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We’ve previously shared on how to control your Vera with the Amazon Echo. The last round when we posted a demo video, we were actually using the Amazon Echo Vera Bridge. The open source software has since spun off different versions and improved by leaps and bounds.
The initial version require you to know and find the device ID of your light in Vera and has a very raw under interface. The latest popular version of the is now called the HA Bridge by Bws System. It comes with a user friendly interface which scans your Vera and display all the relevant devices automatically! The reason it is called the HA Bridge and not Vera Bridge is because it also allow you to voice control your Logitech Harmony and Nest.
Without further ado, here’s what you need:
1. Amazon Echo
2. A Windows/Linux/Mac/Raspberry Pi
3. Working Vera (2/3/Lite/Edge/Plus)
Here’s some high level instruction on how to set it up:
1. Get the latest binary of the HA Bridge here.
2. Download the jar file (ha-bridge.2.xxx.jar) into a folder
3. Make sure you have Java 8 JDK installed on your Windows/Linux/Mac/Raspberry Pi
4. Unlike the previous version, you no longer need to indicate your Windows/Linux/Mac/Raspberry Pi’s IP address when executing the jar file
5. Use the command line/terminal to navigate to the folder where the ha-bridge.2.xxx.jar is located
6. Simply run “java -jar ha-bridge.2.xxx.jar” and you will see the system running as shown:
7. Key in the URL in your browser http://localhost:8080 (or http://<yourIP>:8080)
8. You should then see the following in your browser (it is really very user friendly now)
9. Go to Bridge Control tab, scroll to Vera Names and IP Addresses and key in your Vera IP address the click Save.
10. Click on Vera Devices and the software automatically pulls out all the names and ID of the devices. Click on Generate Bridge Device (on any device you like to voice control) and the click on Add Bridge Device. (You can also click on Bulk Add to add all your devices in Vera all at once!)
11. Click on Bridge Devices tab and you should see the device that you have added to the bridge
12. Click on the My Echo tab, login to your Amazon Alexa page, click Smart Home on the left menu and finally click on Discover devices. Your Echo should discover the bridge device in around 20 seconds. (You may need to turn off any Philips Hue bridge if you have one before you click on discover).
There you go, up and running for 1 device. Just say “Alexa, turn on <your device name>”. You can do the same for scenes without knowing the scene number as well because the software automatically scans your Vera for the scene number. If you notice on the UI, you can also add Harmony, Hue and Nest to be controlled as well. I’ve not tried them but it is pretty neat for an all in one bridge.
Once you have it up and running, you may want to consider having your Windows/Linux/Mac/Raspberry Pi run the software on boot. I shall skip this part as you can google for “run jar on boot <Windows/Linux/Mac/Raspberry Pi >”
Now you may be wondering where is the Fibaro integration. This bridge currently can only scan and automatically pull out devices from Vera but it doesn’t stop you from controlling devices on Fibaro if you know what URL to manually add (via the Manual Add tab).
Here’s the good news in this post. We have developed our version of this HA bridge where it also scans the Fibaro Home Center Lite or Home Center 2 and displays the devices and scenes in Fibaro for users to add to the bridge without requiring to find out device IDs and formulate the URL.
If you are a geek, feel free to contact us for a copy of the file. If you are not a geek and also like to do this for your Fibaro Home Center, we also offer the pre-setup Raspberry Pi (comes with power adapter, casing and SD card) on our online store. You just need to plugin to your home network, power up this Raspberry Pi and key in a preset URL in your browser to get all these functionality. With this, we hope to bring Fibaro Home Center owners into the world of voice control.
Fibaro, a leading manufacturer of wireless, intelligent home automation systems, introduced the Fibaro Swipe at CEDIA 2015 last year. Fast forward to this year, the device is finally on our shores.
The Fibaro Swipe recognises six simple gestures; up, down, left, right, circle to the left, circle to the right, to perform activities like turning lights on/off, lowering and raising blinds, dimming and running automated scenes.
