the app at the bottom of every “teach commands” screen. The following worked pretty well for me:

  • Place strong batteries in the original remote (and don’t forget to remove them when you’re done)
  • Direct the remote at a 45-degree angle towards the top of the Hub (just like in the Harmony illustration),
  • about 2-3 inches away from the hub,
  • from the side where your windows are (minimize other light input) and
  • press the remote button quickly/lightly.

You might need to repeat the process up to 3 times. You might as well try changing the angle, distance and how long you press the remote button. A green checkmark is what we are looking for.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Adding the first 2 commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching Commands

We start by teaching the Power Toggle (=Clean Button on the original remote), then Direction Up. We skip the Direction Down, as we don’t have this feature on the original remote. Harmony will leave us with this configuration. To be able to configure the other commands, we need to go to the Harmony app top left (burger) menu, select Harmony Setup, Add/Edit Devices and Activities, Devices, and select our device. Note, you will find this place helpful to tweak any of the hidden features of your Harmony.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Teaching the Missing Commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Teaching the missing commands

Click “Add/Fix Command” and teach Harmony the other 4 commands: Direction Left, Direction Right, Dock, and Spot.

Since Roomba requires us to first press the Clean Button 2 times, the first time a bit longer to “turn on” and a second time to start the cleaning process, let’s add and teach the missing command “Clean” by tapping “Command Missing”.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Power On/Off 3 Seconds
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Power Toggle 3 Seconds

Finally, to simulate the long press to power Roomba on, we need to tap “Fix Power Settings” from the Devices menu. In the next screen leave “Turn off when not in use” (the little guy is noisy, we will hardly Watch TV when he is around). The next screen is also fine with “Using a single button to power Roomba on/off”. In the final screen, make sure to prolong the “Power On Delay” (3 secs works in my case, could be longer for your Roomba) to simulate a long keypress.

Testing our IR Commands

Logitech Harmony / Roomba - Device Control Commands
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Device Controlling our remote toy car

Now for the fun part: It’s time to test whether all trained commands work. Put your Roomba somewhere in front of the Harmony Hub and select the device from the Devices Screen. Start with the Direction buttons: It’s almost as fun as driving a remote-controlled toy car, isn’t it? =)

On the next screen, test the power toggle and Clean, Dock and Spot commands. You need to press the Power toggle a bit longer to wake up Roomba and then the Clean, Dock, Spot.

Chances are, that some of our commands do not work. Nothing happens, even when pressing longer. In this case, you need to go back to fix those commands by teaching them again.

Creating our Roomba/Cleaning Activity

Logitech Harmony Roomba Creating Activity
Logitech Harmony / Roomba Creating our Cleaning Activity

We have configured all of our Roomba commands, and they are working. It’s time to create our “Cleaning” or “Roomba” activity (however you prefer to name it).

Add an Activity from the bottom of the Activities screen and set icon and name. Edit the start sequence and add the step iRobot / Clean to start the cleaning after powering up.

Test the Activity with your Roomba in front of your hub. You should hear a beep for Roomba turning on and then he should start the cleaning process. If you stop the activity as long as Roomba is in the line of sight with your Hub and Mini Blasters, he will turn off.

Done, we are almost done! =)

Place your Roomba under your couch, or press the dock button so he returns by himself. Now, repeat testing the activity. If your activity does not start, try adjusting Roomba’s dock position (for me facing a wall 90 degrees from the Hub works fine) and/or adjust the Mini Blaster.

Congratulations! You have successfully upgraded your Roomba to work with your Logitech Harmony Hub!

Customizing the Buttons of our Harmony App

Though we see the proper commands when we look at our Roomba from the Devices Screen, we still need to adapt the buttons we see on our Activities Screen.

Let’s do this quickly. It’s best to do this while the activity is running, so let Roomba meanwhile clean someplace else.

Logitech Harmony Roomba Screen Activity Buttons
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Adjusting our Activity Buttons

From the Harmony app top left (burger) menu, select “Edit/Reset” and then “Edit Buttons”. The direction buttons work fine, just delete the rest of the useless buttons Harmony has put there and map the remaining four commands either to the second screen, or  3 commands to the first screen (you could omit e.g. the “Power Toggle”, and press the “Clean” longer instead).

