Tag Archives: home automation

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.


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.


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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TikTeck Sells Direct to Consumer



tikteckTikTeck are coming to market with the sole purpose of bringing affordable products direct to the consumer and cutting out the middleman. With only a few gadgets available, Daniel chats with Rex Chen, VP Product Development of TikTeck to find out what’s in store.

In the first wave of products, there’s a Bluetooth-controlled smart LED bulb displaying 16 million colours for only US$9.99. You don’t need me to tell you what a bargain that price is. The companion smartphone app runs on both iOS and Android, providing group controls and timers, much like some of the market leading apps. Available for pre-order now with delivery expected end of February.

TikTeck RoverCombining both security and fun, the next product is a wireless camera rover. It’s a digital video camera on a remote controlled buggy which can be steered and monitored by wifi from a smartphone. US$69.99 when it goes on sale. I want one – the black version in the interview looks positively menacing.

Finally, TikTeck have a smart finger ring that measures heart rate and tracks activity and sends the data back to the smartphone by Bluetooth. It looks far more like a man’s ring than it does a fitness tracker. Price not finalised but likely to be in the $50-$100 range.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Essence Behaviour Analysis for the Smart Home



Essence LogoComing from a background in home securityEssence have used their understanding of monitoring to develop a range of products for the smart home to enable independent living for those people who might otherwise have difficulty looking after themselves. Jamie and Daniel find out more from Rafi Zauer, Essence Head of Marketing.

The smart home market is exploding at the moment and there are hundreds of companies peddling hubs and sensors. What sets Essence’s SmartCare apart is a focus on unobtrusive monitoring and pattern analysis to detect when a dependent person’s daily routine changes, potentially by illness, in order to alert family members to a problem.

By using PIR motion detectors and door sensors, a pattern of behaviour is built up and deviations from the pattern can be escalated to relatives to follow-up. It’s all passive detection; there are no cameras and as such this provides an important level of privacy. Data is passed to a cloud service which in turn passes alerts to an app on a tablet or smartphone.

With an increasingly older population who want to remain in their own home, these kinds of systems will be increasingly relevant.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.
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Lowe’s talks about its Iris line at CES



lowesThe Internet of Things (IoT) is a quickly growing segment of the tech market with products that can do just about anything, from locking garage doors, turning lights off and on, opening and closing blinds and much more.

Lowe’s has been in this market for a while with Iris, a product line that has multiple devices to help homeowners automate their lives.

What you may not know is that these products can also be utilized to help the elderly and the handicapped. Lowe’s explains how this works, citing an example of a paraplegic who uses these devices to manage her own apartment.

Lowe’s stopped by the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to show off this technology and we stopped by to take a look. You’ll see some of the ones the company thinks are most important for medical and senior care. You can find it all in the video posted below and also visit irisbylowes.com.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist

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D-Link teams up with IfTTT for its smart home solutions at CES



dlinkIf This Then That (IfTTT) can be used to accomplish all sorts of cool things and, while not limited to any particular area, it has been seeing some growth in the area of home automation as several products have enabled its usage and D-Link is doing the same.

The company is announcing that its line of mydlink is getting IfTTT integration. This will work across a broad range of devices including smart plugs, water and motion sensors, WiFi alarms and the new smart alarm detector.

“Users want to integrate and expand their home automation system with other devices and services. With the integration of IFTTT into the mydlink Home ecosystem, users can enhance and expand control of their home using IFTTT recipes to trigger a variety of actions — almost like a programmer — creating an automated home designed to fit their needs,” says Ken Loyd, Director of Product Marketing at D-Link. “Integrating with IFTTT opens up a world of possibilities and provides users with unprecedented control over their mydlink Home experience”.

If you have used IfTTT then you know that the things you set up are “recipes”. You can choose from an ever-expanding list of ones created by other users or, if you’re ambitious, you can create your own. D-Link has provided some information on this which you can find below.

  • mydlink Wi-Fi Smart Plug: Whether scheduling a fan to turn off when you leave for work, turning on a stereo every morning to get pumped for the day, or setting a schedule for the night light to turn off in the kids’ room, with the mydlink Home app and IFTTT, the D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plugs make homes brighter, safer and more in tune with you.
  • mydlink Wi-Fi Water Sensor: The Wi-Fi Water Sensor lets users know when leaks are detected before it’s too late. Get alerted before a problem becomes a disaster with a mobile alert and audible alarm. With an IFTTT recipe, flicker the lights in the living room if a water heater leak is detected in the garage, turn the lamp on in the bathroom if a sink or bathtub is overflowing, or sound a Wi-Fi Siren.
  • mydlink Wi-Fi Siren: D-Link’s Wi-Fi Siren can scare away potential intruders and automate a home for awareness, deterrence and security. Pair with a Wi-Fi Motion or Water Sensor to get alerted when movement or water is detected in a range of personalized ways. With an IFTTT recipe you can sound the siren if the temperature falls below freezing, so you can protect water pipes before it’s too late, or sound the siren if motion is detected after a specified time.
  • mydlink Wi-Fi Motion Sensor: Whether it’s turning on the lights in the bedroom for a bright welcome home, a siren sounding if the front door is opened in the middle of the night, or an alert to clean up the litter box, IFTTT support helps make a home react to motion. D-Link’s Wi-Fi Motion Sensor sends push notifications to a smartphone or tablet when motion is detected, so users always know what’s happening while away.
  • mydlink Smart Alarm Detector: The new Smart Alarm Detector sends users a message should a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm go off at home. Fortunately, if you’re not around to take that message, an IFTTT recipe can be used to trigger a text message, turn on a light or sound a siren

Availability of IfTTT support will come late in quarter one of 2016.