Smart Home, Google Home and Nest Automation

My husband died almost 6 weeks ago suddenly of a heart attack we didn’t have any warning about. He was a technology super-expert and I had let him turn our house into an experiment in Home Automation/smart home. Obviously in hindsight this was not very smart of me :slight_smile: but he really loved it and it was his main hobby, I wonder if anyone here has had anything like this and if so what you did to solve it?

It started when he bought the Google home speakers that you control with your voice, then cameras (10+), light and motion sensors that operate wireless switches to do things like electronically close the curtains and blinds at sunset (and open them at sunrise). To turn on the lights at night i have to say “google, turn on the sleep” and then “google, goodnight”. and this kind of thing. The first week i had to use a torch as the voice commands no longer worked and there are no switches.

Eventually i managed to reinstate some of the links through his computer once but it took me a long time to find the computer since he had multiple computers i didn’t know about in places i didn’t expect. One day when searching I found a monitor that was off but when i switched it on it showed the software and then eventually a few days later I found the wireless mouse separately to control it. After that I could make the commands work again.

The heating is a nest thermostat, we have wired in smoke/c02 detectors. The TV will go on if you voice command it, the only way of me turning certain lights on/off is with voice command (so they didn’t work for weeks until i managed to fix through a lot of reading on the subject.

I just wonder if anyone else had something like this happen or maybe there is someone who at least has the google/nest products o since they are more normal and if so how did you go about swapping them into your name and did it work (i read a guide on google homepage but not sure whether something bad could happen and it would of course sever the links in the other software my husband made between the google/nest products and our set-up since i think id have to start again to re-integrate it).

Our satellite TV is through something called a gigablue team blue box that he had bought from The Netherlands and downloaded and installed software for, it means unlike a system like Sky that is read-only with this you can program it and wipe over your channels very easily through the TV remote so i have had several scares when people trying to help me have buggered it up and got me stuck on Czech TV, a page of computer code or some other weird satellite which have then taken me hours of googling to solve to get the tv working again.

There are lights in an outside cabin and in the garden that have been constantly on since the day after my husband died (when the electricity socket that had been damaged was replaced and the electric put back on). The cables all run under ground and we laid gravel after he laid the cables as he was a neatfreak and liked to make it look futuristic by hiding all cables so to follow the cable i would have to dig up my entire garden.

He was an electrician/engineer for the first part of his career and the wires don’t have switches, they work through his computer or sensors that are programmed to do something automatically (for example the utility room light works when you open the door to the room if the light sensor detects the window is not letting enough light in).

Over the last weeks i have learned a lot and fixed some things myself with the help of my brother-in-law over a video WhatsApp call, although he is also out of his depth with it too and because he lives in The Netherlands and has his own busy family there is only so much of his time i can take and he cannot come here in person due to Covid.

Companies I have contacted that specialise in this kind of thing also will not touch it as my husband made his own system using software and hardware from many different companies around the world (USA, China and others) to make a bespoke package for our house over the course of five years.

Electricians also cannot solve this, only remove it all and put it back like a normal house but i am not 100% yet whether to go down that route and it will be very expensive because the wires are everywhere through the house and garden hidden so it will take many manhours to undo the 5 years my husband spent on this. Also it is my husband’s life’s work so i feel an emotional connection to it and sometimes it is nice to feel the house “taking care of me” by it closing the curtains and putting the lamps on to make it cosy when i am there sobbing my heart out and too in grief to get up. Also the smart speakers keep playing me his music randomly and this is something i would be too sad to now lose as it feels like he is playing that music.

For example earlier i decided to try to play a computer game we had been really looking forward to playing together on the day he died. Normally before he died we played games every day and in fact that is how we met but i hadn’t been able to do it since so this is something i’ve done for a large part of my life but could not do since he died. I thought i would try it to see if i could still have fun. Just at that moment just when i was debating whether to log on, the song “electric dreams” came on through the smart speaker and the lyrics were “we’ll always be together in electric dreams”… i know i probably read too much into that but it comforts me and i didn’t even know who the song was by or would never have played it if the smart speaker had not decided to do it based on my husband’s tastes.

I learned how to control some of the home automation through his computer but some of the software and smart-switches were made faulty when I was in a panic pulling smart-plugs out and doing things to try to fix it after our electrics were broken by the paramedics who broke an electrical socket moving our heavy wooden bed when trying to save my husband’s life.

