So I mentioned way back here that I had purchased in 2015 a Wihtings Smart Body Analyzer. I bought it out of curiosity mainly but also with the logic of only by measuring and making myself aware (of my weight) could I potentially reduce it. Hearing the same logic in a business context not long before, that informing employees of their energy consumption that an organization was able to reduce their consumption by 10%, so I thought well I can buy this scale and do the same right? For context at that time I was 79.4kg and 179cm or so (12 stone 7lbs and 5'11") or BMI of 24.4, so in the healthy range...
As they say here in the Netherlands "Meten is Weten" - measuring is knowing...
So the logic was I would then weigh myself regularly and guilt myself into a healthier eating and more active lifestyle. Incidentally the Withings mobile app, now called Health Mate was able to track steps also. (Probably not as accurately as the Fitbit I had in 2012 or so but then I left that in airport security and it is convinced I have been very lazy ever since)
The reality was something quite different of course, as shown here:
So I had gone from 79.4kg to +/- 84.4kg from Sept 2015 till April 2018 - safely into the "Overweight" zone. Unfortunately there is no story of muscle weighing more than fat either as this is a smart scale remember and I could also see (thanks to changes in the reporting in the App) that my body fat was also up around 5kg also! So it definitely counted as Epic fail, not only had I spent 150 Euro or so but I had ignored what it was telling me - I was now technical overweight for the first time in my life, joining the majority of people in Europe.
So what triggered the change?
Was it the fact that the Withings founder was buying the company back from Nokia that had purchased it a few years before? Of course not, but interesting all the same - I had noticed more frequent app updates from Nokia bringing more functionality in every couple of weeks.
The main reason was a bloodtest that revealed bad Cholesterol levels, overall too high, the bad too high, the good too low and Triglycerides also too high. So now with there was the triple whammy of Overweight, too much fat, and now also unhealthy. In a way it shouldn't have come as a surprise as I sit behind a laptop most of my days and nights working.
So what did I do? Small changes that I knew would be sustainable, there was no wonder diet, gym (Well except on holiday!) or personal training involved. But light exercise with a kettlebell and tips from the Slow carb diet in 4-hour body by Tim Ferriss and daily morning weigh-ins on my Withings scale to track progress, I did use MyFitnessPal to track what I was eating and exercise (Which was also linked to the Nokia(Withings) Health Mate app) but that didn't last very long. About 143 days later and I have lost about 8.5kg or 10% (18lbs) of my body weight.
The Goal line I have steadily been decreasing as I push through each one - first the healthy line, then 80kg, then 77kg (My end 2012 weight) and now 75kg (My weight in 2000 or so) Today I was 76.2kg.
The body fat chart is the same shape as above and as a result my cholesterol & triglyceride levels are now back in normal range. Although having tried a DEXA body scan that gives a more accurate picture of amount of body fat I can safely say that the Withings underestimates my body fat %, so tend to use it only as trend information. The methodology it uses is slightly flawed and influenced by a glass of water even.
So my advice is yes measure, yes do use a smart scale (the automated charting alone has been worthwhile) but measure more - go to have a general blood test to pro-actively understand your body before your doctor tells you about the cause of any serious illness. Most important learning for me was that when you put your mind to it anything is possible, technology can help to measure and track but the mindset needs to come first.
Hope you have enjoyed reading and if you do want to lose some weight start with small goals and realize that weight will fluctuate a lot over a day and overall, so weigh daily and get the trend line heading in the right direction.
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, nor qualified in nutrition or similar. Consult your qualified medical professional before any dramatic changes to diet or in exercise
So it has been a little quiet on the writing front, but still activity with the purchase of a Securifi router and a Triby the Alexa powered speaker . I will add some more on these soon!
Despite some months since my last post my smarthome has continued to progress, in purchases and use cases.
I have now successfully migrated from Smartthings v1 (US) to v2 (UK) only losing one integration in the process
Voice control of my lights from Alexa (Fire TV)
A smart (Misfit) button to control my lights
Various links between my car and its new OBD2 adapter and the Nest thermostat to prepare home state and to say I'm away automatically
Have the Ring doorbell raise the lighting level of the front door lamp for 5 minutes with the IFTTT integration and the excellent "Smartrules" app
Control the gas fireplace from my control of choice in this case the Logitech Harmony remote
The last one is still a creative way of linking up the fireplace. I have a Meritek Maxitrol controller and with some trial and error I could see that connecting pins 1 & 3 of a plug socket ready for a proprietary wall switch this would trigger on & off of the fireplace. So these were connected to a Wemo maker (Made by Belkin, who incidentally have 800k Consumer devices in use globally) this in turn connects again via IFTTT to a Smartthings virtual switch and then onto the Harmony remote. The IFTTT channel for Wemo maker had the perfect scenario I needed: "On for two seconds and then off" enabling the Harmony to take control and banish another (RF remote) to the drawer and no more holding two buttons for 5 seconds either!
