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The Yonomi home automation app will convince you it’s time to make your whole home smart

Yonomi may have some limitations, and you may need to put in some work to get everything running smoothly, but after you’ve spent that time the possibilities are almost literally endless.

I walked into my apartment, and it was like magic. “Welcome home, Christian,” the Sonos speaker said — kind of robotically — as the lone smart light bulb in the apartment turned on. Sure, it took a few seconds for the app to realize I was home – I was already shoeless and heading to my desk – but it seemed like magic nonetheless.

Everything was set in motion by the Yonomi app, a smart home automation app that takes your smart home devices and helps them work together. It’s not built to control your smart home – if you want to turn your Lifx bulbs on or off, you’ll still use that device’s app. Instead, it’s built for you to set up how you want your home to be automated, and then lets you forget about it.

Setting up the app is actually pretty easy – although, I really only have three smart home devices at this point, and I can imagine it might get a little more complex the more you have. Simply make sure your devices are all set up on the network, download the Yonomi app, create an account, and hit the “discover devices” button. If all goes well, like it did for me, all of your smart home devices should show up, and the app should create a number of “routines” automatically, using those devices. A full list of supported devices can be found here.

You’re going to want to go over those preset routines, both to check what happens when they take place and to check what doesn’t happen. For example, a routine was automatically set up for when I get a call: Any music playing would get softer and the lights would essentially flash on and off. While that may be bearable during the day – although I didn’t even like it then – at night it’s not fun to try and ignore a call while your lights are strobing like a budget night club. You also have actually tell the app that the action should only happen if you’re at home. Once, I got a call while out, which was promptly followed by a text from my partner telling me that the fancy new smart light bulb was going crazy.

Aesthetically, the app is well designed, but nothing to write home about. At times it can be a little unclear that you have the option to edit something; however, after messing around with the app for a few minutes, you should get a grip on how it works. The app is organized in tabs – the first showing a set of “favorite” routines, the second showing a list of devices that the app is connected to, the third showing a full list of your active and paused routines, and the fourth and final showing some ideas for routines you can set up.

You will probably notice at this point that the app is set up around routines, or scenes for your home that you can set up to automatically happen when something else happens. In other words, the app is not aimed at being a big fat remote for your home – if you suddenly feel the urge to listen to Back in Black by AC/DC on your Sonos speaker, head to the Sonos app. If, however, you want to hear Back in Black blasting through the speakers every time you come home after work, Yonomi is the app for you. It takes a little more work to set it up properly, but the result is a lot less work down the line.

Of course, things can get more complicated than simply playing a song. At the same time Back in Black is playing, you could decide that you want your living room light to strobe in random colors. Easy.

As mentioned, Yonomi is a fairly well designed app, but that doesn’t mean that it’s superficial. The app is extremely powerful. To demonstrate just how powerful, let’s run through creating a new routine. Once we head to the routine tab and press the “new” button, we’re presented with three main categories. First up, we’ll need to decide when this routine happens, and there are three options: location, date & time, and My Nexus 6. Upon choosing the last option, we’re presented with four more options: when we receive, place, or end a call, and “My phone is activity.” The word Activity can be pressed and we can choose to have this routine only run when the phone is moving around. You can also choose to add a second qualifier for when this happens, so the routine will only run when both qualifiers kick in. All of those options, and we’re only in category one of three.

Next up, we’ll need to choose what happens. When you add an action, you’ll be presented with a list of your devices. I’m choosing the Lifx smart bulb, and I’m going to tell it to set its color at random, at 100 percent brightness.

Last but not least, we can tell this routine to only run if… something. For example, we can tell it to only run if it’s the weekend. Now we’ve set up our routine: When my Nexus 6 is moving around, my Lifx smart bulb will go to a random color at 100 percent brightness, but only if it’s the weekend. Okay, maybe that routine in particular is a little useless, but the point is this – with the Yonomi app the possibilities are endless. I had thousands upon thousands of combinations I could have tried with only three smart home devices, and the more devices you have, the more options you’ll have.

Related: Say what you will, voice control is the future of home automation

It’s true; Yonomi will make your life easier in the long run, but for the first few days it’s going to take a lot of tweaking. Setting up a routine does take some work, even if you use the “ideas” tab. While it’s a cool feature, it’s one I rarely used other than to see what the app recommended.
It would also be nice if Yonomi replaced individual smart home apps. I should be able to go to one place for all my smart home needs, and I don’t like having dozens of apps for things as small as light bulbs.

One of the coolest things about Yonomi is that it integrates well with Amazon’s Alexa. I set it up, through the Alexa app, to work with the Amazon Echo, so that I could essentially ask for routines to happen when I wanted them to. As with anything of this nature, there are some limitations to that. First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that the Amazon Echo can be used to control routines and not the other way around, or anything beyond that. For example, the Yonomi app might be connected to your Sonos account, but that doesn’t mean you can ask Alexa to play particular songs on your Sonos speaker.

If you use Alexa, or probably any other home assistant for that matter, you’re going to have to get used to the proper terminology. Routines are “turned on.” They are not “run,” “played,” or anything else. Not only that, but just because you can run a routine using Alexa does not mean that you can turn off a routine. In some instances, you may need to set up opposite routines so that you can stop them from happening just as easily as starting them. It’s something to get used to, and while it may take a day or so, you’ll get there.

Yonomi may have some limitations, and you may need to put in some work to get everything running smoothly, but after you’ve spent that time the possibilities are almost literally endless. It feels that way, anyway.

If you’re fine with controlling your smart home through individual apps and simply like being able to flip digital switches, then Yonomi isn’t for you. If, however, you want to automate your home and have it do things for you without you even having to think about it, then Yonomi, which is available for both iOS and Android, is a great option. Not the only option, by any means, but one you should check out. In fact, Yonomi convinced me, and it may convince you too, that it’s about time all the lights in my house were smart lights.

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