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Spot – Universal IR Controller

LifeSmart – Universal Controller – Spot!

Many of us have electronic gear in our house that comes with a remote control, be it a Blu Ray player, a Smart TV or a Set Top box, or even less common things like Air Conditioning units or LED Ceiling lights (like I have). Wouldn’t it be great if there was a HomeKit compatible device that could send an IR signal to these devices, and then have those devices in our home app?

Part A – Adding the LifeSmart Smart Station to HomeKit

Your first steps are to simply setting up the bridge in their app, by setting up a LifeSmart account.

  • After that you simply click on the ‘+’ symbol in the top left hand corner of the screen to add the bridge.
  • Select ‘Add Device’ first. You’ll then be presented with a screen with all of their products so you can choose which product needs adding. Conveniently enough, the Smart Station is the first option, and the Smart Alarm a close second, being that these are the hubs need for all their devices.
  • Follow the simple instructions for setting up the device, and it should all be running in a few minutes.
  • After that, click on the Large LifeSmart logo at the top of the screen and a menu will appear.
  • Select ‘Common’ at the bottom of the page.
  • then select ‘All Devices’. Here you will see any devices already set up in the app, so in this case you click on ‘Smart Station’ (or whichever hub you have).
  • There are a few more clickable headers, but you just want the one that says ‘Settings for Homekit (Beta)’.
  • This will take you to a screen where you will get your randomly generated HomeKit Code, but to get it you have to toggle the HomeKit switch to on.
  • You’ll then be asked for your password, which is the same one you entered when you created your LifeSmart account.
  • Once you have this HomeKit code, you simply enter this into the Home app, like you would any new HomeKit device. you’ll be warned that the device you’re adding isn’t HomeKit certified, but you’ll be allowed to add it anyway. Once this is added, the Smart Station will appear as a hub/bridge, much like the Hue bridge for example.

 

So, that’s the bridge added!

Part B – Adding the LifeSmart Spot to HomeKit

What about the LifeSmart Spot? Well, you would simply then follow the same instructions for adding the Spot to your LifeSmart account outlined in points 2,3 & 4. When the Spot is added, it will automatically appear as a device in the Home app, in much the same way that once you add a Hue Bridge, all the non-Homekit Hue devices will then appear. You’ll then have control over the basic functions of the light, like on and off, colour & brightness.

 

 

  • Click on the LifeSmart logo at the top of the screen and you’ll see a few options.
  • Select ‘Common’ and from there select ‘All Devices’.
  • Click the down arrow to the bottom left of the Smart Station and all other devices that have been added to the Station will be listed here.
  • Click on the Spot option (it may be called something different if you’ve renamed it) and then select the ‘Add a remote control’ option.
  • You’ll then be given a series of options for preset device remote controls – TVs, TV boxes, Air Conditioners, Fans, DVDs etc, as well as customisable options. In this case, I will choose the Air Condition/Heat Pump preset. You’ll then be given a list of different AC brands. Simply choose the brand that matches yours.
  • you will then see a screen that states that the Spot will emit an IR signal that correlates to the ON/OFF key of the remote that came with the AC unit.
  • You Click on the Emit button, and it will ask if there was a response, and you simply click on the appropriate button (No Response or Have Response).
  • If you get no response it will then emit another different signal until you finally get a response.
  • Once you do get a response from the AC unit, it will move onto another preset IR signal (in this case, ‘AC Cool Key’), and you go through the same process of waiting for a response to the signals it sends out.
  • It will do this a third time, and once you get a response to this third signal, it will have got all the info it needs to then display a screen version of the remote control for the device you’ve added. Depending on the device, it may have a simple and full version of the remote display – a simple version for the basics, and a full version for all the aspects of the remote device.

Once you’ve been through this process, you can now control all functions of the Air Conditioner unit from your phone, via the LifeSmart app. In the final part, I’ll show you how you can control aspects of these remote controlled devices using HomeKit via the Home app.

First I must state that while you can control the AC and all aspects of it within the LifeSmart, it’s not quite the same in HomeKit. “What does that mean?” you ask. Well, just like in the Home app, in the LifeSmart app, you can create ‘Scenes’. These scenes can capture one of the remote controlled devices in a certain state; The AC I showed you how to set up for example:

You would set the AC to ‘Cool’ mode, and set the temperature to 19C, and maybe have the fan speed set to medium. You would then set a ‘Scene’ from that state, and that Scene would then appear as a ‘device’ in the Home App. That button could be labelled ‘AC Cool’, so if the room were getting a bit hot, you would simply click the device/button and the presets for the AC would kick in. In effect, what you could say is that even though the LifeSmart ‘scene’ appears as a button in the Home app, in actual fact it should really be better off appearing as a ‘scene’ button in Home. It is what it is, so make the best of it.

