I have a WiFi network that has no internet access where all these go, with access to a local server running an autoupdater so I can just put the new firmware in a specific directory and all my devices autoupdate.
All of my devices are FOSS so I know they aren't talking to a mothership, and even if they tried to, they can't get on the internet. I do have an Alexa, which I should get rid of, since it's pretty much barely only useful for playing music.
This way is much more secure, companies can't spy on your house, and you're supporting user freedom.
Tuya-convert is a wonderful project and has liberated about a dozen devices on my network so that they will run Tasmota until the day they die.
"Water the yard!"
"Turn off that light!"
"Change the channel!"
"Go get the mail!"
Simple. Fairly reliable. Best DIY project the wife and I have ever done.
"Would you like an hour of screen time? ... The dog excrement is rather unsightly and requires collection. Post collection, we run a mile together."
"I will give you 15 minutes of screen time for every 5 burpees completed to my satisfaction"
"The $10 dollar bonus this week will be based on the lack of dog excrement in the yard and you packing your own !!Heathy!! lunches!"
"I will give you $10 dollars for every book read with accompanying book report (usually only two paragraph summaries)."
"If we find any clothes that are not in hampers, we deduct $1 dollar from allowance per item."
So on and so forth... the rules are consistent, but do allow for bonuses and cutbacks based on performance. The conservation of electricity and water are biggies!!!
Requires a lot of maintenance the first few years especially!
I only have one, but I have heard that a second one could be a hit or miss. In some cases, it will help fix the first one, but in other cases it has resulted in getting spoiled itself.
(^ these aren't meant to be sassy rhetorical questions, I'm genuinely curious if everyone else just views this a different way than I do)
Agree about the complexity as well. Analog circuits don’t have an API that changes every few years — a modern 3-way light switch circuit would be easily understood by an electrician from 1920 (and vice-versa). Good luck doing that with Lutron gear from a decade ago.
I probably dropped $5k on home automation stuff. While I could afford it and it was partially a research project, the main lesson I learned was that home automation is generally more trouble than its worth at any price. Sure, it’s great that I can tell Alexa to turn my lights off, but I also have to make sure that the 3 services required to make that work remain talking to each other. I would cumulatively save more time by just walking downstairs to turn the lights off.
I agree about reliability. It's one reason I won't get a Nest thermostat. I live in snow country and I'm not going to do anything that potentially introduces a new failure mode into my heating system.
(I actually have a couple of the Nest smoke detectors. The internet connection isn't required for them to function as dumb detectors and they work well in my experience.)
I suppose if it fails with the relays energized it's going to get pretty hot inside, but in the meantime if I have issues with the HA system I can just turn it off and use the old thermostats. This was great while I was debugging my design.
I can appreciate not wanting to allow Google the opportunity to brick your thermostat (and hence your furnance) through some kind of software issue but if you’re willing to extend that faith to their smoke detectors, why not your furnace?
It's probably paranoia about the thermostat too TBH. But other than looking cooler than my old programmable Honeywell, a Nest thermostat also wouldn't really do anything for me anyway.
On the flip side, my Ecobee notified me that my furnace was broken while I was at work.
I don't really see name-brand smart thermostats in the same category as most home automation devices. There's also a lot of nice features that can improve efficiency. For example, we drastically cut our cooling bill by utilizing the scheduled fan mode to pull cool, main floor air into the air handler and redistributing it (partially to the second floor).
Unless one is bedridden, it's better to get up and turn the lights on/off manually, including the stairs.
this problem doesn't always exist in all setups. I have lights that connect directly to Google Home/Nest that have never lost a connection. As long as Google assistant is up, it works without issue.
I've had other setups that use a hub and if the connection is not working for some reason, you're provided with that feedback at the time you issue your command.
I can look at the house security cameras set up years ago and that required a dedicated sever, video recording software and all sorts of networking knowledge.
Now people are just able to buy Ring devices.
Most will. Some will break within 3 months. Our old home tech (there is nothing analog in a light switch) isn't as flawless as most people claim. Power outlets do short circuit, wires to break, circuit breakers to burn closed.
They are still way more reliable than most electronic trash people push as smart home devices, but at this point, it's a marketing decision not an inherent property of electronics.
