Working on a solution for bringing a handicapped stair glide up/down

Kinda stumped folks. Enjoying turning lights on/off, whole house fan on/off, letting me know when there’s mail, etc.

But I’ve got a request now from the wife for our stair-glide chair – the one our handicapped daughter uses to come up/down the stairs. But one we also use as a - well - “dumb waiter” to send laundry up/down, etc. Currently one of them has to “hold the button” to bring the chair up/down – and it’s always in the wrong place – we’d like to say "Alexa, bring the chair up" – but can live with “Alexa, turn the Chair switch on” (for up) and off for down.

The ultimate goal:

… Command via “Alexa” (amazon echo) to send the chair “up” or send the chair “down”

The ~current~ thoughts – I think I can handle it one of two ways:

  1. I can hack/modify the current press-button “call box” for the chair – two buttons – one up, one down. I can easily wire-in parallel inputs for “up” and “down” button each – a dry contact output for each (it’s a press button I’d wire in parallel to a dry contact relay)

  2. The “call box” generates Infrared (IR) commands to the chair – so I could also generate a “long” (it takes like 30 seconds or more to go up/down) – press of a “virtiual IR” remote/button/etc to command it to go “up” or go “down”

So, what I need to figure out is:

(a) A dual relay module (Smarthings controllable) that I wire into the “up” and “down” buttons and have them “pressed” for about 30 seconds

-or-

(b) Something to generate a 30-second long “ir” signal – one for “up” and a different one for “down”

I have a Smarthings hub. I also have a Harmony Elite Hub.

Ideas?

I’m considering “Anymote” as a solution for the IR idea. Not sure it can handle the continuous press/generate of an IR signal for that long.

Am looking at Zigbee/Z-wave modules that can generate the dry-contacts – but so far, only seeing those that have ONE output, not TWO.

Other ideas?

Two options come to mind. Neither will damage the existing remote or require any wiring. :sunglasses:

Harmony hub

First, see if the harmony can learn the existing IR interactions. It can with a lot of devices. If so, you just have to have a harmony within line of sight of The receiver for the remote.

The harmony which integrates with SmartThings is the harmony home hub, typically sells for $89 at Best Buy. Sometimes it’s at that same price as Amazon.

If the harmony can learn it, that’s a good integration. I understand the issue, however, is that the current remote is a press and hold button, and it may be that the harmony won’t do that.

https://support.myharmony.com/en-us/compatibility

Push Microbot

A good alternative, if more expensive, is the push microbot from Naran. This is a tiny actuator intended as a “robot finger.” It can definitely do push and hold for pretty much any duration you want to set. I myself am quadriparetic, and I have one of these on a small personal blender to push and hold the start button, and another one on the microwave door button. Works fine. :sunglasses:

If you just want to operate it from its own phone app, the push microbot by itself is $49.

But where it really becomes useful is if you add their $89 “Prota” Wi-Fi bridge, which also has its own IFTTT service/channel. Once you have that, you can use it with Amazon echo, which is how I use mine, you can use it with smart things, etc.

https://ifttt.com/microbot_push_for_prota

Setting it up the first time is a little annoying, but it works fine once you do have it set up. And it’s easy to write rules for it with IFTTT. :sunglasses:

So it’s expensive, but it lets you retrofit a lot of devices which are not easy to retrofit otherwise.

1 Like

Cool idea! The Push Microbot. I’m seeing that I’d need 2x Microbots + the Prota Bridge to pull it off (and either another “call box” or wire up some doorbell buttons so we still have manual control) – but that’s a definite solution – although, a bit more pricey than I had hoped… but one to still keep as an alternative.

The Harmony situation is a bit more complicated. First, the Hub we have is not in proximity of the stairs and would require some creative “IR Extenders” or other magic to work. But you do make a good point – it’s easy enough to “test” and see if it works. Eg, whether or not it’s viable for the “long press” feature, etc. And I need to do that. (Kinda don’t want to give up my Hub for testing, alas, am a TV junkie – but for this project, I’ll do it… lol)

The other downside with the Harmony is that for Alexa to work you have to activate a “routine” in the Harmony – eg like “Alexa, tell Harmony to Bring the Chair up” – now you are in the “Bring the Chair Up” routine – no longer in the “Watch TV” routine – you would also then have to tell “Alexa, tell Harmony to Watch TV” - to go back to the “Watch TV” mode. Harmony doesn’t yet integrate with Alexa to push single-buttons, or other simple stuff – it’s just “trigger this routine” or “that routine”… It’s not impossible, just not perfect W.A.F.

The “Anymote” is a “single-button” or “multi-button” IR thingy that integrates – and that’s why I was thinking that way over the Harmony.

