Category Archives: Home Automation

Hive Expands for Smart Home at Gadget Show Live



Hive LogoA British Gas incubator, Hive has been a British success since 2013, bringing smart heating controls to UK homes. Building on the back of this success Hive are expanding their portfolio and making Hive the heart of the smart home. In the third of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live, I talk to Elvin about Hive and their new range of products.

Hive Heating SystemThe Hive team first realised that while almost everyone in Britain had a central heating system, it was often poorly controlled and inefficient, either through a lack of understanding of the controls or simple laziness. Few people go beyond adjusting a thermostat for summer and winter, never mind worrying about turning the heating off when out for the evening.

Next, they designed easy-to-use replacement heating controls that could be monitored and adjusted from a smartphone or website and fortunately the team used a standardised wireless protocol called ZigBee as part of the Hive solution. This crucially meant that the Hive system could now be extended with other new products using the same wireless technology.

Hive ThermostatHive have added the three smart home basics of smart plugs, motion sensors and window / door sensors, with lighting to come soon. As with any smart home, there’s the complementary smart phone app for the review and control of devices with the home.

Finally, the backing of British Gas as a household name gave homeowners reassurance to adopt the new technology and install Hive.

The Hive heating system consists of the main hub, thermostat and receiver, and it costs GB£249 including installation. Extending the system into a smart home costs £39 for the smart plug and £29 for the motion and door sensors. There’s more info on Hive at www.hivehome.com.


Fibaro Swipe at Gadget Show Live



Fibaro Home IntelligenceThe second of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live comes from Fibaro and their “Home Intelligence”. Originally from Poland, Fibaro was established in 2010 and consequently has one of the longer pedigrees in home automation and smart homes. I think it would fair to say Fibaro hasn’t received the public brand recognition it deserves but remains a choice for those in the know. I chat with Arron from Fibaro who tells me about their latest products.

As with any smart home solution, Fibaro’s system is controlled by a central hub but unlike most other vendors, Fibaro offers two hubs, the Home Center 2 and Home Center Lite, which meet different needs and budgets. Fibaro continues to offer extra choice with the option to retrofit controls into existing light and power sockets, or to integrate with new services like Philips Hue. There are all the standard smart home sensors too – motion, door/window, flood and smoke. What I particularly like about the Fibaro door sensor is that it comes in seven different colours – not everyone has white door frames!

Brand new to Fibaro is Swipe, a 3D motion-detecting panel which controls the system using hand gestures. Wave up, turn the lights up. Wave down, turn the lights off. Those are the simple gestures though Swipe can interpret several more movements and combinations of gestures too. Impressively, Swipe can be hidden behind stud walls or below desks so it’s not even visible, or it can be hidden in plain view as a photo frame. Contrary to the interview, Swipe is GB£119.99.

Fibaro Swipe

Apologies for the audio – it was very noisy in that part of Gadget Show Live.


Samsung SmartThings and Yale Smart Locks at Gadget Show Live



Yale LogoIt was smart homes galore at Gadget Show Live with at least five vendors showing off their wares. Geek News Central got interviews with four of them, and here I start with Samsung SmartThings and their partner Yale which has two smart locks which integrate with SmartThings. In this interview, I first talk with Miles, who takes me through SmartThings, followed by Hannah from Yale, who tells me about the new locks in the Smart Living range.

Yale Keyless Connected Smart Lock

Yale have two locks in the SmartLiving range. One is the “Keyless Connected” smart lock to replace a rim cylinder, typically found on wooden doors, and the other is the “Keyfree Connected” smart lock for multipoint locks. Those locks are typically found on double-glazed, uPVC or composite doors.

Yale Keyfree Connected Smart Lock

Each lock has a range of unlock options from PINs, RFID cards, remote fobs and smartphone apps and there are additional security features to resist tampering, from alarms to lockouts after too many PINs have been entered. PINs can be from 4 to 10 long and 24hr PIN codes can be setup for visitors too

The Keyless lock is self-installed and priced from £99, though the Z-Wave equipped version is around £180. The Keyfree is around £350 but comes with installation.


Energenie MiHome at Wearable Tech Show



Energenie LogoHome automation and the smart home were very much in evidence at the Wearable Technology Show. While the recent trend has been for Z-Wave and Zigbee based systems, Energenie‘s MiHome uses 433 MHz radio frequency and an open source protocol for communication. Andrew chats with Oliver about what Energenie offers the home owner. 

Energenie’s system works much like any other smart home system with a central control unit communicating with sensors and actuators round the house, along with a complementary smartphone app. What makes MiHome different is the range of replacement light switches and power sockets which can be operated both remotely and by flicking the switch as it were. It’s a great idea and there’s even a range of styles and finishes.

The Energenie MiHome is on sale now from a number of UK retailers.