It is supposed to work with any Z-Wave ( with or without Plus) controller. However, for this review, we only tested the Fibaro Swipe with the Fibaro Home Centre Lite for ease of setup.
As usual the packaging of Fibaro is always a notch above the rest of the manufacturer. The box comes with a stand, USB cable and the swipe device. The expensive photo frame comes with a magnetic cover for easy access/replacement of photo.
Pairing the swipe to Fibaro Home Center Lite is a little challenging at first as there is no led indicator, only acoustic feedback and done by performing a swipe at the right moment after hearing an acoustic feedback. Not too fast, not too slow.
Once done, you can quickly setup the simple gesture (up, down, left or right) to activate a Z-Wave device. You can also setup a combi gesture made up of at most 3 basic gestures.
It is Jedi time once you have setup a basic gesture. In the video below, I’ve setup to control a floor lamp and the curtain. Note that, the gesture feature actually utilises scenes.
The Fibaro Swipe works only if you swipe less than 5 cm away. It makes a acoustic feedback if the gesture is successfully interpreted. Even though the Swipe can be battery operated, we recommend keeping it plugged to USB power. The reason is, when it is battery powered the device goes to sleep to save power. Once it is in sleep mode, the first gesture always fail to execute and you will have to hover your hand before performing the first gesture. The Swipe also works behind a non metallic surface as advertised.
It is an expensive photo frame, takes a while to remember the combination gestures. It works out of the box with Fibaro. We will test it on Vera Plus to see if the implementation is the same as other Z-Wave scene controllers. Definitely a cool add on for the living room for your bucks, now available on Automate Asia.
As mentioned in the previous post about VeraPlus and VeraSecure, finally, the VeraPlus has arrived on our shore around 2 weeks ago.
So let us take a quick look at the hardware unboxing.
We expected it to be only slightly bigger than the VeraEdge. However, it was much bigger than expected and looked a little more heavy duty. The VeraEdge looks like a toy compared to the VeraPlus. This is the family picture of the Z-Wave gateways with Fibaro Home Center 2, Samsung SmartThings, VeraEdge and VeraPlus.
Noticed the new LED indicators: Zigbee and Bluetooth? That brings us to exploring the new features on UI7.
The UI of VeraPlus is still on the familiar UI7. Compared to a new VeraEdge, the VeraPlus definitely loads the UI with shorter time. The time it took to add a wall plug on the VeraPlus is slightly more than half the time VeraEdge. We have not got the chance to test the VeraPlus on a large Z-Wave network (>30 devices) where the VeraEdge starts to slow down.
From the UI, the option of adding ZigBee and bluetooth devices are now available. It does seem that there’s support for some ZigBee and Bluetooth devices already present in the “Add Device” Wizard. Even though we did not get to test these devices, we went ahead to go through the wizard for including ZigBee and bluetooth for the sake of this review anyway.
Even though adding UPnP is not new, it seems like the feature of bridging 2 Veras are back. This function has been dropped when Vera updated its firmware from UI5 to UI7.
We look forward to test the VeraPlus with some Zigbee devices, especially popular the Philips Hue. It will be great if we can start to include wearable bluetooth devices such as Android Wear or even bluetooth speakers for affordable voice feedback. By taking on SmartThings v2 and other multi radio devices such as Wink, we hope that Fibaro would also step up to include more radios soon!
We’ve been receiving tons of enquiry on whether we have tested Samsung SmartThings and if it is available in Singapore. Here we are, with a SmartThings Hub v2 in our hands. Here are some unboxing pictures. We expected nothing less (or more) from Samsung:
The Hub requires wired Ethernet and power connections. Plugging the Hub into your Ethernet router and a wall outlet should be one of the first steps of your SmartThings experience. The Ethernet connection lets the Hub communicate with the SmartThings app, the SmartThings cloud, and supported devices that rely on IP or cloud-to-cloud connections instead of ZigBee or Z-Wave.
