WFH Hack – Smart Busy Lights
The COVID 19 pandemic has caused many of us to have to work from home. If you have housemates, it can prove to be difficult to keep them out of your home office when you’re in a meeting.
I had an idea to get a light that I could turn Red so other know “None Shall Pass” and Green for “You May Enter”. While researching this idea, I stumbled upon Todd Klindt’s blog about his solution: https://www.toddklindt.com/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=864. He uses stick on LED lights around his office door.
With this newfound inspiration, I began to implement my Work From Home Hack!
Setting up the Lights
I settled on these LED Stick On Smart Lights from WenTop: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084GKFD4Z/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
The set up was really simple: Stick, Plug In to Power and Connect to WIFI in the app. While looking at the app, I uncovered another cool feature of the lights – they can be synchronized to music! Here’s what they look like along the door:
Of course I couldn’t just stop here, they don’t call me the Process Automation Princess for nothing! Now I had to see how I could integrate it with some of the technology I was using.
Flic Button Integration
The first integration idea I had was to connect the lights to my Flic Smart Button so I can quickly press it and turn my lights red to show that I’m busy. The Wentop lights have integration with IFTTT which I can use to then integrate with the Flic button.
A Flic button is a small physical button that you can click and program to do various things. It has built in integration with Power Automate, IFTTT and many other services. I had a few Flic button’s lying around so I set one up below my desk to use with my new lights.
The important thing to know when you are looking to integrate these particular lights with IFTTT is that the name of the service is MagicLight. Just search for that in IFTTT and you’ll find all kinds of recipes. I used this one one to turn the lights on and set the color on a Flic button press: https://ifttt.com/applets/v73TyAjZ-toggle-your-magiclights-with-a-physical-button?term=magiclight
Since there was already a recipe on IFTTT for it that’s all I had to do to get my lights synced up with the Flic button press.
Outlook Calendar Integration
The Flic integration is a great way to allow me to set my light color in an ad-hoc manner. But, I wanted to take this a step further and figure out if I could automatically turn the lights red if my Outlook calendar shows I’m in a meeting.
So how can we toggle our lights automatically based on our Outlook Calendar? Power Automate to the rescue!! But first we need to set up the IFTTT applets.
Setting up the IFTTT Applets
I created two separate applets in IFTTT, one to set the busy signal (red lights) and another to set the free signal (green lights). The “IF” for those two applets is the Web hook Receive a Web Request Trigger.
Next we need to give the web hook an event name:
Now that we have our “IF” we need to configure the “THAT”. If you’re using the lights that I purchased then you’ll search for the “MagicWifi” service. Then in the list of actions choose “Turn on lights”.
Here’s how I have mine configured:
Now that we have our applets created, we need to find the IFTTT web hook’s request URL and key so we can put that into our Flow. To do this, click on the Web hook Service and select the Documentation button.
Once you select that you’ll find your key and the URL that we need to make a POST to the web hook.
Copy the URL and open up Power Automate
Creating the Flow
Power Automate has a trigger for “When an Event is About to Start”. We can use that as our kick off for the process. Then, we can use the “HTTP” action in Power Automate to Post to the web service URL we copied in the previous step. Make sure that you replace the “event” text in the URL with the Event name you specified in your applet.
Here’s the Flow at a glance:
You’ll notice there are two HTTP actions in this Flow, one which is right after the trigger and another at the end. The first HTTP action is doing a POST to the “Set Busy” applet in IFTTT to turn the lights red. After the lights are set to Red, the Flow checks to see what the duration of the meeting is and does a delay for that amount of time. After the delay the Flow makes a final POST to IFTTT which turns the lights green.
I’ve exported the Flow to my Github so you can import it: https://github.com/aprildunnam/Flow
Here’s a short 30 second video I put together showing them working with my Flic button in action:
Hope you are inspired by this Work From Home Hack. If you use this or come up with other creative work from home solutions please tag me on Twitter (@aprildunnam) and let me know about it!