It is an economic decision to make choices about the level of complexity you are willing to tolerate from device to device. The lights go out, I can burn some candles, but I would still rather have my lights working despite their relative complexity over the candles, but I want them to always work with a manual toggle. The toggle shouldn’t have 30 pages of legalese and a promise to not violate my privacy too much for too much personal gain, with the words “too” and “much” defined rather loosely in all the legal jargon.
It's an inherent property of many things that increased complexity tends to mean increased failure rate (or earlier failure).
Similarly, smart lights are often problematic for a range of reasons. Most need to use an app to control them, or some incantation for Alexa to do the same, neither of which are discoverable (or maybe even accessible) to someone in your house who isn't you. If you have them connected to a regular light switch, they stop being "smart" when someone uses the light switch on the wall to turn them off. All of these problems are easily addressed by using smart switches instead of smart lights. Everybody knows how to use a light switch, and any failure of your "smart" systems means the light switch still works like every other light switch out there (meaning, get off your butt, walk over to the switch and it turns lights on and off).
This concept holds true in my house for garage door openers, door locks, fireplace controls, and a whole raft of other stuff. The existing systems function like they should to a user who knows how a garage door opener (or whatever) is traditionally supposed to work. In addition, they get some extra functionality if everything is up and working as designed. If things aren't working... well you have to press the garage door opener button like it's 2010.
This is so true. I really wonder about all the people installing these WiFi enabled light bulbs into lamps that end up being connected to some regular dumb switch next to the door in the wall...what's your rationale for putting the "smarts" in the bulb and not the switch, the device whose sole purpose has always been to stop and start power distribution to a dumb bulb that just glows when it gets powered?
The failure mode of augmented switches, if the smart control stuff for some reason doesn't work or is not accessible, is super obvious and simple: they just revert to being a switch on the wall.
And it's not just about that, it's also often just more convenient to enable the light the old-fashioned way by touching a rectangle when entering a room. I'm very satisfied with my light setup, allowing control of the living room lights via programmed conditions as well as by a Logitech Harmony remote. But most other members of my family tend to ignore these and just like to use the switch. Sometimes I do as well, like when entering or exiting the room, but I wouldn't want to miss the additional remote control options. With the smarts in the switch (and the home control server behind it wiring it all together), we're all satisfied.
People are afraid of electricity and don't want to replace a switch. Anyone can replace a light bulb though, so it's default solution for the kind of person that doesn't own a screwdriver. It's definitely an inferior approach, but I suppose it fulfills the needs of a certain segment of the market.
Here in Australia you have to be a licensed electrician to perform any works, even to do something like replacing a lightswitch or running cable inside a wall (even running ethernet cable, although there are special low-voltage electrician's licenses for data cabling specialists that aren't as intensive as a "real" electrician's license) - unlicensed electrical work would void your insurance, make it difficult to sell your house (would need to be inspected, remediated and brought up to code if necessary, and signed off on by an appropriately licensed electrician), and could expose you to civil and even criminal liability (if your unlicensed electrical work harmed someone).
I'm not a licensed electrician, so if I wanted to upgrade my house to smart switches I'd have to get someone in to do it. For most people here it's a lot easier to just screw in a bulb.
1) Smart switches don’t add colors to your bulbs.
2) Bulbs are a lot easier (or at least less intimidating) to install than switches.
Although I do agree that the smart switch sounds smarter than the smart bulb.
Particularly in China, there was a rash of news about it after that video came out where the woman narrowly managed to push her child to safety before being dragged feet first into the machinery when the safety grate failed. You essentially get turned into (raw) human pulled pork. Very unpleasant.
Then you can control the light intensity and light temperature (or color if you fancy that). With a smart switch it's only on/off.
The failure mode of augmented switches, if the smart control stuff for some reason doesn't work or is not accessible, is super obvious and simple: they just revert to being a switch on the wall.
