I now have phone/Tasker-controlled home automation


This week my Tasker obsession came full circle, as the final piece in controlling everything I own through that $7 app was put in place: Home automation. I was originally planning on saving the details for the review I’m doing soon of the equipment involved, but since I already teased it in my lock screen article earlier, I might as well give you some early details.

I’ve been fascinated by home automation for a while, but never really gotten that much into it myself as it’s always seemed like something you pay a lot of money to build into your house when you actually build your house, not an accessory you slap on afterwards. When I stumbled across Telldus‘ products through a YouTube video a couple of weeks back, I therefore almost fell off my chair when I realized that the parts needed to do what I needed was right under my nose. Seriously, there are two different stores that sell the necessary equipment a kilometer from where I live. Sometimes, ignorance isn’t bliss.

Apparently, home automation is quite easy these days. $30 at the local store here in Norway gets you a Nexa starter kit with three wall socket receivers and a “dumb” remote control that can turn those sockets on or off. There are different type of socket adapters, dimmers, wireless switches, weather stations, and all sorts of fun equipment that works with each other. There are different starter kits that come with normal remotes, as well as some more advanced remotes that add timer functionality.

This equipment also happens to work with the Tellstick product series, which can best be described as a series of home automation bridges. A Tellstick bridges the gap between the “dumb” equipment and the web, computer, and so on. Two of the Tellstick receivers are designed to work with a computer (that needs to be on), while the one I have, the Tellstick Net, plugs right into a router and doesn’t need a running computer. Prices start at about $100 for the cheapest PC-dependent model. It then sits there and translates commands received through the Telldus Live! service (or computer software if it’s either of the two computer-dependent models) into the 433.92MHz signals used by a lot of home automation equipment. Telldus only makes the Tellstick bridge, which is designed to work with equipment from a number of other manufacturers, so it doesn’t lock you down to a specific system.

The mobile device side of this comes in form of a few different apps. On iOS, there’s an official app and at least one third party app that I’m aware of. On Android, there’s only a third party app, RemoteStick, but in return, it comes with a Tasker/Locale plugin as part of the app. RemoteStick uses the Telldus Live! API to access the Tellstick Net I have at home, giving my either direct access to it through the app, or allowing Tasker to control the registered equipment. Long story short, my desk lamp is now a selectable action in Tasker on my phone.

Since it all ties in with Tasker, that allows me to use it with all of Tasker’s existing features. I have a pop-up settings dialog made with Tasker’s scene feature, and that now has buttons for controlling lights. Screen brightness, phone LED light, and home lighting all controllable from the same screen – seems appropriate. If I want a lamp to turn off when I leave the house, I simply add a lamp off action to my existing outside profile, and it’s a done deal. It works over any network connection, so I can be miles away from home and still control what I need. If I want tea in the morning, I can prepare the water boiler before bed, and then set it to turn on as part of my sleep mode’s exit task in the morning. The video demonstration above simply shows my Tasker-based voice assistant, Nelly, controlling the system with voice control. I’ve also ordered a few temperature sensors that should work with the system, which will hopefully allow me to receive data as well.

There will be a full review of the Tellstick Net in the near future, but so far I’m extremely impressed. Once you have a Tellstick to act as the bridge, the cost of expanding the system is much lower than anything I could ever have imagined. That coupled with the fact that it just works makes this a great way to enhance your home. For me, the ability to flick the unlock ring on my lock screen upwards and have the light in the room turn on at night just makes me smile from ear to ear, as it’s at that point I realize that coming generations won’t understand the meaning of smashing your toe into furniture at night.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets and tends to stick with his choice of device for a long time as a result of that. After a five year break from writing, he's back to share this view with the world once again.