Vtech, having leaked 6.3m kids' data, now wants to run your home security

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I know it’s whiz-bang, but I still don’t see the pros outweighing the cons on networked light bulbs… or anything else besides computers.

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To be honest I’d rather trust tomy.

Yeah, I don’t get it. Reading about smart homes, it seems like there’s significant cost and effort, the security risk, the future possibility that you’ll have to throw out perfectly good components because they’ll become obsolete (though the chance of them breaking also increases), and this is what you end up with:
“Ok, let me turn on the light. First I need to get out my phone, now I’ll unlock it, find the app, wait for it to open, find the specific control I want, and hey, presto, the light is on! Oops, no, wait, that didn’t work. Let me try again.”
“Don’t bother, I turned on the light three minutes ago.”
So it’s not even that there’s any sort of time or effort savings on anything - in fact, quite the opposite. Even if it worked perfectly with a better interface that did save time and effort, it would be totally negligible.


I have a networked light switch here, a DIY version operated via USB, connected to a server (so de facto networked). It’s quite comfortable to not have to get out of bed and switch the light on or off with a single command from a laptop (that’s always on hand, and if it wouldn’t be, a simple ESP8266 based wifi button could be hacked together in one evening, or even the Amazon Dash button could be scavenged and adapted and its DHCP request broadcast listened for and mapped to a light toggle function). If needed, it could get its control exposed to the LAN via a REST-based API.

If it doesn’t save the effort, it is badly designed. Most things are badly designed.


A bit rudimentary and prone to false positives (and negatives), I’d say. But a good idea in principle.


I’ve always laughed at the clapper commercial, but I don’t recall seeing the security function portion which is even better. :slightly_smiling: glad i watched. thanks.


I know you will never stop whiz-bangin. :smile_cat: But my 20th century light switch can do all that, except I do have to get out of bed. Then again, if I’m that determined to stay in bed, then I don’t want the lights on.

I also don’t have to program it, debug it, reboot it, call Bangalore for tech support, or worry it’s handing out my wifi password. All I have to do is push up with one finger. I am a troglodyte.


Sounds like what I need to do to change the Sonos track, since they decided to discontinue the incredibly useful remote that could be put on a table and accessed easily.

Then you either have to get to bed in darkness, or leave the light on.

My switch has a second toggle button on the door handle, so I can open the door and switch on the light easily, without having to reach across the corner; handy when carrying stuff. The button, when pressed for longer time, switches the light on for predefined time (about half-minute), enough to get to bed.

I had to program it, exactly once, and the debugging was rather straightforward. Should do it again, with dimming support, so the on/off is more gradual, less harsh to eyes. No other hassle was required.

For last five years, all the maintenance needed was to recompile the control program once, after reinstalling the server; because I used USB HID commands via libusb, software-emulated on ATmega8, instead of going for ATmega32u4 that wasn’t so easily available then and hooking it as a serial device.

Another option these days is the cheapo ESP8266, which needs wifi but may be even easier to code the software for, using nodemcu. Then there’s a choice of control over HTTP, UDP packets, or MQTT, depending on how you want the network to behave, and you can change your choice later by rewriting the relevant part of the firmware, with ease.

And of course the switch has a mechanical switch as a backup, with MANUAL_ON/MANUAL_OFF/COMPUTER_CONTROL positions, allowing fallback to manual even under the most bizarre scenario of electronics failure.

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I repurposed a 1st gen ipad to control a lighting system at home. The lights and ipad run on their own network, and are mostly scheduled/automated. It seems a terrible idea for turning lights on and off at a time of sudden need, but having certain lights conform to a schedule is quite convenient.

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Or it’s completely and totally unnecessary, which covers a surprising number of items in the history of gadgets.

Maaaadneeesss! There are some things for which a smart-phone remote would be a useful backup, but dedicated remotes are a must for me for things like that.

See, I don’t understand that, no matter how much I rack my brain trying to imagine situations where that would be useful to me. But then I don’t have lighting systems, I have lights. I walk into, or am working in, a room/area, I turn them on, I walk out/stop working in that area, I turn them off. My home has a lot of overlapping lights so I can turn on the ones that are most useful based on what I’m doing at that moment - automating or scheduling them would be the opposite of useful for me.

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Those that are fun aren’t unnecessary.

And I need more automation.

With the proper API you can have both and then some. And tack on voice control if you please.

Controlling a TV from a laptop’s commandline when the dedicated remote is too far away on the table is surprisingly comfortable.

Easy to do it wrong. Can be quite good when done right.

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Or fit a light switch next to the bed (super low-tech version: move the bed to the light switch if possible).


Maybe you could write an APL program to have the bed move itself?


Too much of mechatronics that can be more useful elsewhere, and the APL is a nightmare on its own.

But could be a handy approach in certain scenarios.

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Once they made the phone/tablet app, it was pointless to make the standalone remote anymore (what did they cost…$300 or more?). A friend of mine sells Sonos; he was stuck with 2 of those remotes for almost a year when the app was released.

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Or . . . a lamp? People besides me still use lamps, right?


The lamp is usually close to bed but far from the door.

I can see both the main light and the bedside lamp operated via local network IoT, with switches both at the door and at the bedside. And possibly with ability to detect that nobody is in the room and switch off automatically (and resume state when room is entered again).