I can't help but think the failure mode of smart bulbs is super obvious too, they should just revert to being a bulb, but for some reason it doesn't seem to work that way whenever I hear about them failing.
a) fall back to being a bulb: power off = no light, power on = light
b) allow for some kind of control to be possible via the switch, like: power off = no light (that's easy), power on = restore whatever the lamp was doing before (if it was off before it should stay off, if it was on and just switched off via the switch it should turn on immediately)
Most customers probably want b) to be a supported feature, because they cannot make that switch next to the door disappear, so people will use that switch and expect the light to "kind of" respond normally to that input. But b) is mutually exclusive with a), which would have to be implemented if you'd like to have the bulb fall back to being a dumb bulb if the wireless stuff doesn't work right (the bulb cannot wait to assess whether there is something wrong with its "smarts", because people expect immediate reaction from their bulbs, not reaction after 30secs of pinging a server and whatnot).
(I assume "null" is the same as "neutral")
Personally, for the bulbs that are smart, I simply don't use the switches, save for restarting the smart bulbs (haven't had to yet, though) but the smart stuff I have is smart for a reason:
The living room recessed lights are Hue bulbs, and that's so we can change the color on the fly, automatically when watching a movie, and schedule off when we've gone to bed and I've forgotten to turn them off.
The bedroom ones turn on automatically when we go to bed, and when we go to sleep, I use my siri shortcut to dim them to almost off completely, but just enough to provide a night light while starting some music we listen to while sleeping.
I have a smart light in the basement that turns on at dusk because it gets too dark down there to walk, and turns off when I trigger my bedtime shortcut.
I would never advise someone to smart everything in their home, but if you have reasons to add automation or have a desire for enhanced functionality, why not? Do your due diligence, know what you're buying, and know how to hook it up safely. I have a number of IP cameras on my property that are explicitly blocked from the Internet, and are only accessible to my home made DVR. I have all smart devices, where able, on a guest wifi that has no access to my computers or other devices, and has location services disabled. This stuff can be used safely and securely, and frankly the wider community looks ridiculous with the impression being they have a printer from the 90's on their desk, it's the smartest thing in their home, and they keep a loaded gun next to it in case it makes a noise they didn't expect.
I also think, in terms of cost, an IKEA Trådfri bulb is a compelling alternative to dimmer pucks in the switch.
I mostly don't object to optional "smart"/Bluetooth/WiFi features. I'll use them or not use them as I see fit. What I really object to is if some perfectly good appliance no longer can be used because the manufacturer stopped updating an application and now it doesn't work with the latest iOS version or whatever.
Not obvious what fills it with water.
If they were to fail or EoL, I'd be out some money but all you have to do is unplug them.
How much does it draw?
Standard Chamberlain or something exotic?
You might think I'm just unlucky, but it turns out most of them are like that.
How about the stuff he discussed in the article? All of it seems valid.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind a little home automation that works with a voice ui. Over time, it’ll become cheaper, more reliable, and transparent.
Also, I prefer to optimize for 99% of my time instead of the rare event. I can pull out a pot when the power goes out.
Like people who would rather use gas cars instead of electric because of range and there are 180,000 gas stations in the US, you might want to check back in 10 years.
i've installed a dozen or so zigbee-based ikea tradfri led bulbs and switched outlets in my apartment (along with a half-price zigbee-to-wifi gateway from the bargain bin) and they work great. if any part of the network goes out, i can just use them as regular bulbs by actuating the switches already in the wall or built into the lamp.
my favorite addition is using a motion sensor for the walk-in closet bulb, since the built-in light switch is awkwardly placed in a back corner. i open the door and the light goes on, close it and it goes off a few seconds later, a simple pleasure.
the tradfri gateway also now connects via homekit to my existing apple tv, which is used as the apple home server. that way, i can turn lights on and off from the control center on my phone from anywhere via icloud. the apple tv and gateway are on their on vlan and have restricted access to the internet and the rest of my network.
sure, you can go crazy trying to add automation to everything, but so far, i've had no extra stress or complexity, just simple additional convenience.
I previously had a dark stairway to the house and got home after dark. A timer would have sufficed (I haven't seen them for wall switches), but I got a IoT switch that turned the light on at sunset.
I had a detached garage that let out to a busy street and would often forget to close it when driving away. I didn't get around to installing something, but wanted something to close it after 15m of being open.
My floor heaters consume a lot of power and other people in the house forget to turn them off. When they were installed, they included WiFi and an app. I wrote a bridge to HomeKit and set it to turn off at 11am and 11pm.