Synching and Using Alexa and Google Home

Making our new activity available to our smart assistants is as easy as saying: “Alexa, discover devices.” or “Hey Google, Sync my Harmony”.

Alexa will tell us, that she couldn’t find any new devices, which is OK. You will find your new activity under Alexa’s Smart Home Scenes.

Google will ask us, whether we would like to talk to Harmony (duh!), and Harmony will tell us that she is synching our devices.

Before testing the voice commands, make sure that your activity is turned off in the Harmony app.

  • “Alexa, turn on cleaning”
  • “Hey Google, tell Harmony to turn on cleaning.”

You will hear Roomba’s familiar beeping.

For Google you might want to create a shorter Shortcut like “Turn on Cleaning”, see Logitech Harmony and Google Assistant: Setup and Voice Commands for details.

Using Your (Hidden) Roomba with the Assistants

Logitech Harmony Roomba One Screen Activity Buttons
Logitech Harmony / Roomba – Putting all buttons on one Screen

When you start your activity, Roomba will start cleaning and when he is done, get back to the dock, hiding under your couch. I usually activate Roomba by voice command and stop when he comes in front of the couch either manually or by voice command to empty the bin and then start the cleaning activity again (by voice or manually, just be consistent).

If you have less dust than me, you can just let him do his job a couple of times without interrupting him. For programming Roomba’s weekly schedule, you can use the “Edit Activities”/Schedule feature. Just don’t forget you need to empty his dustbin, so he performs well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. It is not only intended as a Roomba How-To but as a general overview on how to “teach” Harmony any IR controlled device you might have at home, which is not yet part of your Logitech Harmony configuration. And by adding devices to Harmony Activities, we have them magically available with Alexa and Google!

For a general overview of Logitech Harmony, see: Logitech Harmony: a Hub and it’s Elite, Ultimate, Companion

Find the dedicated assistant posts here:

The comparison of the assistants in combination with Logitech Harmony is here:

Logitech Harmony and Alexa: Setup, Voice Commands and a Candlelight Dinner

Logitech Harmony Alexa

This Valentine’s post is a story of appreciation, harmony and ultimately … love. In this post we are going to connect Alexa with our Logitech Harmony Hub, only to find one of the loveliest integrations of voice control. Promise.

On top we will create a “candlelight dinner” routine for Alexa, to dim your lights, start your music and say something nice. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!

If you have not set up your Harmony devices, activities and favorites yet, it is a good time to do so. Refer to the post Logitech Harmony: a Hub and its Elite, Ultimate, Companion for the Logitech Harmony setup.

The Red and the Blue Skill

Logitech started with the red skill a long time ago. The functionality is equivalent to the current Google Assistant integration (which in fact, also has a red icon). You have to say: “Alexa, ask Harmony to …”.

Alexa Harmony Skill page
Alexa Harmony Blue Skill

But then something strange happened. Last summer Logitech fell in love with Harmony, or was it the other way around? So they put in much more effort and created a blue skill, which simplifies controlling Harmony by simply omitting “ask Harmony to”. This does not sound like a big deal, but if you think of commands like “Alexa, volume up”, how is Alexa supposed to know, which volume to increase, TV or Echo?

The magic is implemented by handing commands, like volume to Harmony, as soon as you start a Harmony activity. When you turn an activity off or ask Alexa to play some music, the control is handed back to Alexa. The same happens, when you do not ask Alexa any Harmony related commands for 30 minutes. Smart.

Note, if for whatever reason the control goes back to Alexa and you would like to control Harmony, just turn on the activity which is already running to reconnect.

So, which Skill to take?

It sure is a matter of taste, but as speech recognition veteran I prefer the efficient, snappy blue skill to keep the commands short. It also has the advantage to be categorized as “smart home” skill in Alexa terms. Your Harmony activities and favorite channels will appear under the Smart Home Scenes in the Alexa app, so you will be able to add the activities and favorites to Alexa routines, which we will do in the “candlelight dinner” routine.