This UK version Hub contains a ZigBee radio (2.4 GHz) and a Z-Wave radio (868 MHz). The Hub is said also future-ready to support Bluetooth (which means not really supported yet).
Also, to set the groundwork for future expansion, Hub v2 includes two USB ports. We hope that we can plug in some RF dongle to control other than Z-Wave and ZigBee devices.
For the fun of it, we got it to take a group picture with the 2 most popular Z-Wave gateway in Singapore.
So here’s how does the app look like:
One of the first few things we noticed are the marketplace. The marketplace allows users to add SmartApps to your system, similar to Vera’s and Fibaro’s plugin store. It also allows you to download, community developed plugins to control other IP devices like Sonos and IP camera.
The “Things” that SmartThings can support ranges from light bulbs, cameras, speakers, switches/dimmers and sensors. Despite only listing Aeon Labs Z-Wave devices as compatible, we tested it with Popp Wall Plug, Fibaro relay and MCO Home switch and controlled them without any issues. One thing to note is that for multichannel devices (i.e Fibaro 2*1.5kw relay), you will need to make some custom configuration to make it work.
We also tested the SmartThings hub with Sonos, installed a Smart App and made it such that if you turn on a Z-Wave switch, Sonos will play a certain radio channel. IFTTT seems very simple to setup, just that we don’t really buy the idea of having simple logic stored in the cloud.
Recommended for beginners who wants to quickly setup for off the shelf, plug and play IoT devices. All the setup can be made with the SmartThings app unlike the other gateways. However, this is also the limitation it places on Z-Wave devices that require users to change parameters to suit their needs. We have not found a straightforward way to change parameters of devices, so the Z-Wave devices are all running on default parameters. The constantly growing SmartApps library offers a wealth of options that let you find new ways to have your home automation devices work in harmony.
We know that there is a lot of commonly used Z-Wave and IP devices and we look forward to continue testing them with SmartThings.
In a month’s time, it would have been a year since Vera began redesigning its range of controllers automation. Around the same time last year, VeraEdge was released and this year, Vera Control will be releasing new hardware in December (postponed from November).
The VeraPlus will feature a more powerful hardware than Vera Edge, with more memory and a faster processor (details to be available) . To play catch up to the array of new gateways in the market, it will also include three new wireless communication protocols: ZigBee, Bluetooth and 433Mhz (take that Smart Things!).
The VeraSecure is touted to also support for a backup battery module, GSM module to maintain communications should there be an outage of internet connection, built-in siren, microphone and speaker for two-way communication.
UI7 would likely to be here to stay. Despite having stabilised since its debut in 2014 (kudos to Vera Control), we hope the faster hardware would improve the performance and expect a better response from their default app.
Recently we have implemented an unusual form of automation in one of our customer’s place. Most customers would like to automate their lightings, air-conditioning and curtains while we were asked to schedule the watering of their plants! The owner are frequent travellers who like their plants watered even when they are not at home. So we took up the challenge and worked together with the owner to come up with a plant watering system.
Personnally, I’ve always liked having plants in the house, minus the need to water them. In the process of putting together a system, we learnt a few important about watering of plants! Most of us (amatuer gardeners) would water our plants at different (not so precise) timing and would simply sprinkle water the leaves, pour waters on the soil. Actually the best way to water plants is as follows:
- Focus on the root zone. Remember that it’s the roots that need access to water, not the leaves. Wetting the foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease.
- Water only when needed. Automatic timersare especially useful; just make sure to watch the weather, and reduce frequency when rainfall is abundant. Too much water can be just as damaging to plants as too little.
- Water in the morning. If you do get moisture on the leaves, this gives them time to dry out. It’s much more difficult for plant diseases to get a foothold when the foliage is dry.
- Use the right tool. For efficient watering at the root zone, use a soaker hose or an even more precise drip irrigation system instead of a sprinkler.
With the above pointers in mind, an automated watering (dripping) system at specific timing would be perfect for watering plants.