When traveling I reduce the heating/cooling. It's nice (especially when getting home close to midnight) to turn it back on when landing at the airport so you don't come home to an uncomfortable house.
It's not quite IoT, but my kid is too young to tell time so we have an alarm that changes color when its ok to wake up. I had a dumb one, similar to an alarm clock. It was annoying to set. A more expensive, bluetooth, one sets time from my phone. I was a bit worried about the bluetooth one when traveling (time zone changes, not having wifi), but it worked great. I think the nicer one worked better because of build quality and not because of IoT stuff.
I don't have any "scenes." Just a few, very specific, items with rules. I added outdoor Christmas lights this year because last year my kid kept hiding the remote and I didn't plug things into an accessible place outside. A lot of people seem to like being able to turn off house lights without getting up from their bed. I'd never blindly recommend any of this, but if it might solve a problem they have, I'd walk them through my experience.
Analogue, immediate action have physicality that is satisfying to a our being; take out a pot, fill it with a cup of a water, add half a cup of rice, light a burner and begin the process.
Sure: "give me rice!" might seem simpler but "let us now debug the rice program" will become as difficult and infinitely less satisfying.
See: Ready-at-hand and all the Heideggerian terminology concerning this stuff.
There is still much to go wrong in an ordinary light switch, but I have plenty in my home over 50 years old which work perfectly. Where I live, I can flip the switch and the light comes on and I don't even have to think about it, often forgetting I had done so. It is this mindlessness and lack of attention which defines convenience, which purports to be what home automation is about. I can't imagine what kind of revolution must take place in the computer industry to create smart home automation products with equivalent cost, longevity, convenience, and which instill equivalent confidence in their operation.
I also try to buy devices with local control, vs. cloud-based control.
I think there is an S-curve argument in here somewhere. There was a time where putting in an electric stove was just asking for trouble because of the reliability, but there were early adopters who were excited about the idea. Fortunately, those guys shook out the bugs for the generations that followed.
Ultimately though, I'm probably in the same part of the S-curve as you. I spend much of my day doing
(hacking | improving | debugging) (code | business | people | self)
so adding another layer sounds like a PITA, but if you're an early adopter, my hat is off to you and I send my thanks for shaking out the bugs for the rest of us!
This was done in an experimental way, with an amateur approach, and ended up failing to work when I was away and leaving my wife with 30% of the lights only.
It was not a big deal for me since I was away :) But surprisingly not that a big deal for her either, after explaining me how she would fillet me when I am back home. But then she read more than usual (the tv was out of service as well) and it was finally ok.
My lights usually works but the added value of the automation is really there. Sure we can live without but it is a nice touch.
I would say that YMMV depending on how you balance availability with some added value you could live without.
A lot of smart home devices support ZigBee standard and with a device like ConBee (ZigBee USB adapter) you can get rid of the reliance on external services. Run your own gateway that can talk with a lot more different devices and run it in the middle of nowhere, if necessary.
You can also run your own voice command recognition software if you also want to have some voice control for all of the devices.
I use homekit/homebridge to do some basic stuff, switching on/off all the lights, computers, displays and audio gear in my office all at once, pushing just one button. This saves me a minute each time I enter and leave the office and it’s just very convenient
This setup has worked flawlessly for a full year now and I don’t expect it to break any time soon.
Yes, we should. I'm currently building and I wouldn't touch this stuff with a 10 foot pole. The only thing I'm considering is Philips Hue bulbs, but only for the configurable colour temperature and brightness, and if I can find an alternative that doesn't need a web connection I will use that.
The xiaomi equivalent is pretty good too (yeelight) at half the price. That's assuming your OK with the brand
>alternative that doesn't need a web connection I will use that.
All these things need an initial Web connect and usually app to configure. After that you can firewall it off and use a local server like home assistant. Well for the xiaomi. Not sure Philip's
Bulbs and switches use ZigBee ZLL (AFAIK, they don't have WiFi capabilities at all), and IIRC it can even work without the bridge (just turning on and off) as switches can talk directly to bulbs.