Still looking for a dual output-relay module for Zigbee or Z-wave – have seen several single-relay modules – and given, even if I did 2, it’d be a cheaper solution and more ‘clean’ for my needs than the Naran stuff – and without yet another hub – it’s probably more viable if that route.

But again, JD – wonderful suggestion – exactly why I posted – for thoughts on how to pull this off before I start ordering things that may be the wrong, or not as great is it could be solution.

…CM

2 Likes

I understand exactly what you’re saying about harmony/Alexa and the awkwardness of the activity – based paradigm.

Just so you know, just a couple of weeks ago harmony did release a new “harmony red” skill which does let you do the equivalent of press a button for a few specific buttons: play, pause, mute, volume up, volume down, skip ahead, and skip back.

It won’t help with your lift chair project, but it’s really nice for home theater equipment.

You should definitely check it out. :wink:

https://support.myharmony.com/en-us/harmony-experience-with-amazon-alexa

Meanwhile, yet another alternative would be a global cache IR controller. There are some people using these with SmartThings, but the integration is a lot more work to set up than the harmony. But you get granular control of the I R commands.

That one typically costs about $115 for the IR bridge, but most people then also buy some software to go with it. HAMbridge for $29 will work if you work if you have a mac to run it on. Or you can go with simple control (used to be called roomie remote) which is tablet-based, but that one requires an annual subscription fee.

HAMBridge

http://solutionsetcetera.com/about-ham-bridge.html

Simple Control

They have their own rebranded version of the global cachet which costs about five dollars more, so say $120. But then you also need to buy a subscription of at least $50 a year and maybe more depending on the number and type of devices you’re using.

People who have the money seem to really like the simple control devices and system, but there’s no question that it’s an expensive option. Setup is much simpler than most of the other choices, though.

1 Like

the microbots have a manual button on top so you shouldn’t need an additional control if you don’t want to use voice at a particular time. That’s how my housemates use the microwave.

1 Like

@JD – ah, re the manual button on the Microbot – a question on how it works – is it “press button” = Microbot engages, “release button” = Microbot disengages

Or is it “press” and it engages, “press again” and it disengages.

I’m asking, because the mechanics of this solution would require “momentary” override presses (eg, the former of the above) – eg, override would be “press and hold as long as it takes to raise the stair up, then release”

I’m in the US – thanks for the Fibaro company idea – looking at their US products – they do have a dual “switch” unit – it may be for switching 110v instead of relay contact - (easy enough for me to wire in some relays)

I’ve added the parameters you mentioned (as well as the same ones for the second switch). I haven’t had a chance to test them, so if anyone has issues just let me know.

3 Likes

Well, FYI for those who end up coming along later and following this saga – have now confirmed that the IR for the stair-lift is basically “not really IR” in the sense it’s not a ‘learn-able code’ – eg, most IR is a ‘digital’ style code which is learned by “learning remotes” like the Harmony.

In this case, it’s apparent that since it’s a Two-Function remote (UP/DOWN) – they must be using something much more basic – probably two frequencies, or two basic non-digital patterns – I’ve tried “learning” the codes with both my stand-alone remote, and my harmony hub – and no joy. And even when once it “learned” the UP function (it said) – -it didn’t work.

So the Harmony approach is out. Likely also the Anymote route (not willing on spending $80+ on the Anymote for it to be a door-stop)

So I am now going down the road of either mechanical (Push Microbot) or relay (Fibaro) or otherwise triggering the “button push” of the actual IR call button.

1 Like

One more question – I know my Zigbee devices appear to only support one master hub (In my case, a Smartthings hub) - In turn, the Smartthings hub only talks to one Amazon/Alexa account.

My daughter has her own Amazon Echo - under a separate account, and is considering getting a Hub. (Right now all she has is a Phillips Hue bridge)

Can a Z-Wave device “register” to more than one Hub so that either of us can control the Z-wave device? Or is it “maybe”? I seem to remember that one of the advantages of Z-wave over Zigbee is the ability to register to multiple hubs.

the relay approach may raise potential safety issues, so it’s just something to think about as you look at those possibilities .

Most stair glides and chairlifts have multiple safety features built in. One is some kind of bump detection so that if the chair runs into something it will stop right away. This protects both the chair and whatever has been bumped into.

Another is an end of line detection, so that the chair motor doesn’t keep trying to push forward past the end of the rail. This can be particularly important if the chair was stopped halfway and then started again. And another has to do with what happens when power is restored after a power outage.

If you use something which triggers the signal from the existing remote, it’s likely that all of the existing safety features will remain active. Because it’s really no different then the button push.

If you remove the existing remote from the equation, and hotwire the glide motor Directly to some automated controller, you run the risk of bypassing several of the different safety features. So you just need to be aware of that.

