eXtensions - Wednesday 16 August 2017
eXtensions - The Wednesday File (18): Home Automation - If you are Lucky - Philips Hue, and Smart Plugs in Bangkok (Updated)
By Graham K. Rogers
Late Note: An email from Amazon had me look again at their Philips Hue section and some of these devices will now ship to Thailand. Particularly useful may be the same Starter Kit I bought in London. Amazon prices this at $64.99 + $28.71 shipping - $93.70 (3117 baht). I paid £59.95 - 2586 baht for this and that included 20% VAT. It would be in everyone's interests if these were available in the shops here.
Although I set the lights up with the Hue app, they also appear in the Apple Home app and that is what I use as the main control. On the Hue site, I noticed a comment encouraging users to experiment and that is just what I have been doing for the last few days. I have proved to myself what I already expected about home automation and I want more.
When I return to my condo each day, the curtains are drawn to limit the effects from the sun and my command, "Hey Siri, turn on the lights", is instantly obeyed. The same is so for when I go to bed and say, "Lights out". In the interim, I have tried colour changes with Siri and the Home app, as well as dimming the lights to make the balance in the rooms match the activity: reading, relaxing, watching TV. As a test, I also turned on one light (using Home) while travelling on Bangkok's BTS system so the room was already lit when I arrived.
I was already aware that the iHome plug (which I have) was only for 110v and the company told me they had no plans to develop this for other systems. I have a couple of Elgato Eve smart products and a look at their site shows the Switch and Power meter for the US is rated for 100-240v. Although the Elgato site displays, "Product not available in your country", Amazon thinks differently, although this is not cheap at all: 2829 baht ($49.93 + $35.10 Shipping). It does however, have several sensor functions which makes it more than a mere plug. I am tempted by this.
Philips Hue Bridge
The information is that "The new range will be sold in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates through Apple retail stores, online via Apple.com, and other chosen retail outlets." There was also a mention of "further HomeKit compatible devices for both the UK and international markets" so keep your fingers crossed.
The HomeKit compatibility for the Tradfri lighting system (not available in Thailand apparently) is via a download for a firmware update for the wireless bridge. This sounds similar to the Philips Hue although the Hue can support 50 bulbs (using Zigbee) while the IKEA bridge will only support 10, so that sounds like a Bluetooth system.
A warning note on firmware updates appeared this week in an item by Dan Goodin (ArsTechnica) who writes, "LockState mistakenly sent some 6i lock models a firmware update developed for 7i locks." All the updated locks became inoperable leaving some red faces and some very angry users.
iHome Smartplug (left) and Koogeek P1 Smartplug
I ordered two of the P1 Smart Plugs (1,190 baht each), but the checkout was problematical with my non-Thai details and finally balked at the passport number. It is set up for Thai use. Another phone call followed - the importer has good English - and I was provided with bank account details. I paid the amount a short while later and the plugs were on the way by EMS that day, arriving on Tuesday.
Despite what had been said by the importer, one of my Electrical Engineering colleagues was not totally convinced and advised caution (or better still a step-down transformer). He did advise using for short periods (i.e. not leaving the plug connected overnight) as he was worried about overheating. My intention is to use this for tasks such as boiling water for tea or coffee and I will watch this closely.
And yet Thailand is not the only country that uses 220v systems, so the rollout worldwide of devices for the higher rated voltage systems is slow, restricting take-up of automation: something that was noted by the Apple employee who sold me the Philips Hue in London.
I cannot be alone in my wish to try out automation. It is not that I am lazy, but ever since I have used computers, I have aways wanted to do more than any out of the box system would allow. Although my motivation is to test and try, there must be hundreds (or more) who would like to automate their homes: the product developers are lagging.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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