Some lights i could “turn off” by removing the lightbulbs and others i could find the power source and remove it but not all. Ikea Tradfri lights are all still stuck on and reading and following instructions from the Ikea manuals has not worked because he did not use the Ikea software to control them but installed something else so Ikea cannot help me.

I am still not sure if i will continue to live in this house (i love the house but the area is not that nice) or try and sell it to one of those “quick buy for cash” companies to cut my losses and just go and live in my childhood box bedroom at my mums, My house is not worth enough to even buy a flat somewhere else due to the area i live in and how bespoke our house is now in lots of ways (for example we made a bedroom into a bathroom and lots of other quirks as we expected to live here a long time and made the house for us rather than to sell on). There are three neighbouring houses that have been for sale for 40k for a long time and do not sell (3 bed houses!).

At the moment i am too scared to sleep on my own in the house as the area is quite rough and i don’t know how long the cameras will continue to work for.

A really long post I know, I just had to get this off my chest. Any advice appreciated!

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Oh it’s sounds very complicated. I’m thinking I’d just get it taken out and put back to normal if that’s an option.
Looking ahead if you decided to sell the house would someone else want the bespoke system you’re husband had installed.

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Hello FleurDeLis,
I am so sorry for what you are going through, I really am. After my husband died six years ago I started to teach myself the ins and outs of technology. To make a long story short, I too have installed lots of automated systems, TV, lights, Music. I can even turn on my lights when I am not at home as I wanted them coming on at different times so it would not be obvious that there was a certain time for the lights to come on. Mine is Amazon Alexa and the light bulbs work with voice commands. I wrote down the voice command for each of the lights around the house, i.e. Alexa bedroom light on. Alexa, Lounge light on, Alexa TV on, Alexa play my music, Alexa show photos and my Echo shows all my photos…etc. etc.
I did find that if there was a power cut, or the internet went down everything went to pot. But it was just a matter of waiting for it to come on again and let everything reset itself. If you had the Alexa app on your phone I could tell you how to remove certain things and make them manual again but you don’t and I do not know how the nest works.
If I don’t want to I do not have to get off the sofa, but it does make you lazy.
I hope you can sort it out.
Sheila.x

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Hi @FleurDeLis.
There’s two separate problems here, I think. One is your fear and the second is the problems with the home automation. And maybe a third, that’s universal in the UK at this time - we spend more than half of time in darkness, which make everything worse, especially fear.
As far as the home automation goes, could your brother in law come over for a few days to help you sort it out? The other idea I have - having a similar husband - is that he must have talked about it to work colleagues so if you email as many as you can one or more may be able to help. Knowing how these guys work, they would be delighted to do this. If they’re all tele-working all over the place you could probably do it in a few FaceTime sessions.
Also, all this technology could actually be a selling point. The housing market is in chaos at the moment - demand is low particularly in starter homes simply because the people who would normally buy have lost jobs or been furloughed themselves. But in a few months, once vaccination is underway and the economy gets moving again, everything will change. When it does, you could use the fact that it’s a very smart home as a selling point. Ditto the extra bathroom - many young buyers would prefer the extra bathroom to a bedroom because they are not yet planning on having children.
If you sell to one of these quick buy for cash outfits, you’ll loose around 30% of the market value, at least.
With all this talk of regenerating the north ASAP, house prices could jump. £40k is very cheap, and as the economy improves demand will increase. I’ve just sold a house, and I have learned a lot - for example, the online brochure is incredibly important, and that is something you can control. I was too pre-occupied to do anything about mine, and I didn’t think it mattered much. But people who looked around told me that the pictures didn’t do it justice, etc…
As for the fear, apart from getting someone male to stay with you for a while, could you go into your nearest police station, explain that your husband’s died and ask for a panic button - a gadget that you keep on you that gets you right through to police emergency?
It’s actually very unlikely that anyone would actually try to harm you, much more likely that they might harass you. Apparently a good way to stop that is to have one of these very bright lights outside that is motion sensitive and also a sign saying CCTV.
Just random thoughts.
I hope you’re feeling secure enough to get some rest.
Christie xxx

