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The first time we laid our eyes on Nanoleaf Aurora, we fell in love with it’s aesthetics. We’d even imagine having an entire wall full of the colorful, mesmerising LED panels.Well, that is if you have money to burn. In Singaporean context, we call it damn bloody chio LED panels that do not look beng at all!
One of the most design centric connected home devices we’ve ever seen, the Nanoleaf Aurora is yet another iOS, Android and voice enabled smart lighting panels. Unlike the typical Philips Hue bulbs, these ultra bright LED panels are triangular, modular and are usually wall mounted. The Aurora panels work with Apple HomeKit, an iOS 10 smart home standards built into iPhones and iPads. With it’s latest firmware, it is also compatible with Amazon Echo. With all these, you can either toggle your lights and devices right from your phone’s Control Center, by using spoken Siri commands or by talking to your Amazon Echo speakers.
The starter pack with 9 LED panels cost SGD 399 (with local 3 years warranty). It sounds expensive but considering the price you pay for a Philip Hue starter kit with only 3 bulbs, the features, aesthetics and the flexibility of these panels seem to be quite worth the bucks.
Setting up the Aurora is entirely up to your own creativity. The panel connects to each other with a SIM card like connector that is rather fragile. The controller attachment connects to one of the panels and can power up to 30 panels. Yes, you start with 9 panels and can purchase additional sets of 3 panels at SGD129. The box doesn’t tell you much on the setup but provides you a few idea on how you can organise the panels. We guess the panels and the parts looks rather intuitive to connect and get going.
Once the panels are connected and the controller attachment powered up, simply download and launch the Nanoleaf app to sync them up to your phone. If you own an iPhone or iPad running iOS 10 and above, you will be able to connect it as a HomeKit device and start controlling them via Siri as well. For Android owner, you can control the lights only via the app.
What we like best is that your panels will appear in the app exactly as how you have arranged them physically. Unplugging a panel and shifting the panel will be instantly reflected in the app. You don’t have to power the panels off at all.
You can change its brightness or color of the panels or to specify the transitional animation. You can also control the speed of all of the effects, along with fine details such as direction and smoothness. Once you save your own designed effects as a scene, you will be able to trigger them by a tap/schedule or by saying hey Siri, set the Relax scene for example.
The Aurora IFTTT channel is also available for even cooler integration such as changing scene based on weather, location, notification or even your phone battery level. If you have the Amazon Echo, you can also set connect it to the Nanoleaf Smarter Series Skill.
Promising Feature Pipeline
For home automation enthusiast and geeks, the Aurora API is already in beta, which means you can look forward to integrate it your existing home automation systems. Nanoleaf will also be launching speakers attachment so that your lights can dance to the beat. The panels will also come in shapes other than triangle (though we felt triangles are already the most versatile, squares are quite boring actually). Google Home support will also be available late 2017. With these promises, the geek in you will not hesitate to put this beautify piece of marriage between art and technology on your wall. The Nanoleaf Aurora is also available here.
Following our previous post on Vera (and Fibaro) Integration to Amazon Echo and having gotten our hands on the Google Home, we have updated our code base to support the new Google voice activated speaker.
If you are just using Vera, you can simply head to this link to download the latest jar file that supports Google Home and follow the instruction in our previous post to setup the jar file to work with your Google Home.
If you are using Fibaro, here is another good news. Our latest software version, not only pulls out the lighting devices and scenes out from Fibaro Home Center Lite and Home Center 2, it also generates the commands for air-conditioning and window coverings. We can now also use commands such as “Alexa, set roller blind to 50%” and “Hey Google, set Aircon to 20”. Check out the demo video below.
An important tip for readers who have existing setup with Amazon Echo. Once you have updated to the new jar that supports Google Home, you may realise that your Google Home is not able to discover the devices at all. Fortunately, the solution to simply update the webserver port shown below as 80 instead of 8080. Somehow Google Home does not discover devices on 8080.
With that, you should be able to add your Z-Wave devices to be controlled by Google Home. The discovery process is somehow faster than that of the Amazon Echo. Another cool feature is that any new device added to the software bridge is automatically added to the Google Home without any rediscovery!
Once again, for geek readers who can handle command lines, feel free to contact us for a copy of the file. All we ask for in return is a mention and link to this post in forums or your blog.
For non-geek readers, we also offer the pre-setup Raspberry Pi (comes with power adapter, casing and SD card) on our online store. You just need to plug in the Pi to your home network, power up and key in a preset URL (i,e http://voice-bridge) in your browser to get all these functionalities.
