Vera – Scripting

Emergency responders often complain about the difficulty in finding an address while responding to an emergency call. Street numbers posted on the house that are visible at night is an obvious first step (and one that more people should take), better lighting is a part of that.

There are other products that can help the front porch light “flasher”, for instance (replaces your front porch light switch and has three settings, off/on/emergency – emergency flashes the light until it is turned off), alarm system strobe lights mounted to the front of the house (instead of, or in addition to a siren).

In the case of the Vera Lite I’ve programmed the exterior lights (front porch, back porch and garage) to flash on and off repeatedly in the event that the alarm is triggered using LUA (code that simply flashes lights A, B and C on and off every X seconds for Y cycles).

This is a great little bit of code (even returns the lights to their original on/off status when it ends) blatantly stolen from the Vera Forums – Perimeter Emergency Light Flash thread.

Vera – One month in.

So we’ve had our Vera for one month.

Generally the experience has been good. Quite a learning curve, but we’re seeing the functionality I hoped for at this point, and I’m happily ordering new zwave devices with some regularity.

Problems we have had are few, but are noteworthy;

  • Unit frozen/unresponsive – While on vacation the unit became unresponsive to the mobile app, and was not activating scenes on its schedule. We had it manually rebooted and all went back to normal. It has now been configured to reboot itself once a week, and there have been no problems since.
  • A few days back the Vera showed all Zwave devices as unreachable. I ran a network “heal” which confirmed that none of the devices were communicating (odd!). They would respond to commands immediately, but would not report back. I fiddled with the individual device network settings and eventually got everything back to normal, but am unsure what caused (or even fixed) the issue (on reflection I think I should have just left the thing alone for a bit and it would have resolved itself).

I feel confident enough in this system that I’ll be adding a thermostat and a few more light switches.

Zwave Kwikset Lock

One of the devices I like with the Zwave system is the integrated electronic deadbolt. We already had a digital deadbolt on the back door (although it lacks the Zwave integration) for if and when we forgot our keys or accidentally locked ourselves out (definately beats a key hidden under the mat or on the top of the door frame).

Kwikset Zwave Lock

We went with the Smartcode Deadbolt with Zwave for key consistency and asthetics. The ability to program access codes from my laptop instead of while standing at the front door with a user manual in my hand is an added bonus.
» Read more..

Vera Micasa Verde – Setting the scene

One of the great features of the Vera Lite unit is the flexibility it offers. Basic functionality is easily acheived using the Scene/Trigger functions (which as it suggests sets out “what” happens – Scene, and “how” it happens – Trigger.).

Examples of this in my system presently include;

  • At Dusk +/- 30 minutes turn the front porch light on.
  • When garage door opens turn on interior lights (when door closes turn off interior lights)
  • Turn on exterior outlets at dusk and turn them off at 10:00pm (this is our Christmas lights, garden lighting circuit).
  • Lock the front door when the alarm system is armed / Unlock when disarmed.

The appeal however is in the more detailed “scripting” options that Vera offers for less immediate or directly related events.

My first “script” (or Lua code) was to prevent the front door from unlocking when we are home, and just turning off the alarm in the morning when we get up (from “stay” mode to “disarmed”).

This took a bit of thinking, and I used the “Ping” app to sort it out. The system will poll both of our cellphones (to see if we are logged in to the local Wifi), if either phone is present then the front door now stays locked when we disarm the alarm. If neither phone is present it unlocks the front door and turns on some interior lights (assuming one of us is just getting home).

After a few hours of tampering with things I’ve managed to figure this part out;

local allow = true
local status = luup.variable_get("urn:micasaverde-com:serviceId:SecuritySensor1","Tripped",50)
return ((status == "1") == allow)

I’m only halfway there. It presently checks to see if Lisas cell phone is logged in. Clearly I’ll have to look over the if/else/then portions of this.

Still….progress? Yeah.

Vera, Zwave and Wemo

As anticipated the addition of a few more Zwave devices firmed up the zwave network and improved reliability. The Zwave switches reach well beyond the range of the Wemo switches (as the zwave network expands with each device adding to the range of the network, while Wemo relies on the Wifi signal).

I’m exploring the automation and programming aspects of the Vera, which at present only acts as a centralized timer turning lights on and off in a quasi-random fashion.