So IFTTT has its use and now also enables use cases where it can be automated (I would likely use Smartrules to allow really an IF this and this condition to trigger) Eg: IF motion detected in a certain area AND certain time of day AND Nest is below 20C. It could nicely complement the slow speed of underfloor heating controlled by the Nest.
This week I tried to take the plunge to upgrade my Smartthings hub from v1 to v2. A friend had updated an integration with my Philips Dynalite lighting system to have dimming but for whatever reason it was only working on a v2 hub.
A quick smoke test had it working on my v2 hub (1 of 3 that I own) but really I wanted this integration so it could be used by my Harmony remote. When it came to this I could see there were going to be issues. In setting up the v2 hub I had noted I wasn't on the normal graph.smartthings site but one with lots of EU written in it, ironic given that most of Europe doesn't have this product yet. And little to my knowledge it seemed the problems I was about to face were well documented here.
In a nutshell the Oauth used for security in many apps like Harmonys was pointing at the US site, graph.smartthings and of course no longer seeing my v2 UK hub.
I thought maybe reseting and selecting US as my region would work, but sadly this locked my account, I needed a new code contact support, at the end of this text is where I am up to: (Removed names and spaces and pleasantries)
Someone recently asked if I would recommend migrating from v1 to v2 and my conclusion (as they are in UK and needed integrations) was a pretty strong no. It took a long time as with most technology to come from the US, Smartthings, Amazon Echo, Harmony (previous version) and then when it does come it more than likely doesn't have all the features. So my conclusion if you are not in the US and want a Smarthome any time soon, is buy the stuff there and pretend you are in the US! Yes return policies potentially out of the window but it being a bigger market means there is a bigger focus, as there is more to gain from it business wise.
Things are hotting up in the smart home space that by 2020 is expected to be a 100+ billion Euro per year industry by many.
There are many problems that need solving before then in terms of the eco-system and the pure ease of use, but with Nest, Samsung & Apple having a combined bank balance with as many zeros as there are letters in the Alphabet you would hope that they plan to use some of this to fix some of these issues.
As I wrote about here I really do believe the key to the smart home is not in using apps, they are just not convenient enough so what is needed to control is something physical to take control, or perhaps voice control or dedicated touchscreen just to deal with control decisions. Of course true home automation does not need a UI, but in the home very often there are a lot of exceptions to consider before we get there.
This week Savant a company accustomed to homes of the rich and famous and their gin palaces have decided to launch a $499 remote focused on not just the TV but also for smarthome too, just how much of it is not entirely clear from their material so far, even the normally ever present Philips Hue there is no talk of. The product does look great in terms of design but this device does need to control everything to work in this role
The new "low cost" Savant remote, a shrewd move to target the end user or playing in a price band where selling through retail becomes a burn on cash? Time will tell as they gear up to a December launch.
But Logitech (or is it Logi?) last month updated their range with the new Elite range. In what appears to be largely cosmetic (I really believe they have the mentally with the guts of the system that "if it ain't broke don't fix it") I have the predecessor and it is one of the best smart home devices I own. It is the only remote for the ground floor and can control the TV, Cable box, blu-ray, AV receiver, Fire TV (Mainly for Plex), Philips Dynalite lighting system, Garden Lights, Wemo (including the sensor Wemo motion as input), Philips Hue, Nest thermostat and all the other devices gathering dust somewhere else too but also the Samsung robot vacuum to get rid of that dust too.
What doesn't it do so well? IR is unfortunately something that is a very old technology now in the days of 4k TVs etc. and whilst many of the devices connect via wifi or bluetooth two rely on IR both Samsung the TV and the cable boxes, so whilst it is not the Harmony's fault it is a problem. So far they have also not fulfilled my multiroom dreams, with only one touchscreen possible per hub. But as a long term user I am really nitpicking! The Elite is looking like lots of subtle improvements but back to only black, white to blend into my home no longer possible. At $349/349Euro it may not be worth the update for me, but I would wholeheartedly recommend it to those new to smarthome
With this they have also brought their Harmony home extender ($99) that adds even more to the table with Zigbee and Z-wave devices already being added to the party. Unfortunately this price is only in USD only, maybe another year until it comes to Europe? But each market and region brings it's own unique challenges. If I buy everything from the US then perhaps it will all stay compatible!
