Smart home guide for advanced users- Case of emergencies

In this article, I present a “monitoring system” that can be used to alert you when something is not working properly.

The desire for a “monitoring system” has gradually come into my mind. Our consumer society force us a sense that we need to buy the next gadget to stay alive. As a result, the number of electronic gadgets around us is constantly increasing. As an example, I’ll list the personal gadgets I use: phone, tablet, smartwatch, e-book reader, small and one large headphone with wireless connection, mini digital camera – 7 devices, and that’s just the ones I get my hands on almost every day. Most of the gadgets in a smart home are not even used on a daily basis. Being a gadget freak, I am not questioning the usefulness of these devices, I am simply pointing out that such devices make us comfortable. We are therefore surprised when something does not work properly, or even breaks down.

What are the most common errors in a smart home?
Error descriptionMethod of alertFurther action to be taken
Water sensor detects water leakageSmart home application message EmailIf a solenoid valve is fitted to the incoming water pipe, the smart home can shut off the water immediately in the event of a leak, so only a few litres of liquid in the pipes can cause a problem.
Temperature too high. Most smart homes have a thermometer in the rooms, where a temperature above 30 degrees is very illogical. Such an anomaly could even indicate the start of a fire. Or it could indicate a lack of shading.Smart home application message Smart home audio system voice message Smart home can also alert the company managing the remote monitoring. Here, the remote monitoring company usually expects a direct signal via the alarm system. EmailIf there is a remote camera system, it is worth a quick look. If fire is detected, an emergency call is made.
If there is no fire, just a problem with the shading, then the shading settings should be checked.
There is a smoke / carbon monoxide alarm.Smart home app message Smart home can also alert the company managing the remote monitoring. EmailIf you have a remote camera system, it’s worth a quick look.
There is a power outage. If the smart home can detect this in comparison, assume that there is an UPS behind it for at least a few minutesSmart home application message EmailCheck the fuses in the electrical box. If there is no power at the electricity meter either, make an emergency call to the electricity company.
Leave a window open.Smart house app action, BUT only if there is a life situation (e.g. bedroom light is turned off and house turns it back on to clear the fault)The alarm cannot be activated in this case, so there is nothing to do except close the window.
A camera becomes inaccessible.Monitoring system message sent by email.Check the device physically.
Smart home system becomes inaccessible.Monitoring system message sent by email.Check the device physically.
Any internal IT device becomes unavailable: sound system, wifi AP, printer, heat pump.Monitoring system message sent by email.Check the device physically.
Internet bandwidth is lowMonitoring system message sent by email.Restart the router connected to the service. If this does not help, unplug everything from the router and connect only a test computer to it. If all is good here, something on the internal network is eating the bandwidth. If that doesn’t help, wait 1-2 hours and only then report the problem to the service provider. It usually resolves itself…
Water is low in some tank (e.g. sprinkler)Smart home application message Email Monitoring system message sent by email.Physically check the tank.
NAS error messages (typically low storage)Monitoring system message sent by email.Clear out storage to make room for new downloads.

From the table above, I would like to highlight a few examples where the monitoring system has helped me:

  • A faulty device blew a fuse (internal cable burned out, so it took me 3-5 times to figure out the source of the fault) and the heat pump was connected to the same circuit. Before the monitoring system the result of this case was that the family showered in cold water at that night.
  • A connecting pipe between the tap and the wall socket burst. The smart house immediately turned off the water, resulting in a simple mopping up in one of the toilets.
  • We usually only turn the shadowing procedure on at the end of the winter. We forgot to do this, so the first warmer day overheated the south room. The system was on and we turned the shading on. This could be automated, but as it happens once every two years, we are do it manually.
  • Wifi access point was frozen. The family was unhappy without Internet. With multiple wifi access points, it is a hassle to find the faulty device by searching for signal strength. It is better to monitor the availability of these devices!
  • In case of bandwidth problem, I attached the data about the periods affected to the contract cancellation (there were a dozen or so). They accepted my leaving at once…
  • NAS storage was low on storage, so downloads essential for entertainment didn’t work.

    Email alerts are not always effective, as new operating systems by default try to force us to “focus state”: don’t check your email every minute, it’s not good! So if you receive the alert by email, you may not notice it in time! A good solution to this can be an app that turns email into a push message. I have been using this for a while and it has helped me to catch the error in time: https://pushover.net/
What kind of monitoring system is useful in a smart home?

1. Smart home system itself: the most obvious element of a monitoring system is the smart home system itself. Many faults can be handled by the smart home software itself. In the Loxone system a feature was introduced, where you couldn’t bother the central system, but you could set set simple logical conditions in the smart home application itself. https://www.loxone.com/enen/products/software/automatic-designer/
This helped a lot to fine tune the alarms.

2. Zabbix: mainly used by IT companies to monitor devices and services. ( https://www.zabbix.com/ ) With a little IT research and following the steps below, you can set up your own monitoring system.
a) you need a NAS capable of running Docker. For example a Synology:
https://www.synology.com/en-global/dsm/feature/docker . The advantage of this is that competent people can put together ready-made systems for us.
b) download a Zabbix system image. For example https://registry.hub.docker.com/r/zabbix/zabbix-web-nginx-mysql/ and install it on the NAS like this https://www.schaupper.at/?p=1423
c) it takes a bit of trial and error to set up Zabbix, but most devices (hosts) can be checked to see if they are running using the ICMP Ping function. All you need is the ip address of the device. It is recommended to set these monitored devices to a fixed ip address. This can be done either on the router controlling the network or on the device itself.

3) Smart router: monitoring of devices on the network is sometimes included in the software built into the router. It’s worth checking your router’s user manual.

You might think that I live my life in a state of stress, because there must always be something that alarms me. For me, the effect is the opposite. I’m glad when something is not noticed by me or the family itself, but by a monitoring system. If you have any other methods to recommend, send me your suggestions and I will update this article.

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