QingPing Air Monitor Lite images courtesy of HomeKit Reviews.
The QingPing Air Monitor Lite has been here a couple of days. I had expected I would have a particulate problem. In reality, the house is sufficiently tight that it retains emissions from internal sources like breathing mammals and greyhound butts. What the trend curves are showing is that, with the house closed up, CO2 accumulates. Since Dismal Manor is small, this is detectable in the bedroom when all 3 of us are in the lounge. After the break, I review the findings and
Dismal Dave suffers from rhinitis, a general non-specific rhinitis brought on by particulates more so than a specific allergen. Cooking smoke, Diesel smoke, jet smoke, the Great Dismal Swamp Fire smoke, pollen, and other things make the sinuses angry. To get a better feeling for what it might be correlated with, I decided to add an air quality monitor to our Apple HomeKit rig.
The bits and pieces needed to make one are inexpensive and can be ordered as a kit with a PCB. A number of DIY websites describe air quality monitor projects. But if you want a case, and there is software to write, …
There are only a few HomeKit capable residential air quality monitor finished products with the QingPing Air Quality Lite being regarded the best value of the lot. Most of the products out there are portable monitors designed for work-place safety applications.
After the break, I’ll explain my initial motivation, selection criteria, intended application, and initial experience.
For many years, a Nest Learning Thermostat has controlled heating and cooling at Dismal Manor. About a year ago, I replaced the Nest Beta program edition with a current production Nest Learning Thermostat. In mid-April, we had a surprise run of hot days so I decided to change from heat mode to cool/heat mode. I made the change, found the thermostat calling for cooling, and hot air coming from the registers. What’s up, Nest!
In an earlier article, I wrote about using EuFy wireless cameras in the latest HomeKit Secure Video enabled series to realize the Greyhound’s Doorbell. Since then, I have added a HomeBridge with HomeBridge UniFi Protect plugin to allow me to bring in the UniFi Protect G4 cameras. UniFi Protect is not currently integrated with any of the smart home ecosystems as Ubiquity’s primary market is professional network system integrators installing video surveillance and entry control systems.
I have mislaid my keys once since then. Find My let me know they were in the house. We ended up playing Marco Polo for a bit to find which room they were in. Once the room was identified, the ultra-wideband position sensing took me right to them.
The Sound is Usefully Loud
I also left them in a pocket in the laundry. Find My quickly let me know they were in the laundry bin. The alert sound is loud enough to carry out of the laundry bin. There were only 3 pants to search so they were found quickly.
My first experience with a Bluetooth token was pretty dismal. The noise maker was too quiet to be heard when tossed into a laundry basket. There was no secondary form of cuing. The ultra wide band location requires a ultra wide band radio and associated ranging software.
Ultra Wide band Location and Ranging
My Mk VII Golf GTI key fob also uses Ultra Wide Band precision positioning to determine whether the key is inside or outside and which lock is nearest. I’ve yet to outsmart it. It won’t let you lock your keys in the car. It sometimes gets confused about the rear passenger door which is next to the gas filler door. The keys come attached to a $30,000 auto.
Apple may be the first to use ultra wide band remote sensing as a consumer product. Here, it actually works. A cute display indicates that Find My is chatting with the selected missing AirTag, a compass indicator shows the relative direction, and the approximate range is shown. This feedback is like the hot/cold feedback of hide and seek. It is very helpful search cuing.
Android Find My is Coming
At 2021 WWDC, Apple software VP Craig Federighi announced that Apple would be making an Android version of Find My to allow Android users to use AirTag and to locate a mis-laid Mac. Hardware capabilities will determine functionality. Those Android devices having ultra wide band locating capability (UWB radios) will support nearby direction and distance capabilities. Those without should be able to play Marco Polo with an AirTag and to talk to it by near field to learn its ID.
I had tried an earlier tracker that worked so well it became E-waste at the end of battery life. Basically, the radios weren’t there yet. A tag in the laundry basket could not be found or heard. Discovery of a tag left away from home relied on the general population running the tag app on their phones. Some did but the coverage in Norfolk, Virginia was truly sparse. Oh, and the battery life was about a month. BlueTooth Low Energy was not so low.
But I also watched the Apple announcement with some interest as I had just laundered one radio car key and cleverly hid the other in pants I’ve not worn for a while. The near death experience of the first key increased my interest in finding the second. I also have a couple of sets of Yubi Keys that unlock several important 2FA things. It would be really bad if they both went missing.
A number of manufacturers of interesting kit have chosen to stay out of the smart home universe among them Ubiquity. Others like Nest play only in their own proprietary environment. HomeBridge is an open source software project that creates an environment in which Apple HomeKit bridges may be built. Smart home enthusiasts have developed over 2000 product plugins supporting popular devices.
Here at Dismal Manor we have two bridges, a Starling for Nest gadgets and Home Bridge on a RaspberryPi 4b that brings in the UniFi Protect camera RTSP streams.
The Starling is a commercialization of the Nest HomeBridge plugins. This product makes sense with the Thermostat and the cameras. It is less useful with just Protects.
In this article, I’ll describe my experiences setting up a UniFi Protect gateway and making the Ubiquity UniFi Protect cameras visible in HomeKit. UniFi Protect is one of the few camera systems having a Verified HomeBridge plugin.
Thanks to Apple for use of its Apple Silicon banner image. It’s a new dawn in Apple Land.
MacOS 11 Big Sur arrived at Dismal Manor. Its arrival was mostly uneventful after troubles with installation media download were resolved. Reference 1 gives an excellent guided tour (geeky) of Big Sur. Here, I’ll hit some first impressions.