Alexa Harmony Red Skill Installed
Alexa Harmony Red Skill

Since we will install a second hub, we will also install the red skill for that. As mentioned in previous posts I am not a big fan of 3rd party services like Yonomi, IFTTT, Stringify etc. because they add another layer of complexity and require an additional cloud service to be up and running 24/7 to mediate between Alexa and Harmony. I’d always recommend using onboard tools whenever possible, but in this case, we are stuck. Unfortunately, the red skill is not a smart home skill. We won’t see scenes in our smart home configuration and we won’t be able to rename the “ask Harmony to” commands to our liking via Alexa Routines.

Setting up Harmony for Alexa

First, we need to make sure that all the activities and favorite channels we want to speech-enable are already setup in the Logitech Harmony app. Open your Harmony app and make sure what you find is what you want to integrate with Alexa.

Back to the Start

alexa browser scenes screenshot
Alexa Smart Home Scenes (Browser)

In case you linked any of those skills earlier, let’s get you back to the start, so you can start with a fresh installation. Open alexa.amazon.com in a browser and navigate to Smart Home scenes. If you see (too) many old Harmony activities and favorites, you have the option to “Forget All”, when scrolling to the bottom. But wait!

Caution! Forgetting all scenes will also remove smart home devices and groups. Smart home devices can easily be discovered automatically by Alexa, however, groups need to be recreated by you. Check your Groups folder and figure out what takes longer. In my case, I had many activities and favorites already duplicated, so I chose to “forgot all” and recreated the groups.

Make sure to clean up any Harmony scenes, otherwise, you might find duplicates after the setup process (and they are difficult to spot and forget later on).

Setting up the Blue Skill

Alexa search Harmony Skill
Alexa Search: Harmony Skill

Open your Alexa app and search for “harmony” in your skill section. You should see both skills listed, pick the blue one. In case you see a “disable skill” button, tap it to unlink Harmony from Alexa.

Click “Enable” to re-link your Harmony skill to Alexa. The familiar Logitech login screen appears, enter your Logitech account where your Harmony configuration is stored and sign in. Authorize Amazon to access your Harmony Remote data.

Alexa Harmony Settings
Alexa Harmony Settings Restored

If this account was already linked before, you will see a notification “Your Settings have been restored”. Note, that at the bottom of this page you can verify/change your Harmony Hub selection. Pick your main (e.g. living room) hub and tap next on the top right.

Harmony Activities
Alexa Harmony Activities

A list of your Harmony activities appears, where you can select which activities should be controlled by Alexa and assign friendly names. Note, that “Music” is not an Alexa friendly name as it triggers playing music from Alexa and not the Harmony activity.

The next page displays your favorites. Again, you can customize which channels should be controllable by Alexa and assign friendly names.

Unbelievable. We are almost done.

Alexa Harmony Link Blue Skill
Blue Skill Sample Commands

In the final screen you see a couple of sample commands, tap “link account”.

Last but not least, you need to run “Discover devices” so Alexa can find your devices and scenes.

You are now able to control your Harmony with following voice commands:

  • Alexa, turn on (the) ACTIVITY / e.g. TV
  • Alexa, turn on FAVORITE / e.g. NBC
  • Alexa (increase/decrease) (the) volume (up/down)
  • Alexa, play/pause/resume/(un)mute/rewind/fast forward

Candlelight Dinner Time

Let’s create our candlelight dinner routine. In the Alexa app open the Routines section. Tap the “+” on the top right to create a new routine. Click the “When this happens”, select “When you say something” and enter “candle light dinner” (Note, the space between “candle” and “light” was required in my case).

Alexa candle light dinner routine
Candlelight Dinner Routine

Now, click the “add action”, pick Smart Home and either choose to “control devices”, in case you do not have any pre-configured lighting scenes or choose “control scenes”, in case you have predefined scenes for different light settings, like in this example.

Add the smart home Harmony action “Turn on stereo” (use your friendly name for playing music) controlled by Harmony, and make Alexa say something nice by adding the action “Alexa says” and picking one of the compliments.

That was quick. Give it a minute until Alexa is updated to recognize the command and there we go:

  • Alexa, candlelight dinner

The light dims down. A bit more light at the dining table. Smooth music starts playing from your entertainment center. Alexa says: “You’re like the sunshine on a rainy day”.

