I’ve lost track of how many years that I’ve called for personal presence in the home. And by “personal presence” I mean smarts that tell my house who is in what room and then control lights, music or other devices based on that context. So when I first heard about RoomMe, I was excited. The product, made by Intellithings, promises to deliver exactly what I’ve been looking for.
Does it? After trying a pair of Bluetooth 4 LE RoomMe devices ($69 each with discounts for a multiple unit purchase) I’d say Intellithings is on the right track. Unfortunately, RoomMe didn’t work quickly enough or consistently in my testing.
From an out of the box and setup experience, RoomMe is simple. The device looks similar to a smoke detector and includes a mounting bracket. You attach the bracket to the ceiling of a room, place two D-sized batteries in the RoomMe and then slide it on the bracket. Intellithings suggests how far from your door you should mount your RoomMe based on the height of the room ceiling. Using the RoomMe app, you then name your room, hold your smartphone close to the RoomMe for pairing and then stand near the doorway for calibration.
Additionally, you use the smartphone app to create automations for when you enter or exit the room. Integrations are a little light, there’s no linkage to Amazon Echo or Google Home devices, for example. RoomMe supports Philips Hue and Lifx lights, Ecobee and Sensibo thermostats, Bose and Sonos speakers plus HomeKit and Wink.
I set up and calibrated both RoomMe devices, connected them to my Wink hub and configured the app to turn my smart lights on when entering the two rooms. I also enabled RoomMe to shut the lights in both rooms when exiting them.
I realize that RoomMe is detecting the Bluetooth connection when entering or exiting my rooms, which could take a few seconds. And I understand that RoomMe then has to communicate with my Wink hub to issue device commands. Regardless, when entering rooms, it took between 5 and 30 seconds for the lights to turn on. The latter time was an outlier but I’d say the average latency for me was around 8 seconds. And this latency between entering a room and the lights illuminating never seemed to be consistent.
Additionally, the lights didn’t always turn off when leaving a room. My office lights, for example, were on for several minutes after I left the room. Based on my understanding of how RoomMe works, backed up by support forums on the Intellithings site, lights in the first room often won’t turn off until a second RoomMe detects a room entry event. I tested that case and RoomMe turned on lights in the new room, again with latency that’s too high for my tastes, and turned off the lights from the room I had last exited. At least it did most of the time; not always. Even after recalibrating the sensors, the issues lingered.
I reached out to Intellithings and they said they have seen occasional behavior with Wink hubs that I described. They also suggested I double-check my sensor placement and some other things, which I did. Since Wink devices showed latency, I then installed a Lifx bulb and connected my Sonos system to RoomMe.
Results were better but still not instant when walking into a room. There were a few times that I only took a few steps into my room before the Lifx bulb lit up and there were times when I was easily able to walk all the way across the room after entering. Again, the consistency of a traditional wired switch wasn’t there in my testing. And the Sonos integration never saw my Playlists, even though I authorized RoomMe to see my Sonos data. I ended up using a 70’s channel from TuneIn for testing.
Interestingly, the Lifx setup didn’t actually work at all with RoomMe when I configured the bulb to work with my Wi-Fi network. The RoomMe app never saw the bulb. I then used HomeKit to set up the Lifx light and RoomMe was able to see and control it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that with a HomeKit configuration, RoomMe can only control devices when you have the RoomMe app open. If you don’t have it open and then you walk into a room, you’ll get a notification on your phone from RoomMe, which you have to tap for the device control to actually take place.
One other thing worth mentioning: If you have lights set on a timer, you won’t want to tie those to RoomMe. My family room lights turn on automatically at dusk and stay on until 11 pm, for example. But when exiting that room to get a snack around 8 pm while testing, RoomMe turned the lights off. That’s fine for scheduled lights when you plan to return to the room but if you don’t, well, there goes your lighting schedule. In the future, I’d like to see an option in the RoomMe app to ignore presence for timer events.
I love what RoomMe is trying to accomplish here, however. As long as you don’t mind carrying your phone around the house, which I don’t, the product could deliver that personalized presence I’ve been longing for.
In fact, you can set up RoomMe with up to 16 people in your home, with each person configuring devices to their own liking. There’s a hierarchy in RoomMe to determine which person’s preferences are the higher priority but the nice thing is that if one person leaves the room and another RoomMe user stays, devices will follow the latter person’s device choices.
But, given the limited device support and inconsistent performance, I don’t plan to purchase RoomMe devices for my smart home right now, even though the idea behind the product is sound. The implementation isn’t where I need it to be at this time. My hope is that additional device integrations and software updates improve the RoomMe experience because this solution is the closest I’ve seen yet to delivering on my dream of personal presence context in the smart home.