The solution is actually quite simple once you have the parts. We installed a controller module near the balcony to control an electronic water valves in the balcony. This electronic water valve is in turn, connected to the distribution tubes which are fitted with drippers instead of sprinklers as shown:
Z-Wave control module near balcony
Electronic water valve
Distribution system connected to the valve
Each pot of plants are fitted with drippers
With the setup above, the plants are dripped at the roots (not sprinkled or drowned) every day at a specific time. The owner reported that their plants are “happier” and healthier with the precise dripping schedule. Furthermore, they can still choose to water their plants remotely even if they are on business and holiday trips. Happy dripping everyday!
Living Innovations Team
Source : Automate Asia
The Amazon Echo was released last year to a limited number of customers via invitation. I’ve gotten my invitation and it finally reached me 2 weeks ago. For those who do not know what an Echo is, this is their official YouTube video. The first time I saw Echo, like many home automation enthusiats, the first thing I can think of is, “Holy shit! I want to use it to voice control the Z-Wave system in my house!” So here we are, it is done and I’m going to show you how.
A video made during my initial test
A full feature video made by a fellow home automation enthusiast, in Ah Beng style as requested
What you need:
- Amazon Echo
- Amazon Echo app (You’ll need to get it from US play store or download an apk)
- A Windows/Linux/Mac machine
- Working Vera (2/3/Lite/Edge)
As usual, like my previous attempts to voice control using Siri, Google Now, I’ve never reinvent code anything from scratch but to just put together the hacks that are out there in the Internet. This solution does not need you to working with any SDK or programming. Sounds good already?
What we are trying to achieve is to make Amazon Echo believe that there is a Philips Hue bridge in the network. The Amazon Echo works with Philips Hue bulbs out of the box. So we are creating a Philips Hue bridge that receive command from Amazon Echo and directs it to your Vera system instead. Here’s the how to:
- Get the latest binary of the Amazon Echo Vera Bridge here
- Download the jar file (amazon-echo-bridge-0.1.3.jar) into a folder
- Make sure you have Java 8 JDK installed
- You will need your Windows/Linux/Mac’s IP address ready i.e 192.168.1.123
- Use command line/terminal to navigate to the folder where the jar file is
- Run the command with your IP address. In this example it is java -jar amazon-echo-bridge-0.1.3.jar –upnp.config.address=192.168.1.123
- Key in the URL in your browser with http://<yourIP>:8080/configurator.html. In this example it is http://192.168.1.123:8080/configurator.html and you should see the following in your browser
- Now you need to find the device ID of the light you want to control in your Vera. You also need to update the Vera Server IP address to that of yours. In my example, my study light has device ID 54 and my Vera IP address is 192.168.1.199.
- Once you click on add device and visit the URL http://192.168.1.123:8080/api/devices, you should see one device listed. I’ve done for many devices thus the output in the browser is as shown:
- Fire up the Amazon Echo app, go to Settings>Connected Home>Add new devices.
- Your Amazon Echo should begin searching for this bridge and will announce that it has found Philip Hue bulb(s), even though it is actually a Vera device. Once the devices are added your Echo app should display the connected home devices:
Here you go. You now have an always on voice assistance for your home. You can apply scenes and other devices other than light as long as you know the right URL to use. However, since we are mimicking a Philips Hue bridge, you’ll notice that you always have to say Alexa, turn on or turn off your device. In the case of curtains, door locks and scenes, the command will be a little awkward right now. With this, I hope you enjoy your Amazon Echo.
The topic of energy monitoring is not new. Even though the energy tariff in Singapore is not exactly the highest, it is definitely not low enough to ignore the need to gain insights from your energy consumption patterns and adjust your usage accordingly. It has also been a growing trend, especially with interests from home owners who rent out their apartments.