Don’t forget the candles! =)

Setting up the Red Skill – Secondary Hub

In case you have a second Harmony hub, you can install the red skill. The setup process is identical to above:

  • Search your Alexa app for “harmony” and pick the red “Harmony – Secondary Hub” skill.
  • In case the skill is already enabled, disable the skill and tap “Enable” to re-link.
  • Log into the Logitech Account where your hub configuration is stored.
  • Authorize Amazon to access your Harmony Remote data and select the second hub.
  • After configuring the Harmony Activities and Favorites with friendly names, link the account.

Your secondary hub voice commands are:

  • Alexa, ask Harmony to turn on (the) ACTIVITY / e.g. TV
  • Alexa, ask Harmony to turn on FAVORITE / e.g. NBC
  • Alexa, ask Harmony to (increase/decrease) (the) volume (up/down)
  • Alexa, ask Harmony to play/pause/resume/(un)mute/rewind/fast forward

Conclusion

Having all your Harmony activities and all your favorites available as voice commands is great. But going the extra mile to provide streamlined commands in such a smart way, makes Logitech Harmony and Alexa the perfect couple.

We are missing the activities and favorites from the second hub in our smart home control and have to use the longer commands or a 3rd party service. It would be great if the red skill could also act as smart home skill, so we could streamline the commands ourselves with Alexa Routines.

The option to use Alexa Routines to combine setting the lighting scenes and a harmony activity into one voice command with the blue skill is very powerful.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! You can find more Alexa posts here: Amazon Alexa.

For a comparison to Google Home, please see: Assistant Showdown with Logitech Harmony: Who will win, Alexa or Google?

If you’d like to speech enable any IR controlled device, see: How to teach your Logitech Harmony: Alexa, Hey Google turn on Roomba!

Have you managed to create your version of a “candlelight dinner” routine? Appreciate your feedback below!

Sleeping Better with Smart Lighting: Smarter “Go to Bed” and “Wake Up”

Siri Falling Asleep with Smart Lighting

We spend 36% of our lives asleep, and while the average sleep period has decreased over the last 60 years, neuroscience is discovering more and more how important sleep is for our well-being. Can smart lighting help us to sleep better and wake up more energized?

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

Why do we sleep?

Amongst many theories which are heavily debated, there seem to be some no-brainers: We restore our brains during sleep, clearing out the waste which has accumulated over the day between our brain cells. We save energy during our rest, and last but definitely not least, we are consolidating what we have learned throughout the day and become more creative.

Our body-clock works independently from our work-schedules and sleep deprivation is nowadays a common phenomenon in huge parts of our society, leading to accidents due to fatigue.

Smart Lighting and Sleep

With smart lighting, we can finally support the process of falling asleep and waking up, making up for the sleep-damage the dumb light bulbs in our homes have created over the past century. Light is deeply connected with our body-clock. Reducing our exposure to light for at least half an hour before going to bed will make us feel tired. Increasing light in the morning will make us feel more energized for the day.

There are many ways to configure wake up and good night routines with smart lighting. Let’s examine those options with Philips Hue to schedule routines for going to bed and getting out of bed more easily, supporting a healthy sleep.

Philips Hue Routines

Philips Hue Routine Settings
Philips Hue Routine Settings

The Routines tab of your Philips Hue app already contains “wake up” and “go to sleep” routines, waiting for your configuration. For both routines, we can specify the time, the weekday as well as the rooms. Additionally, we can define the fade-in time for waking up (up to 30 minutes) and the fade-out time for going to sleep (up to 60 minutes).

Note, that the “go to sleep” routine starts with a brightness of 56% and make sure that the scene which you are fading out is not brighter. Otherwise, you will see your lights brighten up, just before fading out, which is counterproductive for preparing to go to bed.

Philips Hue – HueLabs

Philips HueLabs Go to Sleep formula
Philips HueLabs Go to Sleep formula

Taking these features a bit further, you can find the “Prepare me to go to sleep” and the “Personal wake up” formulas in your Philips HueLabs.

The first one offers activating nightlight at the press of a button (dimmer or tap) and additional configuration whether the lights should fade into off state or stay at the nightlight recipe.

