Back to Indigo: The Home Automation Experiment

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Home Automation has been a hobby of mine for almost eleven years. The technology has existed in various forms, for far longer; there are many other individuals that have been experimenting with home automation for far longer than I have.

My initial introduction was via the X10 line of products. At the time they were far less expensive than Insteon devices, though also less reliable. Other protocols, such as Z-Wave and ZigBee, were only just beginning to gain a foothold when I started dabbling.

Over time, I started adding Insteon devices and used them in conjunction with X10 devices using a software package named mControl, which worked great. Eventually, I started phasing out both X10 and Insteon devices in favor of Z-Wave. The X10 devices were notoriously unreliable because due to a lack of support for confirmation that a device received a signal. If it didn’t receive, nothing happened. There wasn’t support, at least back then, for a re-transmission to occur until the receiving device acknowledged the signal.

Insteon devices were very reliable, in part because they did have this acknowledgement capability built into the protocol and also because those devices formed a mesh-network, like most other home automation devices support today. This meant that each device acted as a repeater, helping to ensure that a signal from one device would reach any other device within the network.

Eventually, I started shifting over to Z-Wave devices. They were typically just as reliable as Insteon devices and also slightly less expensive. I saw the list of Z-Wave supported devices growing, at the time, while there were generally very few new Insteon devices.

In addition to changing my hardware, I eventually moved the home automation control away form a Windows system on mControl and over to a macOS (Mac OS back then) platform using Indigo Domotics’ Indigo Home Control software. Because it also supported X10, Insteon and Z-Wave (among other protocols) I was able to take my time fully phasing out any remaining X10 and Insteon devices in favor of Z-Wave.

I’ve been very pleased with Indigo and the Z-Wave devices, ever since. Indigo is also able to control, or at least interact with, several wifi-based devices such as Amazon Echo (Alexa), Harmony Hubs, and many, many more.

I first started using Indigo back in 2013, so at the time of this post I’ve been using it for six years. It’s highly customizable and provides a number of awesome features that simply aren’t available in many appliance-based devices such as the Wink 2 Hub.

I’m mentioning the Wink device because when we moved out of our home, and had it on the market for a couple of years, I purchased a Wink 2 Hub exclusively for monitoring the property (in conjunction with some IP cameras, a couple of Ring cameras and a Network Video Recorder). The Wink 2 worked just fine for this use.

At the new apartment I continued to use Indigo. Eventually, we pulled the remaining hardware out of the house and after a while I decided to do an experiment to see if an appliance, like the Wink 2, could meet my home automation needs at the apartment. I shut down Indigo and setup every device that was compatible (and not all of them were) with Wink.

To make a very long story much short, it did not come close to replacing Indigo. It was more convenient, in a sense, but that was largely because there simply wasn’t very much that I could actually do with the limited configuration capabilities of the Wink, compared to Indigo.

For example, I didn’t have any way to have certain actions (called “Robots” in Wink) only occur based on presence. They have since added some additional hardware that one can purchase to achieve somewhat similar capabilities, but it’s not available using only the Wink 2 and basic Z-Wave devices. With Indigo, I have it set to enabled or disable door, motion and other sensor notifications, as well as video recording through Sighthound, based on the presence of certain devices. I did have to spend some time working with a plugin or two, and cataloging some device information, but I didn’t have to spend any more money for new devices or software capabilities to do this with Indigo.

Interested in having some fun with color changing LEDs? Use Indigo. Would you like to have certain actions execute based on outdoor weather conditions? Again, use Indigo.

After about six months of using the Wink 2 at the apartment, I removed it and setup a new instance of Indigo to control my home environment (note: I could have simply restored the old Indigo database but chose to start over from scratch).

Indigo is a powerful home automation tool for macOS. I’m certainly not claiming it’s the only software package with these capabilities, but I have been very, very happy with it. I’m also pleased by the continued support of the developers to enhance their product; browsing the support forums you’ll frequently see them responding directly to customers about bugs, issues, plugins and future plans.

If you’re using macOS, and considering a home automation package, I strongly urge you to consider using Indigo. It does have a cost, but it’s well worth it.

On the other hand, if all you want to do is to control some lights and your thermostat from your phone, and don’t have a need for conditional logic, a device such as the Wink 2 may be more than enough for your needs.

As for me, I’m sticking with Indigo.

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