Move from wifi switches & Alexa to HE


#1

Okay, guess it's best to start at the beginning. This all started a bit over a month ago. Feel free to skip to the question.

[The Brief]
I have a "man cave" that I'm finishing up and I thought I'd see how "cool" I could make it, so I went online and got some Chinese products to control things around the cave. They are all WiFi based and use a smartphone app called "Smart Life", the devices come from various generic companies, but Zemismart is one that I have several pcs of (light switches mainly).

I've enabled Smart Life with Alexa Skills and use voice commands and Alexa Routines to get things going. Routines works 7/10 times I would say, geolocation never works unless I have the Alexa application open. I do this like lights on with the PIR, play music when I open a door in the PM, tell me the news when I open the same door in the AM. So on...

And so I fell into the rabbit hole, I got a thermostat for the house, a garage door opener, etc. All WiFi based, all generic Chinese stuff that works.

But every now and again, when my internet isn't working, or is working but everyone is streaming something I'll have some lag or no input at all. So I dove deeper into the rabbit hole.

I purchased an Echo Plus (v2) which has a ZigBee hub integrated and supposedly it can do off-line commands (very basic stuff as far as I can tell) and I have ordered 2 Chinese ZigBee light switches and am waiting for them to test the limits of this offline system. I got the Echo Plus because I use Alexa on my phone mainly, this was more convenient, I already have 2 Fire TV's. The speaker and drop in feature was also nice since I have Prime Music as well as Spotify. Things other hubs don't do.

[Question Time]
Now onto question time. I'm reading about the HE system and I really like this non cloud based backend and don't know why no one thought about this before. To me, it seems like the logical choice. In my configuration with the Echo ZigBee Hub, I would disable Echo from being a ZigBee hub since I want everything to be driven by the HE system, but then I would link HE+Alexa together so I could get my voice control working and doing things remotely (like opening the garage door) through Alexa contacting HE to push the command. My system would still work offline, but have an online gateway through Amazon (which I'm guessing is more reliable/secure/trust worthy than the Chinese brands). I could also keep using WiFi items until I change them since they work with Alexa and I could run them with Alexa Routines to combine things in HE+Smart Life together (yes this would be internet dependent still)

I've never used ZigBee before but read that it is way more friendly in pairing than zwave. So I'm hoping the Chinese products will work with HE. Thoughts?

If I go with HE and I get everything setup and working how I want. Can I stop any future updates from installing? I like the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach. And once it's working, I just wanna leave it and let it collect dust while it does its thing.

Now you may think why am I going to the HE? With my unreliable internet, it seems like the only choice out there as Echo is limited to just turning things on and off.


#2

Yes, you could. But realize that Hubitat will not have any way to turn those WiFi devices on and off. Only Alexa will be able to do that... (and before you ask, Hubitat cannot currently tell Alexa to operate those WiFi devices :wink: )

Some users do have WiFi switches working directly with Hubitat. Search the forums to see if your devices have been integrated by a community member.

When you say "Chinese products", are you specifically referring to Xiaomi zigbee products? If so, do a search and start reading before you decide to buy any of those devices. Some users love them, and enjoy the challenge of keeping them working with Hubitat (or SmartThings for that matter.) Others avoid them like the plague as they do not follow Zigbee Home Automation 1.2 specifications fully.

Firmware updates for Hubitat are performed at the user's discretion. You might be required to upgrade one day if, for example, Amazon makes some changes to Alexa that requires Hubitat to change their Alexa Skill App on the hub in order to make it continue to work.


#3

With your internet WiFi issues, you might want to consider zwave products. If you stay with zigbee, research changing your router and zigbee to different non overlapping channels.

Consider replacing your WiFi devices over time. I started out using WiFi devices. I have replaced them all minus one light switch.

Ikea has $9.99 plugs that are zigbee. I bought two to replace a WiFi power strip. The lag with WiFi is annoying. With other protocols, things improve so much in terms of speed and reliability.


#4

Correct, I would be performing those operations through Alexa and letting that coordinate between HE+Wifi device. So if Smart Life WiFi PIR senses detection Alexa turns on the light switch through HE.

No, it is an OEM product and will test it out. They said it works with most hubs, but these are powered light switch. I understand how the battery operated devices are more of a headache as they aren't constantly connected and prefer to speak to the hub than the hub speak to them. Here's hoping it works, I'm guessing if it works with Echo then it should work with HE, right?

I have switched all capable devices to 5Ghz, my problem isn't with congestion on the channel, it's more that my home needs outweigh my internet subscription.

This looks like the next piece to change.


#5

I meant the router and zigbee channels

See the pic

I set my zigbee to channel 11 and my router to channel 11 to prevent overlap

[Edit] your internet is probably the culprit, but it is good practice to avoid interference from the start.


#6

Not necessarily. You're going to need device drivers. The generic may work and then again, they may not work at all and you'll need a specific driver for your devices, if they even work at all. Xiaomi are inexpensive and those IKEA plugs work as repeaters which seems to keep them stable. I've had no more issues with Xiaomi since adding two of those outlets to my 1200 sq ft home.

