Philips Hue Smart Lamps

Hue Hub and Lamps

Before we begin let’s start off by stating that the following is my own experience and not a recommendation, also this post is not going to talk all things ‘Hue’ but will focus on the ‘basics’ to get up and running. Firstly you are going to need a bridge (version 2.0 for HomeKit compatibility) this can be purchased separately but can be cheaper if bought as a starter kit – the Hue White and Colour Ambiance kit will effectively give you 3 lamps and a free bridge for instance in either BC or ES fittings, this is where I started and it is certainly fun to mess around with the colour options.

The following lamps, and hub, are your basic options (you can get light strips and desk/floor lamps but we will not be talking about those in this post directly). All devices are Energy Class A+ Rated.

  • Hue Bridge 2.0 @£50
  • Hue White and Colour Ambiance – 16.8 million colours, lamp temperature range of warm white (2200K) to cool white(6500K) light & dimmable
    • E27/ES or B22/BC (10W) @£50
    • E14/SES  (6W) @£50
    • GU10 (5.5W) @£50
  • Hue White Ambiance – lamp temperature range of warm white (2200K) to cool white(6500K) light  & dimmable
    • E27/ES or B22/BC (9.5W)  @£25
    • E14/SES (6W) @£30
    • GU10 (5.5W) @£25 (or x2 for £44)
  • Hue White – dimmable
    • E27/ES or B22/BC (9.5W) @£15

Why did I decide to upgrade to smart lamps? well curiosity and the fact that the E14 lamps I was using were costing me £6 a time and were blowing out at one-a-month and the cost of changing fittings and purchasing lamps would be cost effective – not to discuss the energy savings. Also smart lamps are a cheap and easy way to move into the Smart Home experience. The great thing about Philips Hue is that they are well established, are easy to expand beyond any initial purchase and fall into a number of Smart eco-systems – Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Home. So you can use or move between different control systems should you wish to.

So what lamps should I purchase? well let’s do a quick calculation based on fittings already downstairs:

  • Lounge: 3 x B22 ceiling / 3 x B22 floor lamps
  • Dining room:  10 x E14 ceiling
  • Kitchen: 3 x E14 ceiling
  • Utility: 4 x GU10 ceiling

Now given when I started this journey the E14 lamps did not exist until April 2017 so I was going to have to change the fittings in the dining room and kitchen but for the purposes of this post (if E14’s were available) the cost of upgrading to colour lamps would be £1,150 (23 Lamps x £50 = £ 1,150).

Burning an astonishing 1111 Watts for all the rooms main lights and table/floor lamps, mainly due to lack of natural lighting lights in the kitchen and utility are on throughout the day, I have now reduced it down to a highly respectable 97W and with utilising the smart abilities of the lighting through timers and sensors this should further reduce costs. The reduction in part was by needing to replace multiple E14/SES up lighter fittings with singular E27/ES downlighters. My cost for lamps ended up being a respectable £300, this may seem a lot but keep in mind the abilities of the smart lamps that I did not have before. I now have three colour floor uplighters in the lounge for those cosy movie nights, three ambience or the lounge ceiling and the rest as white only. We only (currently) really use the coloured Hue’s to set a movie night theme of blue, currently the ambience Hue’s are not fully utilised.

I learnt some important lessons along the way and would recommend based upon my experience:

  1. Only purchase lamps that give you the functionality you would really use, I’m not interested in turning my utility room into various shades of green or even having a cool white spectrum
  2. E27/ES (Edison Screw) fittings are a lot more common than B22/BC (Bayonet Cap) – You can purchase E27/ES to B22/BC  adapters but not B22/BC to E27/ES
  3. You can purchase splitters to convert 1xE27/ES to 2xE27/ES (but you would need room in any fitting for the extra lamp addition)
  4. Wait until  there is a special on the hue starter kit – they can go as low as £125, and the ambience have reached as low as £18. You don’t have to buy everything at once!

Interested in using Homekit in the UK? visit & join https://www.facebook.com/groups/homekituk/ 

Advertisements

The Automated Smart Home

Smart Home

This year I decided to delve into the world of the Smart Home and although it is relatively well established and there are many great products it is also a time of competition for the  big players that whilst pushing the boundaries that benefits the consumer by creating amazing products but may well hurt the individual in the pocket if they don’t choose wisely (as much as you can) and invest in an ecosystem that may be destined to fail against the competition.  Take for example Belkin’s WeMo Smart Switches , a stand-alone smart socket product in their own right with an App for both Android and iOS devices, they function happily with the Amazon Echo (for those that don’t know the Echo is a hands-free speaker voice controlled speaker that connects to the Google Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information and control smart devices). Anybody investing in them heavily may have felt that their money may have been spent on the wrong product if they wanted to get involved with Apple’s HomeKit solution (fear not, for it has been recently announced that they are to be compatible through an additional hub). So although you may take a wrong turn, lose-your-footing or lighten-your-wallet or purse upon the journey to a smarter home the future is brighter and evolving all the time, especially from this current year onwards. Over the next year there will be a number of posts connected with the Smart Home and associated devices.