Neeo is a Kickstarter project, I hope it does see the light of day, of course it is delayed (with original shipping dates of May 2015) looks to be well thought out but bugs in this kind of product need to be ironed out and Logitech have had years of experience to deal with the nearly half a million devices they support and although a limited team they have a team to deal with all the updates and changes.
Back to Neeo their remote (below) looks like the love child of B&O and Apple, if it performs at least half as well then they should sell well, with 6000+ backers and $1.5million from them. They have not got IR on the actual remote but do allow for multiple hubs or "brains" and multiple remotes, solving my multiroom issues possibly
What is the future for these products and companies?
Savant are targeting to expand their market by going into the sub $1000 control system area and direct to consumer, will this act as a stepping stone to the customer installers, I doubt it as they are really setup to target a different market, will be an extra option for the custom installers and integrators to sell? yes, but the direct to consumer model is a risky one that I am not sure the market is ready for (yet)
Neeo on the other hand are a startup that will need to get their product out for their balance sheet, teams in Cupertino and Switzerland will not be cheap and then it needs to get some distribution fast to keep the bean counters happy, so far they have gone for international backing of course so that support list becomes very niche when it comes to local thermostats in European markets. I wish them success though.
Logitech tried to sell Harmony off previously stating it was not part of their strategic direction, has their strategic direction changed in the couple of years that have passed? I doubt it, but the obvious extension to home control has opened their eyes to a potential cash cow. With it having no obvious connection with the rest of the business yet (It sits in Digital Home on their website with camera products) could it be a worthy investment for another smarthome player with money to burn? Potentially yes [I am just speculating here] Apple no not their style, Google/Nest/Alphabet possibly with Nest, Dropcam, Revolv they have some history here of embracing and killing off hardware designed elsewhere, Amazon? Again not exactly their style, Samsung? There is again some history of acquisitions in the space with Smartthings and Boxee and for me personally I would love it as it would make Samsung realize that having to use IR to turn on TVs is something that should have died out with plasma.
Staying to the neutral ground is of course also beneficial and with Logitech being originally Swiss they have some history there too!
It all begins with the need to turn the garden lights on remotely from a universal remote and also for them to come on automatically and go off if there is no motion detected. And then have the remote in sync no matter what the state is. In a nutshell that is my use case. Not so difficult right? As a few seconds delay is very much acceptable too.
The problem comes in the solution I have used, it is overly complicated for the use case it needs to solve but that is DIY smarthome for me so far!
Here's the solution I have used for the use cases:
1. Logitech harmony triggers from sunset time or a Harmony activity "Garden Lights" or Wemo motion (only for turning off) this in turn sends Smarthings (virtual) switch an on or off command
2. Smartthings virtual switch is acting as a conduit for IFTTT
3. IFTTT rule between smartthings and smappee plug, one for on and one for off
4. Smappee plug turns the lighting circuit (Inlite) on or off
5. Wemo motion to sense motion (in the room nearest the garden) to keep the lights on and lack of motion will turn it off
So overly complicated but it did all work until going away, and of course the one that cannot be looked into remotely is the harmony (well editing the rule to check it fully)
The on trigger still works but the lack of motion at all seems to be meaning the off command is not working. Wemo and smartthings are both displaying the correct state - "inactive" but it looks like nothing is telling the harmony hub about it anymore!
So without jumping to conclusions either the smartthings Wemo connect part or the harmony or the combination look to be to blame. Wemo have been in touch quickly to investigate, very proactive from a tweet and I will continue to investigate what I can in smartthings.
But really for DIY smarthome to succed this either needs to get easier, I am sure Samsung (now owners of smartthings) are working on this part, or have an integrator install and maintain the system. But in that case just how DIY is it? Yes early adopters or those with the time to use on this, but they are not the mass market that the manufacturers want to reach. So far the tipping point is not reached though!
UPDATE: Found the problem I think (and hope) and fixed it all at the same time. A very useful smart things community post pointed out that the smartthings was often not getting updates correctly from the memo motion, and to use a smartapp called pollster to fix it. And so far fix it has done
So It's been a while but the smarthome never sleeps (unfortunately I do) and after the purchase of Smartthings 2 hub I have also purchased a Withings Smart Body Analyzer WS-50.