The latter allows you to specify whether you prefer to wake up with a relaxed light setting or an energized power wake up.

Other apps

iConnectHue Nightlight Timer
iConnectHue Nightlight Timer

With iConnectHue, you are a bit more flexible when scheduling wake-up and go to sleep routines. You can additionally:

  • specify the groups (rather than rooms) you want to dim/fade in
  • configure conditions on who is present
  • set longer fade out time (120 minutes) and
  • use animations in timers.

Conclusion

Smart Lighting can support us to sleep better by preparing us for a good night sleep and waking up with the right light setting.

For more ideas around smart lighting, see:

If you are interested in some background on sleep, see following TED talks:
Russel Foster: “Why do we sleep” and
Jeff Iliff: “One more reason to get a good nights sleep“.

Have a good nights rest and if you want to share your experience with smart sleeping and wakeup routines, please leave your comment below.

The Many Ways of Controlling Smart Lighting

Smart lighting offers various ways to be controlled. Some initially appear traditional, like a simple light switch, but the options we nowadays have to switch to our preferred lighting scenes, go way beyond only turning lights on and off.

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we look into the different options of controlling smart lighting, taking Philips Hue as an example. We will cover programming schedules and rules, as well as apps and switches and of course voice control.

Automated Control

Everybody has different preferences when it comes to controlling lights. The easiest way to interact with smart lighting is not to interact with it at all. Once we have programmed our routines, smart things will happen automatically.

For location-based programming with geo-fencing and motion sensors, see the Presence controlled Smart Lighting post.

In the posts Sleeping Better with Smart Lighting and Natural Smart Lighting, we look into programming schedules and timers, which work automatically and don’t need any additional interaction from your end.

Manual Control

Apart from initially setting your lights up and occasionally tweaking your settings, smart lighting does not need manual control. However, it’s always good to have a fallback, in case you occasionally want to deviate from the programmed routines.

Control Smart Lighting with an App

We associate the “smartness” of devices with our ability to pull out the smartphone, open an app and control our lighting by selecting scenes in configured rooms, changing color and brightness to our liking. Though this approach still gives you the most flexibility in what you can control, it is by far the most inefficient. Anyway, we have to become familiar with these apps, to program our smart devices to work automatically.

Apple Home Control Center

Some apps offer widgets – e.g. Apple Home app even offers a control center integration – to reduce the swipes and taps required to activate a scene or control a smart device.

Still, having to pull out your smartphone or fumbling with an Apple Watch app to control your home, wears off pretty quickly and works mostly only for you and not your family and guests.

Use your smart home apps only to program your lights to the maximum extent. There are more efficient ways to control smart lighting.

Control Smart Lighting with a Switch

iConnectHue Dimmer Settings
iConnectHue Dimmer Settings

Resembling traditional light switches, smart taps and dimmers offer you, your family and guests traditional control over your smart lighting.

Additionally, you have the option to program what happens when you click multiple times or press and hold a button as well as defining time slots in which a button click triggers a specific lighting scene.

You can switch through your “energize”, “concentrate”, “read”, “relax” scenes by repeatedly clicking a button or you can program that a click between 6:00 and 11:00 triggers “energize”, between 11:00 and 16:00 “concentrate” and so on. For a full configuration, see our Natural Smart Lighting post.

Last but not least, if your switch is HomeKit compatible – like the Philips Hue Dimmer in our example – you can control any HomeKit device with it. In this case, you need to create the automations in your Apple Home app.

Voice Control

There is a good reason, why we are focusing on voice control in our Assistants posts. There is no need to look for your smartphone or head over to a smart switch to control your smart lighting. Our quickest and most natural way to control smart lighting is to tell Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, to which scene of the many it should switch to. In case you feel like you need that too often, make sure you optimize your automations.

Conclusion

A combination of programmed automatic control through schedules, which run throughout day and night, together with voice control, in case you occasionally prefer something different is definitely the most efficient setup for you and your smart home. Having taps and dimmers programmed and in place, gives you, your family and guests a traditional fallback in case your assistant is on strike.

An ideal setup requires some planning and preparation, but it quickly pays off, once the system runs the way you have envisioned it.