For my own set-up I have a number of considerations:

  1. Use of Apple’s Homekit Eco-system (due to having the Apple TV 4th Gen – this acts as a central hub for HomeKit and allows devices to be controlled away from the house via the web)
  2. Use of Amazon’s Echo Eco-system (due to having my in-laws buy us one at Christmas)
  3. Compatibility between the two prior mentioned systems (where possible!)
  4. Not to go too crazy (yet) as we are hoping to move house in the near future
  5. The lag behind the US, we only have a small amount of devices compared to the US. Try looking for a Smart Light Switch and you will quickly realise.

Of course all of this is likely to have implications upon education – using them in class as virtual tutors? upskilling electricians, engineers or technicians for installation? there is evidence of them creeping into more everyday life (a hotel in the US now has one Amazon Echo in all rooms, over 100, to offer information and ordering facilities as well as comms between rooms. So exciting times ahead.

Interested in using Homekit in the UK? visit & join https://www.facebook.com/groups/homekituk/ 

 

Shock Mount (Black Aluminum) for the Blue Yeti Microphone by Auphonix

Shock Mount by Auphonix

With the ‘fixed mount cradle’ for the Blue Yeti microphone having its limitations such as being bulky and often requiring to be propped up to get the positioning right (well mostly) I have been on the lookout for a decent shock mount for the Blue Yeti, but it has been a long time come and after many months finally a decent (£25) and affordable shock mount for the Blue Yeti found at http://amzn.eu/6bd69jp .

Many issues exist for a decent shockmount purchase:

  1. Blue’s own offering is costly (and reportedly fraught with issues if loose clamps – especially for the price)
  2. The Yeti does have a standard fixing, so there are not many offerings (some bespoke offerings that have been flash in the pan’s)
  3. The Yeti is one heavy beast and there are numerous reports of any point that require tightening not holding out (see point 1)
  4. There are a reported batch of Blue Yeti’s that do have the 3/8″thread overcut by a 1/16″ (causing poor fitting to any mount, and not any issue with mounts themselves)

Now I purchased my Blue Yeti for a very handsome price of approx. £65 and there was no way I was ever going to purchase a mount in excess of that so point 1 is out of the question. I toyed with the idea of creating my own (point 2) and even drew up plans but never got round to it! Something specific needed for the yeti due to its non-standard fitting and needing to carry it’s weight (point 3) was also a concern for any attached boom (see later). The only solutions for an overcut fixing was either and new Yeti or as I have read on the web to use plumbing tape (PTFE) to ‘take up the slack’ and not have the Yeti drop off, thankfully I did not need this solutions.

The Auphonix offering was getting great reviews (a cheaper plastic and a reasonable priced aluminium offering were available) but I hesitated and lucked out on the silver aluminium @ £30, then a rather elegant black version showed up for £5 less! a result – and most Booms are black anyway. So now an accompanying boom was required to be purchased – I was conscious of the weight of the Yeti but on Amazon was the recommendation for under £12 the Tencro Professional Microphone Boom for Blue Yeti ( http://amzn.eu/g4CTVSO ), specifically having the key point of being heavy duty designed for supporting almost all microphones up to 4.4 pounds / 2KG.

Both are now fitted and I found that mounting my Yeti above the mount, rather than below, suited my rig better as I will be swinging my mic up and out the way often – kids can be too inquisitive! The difference between the original fixed stand against the dampening properties of the boom & shock-mount are excellent and given my setup prior to this purchase noticeably picked-up ‘shocks & knocks’ and caused me to be extra careful when recording to minimise disruption the cost @ less than £40 is a great solution and one that I cannot recommend myself if you want the best from your original audio recording with your Blue Yeti.

 

Speech Central: Web Text to Speech

Once upon a time I used an app called VoiceBrief, I loved it! But it was buggy, often crashing and it never got updated before finally disappearing from the App Store. I have recommended the likes of ‘Capti’ and ‘Pocket’ to learners to curate material and listen on the go (we always have places to go and listening on the go can increase productivity) but I have never come across any app that came close to VoiceBrief, certainly some could read web pages but I never found them able to read from social media and certainly not effectively. Fast forward a few years and I  am commuting more than ever and consuming so much audio media I have been finding it more difficult to access new content having exhausted most material. The app allows you to listen to key headlines and then, when interested, add the headlines as articles to read [out] in full later, with the app highlighting the tezt as it is read out. The app is straightforward and does not have a big learning curve, but what really appeals to me is how much you can customise the app – including the voice and controls.

The developer States that “The app is tested to be accessible by visually impaired users. It has many features specifically tailored to users with disabilities like integrated Bookshare service, support for DAISY books, dyslexia friendly font, many visual settings, keyboard shortcuts for the most of commands available (with various options to navigate the text) in the app and on the iPhone it can be controlled with headphone or Bluetooth hands-free buttons and functions of those buttons can be customized. Combined with the interactive web feature available in the app the latter may make the web much easier to access on the mobile device for a person with eyesight or related disability.”

The ability to skip and add articles via the remote is an excellent feature and really increases the usability of the app.  This is an app that I feel is going to really play a key role in my commute once I return after the summer break, or for anyone that can take the opportunity to consume content on the go and not just for the accessibility benefits the app offers.

Here are the app store pages for Speech Central:

The App Developer has provided me with this product for purposes of providing a personal review and I have received no payment for this unbiased review.