Hey thanks for checking the second installment of 25 Automation Ideas to go along with our video.
This article will be my best attempt to explain how I set up the automations. I may not be able to go over every single step in detail, but this will serve as my notes to get you started.
There are many ways to implement home automations, so you can use this as a guide if you use something different from me.
If you have questions I’ll do my best to answer them.
Use this table of contents to jump around to whatever automation interests you!
Table of Contents
- 1. Motivational wake-up
- 2. Getting out of bed
- 3. Fresh air automation
- 4. Exercise timer light
- 5. NFC tag automation
- 6. Getting focused
- 7. Time to stand up
- 8. Closet light strip
- 9. Keep it secure
- 10. Smarter robot vacuum
- 11. Naughty dog
- 12. Light switch alert
- 13. Naptime silence
- 14. Washing machine notification
- 15. NFC family alerts
- 16. Light adjusting
- 17. Robot picks up toys
- 18. TV Remote missing
- 19. TV Lighting automated
- 20. Doorbell pauses TV
- 21. Motion accent lighting
- 22. Second reminder
- 23. TV time limits
- 24. Late bedtime
- 25. Shut it all down
1. Motivational wake-up
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The first automation used light strips to be an artificial sunrise alarm clock.
The best light strips for this are ones that are addressable. That means each part of the light strip can be controlled separately. There are less expensive DIY solutions for this, but in the video and this example I will use ones that work out of the box: LIFX Z light strips.
These are expensive but they work very well, especially for examples like this. I’m also using corner channel covers that you can get on Amazon here.
There are three steps you need to do and they are very simple.
First, select the light strip in the LIFX app and go to the “Palette” section. Here you can Paint the different colors. The last color looks like the color black but it just turns the light off in that section. I painted the bottom part of the light strip a warm red color. Then the rest of it I painted the “off” color.
The second step is to save the current light as a Scene. Go back to the Home screen in the LIFX app and select the plus button to create a new scene. Make sure to only select the LIFX Z light strips.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 over to create different scenes. I created 5 different scenes. The scenes can slowly fade on so you could get away with creating less than 5.
The third step is to set a schedule for the lights. I prefer to use webCoRE in SmartThings because it’s quick and I can skip or snooze it if necessary. LIFX scenes import nicely into webCoRE and all you have to do is select “Location” as the action and after that you will see the option for the LIFX scene.
The other way to schedule it is by using the LIFX app. This will work but you won’t be able to dynamically skip it or snooze it without physically going into the LIFX app. Which might be completely fine for a lot of people, and is more simple than setting up webCoRE.
Next is using the Google Home Hub to automatically play a YouTube video in the morning. This is really easy to do in the Google Home app under Routines. You can schedule a routine and have it start playing a YouTube video at a certain time.
There is an easy, but not elegant way to skip the Google Routine from running in the morning. Plug the Google Home Hub into a smart outlet and turn the power temporarily so it doesn’t run. Google is supposed to update their routines soon so hopefully this is just a temporary solution.
2. Getting out of bed
It’s ultra convenient to trigger automations by getting in and out of bed.
The pressure sensor under my bed is from Withings and it’s a really cool device. It only has one major flaw: I need to use IFTTT to integrate it into my smart home.
I bought this before the whole IFTTT Pro fiasco and it’s the only device in my house that is currently using IFTTT. I deleted all my other IFTTT applets.
The way I have it integrated is using a SmartThings virtual switch. If I get in bed, I have IFTTT turn on the virtual switch and if I get out of bed I turn off the virtual switch. From there I can handle all the logic in SmartThings or webCoRE.
If you want to trigger an Amazon routine to have the weather read to you, then check out another one of my articles explaining how to set that up.
3. Fresh air automation
Changing the thermostat from a window opening is very easy to set up. I am using a SmartThings multipurpose sensor connected to my SmartThings hub. I’m also using an Ecobee thermostat that works well with SmartThings.
