[UPDATED] Homeflow Project: A better way to create & manage automation rules

dashboard
idea
hubv2
automation

(Titus) #1

Hello friends,

I think automation is harder than it should be. I started with Home Assistant, then moved to SmartThings using the built-in Smart Lighting app, and then tried Rules Engine, CoRE, SmartRules, and Groovy scripts.

But I got frustrated trying to cobble together existing solutions to automate my home exactly the way I wanted, without hours of experimenting and hair pulling. I feel like this stuff should just work! :smile:

So my friend and I started working on an app that lets you build and manage your SmartThings automations with a simple GUI, no coding required! It’s in its infancy right now, but I’m hoping this will help the community, and I would really love your feedback as I build this. :slight_smile:

To start, I built a real-time dashboard that shows the status of all your devices. Right now you can turn switches and lights on or off by clicking on the tiles. Later on, we plan on letting you trigger automations from this dashboard as well.

Beyond the dashboard, we are also building a way to create automation flows. The main idea is that you can use a library of pre-built blocks to make whatever kind of automation you want.

These automations run when certain “triggers” happen. Triggers can be events like a door sensor tripping, motion being detected, or even the automation being activated manually on the dashboard. Here is a rough mock of what I envisioned (I started working on the code for this, but don’t have a working MVP just yet):

…and that’s all I have for now! I’m super excited to hear what you all think. :smile:

P.S., if you want to hear about our progress, you can subscribe for updates here!


#2

Thanks for checking out our project :smile: We want to build a platform for the community so let us know what we can do better. Let me know if you have any questions!


#3

Just curious, how does this differ from webCoRE?


#4

Or Stringify…


(Titus) #5

@Coolsaber57 @JDRoberts OMG, great to hear from you guys! :pray: Really love to get your thoughts on this. I totally agree, both of those are trying to solve similar problems. There was actually one user on reddit who mentioned webCoRE (which is new to me). I tried to talk about some differentiating factors here: https://www.reddit.com/r/homeautomation/comments/6ji1zk/a_better_way_to_automate_your_home/djep3bj/

One interesting thing specifically with Stringify is, it only lets you make automations on your phone. As far as I know, you can’t login to your computer and start making automations. And it isn’t as friendly as I thought it would be… it tries to do a lot (kind of like a much smarter IFTTT), and the UX is pretty confusing in some places, IMHO. The little bubble make sense for mobile, but it also makes it hard to see the bubbles holistically; you have to click into it a few times to see what each command bubble does. It really feels to me that Stringify is trying to do too much at once and it is kinda overwhelming. They also have a very involved developer portal, and I’m sure it’s super powerful but… it also kinda gives me anxiety looking at all the possible things I can do with their platform. On top of that, it doesn’t give you a holistic picture of your smart home.

Instead, my goal is to make a more focused and simple solution (and not the most powerful or feature complete, necessarily) that lets you construct automations in your sleep. And as a bonus, allows you to quickly grok, manage, and control what’s going on in your smart home… all from the same web interface.

P.S., sorry for the long-winded answer! :joy:


( I hate Mondays) #6

That’s very nice - is that UI functional at any level (i.e. no execution, but designer working) or is that a photoshop image? Looks neat and clean, I like it. You’ll run through a few issues getting access to devices outside of the ST mobile app and all, but webCoRE pulled it off (and now that I think about it, maybe SmartRules on iOS did too). So when you run into those issues, don’t hesitate to ask around :slight_smile:


(Ron Talley) #7

Always great to have multiple tools! Interface looks nice.

I did see that you stated that you were not familiar with webCoRE… Although the original CoRE took some reading in order to understand the concept(s)…“webCoRE” is very intuitive and user friendly. You don’t even have to know how to write your own Piston because you can simply import already made rules. It can also be accessed via browser so you do not have to use your smartphone.

Might want to check it out. The bar has been set high. Good Luck!

Here’s a video.