Energenie MiHome Socket


nCube Home at Wearable Tech Show



nCube HomeOriginally a Kickstarter project, nCube Home is a smart home hub and app to control a wide range of smart devices from a single place. Andrew interviews Myriam from nCube and finds out why nCube is a little bit different from the rest.

Like most of the competitors, the nCube Home is a small network connected box with a complementary app that communicates with sensors and other devices using Z-Wave. Unlike the competitors, it’s blue. More seriously, the nCube retains all the logic and actions within the nCube box rather than receiving instructions from an external portal, so even if the network connection goes down, activity goes on as normal. The nCube Home integrates with over 70 different IoT devices so the chances are that if it’s a Z-Wave capable device, the hub will work with it.

The nCube Home is shipping shortly (if it isn’t already). The normal price from nCube is GB£149 but there’s a £99 Wearable Show offer on until the end of the week (25th March).

nCube Home

By way of awards, the nCube Home won the IoT Wearable Award at the Wearable Technology Show this year. Well done.


Devolo Home Control Hardware Review



Devolo LogoPowerline specialists Devolo have moved into the smart home business with Home Control, a Z-Wave based system that incorporates powerline networking. Regular readers will have seen two unboxing videos previously. This post has more photos and details of the various components, sensors and accessories available.

Central Unit

The central unit is at the heart of the Home Control system and communicates via Z-Wave with all the sensors. Part of the Starter Pack, it’s a Devolo dLAN powerline adaptor too, so can be incorporated into an existing powerline network, though this feature doesn’t seem to be advertised very well. This is the UK version, as can be seen from the plug and it has a single network port which is used to connect to a router if there is no existing dLAN network.

Devolo Control Unit

Devolo Control Unit

Devolo Control Unit

Currently, the USB port is not used.

Smart Metering Plug

As with the Control Unit, this is the UK spec version of the Smart Metering Plug. As might be guessed from the name, not only can the plug be switch on and off remotely, it can provide power consumption information to show how much power is being used by the connected devices. The crystal LED lights up to show when the plug is on and it works as a manual on / off button too.

Smart Metering Socket

Smart Metering Socket

Motion Sensor and Door / Window Contact

The Motion Sensor and the Door / Window Contact are different sensors but physically they look the same – long half cylinders with a PIR-style window at the top. Obviously one detects motion and the other when a door or window is opened or closed by the proximity of magnet. In addition, both units measure temperature and brightness. Slightly annoyingly, a red LED lights up when both sensors are activated.

Motion Sensor

Motion Sensor

Key-fob Switch

The Key-fob Switch is a four button unit with two larger buttons and two smaller buttons. The Key-fob seems well made in metal which will put up with abuse from nearby keys and there’s a sliding plastic covered that will prevent accidental presses. Within the Devolo portal, each press can initiate an action, e.g. turning on lights, but more on this in the next post.

Devolo Keyfob Closed

Devolo Keyfob Open

Room Thermostat

The Room Thermostat is a co-branded Danfoss unit which works with two temperatures, the sensed room temperature and a target temperature. The target temperature can be adjusted both by the up and down switches on the front of the thermostat and remotely through the Devolo portal. The thermostat is powered by two batteries so can be located anywhere within range of the Control Unit. Although it doesn’t show in the pictures, the thermostat display is backlight and comes on when a button is pressed.

Devolo Thermostat
Devolo Room Thermostat
Devolo Room Thermostat
Devolo Room Thermostat

Wall Switch

The Wall Switch is very much in the style of continental light switches rather than the UK’s narrower style but it’s still a very useful addition to the range of accessories. Powered by CR2032 battery, the switch can be configured either as a single or double switch and although it looks like a rocker switch, it’s more of a push switch with four switches – upper left, lower left, upper right, lower right. Consequently the message from the switch is typically “button x was pushed (and released)” rather than “button x is currently pressed”.

The switch disassembles to change the battery or change from single to double switch, though you have to be brave when pulling it apart!

Wall Switch Wall Switch Wall Switch

Smoke Detector

The Smoke Detector is much like other smoke detectors in that there’s a very loud alarm when smoke is detected. Unlike the average detector, the Devolo version also fires off a message to the Control Unit via Z-Wave, which can then be responded to using rules configured in the Devolo portal.

There’s a test button on the top of the smoke detector as expected; press for a few seconds to check the battery, which is a small CR123 3V battery rather than a 9V PP9.
Smoke Detector

Smoke Detector

Radiator Thermostat

The Radiator Thermostat is a user-fit replacement for many thermostatically-controlled radiators. Simply, the old thermostat is removed and the new smart thermostat is put in its place. It’s straightforward and no plumbing knowledge is required other than how to get the old ‘stat off. The Devolo manual (.pdf) lists compatibility and it comes with two adapter rings, though in my instance I have to further purchase a thread converter (M28 to M30) to fit my old valves.