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Hello Fleur,
Sorry i don’t know much about home automation, but my partner and I always played a truck simulation game on the computer for two hours in the late evenings, I was his co-driver, one of those days i felt tired and almost turned him down. I am glad I didn’t, we had so much fun saving trucks stuck deep in the mud and lifting overturned trailers…
Hope you can find someone to solve your problems soon.
XXX

thankyou @Paula51 for taking the time to read all this. I don’t think someone else could work a lot of it if they bought the house(as I have no way to teach them and it is based on a login onto my husband’s computer). So yes it makes sense what you say that you’d have it removed. thanks again.

thank you very much @Lonely Sheila your house sounds like it is making really good use of this smart technology. When I come home to what would be a dark cold house it is so nice to have curtains/blinds closed, heating on, lamps and mood lighting on and most of all to hear my husband’s music tastes which the smart speakers learned over several years. I also like that when someone rings the doorbell i can see on the displays around the house who is there (and if I’m out too).

If I could be in full control like you are then I would like to keep those things as these things are very helpful. thanks for giving me hope :pray:
there is a nest app that I have learned too that controls some of the things. Apparently I need to “remove my husband from the household” on there according to the online guide and then i will become primary user. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that yet :confused:

Dear FleurDeLis,
I know what you mean about not wanting to remove your husband from the Nest, but you don’t have to remove him, just log in with his credentials which I am sure he will have written down somewhere but if you can’t find it, log in and see what comes up, usually passwords will be stored in the mobile phone, tablet etc. mine are, but also, when you type in the password and it states forgotten password, type in one of your own and then you can reset it under the new password. These types of things are only interested in the name and password so if your husbands name is kept on it and you have a new password then you should be okay to go.
I agree with you, it is nice to be able to have everything working when you walk in the house it is a great security system as well. We used to have the timers plugged in all over the house, heating, lights etc. but once I discovered the automated system it is so much easier.
The problem is, is that you are grieving for your husband and you have enough on your plate at the moment without worrying about technology. If some things are working then leave them alone, if some things aren’t working then leave them alone until you have the time to put your mind to it. I received a new security camera yesterday as I wanted to record the back garden as I have a lot of wildlife coming in at night and I tried to connect it to my system and it would not work. I just could not be bothered with it so I put it away until I have the patience to spend time on it. That is what it is all about having the time and patience to get your head around it and it is not easy when you are heartbroken. My Peter installed outside lights many years ago and put the timer under the floor boards (somewhere), I wanted to attach the lights to my system but I will need to take up the darned floor to get to it but I don’t know which floor boards to lift up, so I left it and the outside lights are worked by a timer and everything else inside the house by voice command or the settings on Alexa.
Take care.
Sheila.x

Hi @Christie thank you very much for all these great ideas. You are right it is several issues when I look at it like you did.

If my brother in law would come over for a few days that would be the best. Maybe in the new year his wife may let him (she is on some Covid committee in NL so he was already in trouble for the risk in coming here for the funeral I think!) .

René didn’t really have any friends, just like me. We spent almost all our time together. It seems weird now but at the time felt normal, I always felt I was wasting time I could be with him when away/out separately. Very occasionally we socialised with other people but almost always together as a couple. He didn’t have any work-friends I could ask but he did use a forum about that smarthome stuff and I joined that, some of the people have been very helpful and I have read some of the questions and things he was talking about too so I am slowly building up a better picture but ideally yes I need someone to come and look at it all one day.

Those are very good points about the house. If I do sell it wouldn’t be for a good few months I could start so things indeed could be quite different by then. There is also hope in that in the last week someone started renovating one of these abandoned houses i live next to too so maybe they also had the same thoughts you did that it might finally sell.

I do have a motion sensor light outside and signs saying CCTV (but i might replace those signs as they are a bit worn now i think about it), that is really good to know they could be a deterrent so that makes me feel a bit safer. I will also investigate this panic button. Thank you so much for this thoughtful advice, it helps a lot.

Take care xxxx

Riley :slight_smile: I am glad you played the game with your partner, it sounds fun. I loved those cosy game hours laughing and strategising about a game together, Here in England the weather is cold, wet and dark and this time of year we had a special game we collected new parts for each December and played in the run-up to Christmas as our family tradition together. It was so cosy. We even have a special cupboard in the lounge for the characters we’d collected all these years (I think we played it around 8 Christmasses and bought new characters each year). We really laughed a lot together with it. I am glad we shared these times with our partners x

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