Interview with Mark Heinis (creator of Domoticz apps)

Mark Heinis Domoticz app developer

We start a series of interviews with some of the key figures of the Domoticz community. People that made contributions that make the difference for Domoticz and its community. We want to know what kind of people they are and how their effort for Domoticz fits in their life. And we hope to get some technical background about their contribution, so they can inspire others.

Today we start with Mark Heinis, developer of the iOS and Android App for Domoticz.

Can you give us an introduction of yourself?

I’m Mark Heinis and I’ve been developing the Android and iOS app for Domoticz. I’ve been developing mobile apps (mainly Android) for roughly 8 years now.
Profession: Software Developer. I’ve been working for years on implementing integrations with BizTalk Server, but I’m shifting my profession more and more towards mobile development.

What did you make before your famous Domoticz apps?

I developed a Movie Wallpaper app which was a free app and had 300.000 installs before I removed it from the store. Also, I’ve created the official Waterpolo.nl app which was backed by the national magazine.

You and Domoticz

How did you come in contact with Domoticz?

I bought a new home 3 years ago, and that made me think of Home Automation for the first time. I choose for Domoticz after some research for multiple points, open source, big user community, build in the Netherlands, and all your home data stays yours. There is no big player like Google which has all your home data on their servers.

Can you give us a view of your smart-home setup?

I have the next hardware in my home: Raspberry PI 3b with Domoticz running on it, Rfxcom controller,Philips Hue lights, Kaku controller behind my ventilation, a couple of Kaku movement sensors, LG Hombot vacuum cleaner, Xiaomi Home Gateway, 3 Xiaomi Wireless Smart Switch, 2 Xiaomi Door/Window Sensor (Aqara), 3 Xiaomi Temperature and Humidity Sensor (Aqara) and a Xiaomi
camera.

  • The script that I found a real life saver was the Humidity script provided by Danny (dannybloe):
    Humidity-control
  • I’ve implemented my own script for gathering information from my solar panels: link to solar panels topic
  • Also made a script for getting the current status of SabNZB: link to SabNZB topic
  • And retrieving the current status of Plex, which is now continued by PeterFroberg: link to Plex topic

I also made a script myself to set the correct Hue scene from a selector switch in Domoticz.
After that, I started on working on a custom UI for Domoticz called Flatz Frontpage: link to Flatz topic

Which was also open source so people could contribute.

How do you see the future of Domoticz?

I think that one of the strong points of Domoticz will still be the same. Your home data is still yours and on your own servers. I think that the development of plugins to integrate new hardware will still continue with the help of the big community. Aldo, I do hope that the front page of Domoticz gets’s a big update.

Where do you see opportunities and dangers?

We can’t slow down with the development. There are more and more competitors within the Home automation branch and I hope that Domoticz can keep the pace.

What are you really waiting for?

Would love to see the new aurora theme to be the default within Domoticz. Also, it would be great if we could make Domoticz less tech-heavy. So that more and more people, with fewer tech-skills, could use Domoticz. Maybe there should be an install/config shell around Domoticz to make it more user-friendly. That’s how you could compete with the other big companies. Would also love to see good integration with systems like Google Home or Alexa 😊

Your app(s)

When and how did you decide to make your Domoticz app?

I was an app developer, installing Domoticz in my home, and I really felt the need of an app on my phone. Which could benefit from GPS, Notification systems, and more. That was the moment that I found out on the forum that Robin van Kekem already started on an Android app, but he was looking for another developer to hand over the task.

What are you most proud of?

The app is doing really well in the review, 4.4 – 1,316 ratings. The app is also already listed in the top 5, best selling apps, on the category Productivity in the Netherlands for two years now.
The app is also (in the same category) within the top 10 in France and top 20 in Poland.
Overall (without a category) we’re on the 80th spot in the Netherlands, so in the top 100!

Android:

Can you tell us about the process of your project?

I started with the app after I took over from Robin and it took me about 6 months to have a first releasable product. The app was published open source so that other developers could contribute when they had the time. Robin also helped a lot with the first period of the app.

What about developing and test process?

It was around November (out of my head) when I first released the app as a closed beta in the app store. People could enter the beta testing via the Domoticz forum. We’ve released the first production version, 2 days before Christmas 😊 (exciting moments!)
Tweakers also write an article on the first release: link to Dutch article.

What feature do you use the most?

I use the notification system in the app the most, next to the normal behavior like switching device on/off.

What were the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge of developing the app (Android and iOS) was clearly time and dedication. I was a really big task to develop both apps in my spear time… I have a full-time job, a little child, a lovely wife, play Waterpolo, (won the cup yesterday) and Domoticz. So you can imagine that time is the biggest issue here 😊

Open-source what do you notice about it?

There are some pull requests on the Android app, but not much at this moment.

iOS

Can you tell us about the process of your project?

I already developed C# for my job and I came in tough with Xamarin Forms. A multiplatform development environment that allowed one source base to be compiled to multiple devices (Android and iOS). So, it was around a year ago that I decided to invest time in implementing an iOS app.

What about developing and test process?

It took me more time to start up the new Xamarin Forms app because it was the first time for me. But I finally had the first version, 10 months after I started with the development.

What feature do you use the most?

Also, here I would vote for the notifications. You can now easily set up the mobile device on your Domoticz system and get all the notification on your device.

What were the biggest challenges?

Building a multiplatform app with native controls, testing on all the different devices. Setting up a development environment with a build server (mac os)

Open-source what do you notice about it?

Not at this moment no.. not received a single pull request yet.

Can you share some statistics?

Number of downloads
– 76.000 total Android installs
– 8.500 iOS installs
Unique users
– Per month: 32.000
– Per week: 17.500
– Per day: 7.300

Another nice fact is that the Android app is doing great in several countries next to the Netherlands:


Click on picture for a big version.

Here is a graph showing that after launch, we’ve always stayed within the top 10 for Productivity and Wear in the Netherlands. But also overall (no app category) we’re somewhere around the 80th place.


Click on picture for a big version.

IOS VS Android

This isn’t a fair battle… Android is already released and updated for 2.5 years now.😊 So I think that iOS isn’t doing badly if you keep in mind that it’s only released for a half year now.

What can we expect in the future?

Most of my time goes to upgrading the iOS Xamarin forms apps, but of course, I’m also doing rework and maintenance on the Android app! Next to that, I would love to see if we can integrate Google Home more.

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