Bridge device surely can work without Internet. It's essentially a small webserver that exposes an API for the smartphone app (which talks to the bridge directly as long as they're on the same network) and then talks to the devices over ZigBee. IIRC, there is even FLOSS RPi-based alternative implementation somewhere out there.
Don't know if Internet is required for the initial setup.
Also, if you just want motion activated lights, there are switches with IR motion sensors built in.
The idea there would be that they have the light when they need it, without having to switch them on and off.
It's definitely a small drop in the home automation ocean, but it's a healthy ecosystem, available to anyone that wants to use it.
Last month Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance which includes IKEA, Samsung SmartThings, Signify (Philips Lighting) announced a new working group. Like you, I hope these things are addressed.
Not Crestron? Commercial home automation largely came on their backs long before Alexa, along with the annoying vendor exclusive peculiarities w/rt interoperability.
But this is the exact point I'm making about Crestron, they are absolutely a massive commercial success in not just home automation but automated facilities and media control period. From home to college campuses to professional sports arenas. They are a massive player in that vertical.
It seems like home automation has a lot of advantages but it would also require me to spend time on it (which products to buy, how to secure them, dealing with malfunctions, upgrades, batteries...), which probably amounts to an overall net loss of quality of life.
Then before I go to bed I turn it off.
After I installed a smart light switch, It comes on automatically and all the lights in my house turn off with a simple voice command.
Siri will need internet, but if you have wifi locally you can control them via a phone.
There’s also always the wall switch.
Telling Alexa to turn the lights on is more of a Rube Goldberg hack.
My system "relies" on an internet connection for just one thing right now: iPhone push notifications, which are merely informational and mostly for debugging. It also uses the internet to keep my local NTP server in sync. When I'm away from home I can manually check on stuff with a VPN.
In future I plan to expose a minimalist HTTPS api for triggering certain actions remotely, like the garage door. But even that's not a big deal right now because I've got a outdoor AP that covers a wide area outside my house—my phone is generally already on wifi as I approach home by foot.
An offline capable home automation system (including voice recognition) that can be managed by a non-technical person has a huge ongoing cost just in terms of keeping it working as it is, and that is before you change anything (if you can).
And somehow it manages to do this without running TCP/IP stack. I'm working on a project in the IoT space right now, and a Clapper is making me feel kind of silly about it.
For me, home automation suppose to free up your time for other activities.
Washing the dishes or clothes are great automation. I would look to other automation like changing the bed sheets, folding clothes, cooking the evening meals, grocery shopping etc. Let's talk again when these items become main stream.
The only case I found useful is using an internet capable magnetic sensor on the garage door to notice me when it's opened or closed, so that I have a peace of mind after driving off.
There are a couple lights that are set up to come on automatically at sunset, but only if either my wife or I are home (there's a bit of an issue there in that the house can still be occupied when we're away if the kids are with a sitter, but the lights are just a pleasant convenience).
I've been considering adding an automation to gradually turn on the lights in the kids rooms at an appropriate on school mornings. This could potentially be done with a timer built into a smart bulb, but at that point it would just be another app I'd have to use to manage it... easier to just do it via Home Assistant.
I also use ZWave smoke detectors (they just function as normal "dumb" smoke detectors with a local alarm), which trigger all the lights in the house to 100% if smoke or carbon monoxide is detected (unless it's the one in the kitchen...).
There are plenty more (I added a wifi enabled microcontroller to my "dumb" doorbell and do some fun stuff with that, etc), but those are most of the light based automations.
Still for the lighting case, an occupancy sensing light switch with timed shutoff could take care of most usage. Actually lots of jurisdictions have updated their building code in recent years to require occupancy sensing light switch to save energy.
When I arm the perimeter alarm of the alarm system at night, it would check to make sure all the doors and windows are closed. Most alarm systems support perimeter alarm.
Most thermostats can run on a schedule to adjust the temperature. Nest and the likes can do occupancy check.
Of course they won't support the exotic uses but most of the basic needs are met.
At the end of the day though, it's mostly the fact that I like having a single unified dashboard and framework that consolidates everything, rather than having to use a half dozen different apps/devices/panels.
Other favorites are:
- magnetic sensor on basement freezer cabinet, has saved my bacon, literally.
- magnetic sensor on roof windows (good old fashion drying attic) that notifies me if it’s about to rain and windows are open.