The automation is that if the contact sensor is opened, then change the temperature so the air isn’t running anymore. Then when the contact sensor closes, set the temperature back to what it was. You could also just turn the air off and then back on as well.
4. Exercise timer light
It can be really helpful to use a light strip as a progress bar. This is set up very similar to automation #1 up top, so make sure you read over that one.
I create multiple scenes for the different “percentage” complete states. So if you were going to create a 30 minute timer you could create 5 scenes that get called every 6 minutes.
You could always start it at a certain time if you need to get out the door on time, or you could start it dynamically using the pressure sensor mentioned in automation #2.
5. NFC tag automation
NFC tags are an easy way to trigger an automation with your phone. The NFC tags used in the video are these on Amazon. They are really thin and do not have adhesive.
I also bought some thicker NFC tags that seem better for outside. They do have adhesive and could connect to the phone from a further distance.
I’ll explain how to implement it on an iPhone, but most Android phones also have NFC and can use the tags as well.
On iOS go to the “Shortcuts” app from Apple. Click on “Automation” at the bottom. Then click on the + at the top right. Select “Create Personal Automation.” Scroll down and you will see a button called “NFC.” Select that.
Scan the NFC tag you want to use and give it a name. The name is just for you to reference later. Then you can create actions with apps. LIFX works well and I also used the Home Assistant app as well, although you don’t have to use Home Assistant to set this up.
In the Home Assistant app, you just select Event as the action and give it a value like “office_tag” with data being blank. Then create an automation in Home Assistant with an Event as the trigger and “office_tag” as the Event type.
There are also options to pull up reminders and many other things, as shown in the video.
Just make sure to disable the option “Ask Before Running” so the automation will just run when the phone is near the NFC tag.
6. Getting focused
More and more people are working from home and staying focused can be difficult. I did a whole video on working from home automations that you can check out here.
In the video I have a SmartThings button trigger a webCoRE action to “breathe” the LIFX lights in the office. I really like LIFX because they make this so easy. The lights flash a color and they go back to the way they were before.
7. Time to stand up
I’ve wondered how to automate my standing desk for a while, but SwitchBot made it really easy.
SwitchBot is a mini robot with a tiny mechanical arm that can physically press buttons. It also works with light switches and I did a video on it a long time ago.
To connect the SwitchBot to something like SmartThings it does need the SwitchBot hub. If you don’t have the SwitchBot hub you will only be able to control the SwitchBot with bluetooth and schedule it.
So if you want to use a contact sensor on your desk and trigger the SwitchBot if the desk is still in the sitting position, then you will need the hub for that to work.
8. Closet light strip
What I’m using to have lights turn on when I open the closet door is 4 things. A Wyze Sense contact sensor, Govee light strips (any light strips that work with Alexa will work), a channel cover to hold the light strip securely, and an Alexa routine.
I have two Alexa routines set up. One turns on the light when the contact sensor opens and the other turns the light off when the contact sensor closes.
I did a video talking more about light strips, channel covers and this example. You can watch it here.
9. Keep it secure
Alexa Guard is a really cool feature that is included if you have Echo devices. Amazon just announced some more features that will cost money, but the basic guard features are pretty good as is.
You can automatically turn on Alexa Guard in an Alexa routine but it doesn’t seem like turning it off automatically is possible. Probably a security reason. However, if it’s connected to a Ring security system (or another compatible alarm), it can be enabled/disabled when the alarm is being armed/disarmed.
10. Smarter robot vacuum
The robot vacuum shown in the video is the Roborock S6 Max V. I did a video on it recently and it’s an amazing robot vacuum.
If you have a robot vacuum that works with Alexa it can easily be automated to start when you’re away. Create an Alexa routine that starts the robot vacuum and trigger it from your location or from something like SmartThings. That way if you want to make sure everyone is out of the house, then you can’t just use Alexa routines for that.
