Sonoff T1 Wireless Wall Switch

I’ve spent recent weeks (months even!) looking at how I can bring simple automation and voice control to my home. In my quest to create a “Smart Home” I came across the Sonoff T1 UK-specification wall switch. At just ~£15 and when coupled with Tasmota, an Open Source firmware (from what I have read, I wouldn’t consider using the native firmware) that is suitable for a variety of ESP powered devices, this wi-fi connected switch becomes a very compelling product.

I’ve now got a bunch of these around the house, integrated with the Node Red Alexa Smart Skill v3 Bridge. Over the last three months these have proven to be very reliable (faultless actually) and very effective when paired with the custom multi-sensors I have built using ESP8266 NodeMCU boards to drive automation. I figured I would share my experience/ how I got them up and running.

Note that this guide assumes you have a secure MQTT server available for use, and Node-RED deployed should you want to take advantage of the Node Red Alexa Smart Skill v3 Bridge. If you’ve not got either of these in-place watch this space – further guides to follow.

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Node-RED Alexa Home Skill Updated

Last week I posted about the Node-RED Alexa Home Skill / bridge. I’ve spent the week on ensuring the majority of device types or “capabilities” are are now supported by the bridge. It’s now possible to define devices that support:

  • Playback controls (Play, pause, stop)
  • Input changing (such as HDMI1, Audio1)
  • Volume (in steps)
  • Power (on /off)
  • Brightness (in %)
  • Colour (Red, Green, Blue etc)
  • Colour temperature (in Kelvin or warm-white through to daylight)
  • Temperature (in °C or °F)

Hopefully this means you’re now able to use commands that are more “natural” to interact with Node-RED flows that control your Smart Devices.

To further the usability of the service it is now possible (required!) to set minimum and maximum values on thermostats (in °C or °F) and smart bulbs (in Kelvin).  Any commands that fall “out of range” will not be processed by the bridge and you will get the appropriate feedback from Alexa. Again, hopefully this makes interaction with the service more intuitive.

Finally, I’ve simplified the response node. Use logic in your flows to return a “true” or “false” value as an input to this node. Any flow that starts with a Node-RED Alexa v3 node should return a payload of “true” where the command/ request is processed successfully and “false” where it is not.

I’ll be updating the documentation with more flow examples in the coming week.

Want to get involved, contribute or start testing the service as outlined in the documentation!

Node-RED Alexa Home Skill

It’s been a while since I posted, but I’ve been busy… Somehow, despite having no interest in it six months ago, I got into Home Automation, or setting up a “Smart” Home. Over the last 6 months I have:

  • purchased a variety of sensors and electronic components, Fresnel lenses and NodeMCU boards from China
  • designed/ modified circuits, learnt to solder (badly!)
  • written firmware for NodeMCU based multi-sensors
  • modified 3D designs in TinkerCAD
  • printed 3D models via 3D Hubs
  • flashed firmware of wi-fi light switches
  • (re)written a NodeJS/ MQTT and Amazon Lambda function that drive a Node-RED Alexa add-on

Lots more posts to come, but I wanted to share the latter of these activities with you first.

In my quest to enable voice control over a variety of devices I came across a Ben Hardill’s Node Red Alexa Home Skill Bridge. Ben created a Node-RED Alexa Smart Home  Skill API version 2 add-on that enables Alexa interaction with flows. No sooner had I found this and started to use it I wanted more… ! This is where the Smart Home Skill API version 3 comes in – it allows for a swathe of new voice commands to control playback, volume, inputs and other devices that version 2 did not cater for.

Unfortunately (for me at least) the API syntax has fundamentally changed. This meant figuring out Ben’s service and re-writing elements of it to work with the new API. Whilst I was at it I also updated the web interface to Bootstrap 4, and remediated some NodeJS/ Mongoose functions that were no longer supported in the original service.

The net result… My wife and kids love the fact they can turn on/ off the TV, pause, play and stop video, increase/  decrease and mute volume as well as control the lights with their voice. Couple the lighting control with Alexa “room awareness” and the whole system becomes very user friendly – i.e. “Alexa, turn on the lights.” The multi-sensors add some additional functionality/ capabilities, but I’ll save that for another day.

At this point the skill is in “Dev” – meaning it is not a publicly available Alexa Skill – however, get in touch and I can add you to the list of people able to test the service out.

You can read the intricate detail about the service on GitHub, or request access and get testing.