- water leak sensors on everything that’s hooked up to water pipes.
It's a cheap generic magnetic sensor, not specifically for garage door. I used the small door hinge trick to adapt it to the garage door. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o49xC-AXY9w
I installed a bunch of Shelly 1 smart switches (https://shelly.cloud/shelly1-open-source/), they work via WiFi in LAN (even with the manufacturer's App) or Cloud (it's optional).
There is the possibility to manage them via REST APIs, all the smart switches serve a web page that can be reached via browser.
If you connect them to the Cloud you can optionally add Alexa or Google Home on top. They do not support HomeKit natively nor IFTT.
I choose this solution because I wanted to automate part of my appliances and lights in my house without losing the possibility to use the analog wall switches that I already have installed: Philips Hue lights are nice but if you switch them off via the analog switch in the wall the App or your favorite voice assistant can't work anymore. Furthermore, they are very expensive; at lest 20€ for a single 8W bulb (no other size available), while a single Shelly 1 costs half the price.
 but from the original link of the thread I found this https://www.npmjs.com/package/@kacepe/homebridge-shelly
One of his biggest guiding principles which I strongly share is not needing an Internet connection for your house to work - which rules out most commercial home automation stuff that needs to talk back to home base.
He uses a lot of arduino and sonoff more recently. Also runs a lot of stuff with power over ethernet. All interesting stuff.
Lately he has been working a lot on understanding assistive technology hardware (e.g. wheelchair controller joysticks) and creating additional open hardware and software that can interface with them.
Well worth going back through his many years of material if you want to get into this sort of thing.
I'm thinking of an assistant where I show (or tell it) what I want, and it just does it (it 'learns'), improving based on feedback from the users.
Hard-coding times in the day, for example, could be improved if the assistant knew what would be the ideal time to sleep to me, based on all the data collected for each profile of the people living in that home. It might ask me or suggest me things to do, having more flexibility than static rules.
And, of course, that's not even talking about tasks that require moving around and manipulating things in the physical world.
TBH, things like auto bill pay and direct deposit save me more time and distraction than any of my (few) home automation devices.
That's certainly far more than an admin at a company covers for anything beyond very cursory attention.
Travel agents can still help you a fair bit within their area of expertise. My experience is that for a very long time, most largely just booked flights, hotels, and cruises before the days of self-service. However, there are specialty companies that can help handle a lot of details for certain types of trips.
There are also companies that offer virtual assistants but, going by past experiences with not so good admins, I'm a bit skeptical how much value you'd get in general.
In the end, my compromise was to get a good cordless vac which I can run for a few minutes if the crumbs and other debris get too objectionable.
But of course the market for it doesn't care, and can pay for it.
I've thought about it similarly to you, but because of the labour cost of installation, it's an expensive job whatever the cost of the hardware/software, so there's not really a reason for installers to use HomeAssistant, OpenHAB, and the like. The difference will be thousands for hardware, on top of tens of thousands for the whole install job.
I know a couple of wireless X-10 switches I used to own lasted for a very long time. I'm not sure I ever replaced the batteries.
I wouldn't choose it. Every ten pushes of the switch, nothing happens, and there's no visible / feelable state of the position of a switch.
The alternative is a self hosted server like haome assistant. That works but requires tinkering
It's cleaning, organizing, laundry, washing dishes, etc. that I'd really prefer not to do and--major appliances (and/or hiring someone) aside--there's no way to automate all that.
// Enjoy when we see HN thought leadership supporting use of security-minded or privacy-minded mass market products, rather than endless bashing of consumer products aimed at trust.
These drudgeries take time. They're obviously not as amenable to automation as simple controls on existing electronics, but, in contrast to automated lighting, they'd be worth the investment to solve.
The colours are cool. But the real power I’ve found is that every light is dimmable. It doesn’t matter if you have a dimmer installed, which is not something you can usually do in a rental.
So, my lights automatically stay at the ideal level of brightness for the time of day. Later into the evening they only put out between 1-10%, and in some cases are set to only red.
Compared to living with lights that are either 0 or 100%, having that range in between has made a dimly lit house possible when it makes sense. And that’s been so much more pleasant I’m never going back.
