The Building of My Digital Home

Home automation is something that you find a large split of opinions about. Some people absolutely love the IOT (Internet of Things) concept and can’t wait to have everything digital and connected to their devices. Others fear government spying, hacking, and general concern of privacy and connections taking place in their home. No matter how you feel about home automation, it is up to you to do the research, and I’m going to try to make that a bit easier.

I’ve always loved the idea of home automation or having a smart home.

The concept of controlling everything from one remote (your phone) and having seamless interaction with your house as you move between rooms was a concept I always wanted to achieve, even as a kid. Yes there are dangers about hackers gaining access, but if you’re smart, have your system locked down, and realize that your life isn’t that interesting to most, you will start to feel more relaxed. With HomeKit being opened up finally, we will see new product lines that support Apple’s home integration system coming very soon. With the addition of the HomePod coming in December, we will finally have a system in place that will allow Siri to have a standalone contact point within our households.

Now as you know, I live in a very Apple universe. However, at this point in time, Apple is a bit late to the party. The Amazon experience and Google home really are leading the home automation frontier. Due to this, I had to make some sacrifices. I needed some home automation features but didn’t like what was out on the market that was HomeKit compatible. So I did my own research and bought products that had great apps, did what I needed, and worked just fine. The following is the setup that I have currently and love even if it isn’t Siri compatible (at the moment).

Sensi Home Wifi Thermostat

I did a LOT of research before jumping into a wifi home thermostat. There are so many out there that have a ton of wonderful features, if your house is new and has all those features. Since I live in an older house in the middle of nowhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I don’t have a lot of those things. I don’t have central air for starters. This means that a fully functioning smart thermostat “studying” my ways doesn’t do me a whole lot of good.

I also got very nervous when the Nest Thermostat servers had issues, and some people couldn’t turn on their heat. If that happens in my town, your pipes freeze and explode. Not a risk I wanted to take. However the Sense Home Wifi Thermostat has been absolutely amazing. The Wifi component is just an added extra to an already great programmable thermostat. If the Wifi goes out or the servers go down, I just lose connectivity, not control. It is very easy to install and operate. The app is designed with the user in mind, which is a nice change to see. Overall, it has been great just being able to check to make sure the furnace is running, my animals are being kept at a comfortable temp, and the peace of mind keeps me at bay.


Chamberlain Garage MyQ

As someone with a detached garage, there have been a few occasions in the past where I’ve gone to bed with my doors wide open. Luckily, living in the middle of nowhere, I don’t have to worry about my items walking off. However, this still made me uneasy. I can’t see the doors from any of the windows in my house so I needed a solution to keep better control. That is where the MyQ came into play.

It is compatible with virtually all door systems including old ones. Very easy to set up, and within about 10 minutes, my doors were content to my smart phone. I can open and close and see the time stamps between usage. I can easily open the door for a friend while I’m traveling if they need to borrow something or if someone wants to just stop by to see my dogs while I’m at work.

The app is simplistic to use, click the door to open, click the door to close. In terms of safety, there is a flashing light and a beeping that takes place if you are trying to close the door from the app, so nobody should get trapped or surprised by a closing door. Overall, it has been a great product and just another fun addition to my smart home system.


Nest Cam

The Nest Cam gave me an opportunity I had been looking to find for many years. Having a fence for my dogs is great, until it snows. And in the UP, it SNOWS! We had over 200″ of snow last year. When the snow decides to dump off of my roof, it makes a bridge for my husky and lab to go on an adventure. This happened twice and I knew I needed some type of solution to keep an eye on them. That is how I found out about Nest cameras.

I immediately bought an indoor cam (the outdoor ones didn’t exist yet), pointed it out a window, and could now tap in and see my dogs anytime I had an internet connection. All the cameras have two way audio, so I could listen in and yell at a barking dog as well. Once the outdoor camera was available, I bought it right away. Now I have full access to all my doors and backyard. Not only do I have the peace of mind with my dogs, but I have a security system in place at the same time.

Even with these additions, I’m still waiting for a few things.

I haven’t 100% chosen a lighting ecosystem to follow. However with the latest update to Phillips Hue, it is now HomeKit compatible. More than likely, I’ll be going that route in the near future. I also haven’t found a set of electrical outlet switches that I truly like. There are a ton on the market and as always, I didn’t want to bind myself to yet another ecosystem.

The final challenge for me is finding a lock system for my house. Everything in my house is un-level and definitely not straight, so standard deadbolt locking systems won’t work. The last thing I want to worry about is the door not being aligned. This would mean the auto lock actually opening up my door instead of locking it. Once I start seeing some more automated handle systems in place, then I will finally be able to jump on board.

So I have a pretty decent (and cheap) initial setup. I can’t wait to see what new products start to support HomeKit. With Apple opening the system hopefully we will see a lot more next year.

The links inside of this article may link to sources that will benefit The Creative Technologist financially. Gotta pay the bills right?

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