The advanced progamming appears a little counter intuitive, and I’m still grappling with more advanced programming;

- return home and disarm alarm system with remote, system turns on foyer lights and unlocks front door.
- arm alarm system to “stay”, system locks door, turns off downstairs lights.
- arm alarm system to “away”, system locks door, turns off interior lights, turns down thermostat.

You get the idea.

Zwave vs. Wemo Switches

Our home has a detached garage. It is only a few meters from the house, but I thought it might present difficulties for the wireless “smart switches”.

Zwave Light Switch:

My first effort was with an “Evolve Zwave Switch” to control the interior lights of the garage. The Zwave device is paired directly with the Micasa Vera (Zwave does have the benefit of creating its own network, with devices relaying commands to each other).

The garage is just at the edge of its effective range (and with no other Zwave devices just yet there’s nothing to help boost the signal in between the controller and the switch).

The Micasa Vera log shows multiple attempts to contact the switch before registering success. In practice I have it set up to automatically turn the lights on when the garage door opens, and then to turn them off again when it closes, and there is not noticeable delay.

Belkin Wemo Switch:

The Belkin Wemo switch relies on the Wifi signal from your home router. Setup requires you to use your smartphone to connect to a wifi signal generated by the switch, you then provide the app with a password for your home wifi and it connects directly to your router.

I attempted to install a Wemo switch almost immediately beside the Zwave switch mentioned above (same distance to router etc) in the garage and this was a total failure.

The Belkin Wemo switch was simply unable to consistently connect to the router, and would not complete it’s setup. I disconnected the switch and used it in a different location within the house.

Conclusion:

I like the Wemo switches because they can be operated throught the Wemo app if there is a problem with the Micasa Vera Controller. This kind of failure of the Micasa renders the zwave devices effectively inert.

I am impressed with the range of the Zwave switch, and will be adding a few more devices (door lock, thermostat, switch) to see if this improves the connection to the garage. Zwave also offers a wide selection of devices including three way switches, dimmers, relays – the list is endless) where Wemo is limited to single switches and individual appliance outlets.

For now, it’s 80% Wemo and 20% Zwave, but those numbers should balance out in a bit.

MiCasa – Vera Lite (Day 2)

So the learning curve continues.

First tip…don’t use the “Utility/Reboot” command lightly, it appeared to default the device when I tried it (simply to move the device to its static IP address) and all my programming up to that point was lost.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me a fresh start with my new found experience, and the setup was less than an hour.

Vera Lite device main page

As I mentioned, the fact that the VeraLite could make use of my already installed WeMo switches was ENTIRELY unexpected, and I had already ordered a new wall switch to experiment with (ZWave).

The Evolve Wall Switch is paired with the Vera by physically taking the Vera to the install location and pairing them (the Vera is equipped with AA batteries for this specific purpose). I installed the Evolve switch in my garage to control the lights, paired the device without an issue and then returned the Vera to its typical location.

No good. The device is out of range.

It’s important to note that the ZWave devices create their own network, and act as repeaters for each other. The more devices you have the further you can extend the network.

I’ll be comparing the range of the WeMo switches (which are Wifi based) to the Zwave switches, and we’ll see which fares better (they are both the same price…so it’s a wash on that front).

Mi Casa Verde VeraLite – Day 1

I’m impressed.

I tinkered with the Veralite today for the first time. Plugged it into the home network, let it download its updated firmware, registered on the corporate website and then got stuck into the task of getting it to recognize the components already in place.

That was a snap!

The device lets you download “apps” that take care of the basic interaction with different devices. It took me no time to download the DSC app (interaction with the alarm system), the WeMo app (interaction with my Wifi light switches), a CCTV app to bring in the feed from the surveillance cameras and even an IP Ping app that can ping our cell phones to keep track (in general) of who is home.

So, now the device list is complete, I need to start learning about “scenes” and “triggers”.

Home automation…baby steps

Ok, enough reading.

I’ve ordered the Vera Lite from Vera Controls as an entry level home automation system, along with a wireless light switch. This will give me that chance to play with the thing (undoubtedly turning the front hall light on and off endlessly and annoying Lisa) and see what it can do.

Going to experiment with this a bit and see if it gives me the features and flexibility to do the stuff I’m after, then we can get into more advanced functionality (and add more of the rather expensive devices).

New gizmo to play with, coming through.