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Author Topic: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...  (Read 13519 times)

Offline intveltr

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Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« on: May 02, 2012, 11:40:00 am »
I’ve looked at the various iPhone apps to control Vera, but I haven’t found one that does what I want, so I am currently designing and building my own.

The problem I have with the current apps is the same problem I have with Vera’s web interface: they are built for administrators rather than end users, exposing the complete house rather than just a few control elements.  When I am messing with the lights in the living room, I do not want to scroll through all my devices.  In fact I do not even want to see the other rooms and have to select the right one.  The only app that comes close to this is SQRemote, but the UI is still too complicated and I never got a reliable Mios connection on it.

What I want is very similar to an "intelligent" remote, or perhaps a wall mounted controller with touch screen.  The idea is to buy a couple of 2nd hand iPod Touches, install the app on them, and consign each of them as a simple remote for a particular room (perhaps permanently mounting them in the wall).  So, for example, the living room one would display 2 dimmer controls and 4 pushbuttons for scenes, that’s all.  No tons of fiddly small controls, no scrolling, always ready to do what it needs to do. 

It will have the option of adding additional screens to access secondary functions that aren’t used as often (perhaps heating), or screens to control other bits of the house, and a way of displaying alert conditions (based on tripped water or smoke sensors).  After a while, the app will switch back to its default screen.

I am also adding Mios connectivity and push notifications, there are some house functions that I want to control remotely.

The overriding design parameter is: it should be safe and simple enough to give to someone like my mum.  (which is a good criterion for any bit of software, really...).  It should function like an appliance rather than software.

Thus far I’ve come a long way in building the display and comms framework, next step is to start building some controls, so hopefully I’ll be able to share some screenshots soon!  I’m curious if there’s a wider demand for this type of Vera app, and what other functionality you’d expect from it?   
HomeWave is available in the App Store!  Turn your iPhone/iPad into an easy-to-use remote control for Vera.

Offline garrettwp

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2012, 12:01:46 pm »
Good luck with your app. If you need any help and or have questions, please let me know and I'll try and help.

- Garrett

Offline conchordian

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2012, 02:38:18 am »
Absolutely interested, the simpler the better.  No different pages for scenes, rooms, etc. just pick what you want, whether they be devices, or scenes and display them simply when you start the app.

I like the idea of the switching back to default, if you've had to go deeper.  I don't know if it's feasible, but perhaps icons that scale to the screen would be nice, eg. if you've got a pad mounted in your wall and just want dim up/down, or on/off, you have 1 or 2 large icons filling the screen, instead of a postage stamp in a corner.

Offline intveltr

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2012, 05:40:12 am »
The controls are fully scalable, so you can have screens with 15 or 24 small push buttons, or a screen with just 2 large dimmer controls for ease of operation.  It will be possible to mix smaller and larger controls on a single screen as well.
HomeWave is available in the App Store!  Turn your iPhone/iPad into an easy-to-use remote control for Vera.

Offline intveltr

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2012, 08:48:16 pm »
Here's a screenshot of what I have in mind :)  The appearance of these controls can be changed to some degree, but this gives the general idea of what I have in mind: something that works as a simple remote control.
HomeWave is available in the App Store!  Turn your iPhone/iPad into an easy-to-use remote control for Vera.

Offline tango22fs

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2012, 01:06:29 am »
Awesome.  It would be nice to have a simple app that was similar in function to say the 2Gig controller.  One button to arm a "virtual" security and so on. 
Let me know if you need a tester...

Offline fire708

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2012, 01:02:26 am »
Looks nice and uncluttered. I'm interested.

Offline Learic

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2012, 01:24:18 am »
Could openremote.org assist with what you are needing? I have just recently stumbled onto it and haven't looked at it in-depth for what it's compatible with but it has a simplified interface that you can design...

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Offline intveltr

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2012, 04:13:35 am »
Could openremote.org assist with what you are needing?

OpenRemote is definitely worth keeping an eye on. There is some interest in Vera from the OR community, and it could be worthwhile building a native Vera connector for OR, especially to add remote connectivity via mios.com   I haven't yet tried the OR uPnP connector.

Another interesting development: they are planning to add native Z-wave support, on panel devices with a Z-wave chip or stick.

I am not yet sure if the software allows developers to embed enough complexity in the controls to make configuration for non-developers easy enough (SQremote for example does this well). If they do, this software could work very nicely, especially since it works on multiple platforms. 