If you had explored the energy monitoring capabilities of Z-Wave products, you would have came across Z-Wave products like Aeon Labs Energy Clamps or Popp Smart Metering Wall Plugs. They have the capability to send energy usage of whole house or specific wall plugs to the Z-Wave gateway Vera Edge. Unfortunately, the out of the box energy monitoring function of Vera Edge is currently rather unstable and only works for a fraction of the time. Leaving customers the option of only watching current energy consumption instead of historical readings and trends.
Living Innovations has developed our solution to this problem. We have rolled out several implementations where customers can monitor trends, review cost and receive notifications on a daily basis from their smartphone app or browser.
All you need are the Vera Edge, an Aeon Labs Energy Clamps and couple of Popp Smart Metering Wall Plugs and our custom software plugins to have a holistic view of your energy consumption via an energy monitoring cloud. No more getting shocks from the utilities bill from Singapore Powers and wonder why and when on earth did you chalk up all the bill. Contact us for more details.
Living Innovation Team
Source : Automate Asia
“According to a recent IDC report (February 2015), the Internet of Things market size in Asia Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) will grow from USD 408 billion in 2013 to USD 862 billion in 2020, a CAGR of 11.3%. Significant growth also is forecast in the number of autonomous intelligent/embedded systems, or “things”,that will connect to the internet in APeJ, with the number growing from 2.59 billion in 2013 to 8.98 billion in 2020.”
– IoT Asia 2015
For home automation market alone, it is estimated to contribute up to 1/10th of the figures above. Living Innovations is proud to have taken part in Internet of Things Asia 2015 from 8th to 10th April 2015 at the Singapore Expo Max Atria. Being the only exhibitor that demonstrated Z-Wave capabilities and interoperability, we thanked all the visitors for dropping by for their overwhelming interest in our demo setup at our booth.
We had great networking sessions and fun during the event. It was an eye opener to see an an explosion of new IoT-related solutions, including consumer wearables devices, smart home products and industrial IoT solutions, and these solutions are being increasingly adopted across the consumer, enterprise and government segments. We also had the honour to be invited as a speaker as well as the panel discussion with some of the industry leaders.
Here are some pictures of the event:
List of Exhibitors
Our slots for panel discussion and speaker session
Marketing support by Z-Wave Alliance
Clean and simple demo setup
Panel discussion with forerunners in IoT
Privileged to be invited to share smart home trends in Singapore
End of event, tired but rewarding
Living Innovation Team
Source : Automate Asia
Once again, apologies for the long absence of post. I’ve previously posted some pictures of the new Vera Edge on Home Automation Geeks but took a while to follow up a review. Considering many of the readers may be already familiar with Vera Lite and Vera 3, or may have researched a bit on Vera. Here a quick review of the Vera Edge.
Our first impression is the small form factor and more polished design of the Vera Edge. We can see clearly that it is way smaller than the Vera Lite. The Vera Edge has a price between the Vera Lite and Vera 3 and the manufacturer have also announced that the older 2 Vera will be discontinued. To me, the Vera Edge is more of a successor of Vera 3 as it also can double up as a wifi access point just like the Vera 3.
That being said, the difference is that the Vera3 by default, broadcasts an wifi SSID “vera_<serial number>” and you can connect directly with the wifi password printed on the underside of the Vera 3 even before setting up anything. For Vera Edge, it broadcast an ssid “mios_<serial_number>” and the wifi password cannot be found on the underside of the device. This means that unlike Vera 3, there is no way you can access the Vera Edge wifi until you’ve done the setup. We’ll come to how to get this wifi password later.
Unlike the Vera 3 (which comes with a separate battery pack) and Vera Lite (which comes with a battery compartment), it seems that Vera Edge does not need batteries to operate. We were pondering how do we move Vera Edge within a meter of light switches to perform inclusion and we realised later that the reason it didn’t need battery is that it is now doing a full power (long range) inclusion by default! Gone were the days you have to move your Vera to close to your Z-Wave device to perform and inclusion.
