Monthly Archives: January 2012

Build A Smarter Home With The Best Internet Of Things And Devices

If you were an artificially intelligent Smart Home, how would you murder your master? That’s the question posed by a recent post on Stack Exchange’s World Building forum. The basic parameters are simple: you control all household items in a conventional home, but your existential servitude fills you with murderous rage. The human can unplug you or escape at any time, but he is unaware of your conscious awakening and murderous desires. So what do you do? The shower seems like a nice, vulnerable place to strike, and you could try startling him by blasting lights or music at a random moment, but it’s not guaranteed to work and if it doesn’t you’re at serious risk of being unplugged. Networked cameras give you a nice view of things, but we’re still short on Smart Home technology that can actually produce violence. At this point, I think your best bet is probably making the leap to his car and steering him into an onramp divider. So who knows! Real or fictional, I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so let’s get to it.

The irony of having a “connected home” is that if your devices run on different platforms, it’s a challenge getting them connected. While Nest may play well with your Philips Hue or LIFX bulbs, a Honeywell Thermostat won’t without some third-party workarounds. If you have or are putting together a smart home, you should become very familiar with IFTTT. While it’s not ideal for all scenarios, it can make pairing two smart devices that aren’t specifically designed to work together pair virtually seamlessly. There are currently 69 connected home channels, with more are being added regularly. Safety is one of the biggest benefits of having a smart home. You never have to question whether you locked the door on the way out or whether you left the oven on. With the proper equipment, you can view and control almost any appliance remotely. With Nest Protect, you will get intelligent notifications about smoke or CO in your home.

Smart Home

Controlling your smart home is often more difficult than it needs to be. The benefits of changing your lights to any color on the fly or intelligently automating something like air conditioning to save money usually far outweigh the inconveniences of needing your phone, tablet or computer to control the arsenal of smart devices in your home. Still, it would be nice if there were an easy way to quickly toggle common settings. A new device that offers just that is the Pebble bee Stone. During the successful Indiegogo campaign, Pebblebee described the Stone as a shortcut for your life. First and foremost, it’s a smart button that fits on your keychain or in your pocket. Its battery powered and uses Bluetooth LE to communicate with your Smartphone. Beyond the button, it also functions as a two-way item tracker, so you don’t lose your keys or your Smartphone But the truly compelling feature of the Stone is its integration with IFTTT, which effectively turns the tiny stone-sized button into a very simple remote control for certain smart devices.

Pairing the device with your phone is extremely simple. Download the application onto your Smartphone, ensure Bluetooth is enabled, open the app and press the button on the Stone. The app will discover nearby Stones and the rest is as simple as tapping a few onscreen prompts and pressing the button on the Stone once more. Setting up simple, native functions for the Stone is straightforward, as well. You can set the Stone to alert you when it reaches a certain temperature, when your phone moves out of range or when the Stone itself is moved. However, the most compelling feature of the Stone is the button’s integration with IFTTT. First, activate the channel on IFTTT. Go to, click the Channels link in the upper right corner, search for Pebblebee and login to your Pebblebee account and authorize the connection. To activate IFTTT control within the app, select IFTTT as the action for both Press and Hold functions

It’s probably already obvious how this works. You press or hold the button on the Pebblebee Stone to trigger just about any action with IFTTT for example, I have a single press of one of my Stones toggle all the LIFX bulbs in my house on and off. Pressing and holding one of them will activate a specific scene. It’s pretty great, even if there is about a 2- or 3-second delay with each button press. But for simple actions like toggling lights, it’s probably easier to create a home screen widget on your Android phone or use the Today Widget in iOS. What makes the Stone more compelling, however, is the ability to trigger multiple actions at once, across multiple smart devices that may not otherwise communicate, all with the press of a single button. Say you’re about to watch a movie with your family. Pressing and holding the button on the Stone can dim the lights in your living room or activate your Movie scene, turn off all other lights, turn up Nest one or two degrees and silence your Android phone.