In the meantime I continue to build my native iPhone control panel app.  It's coming along nicely; as usual the tricky bit isn't in the operational bit of the software, but in the UI where you configure everything.   :)
HomeWave is available in the App Store!  Turn your iPhone/iPad into an easy-to-use remote control for Vera.

Offline intveltr

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2012, 06:41:14 pm »
I made a short video of what the app can do so far; this will give you a pretty good idea of what I have in mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FSAsppdqDI

A few neat features that this app already has:
- The app will tell Vera to adjust the light level while you adjust dimmable lights, so it's easier to find the right setting;
- The app will allow you to control multiple switches or dimmers from a single control (easier than messing with scenes or LUA)
- You can have a Confirm/Cancel window pop up when you change binary switches; handy for a virtual "away" switch that you dont want to toggle accidentally, as it'll turns off all the lights...

(Apologies for the poor quality of the video, I only have a pocket photo camera to shoot video with and it's not really meant for that)

« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 06:58:53 pm by intveltr »
HomeWave is available in the App Store!  Turn your iPhone/iPad into an easy-to-use remote control for Vera.

Offline Brientim

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2012, 06:49:39 pm »
@intveltr,

Looking good and when do you think it will be on the streets? I think my wife will like the ability to scale the buttons.

Offline intveltr

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2012, 07:01:11 pm »
I've yet to build the part that allows configuration and management of multiple screens, but once that is done I plan to release the first version, hopefully in July. 
HomeWave is available in the App Store!  Turn your iPhone/iPad into an easy-to-use remote control for Vera.

Offline BOFH

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2012, 09:41:13 pm »
Watched the youtube vid and I like it! With your app my old (out of contract) iPhone 3GS would make a dandy remote.

Would your app allow me to set up multiple rooms each with it's own screen? So say I could select the room I want to control and be presented with a few simple buttons. What about thermostat view or control?

Kudo's for Dutch/Flemish ingenuity. :)

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Offline garrettwp

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2012, 03:18:27 am »
I made a short video of what the app can do so far; this will give you a pretty good idea of what I have in mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FSAsppdqDI

A few neat features that this app already has:
- The app will tell Vera to adjust the light level while you adjust dimmable lights, so it's easier to find the right setting;
- The app will allow you to control multiple switches or dimmers from a single control (easier than messing with scenes or LUA)
- You can have a Confirm/Cancel window pop up when you change binary switches; handy for a virtual "away" switch that you dont want to toggle accidentally, as it'll turns off all the lights...

(Apologies for the poor quality of the video, I only have a pocket photo camera to shoot video with and it's not really meant for that)

Looks like your app is coming along nicely. The only reason I did not implement point 1 in your list "The app will tell Vera to adjust the light level while you adjust dimmable lights, so it's easier to find the right setting" is because this can cause a lot of calls to be sent to vera at one time. Every time the slider is moved, an http request is sent to vera. This can add up and flood the system and potentially lock up vera. Something to think about.

- Garrett

Offline intveltr

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Re: Designing a new iPhone (or Android) app for Vera...
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2012, 05:50:41 am »
Would your app allow me to set up multiple rooms each with it's own screen? So say I could select the room I want to control and be presented with a few simple buttons. What about thermostat view or control?

There will be an option for multiple screens; you can flip through them or access them from a home screen. 

The app currently supports controlling thermostat heat setpoints (typically the only setting on euro thermostats); it's similar to the dimmer control.  There will be one for controlling the cooling setpoint and mode / fan controls as well.  These all come as separate tiles, so you can add them based on the capabilities of your own thermostat rather than ending up with a bunch of non functional buttons.

Other controls include alarm indicators for smoke and water detectors, and indicators for light, temperature and humidity sensors. 


The only reason I did not implement point 1 in your list "The app will tell Vera to adjust the light level while you adjust dimmable lights, so it's easier to find the right setting" is because this can cause a lot of calls to be sent to vera at one time. Every time the slider is moved, an http request is sent to vera. This can add up and flood the system and potentially lock up vera. Something to think about.

It seems to work reasonably well, even when dimming 2 lights at once...  the app only sends intermediate dimmer values when on the LAN, and only sends a message for every 10% change.  If it does cause problems, it can be switched off.
HomeWave is available in the App Store!  Turn your iPhone/iPad into an easy-to-use remote control for Vera.