Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ten-minute Hack: Temporary Remote View

This one may not even require a whole ten minutes. I considered refraining from posting about it, but I've found it so useful in so many circumstances that I felt the need to share it.

While doing home automation work, I frequently find myself needing to control a process from one floor while observing it on another floor, or needing to observe events on multiple floors at once. For instance, I have a command that switches off all the lights in the house; I need to observe the basement and first floor simultaneously to verify it's worked. That's quite a bit of dashing up and down the stairs.

If you have two computers with embedded cameras (smartphone and desktop PC, laptop and tablet, smartphone and tablet), it's ridiculously simple these days to set up a simple video chat to remotely observe another room in the house. My tool of choice is Google+ Hangouts, but other applications with clients on all of your computers of choice would work just as well.

To set this up in Hangouts, all you need to do is start a hangout with nobody (I have an empty circle named "Nobody" for this purpose). Once the hangout is established on your first device, use the Google+ client on your second device and select your profile. You will see an entry for "hangout with 1 person." Join that hangout, and your two devices will be video-linked (you can add more if you so choose).

It's a pretty straightforward trick, but it's convenient if you have spare devices sitting around the home. In addition to using it to monitor home automation clients on different floors, I've used it to monitor a kitchen timer while I worked in a room too far from the kitchen to hear it (world's most expensive baby monitor, but I have a laptop and smartphone and no baby, so there you go!).

I hope you find this useful! Happy holidays.