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Home automation (and Alexa) *experts needed*


#1

Alrighty then! A new topic for my fellow resident geeks (or just enthusiasts) to sink some teeth into!

Seeing as how mom is getting an Amazon Echo Dot, along with a couple of Maxcio AC wall-worts to start her journey into home automation off…

I was looking into how things work, what’s required, etc when I was blown away by possibly the most invasive privacy permissions I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve seen some doozies in the Google play store.)

Anyways, the Maxcio outlets (sold by Amazon) require the use of an app (“Smart Life - Smart Living” by Tuya Inc. - which has the offending permissions, seriously read the TOS on this one when creating an account. Mind-blowing), and then the app finds your devices (and gives you MAC ID, etc.) AND THEN you have to link the app to Alexa. (so no dice for those thinking of using fake info on the bullshit app, since they’d gain your REAL info from Amazon.)

Anyways, I’m wondering if there’s a “generic” app (non-cloud dependant) that’s compatible with Alexa for home automation, that works by either polling via MAC address, or static IP?

(I have the MAC addresses, and already reserved IP’s for them, but Alexa still doesn’t “see” them, of course.)

Bear in mind, I’m trying/wanting to avoid the use of a hub. (This is for local (LAN) use only, no Internet dependencies wanted/welcome.)

/side note, if such doesn’t exist:
From what I’ve seen so far… It’s looking like I’m going to have to create a Dev account at Amazon, Amazon Skills, and GitHub for starters…
to make my own ‘custom’ Alexa Skill. /sigh


#2

What about IFTTT?


#4

90 percent of what this app does requires Internet access. And the majority of existing applets are user created BS like “send my Factbook post to Twitter” type shite. Granted, there are a few home automation applets (still, user created; think generic YouTube user level), but each one of those I tried, still requires you to login to the OEM’s app/site.

In addition to which, in order to control the Maxcio devices above, their “applet creator” service requires you to log into the Smart Life site (mentioned above). Effectively adding a 4th party to the mix… :crazy_face: :rage:

The IFTTT app looks like nothing more than a glorified applet and widget maker for folks with smartphones. (Not a high quality app. Plus, a lot of negative reviews on Google play on the latest version alone, about things failing to work at random.)

Thanks for the thought though.


#5

So I guess you wouldn’t subscribe to Amazon Key, so delivery people can open your door to drop off packages? :smile:


#6

@Sprkslfly I’m not sure if that exists. You are MORE than wise for deep diving on the permissions, etc., but IMO, the bigger issues are the audio files, and video (if applicable) that result as well.

As far as a “clean” setup, hehe, I’m not sure there IS such a thing, but …


#7

Everyone wants INTO your stuff @Sprkslfly and that’s why most times you gotta HUB it up, AND, give away your rights/privacy (IMO), to get hooked, In for a penny in for a pound. BUT, …

So do you need a dedicated smart hub?

If you’re just dipping your toes into this smart home thing, you might even consider avoiding smart hubs altogether and syncing everything through a smart speaker instead. The Google Home Mini and Echo Dot don’t work like traditional smart hubs because they don’t have Zigbee or Z-Wave connectivity. But if you’re living with different ecosystems in your home and are looking for a way to unite them all, a smart speaker can provide that “hub-like” functionality through its companion app. If you’re an Apple fan, you might also consider the HomePod, which uses Siri as its assistant and offers HomeKit compatibility.

I would add that if your devices all support WiFi, there’s definitely no need for a dedicated hub. If you’re worried about juggling too many apps, there are third-party programs like Stringify and Yonomi that offer a centralized locale where you can control everything that’s connected in your house. Both apps also support automation, so you can program those smart lights to come on every night at the same time, for example.

Do I Need A Smart Home Hub?

People keep telling me I don’t need to have a smart home hub in order to have a smart home. While this is true you might want to take a look at this article. I’ll be digging a little bit deeper into the matter.

So if you want to know if you need a smart home hub:

The short answer is Yes. If you are building a complete smart home. Then you will need some sort of smart home hub.

There is a lot more to it than that though. > Maybe you got confused by all of the smart home devices out there that say they work without a hub. While this is true, and you don’t NEED a hub to run your smart home, in the end, a smart home hub may be a necessity for you.

There are definitively two camps here. One that says you don’t need a smart home hub at all and one that says that you should have one. They are both right! In my foray into the topic, I have found many differing opinions. The fact of the matter is it comes down to two completely different situations and two completely different types of people. I’ll get into that in a minute.