Here is a video where I talk about how to get SmartThings to trigger the robot vacuum if you haven’t seen that video.
11. Naughty dog
The camera shown for this is from Eufy. They have two indoor cameras that have good 2k video resolution and are affordable.
I did a video about them that you can check out here if you want to see more about Eufy.
12. Light switch alert
The light switch I used in the video is an Inovelli Red Dimmer Switch. This switch uses Z-Wave so you will need a hub that can control Z-Wave devices. For example, SmartThings or Hubitat.
To set this up in SmartThings, first make sure to have all the device handlers installed. Inovelli has great instructions on their website for it and it’s not difficult.
Once you have the device handlers installed, go to the switch in the SmartThings app and select the Settings for the switch. Set up the notification by selecting the notification number, color, blinks…etc. Then go to the Smart Lighting app in SmartThings to add the automation.
If you select the Inovelli Red Dimmer switch, you can choose the notification you set up.
13. Naptime silence
My family always laughs when the doorbell rings because all the Echo devices announce someone is at the door. It’s quite the sight, let me tell you.
This isn’t ideal when the baby is sleeping, but it’s an easy fix. Set up an Alexa routine to run every day and set all the Echo devices in do not disturb mode. That will stop them from announcing anything. You can specify for how long the do not disturb will last each day so you don’t have to remember to turn it off.
I disabled my doorbell chime and I only use the Echo devices to announce when someone rings the doorbell. That way I can easily schedule it to be silent.
I did a video talking about this if you want to see it, along with more automation fixes around my house.
14. Washing machine notification
I actually covered this extensively in a video that you can check out here.
15. NFC family alerts
This is another idea going off of what I covered in the 5th automation.
NFC tags are great for family members who don’t want to open a smart app or remember to do something. You could set up the tag on their phone and all they have to do is swipe their phone next to it.
So if you want more info on how to set it up, check out the 5th automation above. Then select the Messaging app for the action.
16. Light adjusting
There are several ways to have the lights slowly fade on. Hue and LIFX both have them built into the app. I also use webCoRE to slowly fade on any dimmable light connected to SmartThings.
I covered how to do this in another article that you can check out here.
I also show how to use ambient light sensors in a video recently that you can reference here.
17. Robot picks up toys
This is a Nabot robot I’ve shown in a video a while back. The company that makes the software is called Ximpatico. The software is still in beta and it’s far from perfect.
They have a Kickstarter campaign that you can find here. The robot base is a Mebo 2.0 and you can buy that for a lot less money. The software is really what you are paying for.
They have some tools in the app to program the robot which could be fun with your kids. I don’t know what the final app and software will be like when it’s released, but right now it seems like it has a long way to go.
18. TV Remote missing
No matter how much I try to keep track of the remote it always finds a way to hide.
This one isn’t a true automation because it does require a voice command, but I usually end up saying out loud “has anyone seen the remote.”
Attaching a tracker like Chipolo can connect to Alexa and Google Assistant. Just ask the assistant and they will make the tracker start beeping. That way instead of asking the family where the remote is you are just asking the assistant. So it’s almost an automation… maybe?
19. TV Lighting automated
I recently covered the Hue Gradient Lightstrip and I’ve really enjoyed using them. The Hue Sync Box got an update not too long ago that allows IR remotes to send commands to the Sync Box as well. I show it in action in a video I made recently.
I set my power button on my remote to also toggle the Sync Box on and off. That way when I press the power button on the TV the Sync Box turns on. I also have a SmartThings automation that gets triggered when my Samsung TV turns on. SmartThings turns on a scene when the TV is on and when the TV turns off another SmartThings scene is called.
20. Doorbell pauses TV
To have the TV pause when the doorbell is pressed I’m using a Harmony Hub, SmartThings outlet and a doorbell communicating with SmartThings.
Ring doorbells work with SmartThings, but since I’m currently using Eufy I use an Alexa routine to turn on a SmartThings virtual switch.