I'm not sure why my question was a bad one.
The value comes is automating more than just on off, though I have some non light things I automate with switches.
Smart bulbs allow fallback with norma switches, and don’t require modifications. Just swapping of a bulb.
For example I bought a couple of small LED-light boxes, they're about the size of a match-box and contain 5 LED lights and a motion sensor.
I've stuck a couple inside cupboards, and low down on the walls of our bathroom.
When it is dark and you walk past they come on for 30-seconds or so. Additional movement keeps them on.
Getting up to use the toilet in the night is much nicer with these low-level lights than turning on the proper lights and killing your night vision. (No lights would be fine 90% of the time, but children's toys get everywhere!)
So it doesn't time out after those 30 seconds and you have to frantically wave your arms to get them to switch back on? As the sibling commenter said, what's the brand?
They're low enough on my walls that I've never really had to jump around to keep them alive though. I guess if you did literally walk out, then stand still for 30 seconds or so they would time out on you.
If you need proper light then you can use one, these are just little helpers if you need to get out of bed to deal with a child overnight, use the toilet, or similar. In practice they work really well.
I just used some double-sided tape to stick them to the wall, about 1 foot off the ground, so I can get them off easily when I need to replace their batteries.
Electricity (fire automation)
Turing lights on and off with a super computer?
[Edit: The OPs post is interesting and cool as a hacker, it's just the actual next big thing in automation that will change lives will be something boring like an electric mop or duster. And if you want to automate your life, only having dishwasher safe plates is a good first step]
Not really automated at all, but there is a LED in the ceiling near the front door that flashes when the garage door is open. Seeing that light when coming down the hall has saved us heaps of times from leaving the garage door open all night.
I also have laser pointers hanging from the ceiling in the garage that are positioned so when the laser dot reaches the dash you know the car is in far enough.
Another not quite automated addition is using a Sonoff wifi touch light switch in the lounge room. Reflashed with Tasmota it allows us to easily turn the overhead lights on and off from the same remote control for the TV, Amp and Kodi media player. (Works via a script in Kodi.)
Probably the handiest is using an ultrasonic distance sensor as a presence sensor to tell the computer when I’m in front of it or not. If music is playing when I walk away from the computer, it pauses then resumes when I come back. Also wakes sleeping screens when I return.
Just recently I wrote a little script that displays the number of minutes I've been sitting at the computer in the corner of the screen. At thirty minutes it turns from green to red and plays, "Move it! Move it!" sound, which it'll keep doing every five minutes until I get up and leave the computer for a little bit. (Although I think I'm going to have to change the sound to something that doesn't startle the hell out of me every time.)
Also have an analogue modem on the phone line that lets me initiate calls from my command line by just typing something like, "call dad" and it looks up contact information in my centralised contacts list. It also cross-references incoming caller ID info with the contact list and displays caller info on my computer screen and the Kodi media player.
If I were to really get into more home automation in earnest, I think being able to control the curtains in the house would be ahead of controlling lights. Hate wandering around the house opening and closing them all.
Two things I dislike about current trends in home automation are:
1) The requirement for an active Internet connection for a lot of your stuff to work. I want it self contained to the house and not sending information out into the world.
2) The need to have your phone near to you to use half the stuff. E.g., with the lounge room light switch mentioned above I can turn the light on or off at the switch (as well as the remote). I don't have to go find my phone and swipe back and forth five times just to toggle it.
One concept I find very interesting from the late 90's was the adaptive house. It would learn things like your hot water usage, preferred room temperature and ambient light levels and used neural network reinforcement learning to optimise. I wonder how far this could be taken now with advances in machine learning.
 Aside: To my mind, in most cases it seems to make more sense to automate the switch, than automate the light bulb itself. Changing a light bulb doesn't need an electrician though, I guess.
- control temperature remotely (e.g. set furnace to turn on when I'm coming home from a trip)
- turn on/off power outlets to save electricity from "vampire" devices
- check for open doors/windows
- adjust airflow to make sure rooms are heated sufficiently
None of this requires sending data outside my home, yet the main smart home devices do. Also, I'm worried about security, and I don't trust these devices to update firmware appropriately.
So, until I get time to do it myself, I just do without.