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Sunday, January 10, 2016

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Wink home automation via your Android device: GoControl Smart Garage Door Controller

Posted: 10 Jan 2016 02:40 PM PST

Some time ago we caught word via a neighborhood watch group that some crooks were getting clever in our area and stealing things like garage door openers and car registrations. So, I did the obvious thing and started carrying my garage door opener with me but it wasn't as convenient as it sounded initially. When I got home, I always had to fish around for it in my bag. Or on the weekends when I wasn't carrying my work bag around with me, I had to remember to get it from my bag and bring it with me. It wasn't a HUGE issue, but it wasn't ideal either. What if I could just open and close my garage with my phone? My phone is always on my person and has a security code to get into. Controlling my garage with my phone sounds secure and convenient.

Well, you can control your garage door with your phone and there are several different ways to do it. About a year ago I tried to do it with a bluetooth headset but I could never get it to work. Wink was gracious enough to provide me with the GoControl Smart Garage Door Controller and I have loved it. It requires the Wink Hub and App which I recently reviewed.

GoControl Smart Garage Door Controller

The GoControl Smart Garage Door Controller is a connected device that allows you to make your current dumb garage door opener smart. You can monitor and use your current garage door from where ever you have a data connection. It communicates via Z-Wave to your Wink Hub at ranges from 30-50 ft. The device will also act as a Z-Wave repeater in your mesh network. Something to note: The GoControl Garage Door Controller I reviewed has a Linear logo on it. In 2014, Nortek re-branded its Linear security group as the Nortek Security & Control Group, which includes the GoControl product line. So my review unit is a GoControl unit with just different branding than what's on Wink.com.

Setup was a bit more difficult than I expected because I expected the hardware to replace the physical garage door button in the garage, but it doesn't. As you can see in the photos, the GoControl Contoller is actually made to be placed near the garage door opener. So, installation takes some preparation and a ladder. It does come with all the instructions needed, but I want you to have the heads up so you know what you're getting into. The Wink website isn't that descriptive.

Wink GoControl Garage-1 Wink GoControl Garage Sensor-2 Wink GoControl Garage-3 Wink GoControl Garage-4

First, I used a piece of cardboard to trace where I needed to drill holes on my garage ceiling. I drilled the ceiling and installed the included drywall screws. I then installed the GoControl Controller in the ceiling and installed the wires in the garage door opener.

The GoControl Controller has some tricks up its sleeve. It comes with a tilt sensor that needs to be physically installed on the door. It's battery powered unit and tells the GoControl Controller whether your garage door is open or closed. So when you use your Wink App, you can see if your door is currently open or closed and when that last use happened.

Like all the Wink connected products, the Wink App walks you through connecting the GoControl controller to the Wink Hub. You are supposed to have the controller and tilt sensor installed prior to connection to the Wink Hub. When prompted by the Wink Ap, all you need to do is press the pairing button on the side of the GoControl Controller to pair. The GoControl unit LED will then flash three times and beep three times. After that, you're ready to control your garage door from your phone.

Wink GoControl Garage Screen-03 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-04 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-09 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-10 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-01 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-02

From the Wink App menu, you will now have a category listed as "Garage Doors". When you select the Garage Doors category, you will then see your connected garage doors. Here you can visually see if your garage door is open or closed and how long ago it was last used thanks to the fancy tilt sensor. To open the garage door you swipe up on the garage door on the app and you swipe down to close. My only complaint with the whole Wink-GoControl Garage Controller experience is this part. Sometimes after the garage door is well open or closed, the visual of the garage door within the Wink app is still updating and doesn't allow action for some time. I wish it was quicker to update to make it more usable. However, I rarely access my garage door within the Wink App anyway. I created shortcuts within the Wink App to open and close the garage so I can use this function via my Android device home screen.

When you open or close the garage door using the GoControl controller, the controller flashes and beeps for several seconds to notify people around that the garage door will be moving. So, it does take a few seconds longer to open the door compared to the standard buttons. Also, there's a 30 second waiting period between uses. So if you didn't mean to open or close your garage door, you have to wait a bit to get the job done. It's a slight inconvenience but has never really been an issue for me. It's not something I run into often.

How I use the connected GoControl Smart Garage Door Controller

Unfortunately because the garage may be an easy access to your home and therefore a security risk, there are some home automation tasks where you cannot include the GoControl Garage Door Controller. For example, you cannot add a shortcut to IFTTT that includes opening or closing the garage door. It won't let you. I tried.

However, there are a couple of great ways the connected garage door can be used:

  • I have an "Away Mode" shortcut on my home screen that I can select when I leave my house. It closes my garage door, turns on security notifications, turns off all of the lights, and puts my thermostat in away mode.
  • Thanks to the tilt sensor, Wink knows when your garage door is opened or closed and can pay attention to how long it has been open. So, within the settings for the garage door within the Wink App, you can specify if you'd like the Wink App to notify you if it's been open for longer than a given amount of time. I love this feature. You'll never forget that you left your garage door open again. Maybe you've never done that, but I have.
  • Last, this is both a blessing and a curse, but you can access your garage from anywhere you have an internet connection. So, one day my wife walked my son to school and left the keys home because she could. She closed the garage door with her phone. Everything was dandy. Then before she got home her phone died and she was locked out. No biggie. She went to a neighbors home and called me. I opened the garage door from work and everything was still dandy. So a lesson was learned about the downfalls of a connected home, but the upsides are also evident.
Wink GoControl Garage Screen-05 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-06 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-07 Wink GoControl Garage Screen-08

The GoControl Smart Garage Door Controller is easily one of my favorite connected devices in my home. I love that I carry my garage door opener with me in my pocket. I love the security that this brings. I love that it notifies me when it's been open for too long. It's worked great over a month and I have only one minor complaint about the update speed of the app. The device can be picked up on Wink.com alone for $100 or in a "comfort and convenience" bundle that comes with the Wink Hub, a connected thermostat, and a connected light bulb for $277. Home Depot is another option for $94.54 as well as Amazon for $90.12 at the time of writing this post.

How do you feel about automating your home? And what do you think of the GoControl  Smart Garage Door Controller? Can you see this adding some convenience to your life? Do you already have a connected garage door opener? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below

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Netflix For Android TV Update Adds Smart Lock Capability - No More Slow Password Typing

Posted: 10 Jan 2016 01:06 PM PST

Netflix_20160110_132106Android's Smart Lock is a great way to save a little hassle when users are around familiar locations or connected devices. The default system version of the feature skips the lockscreen when the phone or tablet detects that it's in a safe location, and last year Google did much the same thing for apps, essentially turning Smart Lock into a password manager for supported applications. While Netflix has supported this feature for months on its standard Android app, the latest update to the Android TV version brings it in line.

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Netflix For Android TV Update Adds Smart Lock Capability - No More Slow Password Typing was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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