No, not because of zwave, but because of SmartThings. Their architecture does not allow two SmartThings hubs to be added to the same “location,” and specifically two different smartthings hubs cannot control the same device, regardless of whether that devices using zwave or Zigbee.

https://support.smartthings.com/hc/en-us/articles/203064530-Can-I-use-two-Hubs-in-one-Location-

If you did go with the microbot, however, I believe you can associate one Prota account with multiple IFTTT.accounts, in which case you could do it that way very easily for both the echoes and the smartthings hubs just by having a separate IFTTT account associated with each SmartThings hub. But I’m not 100% sure that will work with Prota, I can have my techie aide check it on Tuesday.

Sorry, I forgot to ask my housemate to check this, we’ll have to do it in the next day or so.

There are some people who have set up the microbots so that they are attached to a remote holder/stand rather than a remote itself. That way you can just slide out the original remote and use it when you want and then put it back so it’s available for the microbot again. I know there’s somebody in the community who did that with a TV remote. So that’s another possibility.

JD – for exactly that safety reason, I’m wanting to either emulate the existing IR or wire into call box itself – you are correct, the chair has numerous safety features and I would be relying on the “bump stop” at the top and bottom to provide the final safety – the other one being a limit/time for how long the button is pushed (although, technically that could fail) – but the bump-stop disengages the motor, etc.

I will not ever hotwire or otherwise modify the actual chair.

1 Like

JD - ugh re the 2 hubs. Wonder if that also applies if she uses a non-smartthings hub (eg, the Zwave device registered to one Smartthigns hub and say, one Wink hub) – just brainstorming.

Re IFTTT – that’s another way to do it – have a trigger that she sends, that tripps off one of my IFTTT – (I can think of a few ways that might work – email, text, etc)

1 Like

Z wave does not allow a device to be registered to two different primary controllers. Everything has to be on the same network.

What Z wave does allow for is the concept of a “secondary controller.” You add the secondary controller to the network owned by the primary controller and then both can control the same Z wave devices. There are also advanced options that let them exchange status information as well so they stay in sync, but not all platforms implement the advanced options.

You could add a Wink controller to smartthings with the Wink as secondary, but the status information will not be exchanged. There are some community members who have done it for various reasons, usually to bring in Lutron switches which are controlled by the wink. But communication between the two hubs gets pretty tricky as far as keeping device status up-to-date on both, and when you add new devices to the network, you might have to start all over with the secondary. It just doesn’t work very well in a smartthings environment.

You can certainly try it and see if it meets your needs, but do it with the understanding that you may have to completely rebuild one or both that works if it doesn’t work.

You can search the forum for discussions of “secondary controller” and find a lot of conversation. But the end result is that it may work for some specific use cases, it’s not really a full implementation like you would get with vera or wink or some of the other Z wave controllers.

As far as adding smartthings as a secondary to another primary, just recently SmartThings support changed their knowledge base on this to basically say don’t do it and they won’t help if you do. :disappointed_relieved:

It’s a secondary (optional) goal to let her also “call” the chair down from her Alexa – I can live without that feature – but I do think it’ll be doable via IFFTT as an adjunct – that I’ll worry about how to do after I actually get the function working with ~our~ Alexa :slight_smile:

1 Like

Finally got someone to check this for me. :sunglasses:

The manual “button” is actually just a sensor on top of the microbot.

If you just tap the button, then the microbot performs one iteration of whatever you have it programmed to do. The default is extend the presser and then retract it immediately.

However, in the default mode if you leave your finger on the button then it extends to the full length of the presser and stays pressed until you take your finger off again and then it retracts. . So it works just like the original control worked. :sunglasses:

1 Like

Excellent – thanks for checking on that!

I got side-tracked on a project to monitor my well-pump – placed a “dry contact” relay on a 9v transformer to feed a dry-contact Zwave device – to tell me if the pump is on/off – (the 9v is fed by a 110 that comes on/off with the pump)

This has given me the confidence in a similar setup – a PIA but probably the right way to do this – dry contact (relay) off a 110v on/off switch. And each relay goes to the button on the wall-call for the stairs.

Have spent too much on Smartthings stuff right now – my wife appreciates the patience and we’ll get the stairs glide integrate din the near future.

2 Likes

I already had a 220v to 110v relay set up awhile back (to turn on a UV light in-line with the pump process) – done by turning on/off a 110v duplex outlet – so it was lazyness to just add the 9v transformer to the existing “auto-switched” outlet.

If I hadn’t already had the ready-made 110v switched outlet, I’d have done exactly as you stated.

Was infinitely easier to just set up by doing the 110v switched outlet -> 9v transfomer -> 9v relay -> Z-wave sensor – basically just “wire up and plug/play”.

But you are correct – the transformer does add a point of failure.

…CM

P.S. Thanks for the compliment – am having fun with the slow, but steady, home automation.

2 Likes