 

So, let’s show you how.

  • From the LifeSmart home screen, click on the ‘Smart’ icon at the bottom of the screen
  • then click on the ‘+’ symbol in the top right corner and select ‘Create AI’
  • From there, select ‘Add new Scene’ then select the first option, called ‘Scene’
  • On the next screen, select ‘Spot’ (I have it labelled Spot IR in this example)
  • On the next screen, click on the large ‘+’ symbol labelled ‘Add IR Action’
  • You will then be presented with all the IR devices you’ve added, in the case of this example, it will be the Air Conditioning Unit. Click on this device
  • Set the AC to your preferred settings – warm, cool, low fan speed etc., then click on the ‘tick’ symbol in the top right corner.
  • Ignore the next screen for now and just click on the same tick symbol once more
  • You will the be presented with a preset that you have just created, stating the settings.
  • Click on the tick symbol a third time, and you be returned to a previous screen, so just click on the‘>’ symbol in the top right corner.
  • click on the ‘Name’ to rename this preset scene and then press the ‘tick’ symbol.
  • You’ll be returned to the previous ‘name’ screen, so just click on the tick symbol one more time.
  • Your preset scene has now been created.
  • If you now open the Home app, you will see a new ‘Device’ has been added to your Home screen in the Home app with the same ‘scene’ name you gave it in the LifeSmart app.

Clicking on this button/device will simply enact the preset scene you created. It will not, however, turn the scene off if you click it again. This is the downside to the way LifeSmart works, but You can create a series of scenes, put then in a virtual room in the home app, turn off the ‘Favourite’ status of these devices and then just use Siri on your iPhone to enact these scenes, for example “Hey Siri, AC Cool”, or “Hey Siri AC off” etc.

Spot Review

This is easily one of the most useful gadgets for HomeKit set up, but what is it? It’s a night light, a bedside lamp, something to store the wife’s earrings…and an IR blaster!

Yes, this device can be used to replace the basic aspects of all the different remotes you might have lying around, but with the added twist of being HomeKit compatible. I say ‘compatible’ with a qualification – which is that it’s only HomeKit compatible when used with the LifeSmart Smart Station, which like the Hue Bridge, is essentially a bridge for other LifeSmart devices.

It’s powered via a simple mini USB port at the back, with a mini USB plug at one end and a standard USB plug at the other, which then can plug into any powered USB socket, or depending on where you buy it from, it’ll come with a USB socket of its own. In addition to the power socket, there’s a reset button which also acts to turn the light to different basic colours and ‘off’, and a standard USB port for charging devices. This last port is actually useless in practice, as the power output is so low that it can’t even slow charge any of my phones, so I’m not sure why they even bothered.

So, assuming you’ve got the LifeSmart Smart Station, and you’ve added it to your Homekit setup, this device becomes visible to Homekit appears as a light essentially, with control over the colour, brightness and power. That’s the lighting part of the device covered, so what about the ‘IR Blaster’ part?

Well, you’ll need the free LifeSmart app first of all, which you’d need anyway in order to add the Smart Station to Homekit. With this app, you can then teach it to add a whole host of standard remote controlled devices, like Air Conditioner units, TVs, Humidifiers, Fans etc. by picking from a list of manufacturers, or by teaching it the functions of a specific remote control. With the preset devices, like my Daikin Air Conditioner unit, once it’s identified the model, it will bring up a screen version of the correct remote for you to operate it from the phone. If it’s been taught from another remote, you can then create a sort of on-screen remote with the functions it has learned.

Now this allows you to control stuff from within their app, on the iPhone, but how does it work with Homekit? Well, What I will say is it’s pretty damned good for bringing in non-HomeKit devices into the fold.

The light itself is definitely not as bright as a Hue bulb for example, but it’s easily bright enough for a bedside light and more than bright enough as a night light. I have it set to Red at only 14% as a night light and even that setting is probably a bit too bright for some. It’s capable of the standard 16 million colours, but in this respect the colours are definitely off compared to an official HomeKit colour bulb. It can’t really do a cool white very well either, so I’m guessing inside there are LEDs for Red, Green & Blue but no dedicated White LED. Still, the colours are quite vibrant and the device itself is not too expensive, being available from anything between SGD96 ~ SGD159.

LifeSmart aren’t that well known, but considering what this device is capable of I really do think more people would be buying this if they only knew about it.

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