How do you control your smart lighting? Share your experience or drop your questions below.

Natural Smart Lighting: Feeling Better With Smart Light

Natural Smart LIghting

We have already looked into the impact of light on our sleep in the “Sleeping Better with Smart Lighting” post. But what about the rest of the day? Can smart lighting help us to “feel better”, maybe by resembling natural light?

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we are examining a concept Philips names “Feel better with light”, which you can find in the Philips HueLabs section. Let’s use the app iConnectHue to reprogram this concept, so you can follow along and tweak it to your liking with your favorite app and smart lighting system.

Here Comes The Sun

In October 2017 the 108th Nobel prize in physiology and medicine has been awarded to three American scientists for their research on circadian rhythm. Back in 1984, they identified a “period” gene which controls the daily rhythm of fruit flies. Their work has been substantial for understanding basics of life: every living organism on earth responds to the suns day and night cycle.

As the sun crosses our sky throughout the day, the color temperature is changing. From around 2000K (Kelvin) during sunrise/sunset up to 5300K average during noon, or even 12000K with a clear sky. These color temperatures, which range from warm light to cold blue light, help to synchronize our inner body-clock to the natural progress of day and night. If we do not get enough natural daylight, or spend too much time in front of blue light emitting LEDs in the evening, we bring our inner clock out of sync and that has a negative effect on our health.

Philips has defined “recipes” with different color temperatures, from “relax” with 2237K, to “read” at 2890K, “concentrate” with 4291K and “energize” at 6410K. If we combine these different recipes with different schedules, we can simulate the natural progress of the sun throughout the day, supporting the accuracy of our inner clock.

Scheduled Smart Lighting

Every smart lighting system allows us to define the time when a certain scene should be turned on or off. This scheduled smart lighting in combination with motion activated lighting is the most efficient lighting automation approach. No voice commands, no switch, no app needed to control our lighting. We specify the time when a certain recipe should be turned on/off and we are done.

iConnectHue Sunset Timer Settings
iConnectHue Sunset Timer Settings

Here is an example from iConnectHue for a sunset timer. It fades every weekday into the “relax” recipe in the living room, starting half an hour before sunset, but of course only if somebody is at home.

iConnectHue "Nightlight" Timer Settings
iConnectHue “Nightlight” Timer Settings

Additionally, we can create a “nightlight” timer for the living room, set up to fade in at 9 p.m. every day, serving as “go to bed” timer.

The “natural” effect these two rules create, is a slow fade in of the “relaxed” scene half an hour before sunset and a slow fade into “nightlight”, preparing you for bed. Both of course only if somebody is at home.

When splitting between workweek and weekend, make sure that you don’t change your go to bed and wake up time too much, as this supposedly causes a “social jet lag”. But that’s a different topic and a different post.

Up to now we only covered the evening and night schedule, what about the rest of the day? If you do not get enough daylight indoors, it makes perfect sense to create timers for “energize”, “concentrate” and “read” as well.

What about dimmer and motion sensors?

iConnectHue "Natural" Dimmer Settings
iConnectHue “Natural” Dimmer Settings

We can program our dimmers to integrate following schedule, in case we need some light (when it’s not scheduled):

  • 6:00 to 11:00 energize
  • 11:00 to 16:00 concentrate
  • 16:00 to 19:00 read
  • 19:00 to 22:00 relax
  • 22:00 to 6:00 nightlight

Pressing the “on” button of the dimmer, will trigger the proper recipe for the time of the day. Holding the “on” button of the dimmer could trigger the “energize” recipe, for the brightest light independent of the daytime.

iConnectHue "Natural" Motion Sensor Settings
iConnectHue “Natural” Motion Sensor Settings

If a motion sensor only triggers on/off for a certain room, you can copy the above schedule from the dimmer. But if a motion sensor should activate just a part of the room to be brighter, we can program it slightly different. Here is an example of Kitchen LEDs which serve as task lights and use a brighter recipe, because you want to see what you cook, even during the night:

– from 6:00 to 16:00 energize
– from 16:00 to 19:00 concentrate
– from 19:00 to 22:00 read
– from 22:00 to 6:00 relax

Conclusion

These were just some examples of how you can automate your smart lighting to your liking, in a natural way. Light “recipes” for different activities, at different times throughout the day and night, fading slowly from one scene to another, can mimic natural light, hence make you “feel better”.