You're best to move away from the WiFi devices and cloud based control, but if you want to linger with what you have for a while, you can control cloud based devices with Google Assistant Relay. It's another computer or Raspberry Pi required and a bit of setup, but you sound like the type that likes to tinker. So if any of your WiFi devices are also supported by Google Home, then that's your answer. What you do with it is create rules with Hubitat Rule Engine then sends text to speech messages to the device. So for example, if you wanted to turn off "Man Cave Lamp", you would create a rule that when true, send the phrase "[CC] hey google, turn ON man cave lamp" and it would be done silently, as if it were directly integrated with Hubitat. The [CC] before the TTS phrase sends the command without response from Google Assistant. To turn the light off, you would set the rule to send the phrase "[CC] hey google, turn OFF man cave lamp".

I do this for some devices that don't have an integration with Hubitat, but do have a Google Home integration. It works well and is fast enough for the need. However, you're still cloud based of course, and this is a community driver. Not supported by Hubitat,


#7

Me thinks the white elephant in the room is thus:

Emphasis on Smart Life.

I have Wi-Fi switches, WeMo & TP-Link, and there are "connect" apps that integrate them just fine with HE (and ST for that matter)

But back to the white elephant... Any Wi-Fi device working on Smart Life, Jinvoo, Tuya and the various other apps, subject to correction, do not operate at all, or not very good at best. You'll find the thread by searching for these app keywords on this forum.

There is anecdotal evidence, from this forum, that it can be done, but requires some serious flashing of the devices with varying degrees of success... This does not inspire confidence as far as I am concerned.

J

PS. I also use several Sonoff (the original) switches, and these work just 100% after a flash update + required HE "connect" app. In fact, and will go out on a limb here, dare I say that the Sonoffs are the exception to the cheap Chinese switch conundrum.


#9

For now I want to keep the devices running in Smart Life but controlling them through Alexa. Then setup Alexa Routines (Rules) to work with ZigBee switches that are in Hubitat. Most of my Wifi devices are sensors, aside from the thermostat which I will most likely never change.

I like using Alexa because I can turn on/off entire rooms or lights easily from the phone or by my voice when I need to override something. Will the HE connected devices (such as light switches) show up in Alexa?

I understand I am now going back to the online world, but like I said, it's only temporary until I start getting new ZigBee sensors.


#10

Yes, you actually select the ones you want to show up, but only the compatible ones can be. I currently only have bulbs and bulb groups. But my plug outlets and motions sensors show up as being able to be shared to Alexa.

Having this cloud connection doesn’t hurt, it’s like having a voice switch. Especially good when you have automation rules going off, it’s easy to say “Alexa shut this down”. Very handy in general but also when testing.


#11

Alexa routines can be nice for something quick, random, or on the fly. But they are so limited, once you start creating automation rules in HE, you probably won’t create a lot of routines in Alexa.

Have you read this yet?
https://docs.hubitat.com/index.php?title=Amazon_Echo_Skill


#12

What's possible if you integrate devices via Google Home Assistant and Hubitat, is that you can both control them via Alexa and via Hubitat automations with triggers from connected sensors and other types of input.

For example, I see looking in my Google Assistant app that Smart Life is indeed supported, so if I had a Smart Life compatible device, I could use my Google Assistant Relay to control the device based on a Zigbee sensor, such as one of my Xiaomi motion sensors, with the help of a Hubitat Rule Machine automation. I could also add a virtual switch as a secondary trigger to that same Hubitat Rule Machine automation, and then publish the virtual switch to the Alexa app. So when I asked Alexa to turn on that switch or when an Alexa routine triggered that virtual switch, the rule would fire, silently speaking a TTS phrase to Google Assistant, which would talk to the Smart Life cloud and activate or deactivate the device.


#13

You could always use IFTTT if your devices support and control them with Hubitat. Like yourself I started out will all WiFi devices and voice control. What I do is create a virtual switch in Hubitat and then create four applets in IFTTT to control the Hubitat switch.

I also do not pass the the Hubitat virtual switch as a device to the Alexa App but instead integrate directly with the Alexa skill for that device to help speed thing up. IFTTT is not the fastest (Amazon's integration is much faster) but the four applets created will keep the status updated in Hubitat (when controlled outside of the hub) and allow you to use the devices in automatons.


#14

If you use IFTTT, you can control the response message . . . at least I could with Google Home. I was using IFTTT prior to the official release (by Google) of the Hubitat integration. I made the acknowledgement message for most commands simply "Roger that!". I prefer that to the more verbose responses built in to the official integration.


#15

I’m curious, why the focus on no-name, Chinese products? Is it the low cost? If so, when it comes to devices that are wired directly into your electrical mains, it might be worth considering devices from brands that are trustworthy and meet UL or other safety lab certifications.


#16

One option might be TP-Link if your WiFi coverage is better than Zigbee/Zwave. Native Alexa + local (no cloud required) control via Hubitat: [RELEASE] TP-Link Plug, Switch, and Bulb integration.


#17

It seems that I'll be able to accomplish what's needed with things I'm already familiar with, until I switch over to ZigBee devices, where I'll be fully local.

I'm currently in Lebanon. The electrical code here for light switches is AU standard which are the same size as US switches but 220v. The electrical socket code is EU standard but with US/AU housing. So finding the parts that fit the current housing installed is impossible from brand name companies. They are really limited to US/UK market for now.

Also, I have some experience with Chinese manufacturers and am hoping to create my own solution that I could then start selling here, there are several things that make it difficult to setup a smart home. Constant power outages, fluctuating voltages, and unreliable internet. So I'm trying to create a bulletproof system, large capacitors, 90-250v transformers, resettable fuses. I was onto something with the WiFi solution but now scraped it because local is always better and more bulletproof.