Which devices can start Activities?

One of the most common questions we receive is “Which devices can I use to start my Activity?” We all know that devices can start Activities but we’re not always sure which devices actually do that. Wonder no more. Today, we’ll review the Staples Connect-supported devices that start Activities and give you some guidelines to know whether or not you can use a device for this purpose.

There are four main kinds of devices that can be used to start an Activity.

1. Sensors

Sensors might be the most common Activity trigger, and they’re one of the easiest to understand. A sensor reports whether or not it’s triggered. An example would be a water sensor, which tells your hub whether it detects water or not. It’s a simple choice between two options.

Even though they’re simple, sensors can be used in many different ways. A motion sensor can be used to detect intruders, turn on the lights to a lower brightness at night, find out when school-age kids are awake, automatically turn off lights when a room is empty, and much more. Because they’re simple, easy to understand, and easily installed, sensors can be used to start many Activities.

There are four kinds of sensors that can be used in Activities: door/window, motion, tilt, and water.

1a. Alarms

Alarms are the cousin of Sensors: they operate (mostly) the same way but sometimes have more details. The Jarden FirstAlert Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector, an Alarm, can tell you that it detects something and tell you whether it detects smoke or carbon monoxide.

One of the best uses for Alarms is to send you a push notification when it starts detecting something. To do this, create an Activity that’s triggered by the Alarm, make a notification message for it, and enable push notifications for that Activity. That way, no matter where you are, you’ll get a message on your mobile device telling you what’s happening.

You don’t even have to make a device do anything. The entire Activity can be to send you a notification. With Staples Connect, your alarms will always keep you up-to-date if anything goes wrong around your house.

All in all, Alarms are pretty close to Sensors. Let’s move on.

2. Garage Door Openers

The Linear Z-Wave Garage Door Opener, like many of its counterparts, allows you to start an Activity when the door opens or closes. This is useful for “Goodbye” and “Welcome Home” Activities. The garage door opening can turn all your lights on and raise the thermostat to the level you normally want.

The garage door openers don’t have many trigger conditions but the Activities they can start are extremely useful.

3. Devices with Buttons

Yes, we know this is an arbitrary and somewhat inconsistent category but it’s a useful classification. Devices with buttons can be programmed to start Activities. The best example of this is the Pico Remote. It has two to four buttons that can be programmed to start an Activity of your choice. We’ve extolled the virtues of Picos before on this site. They’re great devices to make your system easy to use.

But there are other devices that have buttons and can start Activities. Light switches from Cooper and Leviton that work with Staples Connect also have buttons (usually on/off but sometimes more) and can be used the same way as a Pico remote can.

When the Leviton Universal Magnetic Low-Voltage Dimmer was introduced, we talked about how you could use it to easily navigate your way around the house at night. That article focused on lights in one room but that’s not the only way you can use an in-wall switch. You could set up the switch to turn on the lights and an appliance module that’s connected to a different outlet. Or maybe you could turn on the lights in one room and turn them off in the room you just left (this is a great one for garages and mud rooms). Light switches aren’t as portable as the Pico remotes are but they’re equally useful.

Another “device with a button” that can start Activities is the Jawbone UP24 band. Although the UP24 bands are great for Activities, we’ve heard of more people using their UP24 bands to change their Modes. Whether you choose Activities or Modes, the Jawbone is a good option.

Devices with buttons are simple, useful ways to keep tangible control over your connected home. Instead of having to pull out your phone to do something, you can use a Jawbone, Pico remote, outlet, or light switch to do it. The controls are visible at all times.

Yes, home automation involves automation and making things behave properly on their own. But devices with buttons will always have an important place, especially with Activities.

4. Locks

We’re fudging a bit here. A connected lock has buttons, can tell whether or not it is open or closed, and has an alarm. Technically, it could fit into two of the previous categories, but it’s slightly different, which is why we’re giving it its own category.

A connected lock is arguably the most useful device you can get in your home. It’s at the start of so many important home scenarios: coming home from work or the grocery store, knowing if someone is trying to break in, seeing when the kids are home from school, keeping track of the friends who have keys/access to your home, and much more.

Similarly, locks have lots of trigger reasons. There are options for codes being entered correctly, a key opening the lock, someone tampering with the lock, the lock battery level, and more. The specific options depend on what the lock is programmed to do but in any case, you have a variety of options if you want to use a lock to trigger an Activity.

So how can you know if your new device can trigger an Activity? If it falls into one of these four categories, you’ll probably be able to use it. If it doesn’t, you probably won’t be able to. This is something to keep in mind as you start building your Activities and automating your home. And we’ll be constantly updating this article as we add new devices that can start Activities.

If you’re looking for ideas about Activities that can be started by devices, check out our suggested Activity posts and our Community.

EDIT: This article originally stated that Lutron switches and dimming modules can start Activities, which is not the case. We have corrected the error.

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