If you are interested in other smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

Which “recipes” do you prefer? Share your experience with “natural” smart lighting by posting your comments below.

Control Smart Lighting with Presence, Geo-fencing and Motion Sensors

controlling smart lighting presence geo-fencing motion sensors

You can control smart lighting in different ways through your presence, or even during your recreational absence. Motion sensor activated lighting is definitely not a novelty. Samuel Bagno invented the first motion sensor already back in the early 1950s, but today’s options  go way beyond switching your lights simply on or off.

For a general introduction to smart lighting, see: Introduction to Smart Lighting: A Very Brief History of Light.

In this post, we are looking into different approaches to program your smart lighting -taking the industry-leader Philips Hue as an example – to work automatically based on where you are. If you have not already, you can explore an overview in The Many Ways of Controlling Smart Lighting beforehand.

Geo-fencing

Geo-fencing defines virtual boundaries for a geographic area. When your smartphone enters or leaves an area, a location-based activity can be triggered.

Philips Hue app Home & Away Routines
Philips Hue app Home & Away Routines

By entering your home location in the Home & Away routines of the Philips Hue app, you can specify which rooms should be turned off once you leave home and which turned on once you are back. For support of family members, check out the multi-user geofencing formula in the HueLabs section.

iConnectHue Location Settings
iConnectHue Location Settings

iConnectHue offers an in-app purchase to make use of geo-fencing for all smartphone household members. It triggers “coming home” actions for the first person arriving home and “away” actions when the last person has left. Additionally, you can personalize your lighting by activating different scenes depending on who just arrived home.

Apple Home app People Arrive / People Leave Automation
Apple Home app People Arrive / People Leave Automation

Apple’s HomeKit supports multiple household members with geofencing through its iOS 11 updates. If you want to also control other HomeKit devices when entering/leaving your home, this is the perfect place to create your automation.

Motion Sensors

iConnectHue Motion Sensor Sensitivity

Smart motion sensors usually include a variety of sensors and features around them:

1. You can measure the brightness in their surrounding, only turning lights on, when it is as dark as you specified.

2. You can specify motion sensitivity to e.g. exclude your pets from activating your smart lighting.

3. Motion sensors can first dim before turning off the lights, so you get a heads up in case you are still around and can move a bit to turn them back “on”.

4. Smart motion sensors also allow to specify a fade-in and -out time to smoothen the light up and dimming.

5. As with the dimmers and taps, you can program motion sensors to trigger different scenes within different time slots, e.g. “energize” in the morning and “relax” in the evening.

6. Most motion sensors nowadays contain a temperature sensor, which allows you to monitor (and optimize) the temperature around your house.

7. Last, but not least: If your motion sensor is HomeKit compatible – like the Philips Hue Motion Sensors – you can control any HomeKit device with it. Just make sure to create the automation in Apples Home app.

Smart motion sensors work perfectly in areas where you move through, like entrances, corridors, stairways etc.  In rooms where you stay longer, like bathroom, kitchen, restroom etc. you need to increase the period of inactivity which triggers the power off, or move from time to time. We have not found any smart way of using motion sensors in the living room or bedroom yet.

Presence Mimicking

Philips Hue HueLabs Presence Mimicking
Philips Hue HueLabs Presence Mimicking

Smart lighting can help to increase the security in your home during your vacation. Randomly switching the lights on and off within a programmed time-window or mimicking with your lights that your TV is on, simulates you are at home while you are enjoying your vacation miles away. Check out the HueLabs formulas “Presence and TV mimicking” for more information.

Conclusion

Presence controlled smart lighting is an important concept to fully automate your lights. It involves a bit of planning and preparation, but once set up, you will never again need to ask yourself, whether you left your lights on or stumble in the dark searching for the light switch. Hands-free, easy and energy efficient.

If you are interested in other smart ideas for your smart lighting, see:

Do you plan or already use presence controlled smart lighting? Tell us about your experience or drop any questions you might have below.