My Relationship with the “Internet of Things”

It’s probably not a secret that, for the most part, I’ve tried to avoid too many connected devices (AKA, the Internet of Things or IoT) in my home. I generally take the approach that if I don’t need the device or if it has a microphone or camera, I won’t install it.

That said, there have been a few exceptions to this rule over the years. Today we have our lights, thermostat, speakers and security system connected to the internet which has helped immensely with how we live. Here are the companies we’ve stuck to and why.

Phillips Hue

The first devices we added to the house were Phillips Hue light bulbs. I didn’t actually want them when we got them but it was cheaper than rewiring various rooms of the house.

Our problem is that the light switches are typically placed in the middle of most of our rooms. For example, when coming in the house the outside light switch and the garbage disposal are the two closest switches to the door. To turn on the lights themselves it takes approximately 8 steps. With a big dog that likes to wait for us at the door, and cats who can make a mess, this can quickly become a problem at night.

Our master bedroom is even worse than the kitchen where we come it. It takes 15 steps (through the “den” and around the corner to the center of the room) to turn on the lights in the bedroom itself. Most other rooms aren’t much better.

Phillips Hue, particularly with their switches, solved this problem for us. Today I have 18 bulbs and 6 switches throughout the house with switches placed near the entrances to rooms allowing us light where we need it and before we trip over anything trying to get to the switch.

As an added bonus we can program the lights for when we’re away from the house eliminating timers and other devices we had used during travel in the past.

Phillips Hue has been reliable and cost effective for us to improve the lighting situation in our house and sold me on the utility of IoT in general, at least so much as it is approached cautiously and with purpose.

EcoBee

The second brand we trust is EcoBee. We have both a thermostat and security sensors throughout the house, the latter replacing a very unreliable Ring security system we had started using when we moved to the house.

During “normal times” we tend to travel a lot. This combination allows us to reduce our power usage and keep the house a bit safer (home burglaries have tended to be a problem in the neighborhood in the past).

We went with EcoBee after a lot of research into a system with solid updates and no required microphones connected to data vampires like Alexa or Google Assistant. So far the the system has been great at what we’ve needed it to do and did it with a bare minimum of effort to set it all up.

Sonos

Our final devices are our Sonos speakers. I listen to a LOT of music and podcasts and tend to move around the house when I do so. In the past we’ve tried over a dozen different speaker combinations without much luck. Sonos have fixed that.

They’re reliable, they sound great and, with the 8 speakers we’ve put around the house, they ensure the music we want is available when and where we want it.

I should add that we’ve gone out of our way to buy speakers without virtual assistants like Alexa and the like. The two models that do have them have never and will never had such features enabled.

Apple HomeKit

Finally, we put all this together, at least for now, with Apple’s HomeKit. It works well on all our current devices but will most likely not be our permanent solution. We’re using it currently for two reasons: 1.) it’s APIs are better on iPhone allowing triggers to be more accurate and, 2.) it allows us a single interface to almost everything we need.

In practice, HomeKit has been great for so many little things. While I would look at Home Assistant again in the future, a single interface is so handy and not something I want to do away with as a feature.

Our Future with IoT

For now I don’t see much need to put any further devices in our home. Anything I would consider would have to serve a real need rather than just some expensive convenience. As it stands, all of these devices work great until they don’t and, when they don’t, it can quickly get frustrating. I don’t want to add to that nor do I want to continue to add devices that may, at some point in the future, pose a security threat for everything in our home.

Like most tech, there is a place at which IoT devices can be incredibly helpful. For us I’ll continue to look for those use cases and do my best to avoid adding anything that would just be for “new and shiny.”

2 Comments

  1. Hi Chris, Great post. I really like the Shelly devices, as they are good from a privacy and compatibility standpoint. Similar to your Hue set up, I have a door sensor to turn on lights when we open the front door.
    Have you looked into Home Assistant at all? I use it to pull all my devices together, and find it super useful.
    Jay

    • Thanks, Jay.

      I’ll check out the devices next time I’m looking for something new. As for Home Assistant, we did use it for a while but went to HomeKit when both of us wound up on all Apple devices (for now). Frankly it was just easier. I could definitely see moving back to Home Assistant, though, if we wound up using something other than Apple.

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