Then I have SmartThings check if the TV is on using the outlet power usage. If the TV is on then I call the Harmony Hub activity to pause the TV.
I did a video about TV automations that you can check out here.
21. Motion accent lighting
I am always trying to test out different automations around my house, and motion accent lighting has had the highest WAF (wife approval factor). That’s because it adds lighting without messing with the main lights.
There are many motion sensors and lights out there, but right now my favorite is the motion sensor from IKEA paired directly with a SmartThings hub. The IKEA motion sensor is very inexpensive and is supposed to last 2 years on the two batteries it comes with.
Wyze Sense motion sensors also work well but the Wyze Sense bridge isn’t very reliable. It seems like I have to reboot the bridge every month or so. Plus having all my motion sensors and lights in SmartThings makes things so much easier. For example, I can turn on the accent lights only if the TV is off, and it’s easy to set up.
22. Second reminder
To send myself a second reminder, I need to have a virtual switch or variable to modify.
The way it works is if the door is open after 8 pm on Tuesday night, then it will turn on a virtual switch. Or it will set a variable in webCoRE to TRUE.
Then if the motion sensor detects me or if it reaches 10 pm, then send myself a second reminder. You could also call an Alexa routine from SmartThings to have the Echo announce the reminder.
Then just set the virtual switch or variable to FALSE every Tuesday morning. That way the automation is reset and will continue to work.
The times you reset the virtual switch or variable isn’t important. What’s important is that it is reset to FALSE.
23. TV time limits
I’m using webCoRE and a SmartThings outlet measuring power usage for this. When the TV turns on, the power usage goes above a certain level and I set a variable to TRUE in webCoRE.
I then create an IF statement that is: if the variable stays true for 3 hours, then do an action.
This could be used only during the afternoon if kids are watching, or late at night for yourself.
24. Late bedtime
This is using the Withings pressure sensor I mentioned at the beginning. In SmartThings I have virtual switch turned on when I get in bed. That happens from the IFTTT trigger between Withings and SmartThings.
My morning routine is triggered from webCoRE so that’s where I have mine set up.
I have a variable in webCoRE that is reset every day, but depending on what time the virtual switch turns on at night will determine what the variable is set to.
Then the next day webCoRE checks that variable at a certain time. If the variable is TRUE the morning routine will run. If it’s FALSE it won’t.
Then if you want to still run it at a later time, it can check at that time if the variable is FALSE. If so, then run the morning routine then.
25. Shut it all down
Using the pressure sensor combined with SmartThings it is a very basic automation. If the virtual switch is set to “on” between certain hours of the night, then call the bedtime routine.
I also did a video talking about triggering automations from plugging in your phone at night that you can watch here.
Thanks for watching and reading. I know some of these are a bit complicated and I will do my best to cover them in future videos so make sure you’re subscribed!
Also check out volume 1 with more ideas if you haven’t seen it already.
Good luck with automating your home!
thank you for sharing loads of information’s here. I can you give an hint on how to get the Nabot robot? I check on their website and i only see Nabot AI which is a bit expensive aside that it is not available until January 2021.
Hey Reed, really cool projects and automations. I am planning to implement a motion sensed lighting via alexa, however, i do not have a hub and have not found a motion sensor that works with alexa without a bridge. my objective is to stay under 25 bucks for the motion sensor.
Would you know or recommend one to get this project done?
I’m an embedded system and software specialist, I’m on the road to creating a startup of IOT Smart home in the north of Africa.
I’d like to thank you so much for your content that you sharing here, it was so much inspiring for me and for my startup,
can i have nfc tag to trigger a google assistant command through hubitat?
Hi Reed. Big fan of your videos! Can you try and do a volume 3 of all of these ideas and instead combining them with SmartThings and Home Assistant, can you just do them all within Amazon Alexa Routines? I’m really want to implement these ideas but don’t want to go beyond what I have because I don’t have SmartThings and would like to stick to using Alexa.
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