What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Meet Mr Chicken

I have been a huge fan of home automation ever since seeing the Jetsons eons ago.  Over the years my home automation skills have grown with available technology.  By our third home, I was heavily into X10 so most of our lighting was automatically controlled by that, turning on and off depending on occupancy.  Over the winter, my project became move from X10 to the newest of the new 'smart things' that can be controlled from anywhere using our cell phones.

One of the first places I started automating was the kitchen.  I'm using SmartThings hub and non-propriety Z-wave and ZigBee devices.  The ceiling fan is now equipped with ZigBee bulbs controlled via motion.  Each bulb can be controlled separately or as a group and they can be dimmed via the app.  I have different modes set up in the app as well.  A mode is simply a high tech, customizable timer that allows me to set up lighting depending on certain events.  The motion device in the kitchen also tracks temperature which is quite handy.  If the temperature gets too hot or cold, I have it set to send me a notification so I can then turn on fans or HVAC.  I could have this happen without the notification which will come once I get the system fully functional.  In terms of energy savings, there will definitely be some however I don't expect a payback for a couple of years especially when I am still adding to the kitchen.  I have a Z-wave switch for the under shelving lighting on the way and the next purchase will be leak detection devices.

Quirky egg minder
There are a lot of practical IoT devices available.  The biggest barrier is getting your devices to talk to each other.  This is where certain hubs come into play, basically acting as translators so Z-wave can control a ZigBee device or vis-a-visa.  Early on and without doing the research I bought a Wink hub.  That turned out to be a huge mistake!  I was part of the Winkening in April which left a rather nasty taste in my mouth.  Wink has/had devices that works with the hub and a few that didn't.  I originally had a few bulbs that needed the hub.  Those bulbs were switched over to SmartThings and I haven't looked back.  It's a good thing as Wink who owns Quirky has announced that Quirky will not be putting out more devices; they aren't fulfilling orders and basically both are taking a huge downward slide into a bottomless hole of no return.

However, even though I returned my hub, I kept the egg minder which does not require the hub.
Our egg minder, affectionately named Mr Chicken, works on WiFi.  Seriously, this is a fun but useless gadget.  The original retail price was $79.99 but the usefulness drove the price down to $12 when I purchased mine (with free shipping).  It is now going for $9 and quite frankly is really worth about $2 but it is fun!

Quirky egg minder as seen in appOnce the egg minder is connected to your WiFi, you simply fill it up.  The egg minder does the rest.  If working properly, it will indicate the oldest egg to use first by an illuminated blue light.  The eggs are recognized by the tray as they are added not by actual age of the egg so it is not accurate as far as egg age.  Sometimes it loses connection or doesn't register an egg.   As the eggs are used, you can set it to send a notification.The egg minder status is visible in the Wink app on your cell phone or tablet.  The oldest egg is indicated by a blue circle with 'pick me'.  Empty spots in the egg minder show on the app as an empty spot. 

I have the egg minder set to send notifications when I'm down to three eggs.  A few days ago, I decided to make egg salad.  Hubby (at office) got a notification for each of the last three eggs.  He promptly sent me a text with several chicken emoticons.  Well, then it was a texting war with hubby still laughing when he came home.  Mr Chicken had redeemed itself!

Wink itself is not doing good so at some point the app and support for Mr Chicken may cease to be unless SmartThings can use their API.  If that doesn't happen, then we have a fancy egg carton.  I could always take the egg minder apart and re-purpose it in another home automation project.  I'm sure some of the fine home automation tinkerers will come up with a way to use the egg minder.  For now, we are enjoying a few chuckles!