It takes two AA batteries and works very similarly to the Room Thermostat in terms of measuring and setting temperature. The photo below isn’t the best as it’s not showing the temperature – it won’t until it’s actually connected to a radiator.

Radiator Thermostat

Radiator Thermostat

Summary

Devolo has created a portfolio of useful sensors and actuators for a comprehensive smart home solution, although it seems that most of the devices are rebranded from a number of OEMs (Danfoss, Philio Tech, TKB, Popp). Regardless, the units all work well together and have a similar finish so it’s a minor point. Note that some of the photos make the devices look a little creamy; in reality they’re all a good clean white.

In the next post, I’ll be looking a Devolo’s  Home Control portal, which is where all the rules and notifications are setup to really make the home smart.

Thanks to Devolo for all the Home Control review units.


Nexia at 2016 CES



Nexia logoTodd Cochrane talks with J. George Land, Executive Director of Nexia Connected Home Solutions.

Nexia Connected Home Solutions is a software provider that works with selected products from a select number of different home automation manufacturers integrating everything into one voice-controlled software application. Nexia offers Z-Wave gateways.

The Nexia Z-Wave bridge sells for $67.00 on Amazon and can handle up to 200 Z-Wave compatible products from different manufacturers.

With The Nexia Z-Wave bridge, you can control your connected home products from anywhere you have an Internet-connected mobile device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer.

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BeON Home Protection at CES



BeON Home LogoImproved home security is one of the benefits often cited by proponents of the smart home, but setting up everything can be technically daunting and require a little DIY. The team at BeON have taken a different approach, developing home protection that can easily be installed without any geek or DIY credentials. Jamie and Nick learn more about this original thinking from Alexei Erchak, CEO of BeON.

The BeON Home system is a set of smart LED lightbulbs (or lamps) that screw in to replace existing lights. How are the bulbs smart? To start with, they learn the lighting patterns in the house so that when the building is unoccupied, the lights mimic the normal activity. Next, they learn the sound of the doorbell, so that when the doorbell rings, the lights will come on as if the householder is answering the door. Similarly, the BeON Home bulbs learn the sounding of smoke detectors and will automatically turn the lights on if a fire is detected in the building. Finally, the bulbs come with a backup battery which keep the lamps on even if the power fails.

All-in-all, it looks a pretty neat solution providing a deterrent to intruders and enhanced safety for the home-owner and family. The BeON Home is available now and a starter kit costs US$199.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.
Nick DiMeo is video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Devolo Home Control Unboxing



Devolo LogoDevolo is well known for its range of dLan powerline networking products which I rate highly, so I was very interested to see that Devolo was creating a new product range for the smart home. Called Home Control, this is a Z-Wave based system with a comprehensive set of accessories, from the usual motion sensor all the way through to radiator thermostats and smoke detectors. One of the key differentiators from similar products on the market is that the control unit is a dLan powerline device too, making it much easier to centrally position it away from the router.

I’ll be doing a full review of the components in a follow up article, but first here are two unboxing videos. The first is the Home Control Starter Pack which includes the control unit, a door/window contact and a smart metering plug. It has an RRP of £179.99. This is all UK spec gear.

Next up is the full range of the Home Control accessories, including remote control key fob, wall switch, motion detector, room thermostat, radiator thermostat and smoke detector. Prices range from £34.99 up to £79.99.

The next article on Home Control will look at the gear in more detail and how to make your house smarter. In the mean time, first impressions are good – accessories are well made and easy to use.


The Smart Home Talks Z-Wave at CES



Z-Wave LogoIf there’s any kind of smart home device in your house, there’s a very good chance that it communicates using Z-Wave. The protocol is oriented to the residential control and automation market and designed specifically for low power and low data rate communication, making it ideal for battery powered devices. Todd and Jamie find out more on this largely unknown wireless technology from Mitchell Klein, Executive Director for the Z-Wave Alliance.

Develop in the early 2000s, Z-Wave is now supported by over 300 manufacturers producing over 1500 certified devices for the smart home, from simple door switches and sensors to central heating and security systems. Operating in the 900 MHz frequency, Z-Wave has a theoretical range of 100 m, but typically this is much reduced by the density of building construction materials. However, unlike Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Z-Wave uses a mesh network with devices acting is intermediary nodes, passing on messages. Consequently, interoperability is key to Z-Wave and all Z-Wave devices will work with other Z-Wave devices.

Mitchell talks about the current state of the Z-Wave market and discusses some of the future possibilities for the technology, including interacting with systems like Amazon Echo.

Todd Aune bridges the technology gap with the The Elder Divide and Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.

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