So yes it is a smart thing mainly focused on quantified self but so far I have been much more interested in some of its secondary features: my first CO2 sensor.
First night and placed in our bedroom it showed the levels get progressively worse over the night. A 30 minute opening of the door in the morning restored healthy levels. But now the task to better ventilate during the night.
More on its primary task if it succedes in helping me reduce body fat.
So every smart device now has an app for it now, but just how smart is it in your own living room to turn the lights on to do the following:
Find phone or tablet, unlock screen, maybe a pin code.. find app (let's face it we all have too many), hopefully auto login, select room or group or scene. And Light's are finally on! - Oh as long as someone hasn't turned the existing switch off! It's a major problem that so far no one mainstream has really managed to fix yet
The old way of course was flicking the switch, granted then you probably wouldn't be able to change the colours, dim it, and you probably would have had to get off the sofa to do it.
So what are the solutions to the multiple app scenarios, what can unify and simplify?
1. Have a lighting system that can have both an app and a switch installed. Most of them are wired though so not everyone is going to be able to do that in their home (I did with my Philips Dynalite system) Hue does have a switch now but you still need the electrician to more than likely take away the old switch. Or maybe Switchmate if you live in the US!
2. A smart remote like Logitech Harmony, Nuimo, Neeo
3. Some kind of permanent Home hub screen Wink, Oomihome, Sentri, Nuimo, Lucis, Smartthings - Smarttiles
4. Voice control - Amazon Echo , Homey, or Siri through homekit (Some sort of app exists here too with these)
5. Buttons like flip, bt.tn, misfit may even be able to do the trick
Or you could go to solutions like Crestron, Control4 etc. but then you have lock in, not able to make changes yourself, and it can easily cost you the price of a small car. On the face of it there are a lot of options, but is there a one size fits all approach to the smart home or will I end up drowning in the XL size T-shirt?
Over the coming weeks I will delve into a few more of these points in detail and how they relate to my own home
Not too long ago I refurbished my house. I really wanted to use Hue bulbs throughout, the Lux white bulbs mainly so that I could do dimming throughout the house and stacks of integrations without having to spend thousands on replacing old cables. The problem was the lack of a decent switch. I already had the Hue tap and I was not about to put one in every room (It lives in the guest room as the furniture covers the regular switch) It is noisy, and because it requires more force than a "tap" doesn't always work
I ended up using a Philips Dynalite Antumbra, as shown below with then the capability from an app to control as well and just recently added in the control from my Harmony remote via Smartthings, thanks Tim!
I am very happy with this solution but will absolutely be buying the new addition to the Hue family. A lot of the reaction I have seen questions this product, "A switch to control when I already have an app" But apps are not something that every member of the family uses or visitors; so now I believe this brings Hue out from (in my opinion) being just a hobby product. It could feasibly be used across the whole house and with the US pricing indication, $40 for the switch and a bulb, it should fly off Apple store shelves. I just hope it gets sold seperately!
So I have recently installed my Ring doorbell, congrats on their latest funding by the way after rejection in the shark tank!
One of the big clinchers for me compared to their competition was the accompanying "chime" which would plug directly into a socket to allow for the doorbell to chime sans app. (As in renovating my home the plasterer managed to destroy the original bell) This now means like the cheap wireless doorbell I had before that the noise can be moved around the house, or more likely it will stay where it is and I will just change the volume from the app - yes that's possible, or even mute it.
The other great thing was the quick responses on Twitter to any of the questions fired their way. Customer service in the global market and the smarthome one is changing dramatically. Timezomes and integrations will make sure of that!
The great surprise in the package was the little install kit. Never before have I seen such a complete offering, the screws, screwdriver, spirit level.
More to follow in the ground floor wrap-up. In the meantime Ring keep up the great work and don't forget the integrations! (Smartthings, Harmony, Hue, Nest?)
Heard today on the excellent HomeOn podcast that IFTTT is being worked on by the ring team.
Also had a new use case today, I wasn't home answered the Ring, spoke to the visitor and it wasn't someone I was expecting but figured it could be for my partner. Turned out that he was at the wrong house but I had no way to call him back. Ring have said they are working on "Video on demand" - that's my name for the feature. I just hope that audio is also possible to once again converse with the visitor after conferring with my partner who was also out of the house
Just a guy with lots of smart home tech: