Over the years the Smart Home idea always interested me so during Black Friday when I saw a deal on a Echo and some smart bulbs I finally decided to start buying.
My goal: I plan on controlling 2 Sylvania (Lightify) color bulbs, 1 Sylvania color strip, possibly blinds, and my Xbox One X. ***I would like to control all of those devices through the Amazon Echo with a simple trigger word/phrase.
Current inventory: Smartthings Hub, Amazon Echo dot, all of the lights listed above (all of which are from Sylvania because I read they connect easily which they did).
My Questions: Noob questions so bare with me…
-What else should I invest in?
-I see people post links to GitHub which has code. Which device is the code for and is there a link to describe how to implement these changes?
-Whats the best way to integrate with the Xbox One so that I can command it On/Off with the Echo? Is there IR blaster that works with both ST and Xbox, is using a computer as a bridge to send a signal to the IP the best, or do I need a Harmony Hub?
-Blinds: Im looking for a retrofit but the one I found (FlipFlic) was a Kickstarter project which appears to have died off. Which blinds do you use?
-Last question: I see a lot of people have both a Smartthings hub and a Harmony hub. Why both, Is it to talk to more devices or is it for the automations setup side?
I’m going to answer a few of your questions out of order, just to take the simplest ones first.
The Harmony Hub
The smartthings hub contains two working radios, one for zigbee and one for zwave. For anything else, It uses its ethernet connection to either talk to some local area Wi-Fi devices or to go out over the Internet and talk to other Internet connected services. It doesn’t have any means at all for sending IR (infrared) or Bluetooth Commands.
Most home entertainment devices accept either IR commands or Bluetooth commands.
The Harmony home hub can send both Bluetooth commands and IR commands and has a huge database of over 500,000 home entertainment devices with the commands that they expect. It can also connect via Wi-Fi to your local network or out to the Internet.
So when you have your smartthings hub talk to your Harmony hub, smartthings can ask Harmony to send commands to home entertainment equipment.
This allows you to combine your home entertainment devices and your home automation system with all the many kinds of triggers that smartthings can handle, such as Geopresence, time schedules, light sensors, even knowing if someone is sitting on the couch.
So Harmony can do some things that smartthings can’t do and smartthings can do some things that Harmony can’t do and they work together very well.
I personally would recommend just getting the Harmony to use as your IR blaster, but there are some other alternatives as well if you want something simpler. But one of the big advantages of the Harmony is that it has great integration with the echo.
Github and Custom code
The following FAQ explains what custom code is. ( this is a clickable link)
And you use the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki to find the custom code to use.
Prices on the Harmony hub vary quite a bit, and will likely drop again just before the holidays as it’s a popular gift. And it often goes on even deeper sales right before the Super Bowl. So shop around on that one.
In order to integrate with SmartThings, you need to have the “harmony home hub.” This is what will sit near the TV and smartthings and Echo can communicate with it by Wi-Fi.
That’s the only piece you absolutely have to have, and it is sold by itself. However, most people buy it with at least one handheld remote.
As the remotes themselves get fancier, they get more expensive, but as it happens, one of the least expensive remotes, the one without a screen, has four special buttons used just for home automation. That’s called the “harmony home companion.”
The special buttons can be assigned to home automation devices, including home automation devices that work with SmartThings, and then can be used to just toggle those on and off quickly. So a lot of people like that particular model to go with the smartthings set up, but it’s your choice.
Just be aware that the fancier remotes that have a screen don’t have that option, so what you have to do is scroll through your whole list of harmany activities until you come to the one that toggles the home automation device. So that’s why the less expensive remote is popular with SmartThings owner, it’s not because we’re all cheap!
One other difference to be aware of if you have a lot of different home entertainment devices is that the one without a screen can control up to 8 different entertainment devices (and an unlimited number of home automation devices) while the ones with the screen can usually control up to 15 different entertainment devices. (And anything with an infrared remote, like a fan, controlled from the Harmony would count as an entertainment device.) So if you have a TV, a sound bar, an Xbox, a DVD player, The cable TV set top box, separate fancy speakers, Roku, PlayStation, and a fire TV stick all connected to the same television, that’s 9 Entertainement devices and the cheaper button remote wouldn’t work with all of them.
So if you do want a handheld remote, the first thing to do is to count the number of entertainment devices you want to control with it. But most people only have 4 or 5, so the remote without a screen works fine.
Here’s the set with the hub and one of the cheaper companion remotes:
As of today when I posted it it’s at $135, which is its usual price, with a list price of $149.
If you look at the price history at Camel Camel Camel, you can see it goes on sale for $120 pretty often, and I would expect to see that again before Christmas at either Amazon or Best Buy. And sometimes it’s on sale for $99, although not often.
Also, this is one of those devices where sometimes the black one is on sale and sometimes the white one is on sale, so if you don’t care about the color, check both. Just always check the product description to make sure that you are getting both the button remote and the hub, and not just the button remote.
Good looking out on the prices; I’ve never heard of camelcamelcamel.com! I was just about to purchase the Harmony Hub on Amazon (87$) then I saw it dropped to 50$ right before Christmas last year so I may wait a couple weeks to save a few bucks.
I may wait on the Harmony remote just so I can see how much I can do with the Amazon Echo integration first then decide if I need any additional controls. The Harmony Elite Remote Control will be on the wish list for now.