At last, the dog doorbell I’ve been wanting. Apple HomeKit Secure Video with Eufy second generation wireless cameras makes a nice dog doorbell. This article tells how to set up HomeKit 4 for the dog doorbell application.
I primarily use HomeKit to alert me when the dogs want in. We have only a couple of months of door open weather where temperature and humidity allow the garden door to stay open. The rest of the year it is shut. The cameras are more reliable than an ear peeled for barking (greyhounds are notoriously non-vocal). It also collects video in case we have a break in while I’m away. Greyhounds are not territorial but Rocky is. He scares the bejesus out of anyone who comes to the door.
Dismal Manor has two Eufy Camera 2 wireless battery powered cameras and a USB powered wireless camera. Since I purchased these for Dismal Manor, Eufy has retired the first generation products and now offers only the newer products compatible with the second generation bridge. Only the newer bridge runs the HomeKit gateway.
Eufy has extended the product line to include a complete set of home security door and window sensors, motion sensor, doorbell, etc. Although I’ve not tried it, I believe the perimeter sensors are also HomeKit compatible.
The featured image shows the view from our two back garden cameras. A Ubiquity UniFi Protect DVR and wired 3G cameras capture the front door approach and deep back garden. The Eufy cameras serve primarily as greyhound and fence line monitors. Note that they clearly show the gate and carport X-pen, fence line, and porch landing.
Eufy Battery Life and Motion Settings
Your mileage may vary. I find battery life is about 2 months here as there are many dog motion and dog coming and going events to be recorded. Battery life is easily checked in Home App camera settings.
Dismal Manor is set up to detect animals and people on the porch. HomeKit will spool video, send an alert, and save video when people or pooches are detected on the porch deck at the door. This is very useful as it lets me know that a dog wants in. Or is mounting Zombie Squad HQ patrol from the porch deck.
An Eve Home door sensor logs door openings and closings in HomeKit. These can be correlated with video clips to locate video of an unauthorized entry.
I have disabled vehicle detection and carefully panned the cameras to minimize the view of the street. Vehicle motion will significantly reduce battery life. Night time vehicle light motion will also eat into battery life.
Note that, depending on motion detection sophistication, the cameras may also report shadow movement and tree branch movement. Be careful to keep busy tree limbs pruned out of view.
Each camera can be configured individually detect motion. There are three settings that may be enabled individually.
This is the key. I can suppress vehicle motion that I don’t care about. These cameras can see a bit of street and traffic is continuous so I don’t want to spend battery saving vehicle transit clips.
People motion can be disabled when the camera has a view of street or public sidewalks. No sense recording passers by. Local or state ordinances may restrict such recording. At a minimum, you must tell people they are on candid camera.
Filtering or reporting animal motion is useful depending on use case. Here at the manor, I have enabled animal motion detection. This ability makes the dog doorbell possible. When a dog comes up on the landing, it is detected and reported.
I have my cameras configured as shown above. Detect people (usually me), detect animals (usually Rocky) and record them. The bridge reflects these settings properly on the Eufy side of things.
Recording happens in an AppleTV or HomePod in the Manor. I’m not sure which takes lead. The Eufy Base Station also has 16 GB of video storage to cache clips locally. Clips pushed off site are encrypted and can only be recovered via the Home App on a Mac or iThing. And all devices must be logged in to a common Apple ID. Access by other Apple IDs may be configured by adding the Apple ID to the HomeKit home.
Off Site Video
I can look in on the dogs while away from home. A third Eufy wired camera is our “RockyCam” that is active when I’m away from home. I can check it over LTE to see how badly Rocky is pacing in my absence. He’s convinced there are Zombies under the bed. This camera is positioned primarily to show door reactions and pacing between the lounge and bedrooms. It is set up for away recording.
I have the MacOS notifications set up as shown below. The iPhone is set up to report when any motion is detected.
To participate in HomeKit secure video, an iThing must have a Home App installed. Each iThing individually controls notification delivery. I have my iPhone set to always deliver motion detection notifications. It is also set to pass these on to Apple Watch. This combination lets Apple Watch tap me on the wrist when a dog wants in.
You can gate notifications using your WHISKEY (location, not single malt preference). When home or when not home. I leave this setting off which is treated as always. This works nicely as I get a tap on the wrist when Rocky or Missy wants in.
On Thursday, Siri and I had a shouting match ending in a hard reset and reconfiguring of HomePod. Fortunately, Apple Support procedures included a reset procedure that put HomePod back into factory fresh condition, updated the firmware to HomePodOS 14.1, and allowed me to reconfigure HomePod for use here in the study.
The 14.1 release adds support for HomePod Mini, configuration transfer, the Intercom feature Uncle Tim demonstrated, and more.
Save yourself a lot of trouble and use Genuine Apple Support Procedures rather that magazine articles or how-to click bait.
Apple appears to have resolved the AirPlay connection difficulties in HomePodOS 14.1 release. Before 14.1, HomePod AirPlay server would get horribly tangled and would refuse non-Apple connection requests, specifically from Roon Core. After much fowl language and a reset, HomePod appears to be sorted and is accepting Roon connections.
Siri still plays unwanted Apple Music
Siri still has the problem of playing unwanted music in an attempt to ingratiate herself with the user. Since I haven’t used Apple Music in 3 years, she’s at a bit of a loss as to what should be played. There is still no way to turn off Apple Music in HomePod OS or in MacOS. If you remove Apple Music, audio codec libraries are removed.
Checking HomePodOS Version
MacOS Home App lets you check the HomePodOS version fairly easily. Double click on the tile representing the offensive HomePod. It will open to show the device’s preferences pane. Scroll to the bottom where the device ID and software version information appears.
Single clicks will reward you with unwanted music chosen by Siri for your annoyance.