Want to turn your Philips Hue lights on and off? That’s one app. Want to control the appliances that you have plugged in via Belkin’s range of smart switches? That’s another app. Need to check the live video feed at home on your D-Link or Netgear
smart home security cameras? Yet another app to consult.
While the beauty of DIY smart home devices is that you can mix and match products based on your needs and budget, the lack of over-arching integration means you’ll end up suffering from app fatigue just controlling everything on a day-to-day basis.
Of course, this won’t always be the case. Various manufacturers have been hard at work over the past couple of years creating ecosystems that are compatible with multiple smart home brands, including Apple, Google and Samsung.
The only issue is that you’ll probably need new hardware to take advantage of these.
Philips Hue smart bulb owners, for instance, will need to upgrade their existing Hue Bridge to the 2.0 version (not yet available in Australia) to take advantage of Apple’s HomeKit, which offers Siri voice commands and the ability to integrate various smart home gadgets within scenes.
Until the new wave of integrated smart home technology is available, there are a few tricks you can take advantage of that reduce the ‘app fatigue’ of using multiple smart home brands.
By sticking shortcuts on your smartphone’s home screen (Android) or notification centre (iOS), you can bypass the apps altogether — assuming the app offers native support for this or a clever third-party developer has created them.
Let’s start with the ever-popular Philips Hue smart LED lights. Philips doesn’t offer Android widgets for its Hue lighting system natively, but the excellent Hue Pro app offers full access to all of the features from a home screen widget.
Depending on the version of Android you’re using, you’ll be able to access widgets from the widgets tab in the apps launcher by tapping and holding any widget and drag it to the home screen you want it to live on, or by tapping and holding anywhere on the home screen, selecting the ‘widget’ option and dragging the widget to one of the homescreens.
iOS users have it better thanks to native support for the notification centre. To enable the widget, open the Philips Hue app, go to Settings > Widget & Apple Watch and select the options that you’d like to access (you can choose up to 10).
Once that’s complete, activate the widget by swiping down from the top of your iPhone screen, switching to the ‘Today’ tab at the top, then scrolling to the bottom and tapping the ‘Edit’ button.
As with Hue, LIFX offers a widget for iOS but not Android, although there are various third party options to enable this functionality for the latter platform such as the LIFX Control Widget.
A nifty third-party option for accessing a variety of smart home gadgets via the Android home screen or iOS notification centre is ‘Do Button’.
For any gadget that’s compatible with the IFTTT (If This, Then That) cloud-based automation platform (which includes Philips Hue, LIFX, Belkin Wemo, Nest, Withings, Jawbone, Fitbit, Logitech and Parrot), you can have shortcuts to specific ‘recipes’ as widgets.
If you wanted a single button that would turn on the fan, for instance (which is connected to a Belkin WeMo Switch), a Do Button widget on your home screen or notification centre will give you quick one-tap access.
Philips Hue for instance, offers native support for geofencing, which means the lights will automatically turn on or off, based on whether it detects your smartphone.
If you wanted the lights to automatically turn on after sunset when you arrive at night, for instance, you can set this up in the geofencing settings.
LIFX doesn’t support geofencing natively, but you can configure the same functionality using the aforementioned IFTTT service using one of the many readily available recipes.
On IFTTT, do a search for ‘LIFX’, and you’ll see a variety of recipes.
You’ll need two recipes: one that turns you lights on when you arrive, and when that turns your lights off when you leave. These recipes use the GPS function on your smartphone to notify the service of your presence (or lack thereof).
Another option is setting the lights to go on or off on a schedule.
The Hue app doesn’t support scheduling, so you’ll need to enable this functionality through IFTTT. Search for ‘Hue’ on the IFTTT website or through the app, and you’ll see a variety of scheduling options, such as ‘If it’s 6:00pm then turn on the lights’ and ‘At sunset, turn on your lights’.
The LIFX app offers inbuilt scheduling right from the Home screen: tap the ‘New schedule’ button and fill in all the details. As well as setting the start time (which can be set to sunset), you can choose the specific lights it will apply to, the brightness and the colour.
By default, LIFX schedules are set to turn the lights on. To create a schedule for turning the lights off, change the ‘Power’ option to ‘Turn off’.
For other devices, such as Belkin’s WeMo family, you can set them off against each other using rules within the app (i.e. have the Switch turn on an appliance if it detects motion in the room from the motion sensor or security camera), or take advantage of the built-in scheduling functionality.
You can also use IFTTT to create more sophisticated rules that incorporate other gadgets. You could, for instance, have your Philips Hue lights turn on if motion is detected through the Belkin WeMo Motion.