The home automation mindset

Home automation is something that I have been following for several years.  I think we all have seen automation on TV.  Bill Gates’ house with music and pictures that follow you around in the 90s.  For me, it is about getting to Star Trek level of voice control with automation that does what I want with minimal interaction.  Getting to that ideal state is one of the most thought intensive projects I have taken on.  To use a meme, one does not simply automate a house. It requires a mindset.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the home automation landscape is like any other technology ecosystem but even more complex.  The one thing that makes it more complex than gaming, or photography is that home automation is so open.  I know that I can ignore news on PlayStation because I don’t have that console and I know I won’t ever be able to use it.  I also know that gaming has a limited scope that won’t impact much outside of gaming.  With automation, anything can be made compatible with almost anything and it affects my entire life.  For example, I’m thinking about getting a wi-fi souve machine.  How well does that work with SmartThings or any of the other platforms I have?  If my fridge broke tomorrow, I would have to consider automation in my replacement decision.

This openness is great because it means that I can do anything I put my mind, and time, to.  Literally, I could write an app that uses the accelerometer in my iPhone to change light colors.  I could then paint with all the colors that Hue can produce, while I dance around the living room.  I don’t have the time to do that, but that is really all that is stopping me.  Thankfully, others have used their time productively to produce tools that are more useful. But, of course, that means searching and testing the work of other hobbyists.

With the help of talented coders around the world, I can get better and more effective automation.  But that brings up the next thing to keep in mind: what do I even want to happen?  When I come home, what lights should be on?  Should it be the same lights during the day and during the night?  When does “night” start inside a house?  Essentially, I am always trying to determine what I usually do with lights and fans and temperature, and thinking about how I can communicate that to the automation systems.

All of that is the basis for the mindset needed to do home automation.  It is always on my mind.  If I’m out, I am thinking about what the house should be doing.  Should I communicate my distance to home?  What would I want the house to do with that?  When I am home, I think about what could be better.  What lights are working? Should the house be adjusting to my actions? And what would those adjustments look like? While thinking about this stuff, I also have to keep in mind how much time any solution would take, is the problem already solved, and if it is worth it.

The worst part of all of this is that the biggest hurdle faced in home automation is getting past the automation vendors themselves.  They want to take this complex and involved mind set and make it one button.  That would be fine, but nobody is that good at it yet, and the least good are the people that make the products.

So why even bother? Because of the way it feels when it works.  The feeling of a giant complex machine that culminates in a fan turning off. It’s basically magic, with magical tools, and me as the magician.

Low carb turkey veggie deluxe pizza

One thing that Josh and I like to do on a regular basis is comb through recipes of popular foods with a low carbohydrate slant.  Especially when I’m stressed out the idea of “comfort food” is really appealing.  This has lead to our newest creation – a low carbohydrate, low(ish) calorie, veggie heavy pizza.  One that makes you feel immediately comforted.

Ingredients List

  • mozzarella cheese (84 grams)
  • almond flour (84 grams)
  • 1 large egg
  • cream cheese (28 grams)
  • tomato sauce (61 grams)
  • turkey pepperoni (60 grams)
  • pepperoncinis (60 grams)
  • red onion (1/3 cup)
  • bell peppers (1/3 cup)
  • black olives (14 grams)
  • jalapenos (28 grams)

The key to this recipe is really in the crust.  The toppings are really mix and match to your liking.  Above is what I like to put on the pizza.  And in all honesty, it is probably too much turkey pepperoni.  I use a calorie counting app to track my daily food.  Since I’m particular about the data, I have been too lazy to reduce the volume of pepperonis and adjust the total calorie content.

Oven Prep: 400 degrees F

Crust Instructions:

  1. Mix 28 grams of mozzarella cheese (remainder is for topping) with cream cheese.  Melt in microwave.  We typically set the microwave to soften for 1 minute, stopping at 30 seconds and stirring.
  2. Add in almond flour and egg to cheese mixture.  We use a plastic mixing spoon to prevent the crust mixture from sticking.
  3. Once fully mixed, place crust mixture on parchment paper.  Add another piece of parchment to the top and roll out with a rolling pin.
  4. When desired crust thickness/diameter is reached, remove top parchment.  Pierce crust with fork.
  5. Bake the crust for 7 minutes at 400 degrees F.  At 7 minutes flip the crust over and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes.
  6. Remove crust and start placing toppings.
  7. Bake an additional 15 minutes at 350-400 degrees F.  If there are tons of veggies, consider a lower temperature and then broiling to crisp up the pepperonis at the very end.

The math on my recipe clocks in right at 1100 calories for the entire pie.  Easily goes the distance of 2 to 3 filling meals.