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Dahlia Home Review: Finally, I can repurpose my old iPhone as a smart home hub (said no one ever)

I need to give Dahlia Lighting fixtures large quantities of credit score for the idea that of Dahlia House. Right here’s the daring thought: Why observe your sensible house during the units themselves? As a substitute, why no longer use a reside video feed of a room to decide what’s going down, after which create laws to regulate your units in response to what the digicam sees?

OK, it’s just a little convoluted, so let me again up slightly. Dahlia House is a brilliant house device that runs no longer on sensors and different units, however as a substitute suits totally on a smartphone—a few iPhones, to be actual (Android telephones aren’t supported at the moment.) Your number one telephone runs the Dahlia House app (extra in this in slightly). Your secondary telephone (that outdated iPhone five that’s festering in a drawer) runs the Dahlia House digicam app.

dahlia smart home 1Christopher Null

My jerry-rigged digicam setup isn’t precisely a style-forward design.

You prop the telephone operating the digicam app in a nook of your room, so it might probably stay tabs on what occurs inside it, the usage of cloud-based laptop imaginative and prescient to decide what number of people are within the room, if the TV is on, and so forth. In the principle Dahlia House app, you employ those prerequisites to code laws the usage of IFTTT. For instance: If two persons are within the room and the TV is on, the guideline can also be set to dim the lighting fixtures and lock the entrance door. Since that is carried out by the use of IFTTT, no longer Dahlia’s personal device, your choices listed here are nearly infinite.

Yeah, it’s nonetheless just a little convoluted. And that’s most definitely the largest factor any consumer is prone to have with Dahlia: It simply doesn’t make numerous sense.

dahlia home 2Christopher Null / IDG

My setup revel in was once stuffed with mistakes like this.

First, putting in place Dahlia isn’t simple. I encountered a large number of roadblocks getting the apps at the two telephones to speak to one another, and whilst a tech-support name to Dahlia helped get issues operating, even the corporate confessed what I used to be seeing on my display screen wasn’t intended to be there. Just a little brute power were given me thru it, despite the fact that that supposed putting in place the similar room 4 other instances.

I ultimately were given issues operating, and as a part of the configuration, you’re directed to position your secondary smartphone (the only you’re the usage of as a digicam) in an acceptable position within the room you wish to have to observe. That is difficult, for the reason that digicam must survey the entire room, together with any tv monitors and puts the place occupants ceaselessly sit down. A mobile phone isn’t precisely designed to take a seat top up on a shelf and glance down on anything else, or even with a stand (Dahlia despatched one thing like this) positioning it in order that it didn’t essentially center of attention on my ceiling was once relatively tough.

Much more problematic is that when you purpose the telephone’s digicam, it might probably’t be moved—in any respect. Dahlia notes that it’s very arduous to reconfigure the hotspots upon which Dahlia’s app acts, so that you will have to accept as true with puppy, kid, or housekeeper won’t jostle the telephone, even just a little bit. Shifting the telephone even a fragment of an inch will totally wreck your setup and the device received’t paintings.

If you wish to use Dahlia in a couple of rooms, you’ll want a couple of telephones, and that’s an concept that begins to get just a little loopy. The loose model of the Dahlia House app could also be excellent for just one telephone/room aggregate. You’ll pay $four.99 per 30 days if you wish to improve, at which level you can be restricted to a most of 5 rooms.

dahlia home example of screen burn inChristopher Null

Leaving any smartphone on 24/7 will inevitably result in image burn-in.

Should you be concerned about the privacy implications of a smartphone camera aimed at you and your living room or bedroom 24/7? Dahlia says you needn’t be, that “images are securely sent to our servers and promptly deleted after our computer vision algorithms are done.” This assurance wasn’t enough to make me altogether comfortable with this idea. Similarly, I’m not sure having a smartphone, set to “never sleep” and constantly snapping pictures, makes great environmental or technological sense. After just a few days of testing, the smartphone operating as a dedicated camera was suffering from severe screen burn-in.

The app did work, more or less. I configured the system via IFTTT—which requires walking through a laborious, non-intuitive process that includes downloading your IFTTT API key and copying arcane event names into the service.

dahlia home 3Christopher Null / IDG

Once configured, you define the activities upon which Dahlia will act.

I created a rule that would turn off a light when it detected my TV was on and someone was in the room watching it. The rule worked as promised, but the elapsed time for this to work was awfully variable. Sometimes the light would shut off a few seconds after the TV turned on, while other times it would take half an hour. (Note that the free plan specifies actions will have a 30-second delay.) I will grant that my large living room may have made it more difficult to accurately cover with the camera. Smaller rooms might fare better.

Lastly, there’s the fact that, even discounting all the issues mentioned above, the system is simply not all that useful. If you really want to turn off a light while the TV’s on, there are myriad and easier ways to accomplish the same thing. You can use inexpensive smart devices like smart switches or plug-in outlets; or if you have a smart TV, simply have the television talk directly to IFTTT without involving a middleman.

I’m sure there’s a use case that renders this convoluted smart home system compelling. I just haven’t figured it what it is yet.

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