Bit off topic for this website, but for Christmas I got an Amazon Echo Dot and wanted to try my hand at installing some home automation. I loved the idea of turning my lights on and off or controlling my TV with my voice. However, the officially supported kits, like the the Philips Hue kits and Harmony Hub were a bit out of my price range. But you can achieve similar results for a fraction of the cost if you’re willing to put a bit of work in to get an unofficial system working. I don’t really care about changing the colours, and I’m happy with the lamps I already have in my living room – so lets get what I already have working with Echo Dot.
Amazon Echo Dot – £49.99 (US Link)
Some RF Sockets – £16.95 (US Link)
The Broadlink RM Pro – £29.79 (US Link)
Android Box – from £23.99 (can also be used for Kodi & Plex!)
RM Bridge App – Free (download here if your Android box isn’t supported)
Smarthings Account – Free
Externally accessible and stable IP address – FREE (you might be able to set this up on your router, or you can get a free account. Contact your ISP if you’re not sure how to set this up)
How to set up Home Automation on the cheap
I already had some RF sockets that I turn on and off with a remote. The cheapest option that I think will worth with this set up is this 3 pack from Amazon. The important thing is that they work on an unencryped 433MHz range, because the hub I’m going to recommend transmits on this frequency. You just plug them into your sockets, then plug your existing lamps into these sockets.
Next you’ll need a hub to control these sockets without the remote. The Broadlink RM Pro doesn’t officially support Amazon Echo, but there is a way to get it working together using the RM Bridge App. The Broadlink Pro sends RF and IR signals, and you can program it to send the right signals to your RF sockets to turn the lights on, or to send IR signals to control your TV.
You’ll need an Android device that’s always on to run the RM Bridge app. Phones and tablets can overheat if you leave them plugged in too long, so we recommend an Android Box. You might even have one already if you’re a UK Cordcutter. If you want to get the whole kit from Amazon you can use the EgoIggo Mini RK3229. For my set up at home I’m using the Nvidia Shield, but any Android Device should work
We’re going to set it up so your Echo talks to the RM Bridge app on your Android device. Then the RM Bridge app will tell the RM Broadlink what signals to send out to turn on your lights or control your TV.
You’ll need to follow these instructions from this GitHib to set everything up. There are a few steps to get everything going, but its not too complex. The most difficult thing is setting up a DDNS or static IP. Hopefully your router will have some options to set this up easily (I’m using the ASUS RT-N66U and its just a few clicks to set up) but contact your ISP if you’re not sure how to set it up.
It’s important to note when teaching your RM Broadlink the on/off commands for your RF sockets, you need to click ‘Frequency Scan’ and hold down the button you want it to learn (watch the progress spinner in the top right hand corner to see when its finished) then press ‘Learn Code’ and press the button you want it to learn once.
I have it set up so you can turn on individual lamps or just say ‘turn the lights on’ to turn all of them on at once.
Once the RF switches are set up, you can teach the RM Broadlink to turn your TV on and of, change the channel or switch to a different input. You can also set up any other device that uses IR or RF input – Air Con, Wireless Window Blinds etc.
If you’re a fan of Plex there should hopefully be an official Amazon Echo plug in soon, that will let you control your Plex server with your voice. See a demo here. If you own a Nvidia Shield the next update (later this month) will let you use the Shield as a Smartthings Hub, further extending the capability’s of this set up.
Thanks to GitHub User Becky Onuscha for the instructions to get the Broadlink RM working with Alexa