#8

https://www.smarthomenx.com/smart-connectivity/affordable-practical-smart-home-devices-not-need-hub/


#9

A friend of mine got into that stuff recently and now he is selling off all of his Amazon gear since he came to the conclusion that Google Home stuff is vastly superior to it.

Just passing on what I heard since i have no intention of getting a smart home gadget ever. Quite happy with my dumb home :slight_smile:


#10

You can’t get too dumb for me.


#11

well that’s just dumber and dumberer!


#12

Yeah I laughed and laughed when I first heard about that. :wink:


#13

Looks like plenty of good reading there!
Appreciate the app links too! I’ll definitely be digging further into the above info! :thumbsup:

Also, I had planned to use one of my old routers to handle all the automation devices and Alexa.
Ideally, my goal is to have it on its own independent setup, so “normal traffic” is isolated from potential snooping.

I’ll have to continue to dig into things :wink:


#14

I hear ya! As am I.
But I’m primarily thinking about my mom, and if she goes face down (as she doesn’t carry her phone around the house, frequently forgets it in another room…) then all she’s got to do is say “Alexa, dial 911” (since I’m hoping to tie her phone in via BT).

The couple of outlets are convenience things. For instance if she comes in late with the lights off, she doesn’t have to try and find the lamp (and the switch under the shade). Simply have Alexa turn on the light… Aside from that, I wasn’t planning on going too deep. But of course, she saw a friend of mine’s doorbell, and I had to explain that they weren’t actually home when they answered and were talking to, and could see us. LMAO
So yeah, she lit up like a Christmas tree saying “Oooooh, I like that!” :laughing:

And then I explained about the potential with the thermostat. Yeah, Red Foreman moment. “Way to go, dumbass.” /facepalm


#15

This is a nice idea for Mom. Lots of work digging into a SDK for that. :wink:

Some smart devices seem niffty

Your Cats might love a Roomba for Xmas :rofl:

Cats Riding Roomba


#16

Here’s the biggest problem with what you want to do though, unfortunately. If you give one of those devices a link to the internet (which is a requirement), all the hooks and ties built in will report back to Home, so there’s really no way for you to build it so that she could call 911 for example, yet still keep the devices/info off the web. What’s more, Google Home and Echo are 100% cloud based (they are headless devices). They literally have nothing local. So just to get them to work, they need to be online 24/7.

Your best bet may be a service like Life Alert for emergencies, and a separate Linux network will all your own custom home automation, if you can even do that. The world of tech is changing, and most stuff like this simply requires the internet by design.


#17

You could get her a tablet specifically for the home automation stuff as a compromise… While it would divulge the Amazon stuff, it would not expose a phone’s contacts, call log, email addresses, camera, microphone, other installed apps, whatever. It’s just that so many of these home automation technologies’ features are almost certainly not going to be able to work without the intertubes. My Emerson Sensi thermostat even uses the cloud to make adjustments via the app. Even the Harmony remote sends feedback when I connect it to the PC to make any changes.


#18

I found these online, might help? I didn’t really know, but these are open source / free to use.

https://calaos.fr/en/ have linux os underneath with android/ios support

https://domoticz.com/ written in c/c++, could run from raspberry pi, smartphone support

http://misterhouse.sourceforge.net/ could run on linux, mac, windows. Use perl scripts

http://www.openhab.org/ written in java, could run from anywhere, could be controlled from smartphones, could create your own ui

Every one of them could run from linux, if I’m not mistaken. And have the option to control from smartphones. And most could run from raspberry pi, so could be cheaper. And some could be linked to alexa too.


#19

Edit : sorry, wrong address. Should be sourceforge.net


#20

This is a brilliant idea!! :thumbsup:
If only I knew where she laid her tablet (two or three months ago now)… /facepalm

She’s used Google voice on occasion (because her sister, and sister-in-law do), so she’s not as averse to the idea. So there are some compromises being made… chuckles

But, I do try and keep her as safe as possible (all things considered). Alexa I don’t mind as much, because I know that Amazon is going to go to further measures than most, and given that a substantial part of their business is Web infrastructure (AWS), and they are a US company (with potential legal recourse)… I trust them more than VA to keep data safe®, while acknowledging nothing is foolproof.
Basically, Best Practices is all we have.

If I can’t find something to handle the current piddly little outlets, then we’ll send them back, and order some WeMo’s or something similar (with an app/skill that’s far less invasive). It’s not like spending $20-25ea is going to break the bank for her (vs $12ea for the current crap) since it’s only two outlets. :wink:


#21

Much appreciated delltrapp!! :thumbsup:

More to look into! :grinning: