What if you put together Work From Home and Home Automation? Well, removing the common denominator (HOME) would mean Work Automation (sic!). I want to tell you about a tiny hobby project I have had at home, still related to work of mine: Whenever an Azure alert is triggered, my Trådfri smart light from IKEA flashes for a couple of seconds.
Summary (if you want to skip the long story below): The solution is a tiny web application. The publicly accessible url, exposed using ngrok, is registered as a webhook in an Azure Alert. It’s on Github, you’re welcome to use it as you please 😎:
When I was done setting up an alert, I thought: besides a notification in a Teams channel, I thought: what if I could show the alert visually using some LED or similar? Then I thought about Home Automation and a Trådfri RGB bulb I’ve got. That’s the beauty of the mentioned equation: Work From Home and Home Automation. We can pick the best parts of it and combine to something unique.
Since I have a kit from IKEA containing a gateway, a remote, and an RGB lamp, I wanted to do something with that. Unfortunately I didn’t find any routines (Google Home), applets (IFTTT) or automations (Home app in iOS) that could do it.
Luckily, there is a way of controlling the Trådfri lights, best described in this tutorial:
As in this tutorial I also used a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and it went very well, except one thing: Trådfri team introduced a change for the security code, I needed an additional step that was missing, more on that later.
The tutorial says: the world is your lobster. My “lobster” is a webhook that makes lights flash on an alert, so I needed to have a simple web server (http.server) and a tunnel to my network (ngrok). It was best to take one step at a time.
Step 1. Connect
First, I wanted to make sure I could have a simple web server that could host my webhook. I followed the advice from that tutorial and used http.server python module:
I opened that page, (192.168.0.193:8000), and I could see “hej”, time to go further.
Step 2. Connect World
Next step was to open up this “web app” for the world, to make it accessible from outside my local network. ngrok is the best solution for that. I followed that guide to install ngrok on my Raspberry Pi Zero W.
When I knew I could have a simple webhook service, locally (step 1) and on the WWW (step 2), and that I could control the smart light I’ve got from IKEA using code running on my raspberry pi, then connecting everything was easy. I created a repo for that and you can see that it is a very simple one:
The main part is in the server.py. When it gets invoked, it calls the flash function. It uses os.system to call the libcoap-client and time.sleep for delay parts needed in the flash action. The configuration is parsed using configparser and the server is a simple http.server.
In the end I registered the ngrok endpoint in my Azure Alert Rule Action Group:
Then I triggered my test logic app that failed reliably 🙂
This is a game changer: rather than wait for an alert to be triggered, you can just Replay it over and over again while you mickle-muckle your python code locally.
Keep running your server after logout
You just need to to have “nohup” when you start your server, ngrok has already what’s needed: nohup python3 server.py. With that the server will run even when you log out or, your ssh connection disappears.
I’d like to end this post also by saying: The world is your lobster. Try out the flashing lights on Azure Alerts, or why not to replace Azure Alerts with Exoprise Alarms, or some triggers in Power Automate, perhaps, when a new site has popped up 🙂 Or maybe you want to elaborate the flashing behaviour, why not to use Morse code to send a message? Or maybe color-code the different types of alarms/alerts. Once again, the world is your lobster 🦞(or oyster 🦪, well whatever) .