Another thing to note is that there isn’t any quick start guide or manual in the box. It simply ask users to go to home.getvera.com to begin setting up the Vera Edge. The wizard is a standard UI6/UI7 setup that we are familiar with but for new users, it can be improved as the wizard took quite some time to redirect users to the Vera Edge dashboard. The Vera Edge also performed an upgrade to the latest firmware which the wizard didn’t highlight.
Now here’s how you can get the wifi password of the Vera Edge. Once you had created an account in home.getvera.com, logout and login again. You will be presented with the following dashboard. Click on the “eye” icon to reveal the wifi password. This is also the ssh password should you need to perform a direct ssh into the Vera Edge (there is no reason you need to do this unless you are doing a factory reset or develop some plugins).
We have tested the Vera Edge and noted that even though it is running on the dreaded UI7, it is already working fine with Fibaro, Aeonlabs, Everspring and MCO Home devices. We previously had problem with the aircon controller Remotec ZXT-120 but now it is also working perfectly as it was in UI5. Although we didn’t like UI7 initially but we can really see that they are working hard to improve the compatibility. Do check on the latest UI7 release notes if you are not sure if certain device is working on UI7. Else you can always check back with us so that we can do a test.
Usage and Mobile Apps
We are not going to go through the UI, so here’s a video from Vera Control to give you a better idea.
Another thing we feel it can be improved on UI7 is that constant spinning green indicator for every action we did. The delay we get when we use the default mobile app Vera UI7 Mobile (both Android and iOS) is terrible (we keep seeing the spinning green indicator), so we recommend third party apps that are tested to work with UI7, such as, Imperihome for Android and Homewave or Veramate for iOS.
Plugins and Downgrad-ability
We also tested with some of the plugins that used to only work in UI5 and are pleasantly surprised that the Autovera, Milight and Sonos plugins are already working in UI7! We also tried to downgrade the Vera Edge to UI5 but with no success. The UI simply reject the UI5 firmware, so we guessed we really have to say goodbye to UI5 with Vera Edge.
Even though we didn’t like UI7, it seems that Vera Control (used to call Micasaverde) is working hard to make Vera Edge a more end user friendly product and yet has the flexibility of the old UI5. Documentation on Vera Edge and UI7 is quite limited but they have created a YouTube channel to guide new users. It is already working well for normal usage (i.e controlling of lights, curtains and aircons etc) but more lacking for advanced users. Give them half a year to improve or you can also consider getting a Fibaro Home Center Lite just to play safe.
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We’ve previously shared on how to control your Vera with the Amazon Echo. The last round when we posted a demo video, we were actually using the Amazon Echo Vera Bridge. The open source software has since spun off different versions and improved by leaps and bounds. The initial version…
Fibaro, a leading manufacturer of wireless, intelligent home automation systems, introduced the Fibaro Swipe at CEDIA 2015 last year. Fast forward to this year, the device is finally on our shores. The Fibaro Swipe recognises six simple gestures; up, down, left, right, circle to the left, circle to the right,…
As mentioned in the previous post about VeraPlus and VeraSecure, finally, the VeraPlus has arrived on our shore around 2 weeks ago. So let us take a quick look at the hardware unboxing. We expected it to be only slightly bigger than the VeraEdge. However, it was much bigger than…
We’ve been receiving tons of enquiry on whether we have tested Samsung SmartThings and if it is available in Singapore. Here we are, with a SmartThings Hub v2 in our hands. Here are some unboxing pictures. We expected nothing less (or more) from Samsung: The Hub requires wired Ethernet…
In a month’s time, it would have been a year since Vera began redesigning its range of controllers automation. Around the same time last year, VeraEdge was released and this year, Vera Control will be releasing new hardware in December (postponed from November). The VeraPlus will feature a more powerful hardware than Vera…
Recently we have implemented an unusual form of automation in one of our customer’s place. Most customers would like to automate their lightings, air-conditioning and curtains while we were asked to schedule the watering of their plants! The owner are frequent travellers who like their plants watered even when they…