The journey

A few years ago I decided that it would be nice to have some remote control added to some of the lights in my room, so I went out to the local construction market and bought a set of wall sockets with a remote control included from the Home Easy brand for about €30.

Home Easy wall sockets and remote

Having used these socket for some time and after the expanding of the setup with a few integrated remote switches and dimmers (from Home Easy as well) I wanted to control all of this from my mobile phone (iPhone 1G at that time). To achieve this, I bought an USB version of the remote, sold as Home Easy HE853.

Home Easy HE853
Even though some people seem to have hacked the protocol and created a command line tool for this device (https://github.com/r10r/he853-remote), I never got it to work the way I wanted. The coverage was not good, even when it was powered through an powered USB hub.

Still wanting to have my home controlled from my mobile phone, one day I found out about Loxone. This German based company has developed their own home automation solution, build around a Loxone Miniserver.

Loxone Miniserver
The Loxone solution worked really well.

  • Hardware quality of Miniserver is high
  • Setup software is really good (wysiwyg programming gui)
  • Mobile applications are nice looking, easy to use and actively updated

With the Miniserver I bought a Loxone Temperature and Humidity sensor, which allowed it to control my thermostat remotely. This was a very nice first addition to the home automation system at the time. After a year of using the Loxone I knew that it would not be the solution for me on the long term. Apart from the positive sides above, this had a few reasons.

  • Price vs. quality is good, but it is still expensive. My initial Loxone setup cost around €600
  • Closed system. There is an API, but if you want to hack around you’ll soon find out that it is limited.
  • To use all the relays to control lights and switches, I had to re-wire the whole electrical installation. Something I do not want to do right now. (There is and wireless extension with sockets and switches, but prepare for the bill..)

In my interest for home automation  I found the open-source software by the name of Domoticz. This software runs at almost every operating system and provides an open source controller for all kinds of devices, backed by a very active community of enthousiasts. It does require an server, but in these days of Raspberry Pi, that is not really a challenge.

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September 30, 2015

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