You can set up your existing IoT devices to aid in some Halloween fun.
The coming of Halloween means that it’s that particular time of year when you can freely execute a on whacky idea, solely for the love of a stunt. Each year, I dedicate myself to creating an interactive window motif in my front yard so that I can give the kids something to look forward to as they’re trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.
This year, I decided to set up some of my connected devices to concoct a festive little gimmick. With the help of a Samsung SmartThings motion sensor, a LIFX A19 color bulb, and a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, I set up an IFTTT formula so that whenever someone walks up the steps, the lights in the window start flashing red to expose a hanging zombie. It’s pretty simple for anyone to set up regardless of technical experience.
If you’re looking for some inspiration to get into the holiday, here’s something you can do with the connected gadgets in your house and a few free Android apps.
What You Need
If you want to set up your own automated light trick, here’s what you’ll need:
- A Bluetooth-enabled speaker
- Tasker app (Android)
You don’t exactly need all the same connected gadgets listed here to achieve this scene. It will work just fine with any other IFTTT compatible ecosystem in your house. IFTTT stands for “if this, then that,” and it’s a free app that lets you program applets to your liking. It’s simple enough to program for even novice tinkerers, and it integrates with a wide variety of connected devices.
You’ll need an Android-based smartphone if you’d like to set music or sound effects for when the motion sensor detects movement. Tasker is a free app in the Google Play Store that lets you set up formulas with your phone. In this case, when the IFTTT app sends a notification, Tasker will see that and perform an action. There are other ways of achieving this on other platforms, but for this walkthrough, we’ll be focusing solely on programming this with Android.
Let’s get started
First things first, you’ll need to ensure that your Samsung SmartThings account and LIFX account are correctly set up for use with IFTTT. In the IFTTT app, tap on My Applets at the bottom of the screen, then tap on the Services tab. If SmartThings and LIFX don’t show up when you search, it means they need configuration. Fortunately, you can do this as you’re creating the applet.
Tap on the Plus sign in the upper right-hand corner. Tap This, then search for SmartThings. We’re going to set up the formula so that it knows to perform an action when the motion sensor detects movement. From here, if you haven’t configured SmartThings, this is when IFTTT will ask you do so. Otherwise, the IFTTT app will take you to a list of every trigger available for the SmartThings sensors.
Tap on Any new motion, then select your motion sensor from the list. Tap the checkmark in the upper right-hand corner to move forward, then tap on That when you’ve arrived back at the main applet screen.
Now we’re going to set up the LIFX bulb. Search for it in the services list, then tap Blink lights as the action, and then tap to select the light bulb closest to where you’re achieving your trick. Make sure that you select Yes below that to have the lights turn on first. That way they’ll react to the applet even if they’re turned off in the LIFX app. Then, select the number of blinks you want to accommodate your scene. The IFTTT formula stops at five blinks, but you can extend that however long you want if you choose the Custom option.
When you’re all finished, save the formula and go back to your My Applets screen. The listing will be titled as “If any new motion detected by Motion Sensor, then Blink lights.” You can test it periodically by tapping on the applet and then selecting Check now.
Set up a scary scene with sound
If you have an Android device, you can set up the free automation app Tasker to start playing a sound after IFTTT pushes through an action. This will help with the ambiance of your stoop. Or at least it’ll give the kids something to scream about. It’s probably best to choose a longer blinking period for the LIFX bulb, so that the notification has time to hit the phone and the lights are still flashing when the sound goes off.
From the Tasker app, under Profiles, tap on the floating action button in the bottom right-hand corner to start a new profile. After that, tap Event, and select the UI options. Tap on Notification and then select the Owner Application. Select IFTTT from the list of apps. Hit the back button twice in the upper left-hand corner of the Tasker app, then tap on the New Task dialog button and give your spooky sound a name. Tap the checkmark in the same dialog box to proceed forward with creating a new task.
You’ll be navigated to the new Tasks screen. Tap again on the floating action button in the bottom right-hand corner, and then select Media from the Action Category list. Tap on Music Play, then locate the sound file you want to playback on your Android device by tapping the search icon. (I grabbed my royalty-free spooky sounds from SoundBible.) Tap the back button in the upper left corner again, and then back once more to finish programming the formula. Make sure that the main switch of the task is on, and then your formula should be ready to go.
Once this is all set up and you’ve tested to see that the IFTTT notification triggers the sound to play via Tasker, place your Bluetooth speaker outside your house either in a planter box or even inside a carved pumpkin right outside your door. Ensure that it’s turned on and paired with the smartphone you’ve set up to play back the sound.
Enjoy your Halloween scene
Place the motion sensor outside somewhere that it can capture people walking up to your house, though bear in mind that the Samsung SmartThings motion sensor is not outdoor rated. My unit was fine out in the rain for about an hour. If you’d rather be safe than sorry, try placing it in the window or directly under your front door so it’s somewhat protected from the elements.
Don’t forget to decorate the house! I like to get festive by finding the worst-made Halloween decorations for a mere few dollars a piece. Not only do I place props around the house, but I’ll also use material like fishing wire and duct tape to hang plastic skeletons from the awning over my front door, and ghosts in each of the windows facing the front of the house. Since I have multiple connected colored bulbs in the house, each window will show a different scene from a horror movie.
How are you using smart home stuff to have some fun? Leave us a comment if you’ve tried out this how-to, or suggest what our next project should be! Happy Halloween.