#8

Thank you for the response, that makes it quite clear. :sunglasses: I agree that Stringify gets too complicated for many people, although I would note that a lot of people use it on a tablet rather than a phone, so it’s not the display itself that’s the issue, it’s just the logic complexity.

Existing Alternatives

When it comes to setting up rules for common cases, I think SmartRules combined with ActionTiles solves the problem you describe for most people who have an iOS device, but of course SmartRules doesn’t have an android version. But it is easy to use, nice to look at, and fits on a phone really well.

http://smartrulesapp.com

And of course ActionTiles really does set the standard for dashboard apps for SmartThings. Anything you create is going to be compared to that. :sunglasses:



The question of laptop versus tablet interface is largely generational. Many people under age 35 don’t have a laptop at home unless they themselves are programmers. Neither of my two housemates has one, and mine is left over from work. Very few mass-market home automation systems now design for laptop interfaces, and in fact Lowes Iris went the other way with their last generation.

The kind of people who love web core probably all have laptops, but that’s not the mass-market home automation user who needs predefined rules for simple cases.

The design goal

It sounds to me like your real goal is to create a Wink type app for SmartThings which will work for android as well as iOS . Which I think is a great goal, and I wish Smartthings had done it two years ago. I still don’t know why it’s so difficult to set up light groups in SmartThings, for example. Or to set up a scene where three different lights come on at three different dim levels. :disappointed_relieved:



You can do a lot more with SmartThings, no question, but when it comes to doing the basic four or five Use cases that most mass-market consumers looking for a “set and forget” home automation system want, the Wink app is way easier than anything currently available for SmartThings.

So I wish you great success. Choice is good, and different people do want different things from both a UI and a home automation system. I think the challenge you will have is that most people who find third-party add-ons to SmartThings are already power users Who will keep demanding more and more features, and push you into stringify territory. The much larger market of people who would be happy with a simple set of choices and who are currently very underserved by everything except SmartRules are unlikely to ever hear of your program unless you have a mobile app version and get it into the App Stores. So it’s definitely a challenge.


#9

Thanks for the suggestion! We’ll definitely be relying on the community for help. The feedback has already been incredibly useful.

Also, the dashboard UI is a working screenshot. The flow editor is a design mock. We’ve just started implementing it in code!


#10

Thanks for the feedback and pointing us in the direction of webCoRE! We’ve spent some time looking at it and plan to incorporate some of the best functionality and interactions found in the project in ours.

Will look into it more :smile:


(Titus) #11

Hey friends,

Last week I posted about an home automation app we’ve have been working on.

This week I wanted to give you guys some updates! :sunny: The response from the SmartThings and smart home community has been absolutely amazing. The feedback has been truly invaluable and we’re more excited to share with you what we’re building than ever.

Site updates

This week Jonathan has been focusing on smart device integration and refining the dashboard device card experience. He wanted to create a design that was both compact as well as functional. Feedback would be appreciated. Here is a screenshot of the work in progress:

I have been working on the flow editor; I’ve been implementing and refining the algorithm for composing blocks together! I’ve also begun to hook it up to lights, switches, and motion sensors. Here is an updated mock of the flow editor:

In addition, we’ve been researching the possibility of integrating natural language processing to allow you to create flows simply by typing in what you want. Just an idea for now; maybe something we could implement in the future.

Homeflow website :sparkles:

Last week we provided a TypeForm (https://tituswoo.typeform.com/to/vFGJyS) where you could subscribe for updates. Now we have a shiny new landing page where you can read about our project as well as subscribe for updates from us! You can check it out here: http://homeflow.io

Google Plus community

Based on a conversation we had with someone on the forums, we started a Google Plus community that you can ask questions on. We would love to start a conversation with you!


#12

I’ve been using the homeflow dashboard for a month or so. I’m curious to know when the actual “flow” elements of the software might be available as a beta tester?


(Steve) #13

Is this project still being worked on? The website link is giving me a bad gateway error.


(Gareth) #14

Same here, so you’re not alone…really promising project…hope to hear an update from them.