We are sure at some point of time, you may have came across the Ring Video Doorbell or even the Pro version. Ring is one of the most popular wireless doorbells available on the market. Previously known as the Doorbot, had a huge rebranding and climbed its name to the top. It is reasonably priced, easy for self-install and feature-packed. However, the one greatest drawback is that you have to keep charging your doorbell. The Pro version remove the hassle of recharging at a higher cost. On top of that, it allows some form of integration to Wink, Kevo etc. The main reason you want a video doorbell is that you can view the visitor and open the door!
So why are we bringing Ring into picture when we are reviewing DoorBird. We want a video doorbell with the following features:
- Doesn’t require constant recharging.
- Able to have to unlock ANY smartlock (or connect to any magnetic doorlocks, autogate etc) after viewing the visitor
- Able to use the inbuilt sensor as trigger events in ANY existing home automation system
- Able double up as an IP camera and stream the video to existing systems
And the above reasons are the ones that drew us to DoorBird despite the higher price-tag compared to the Ring or Ring Pro. DoorBird is designed and made in Berlin, Germany and available in a variety of configurations. The one that we are reviewing is the entry level DoorBird D101.
The review unit is made of reinforced polycarbonate with a stainless steel faceplate and button. It has an HD camera with an infrared sensor, below which is a microphone/speaker grille and the stainless steel button. Other versions of the doorbell even allow installers to flush to a wall (though it involves carving your wall up), which actually makes for a neater solution, suitable for those with an autogate. Similar to Ring, DoorBird comes with a proprietary screw for securing the device while preventing theft of the device.
Since the DoorBird reuses your existing wires for your doorbell, DIY installation may not be so straightforward. Setting it up would require some wiring, waterproofing (at the backplate) and drilling before you even turn it on. The DoorBird can either to your home network via ethernet cable or wifi. If you are doing renovation anyway, it is good to lay power over ethernet cable to the mounting location. The DoorBird also provide connectors for existing door chimes and electric door opener.
The DoorBird connects to existing smart security products, including Control 4, Kisi, August, Kevo, digitalStrom, Lockstate, Volkswagen and Liftmaster Chamberlain, plus there’s an open API available for developers. Since we have in-house development capability, we are also proud to announce that we have also integrated it to the Fibaro and Vera for now Technically, even though it does not have an IFTTT channel, triggering to other devices via IFTTT is also made possible from our integration
Here’s a video on how the integration works. In this video, when someone presses the bell, notification is sent to the mobile phone, we can speak to the guest at the door and unlock the Z-Wave doorlock from the DoorBird app directly. Alternatively, we could also setup the notification to be sent to the Fibaro app, switches the screen to the Fibaro video gate, use the Fibaro app to view the guest and allow unlocking the Z-Wave doorlock.
If you are simply looking for simple a wireless video doorbell for retrofitting and are willing to recharge your doorbell every now and then, probably Ring (USD199/249) will be a better choice. The DoorBird (USD 349) requires more work to install but for maintenance free operation. If you already or planning to have a smart home system, integrating the DoorBird would be a plus as you do not need to switch to different app just to open the door after checking on the visitor. On top of that, the DoorBird can double up a 24/7 wide angle security camera pointing to your doorway. With connectors for existing door chimes and electric door opener, it is ideal for offices and shops with magnetic door locks. The DoorBird is also available here.
Fast forward 2 years from we first tried the first version of the Danalock, we’ve finally gotten our hands on the V2 of the Z-Wave door lock. Will the version 2 of the Danalock erase the bad experience (mainly battery life and not so ease of configuration) we had with the V1? Let’s take a look at the hardware and the new Danalock app.
Unlike the V1 which has the Circle and Square version, the Danalock V2 now only comes in the Circle version.
The Danalock comes with a manual (yes the V1 didn’t come with anything!!), and a few adapters to attach the tail piece of the deadbolt as well as a few sizes of base plate to secure the lock onto the door.
The Danalock V2 looks largely the same as V1. It used to come with a matt finish cover. The new lock is quite a fingerprint magnet with its glossy cover. However, there is an improvement in the ease of mounting the lock compared to the V1.
Please note that this is a model meant for the US deadbolt. The other common lock in Singapore is the Euro profile lock. For Euro profile lock, an additional cylinder is required. Please refer to this guide for more detail.
Attaching the lock to a US deadbolt is the simplest among all the type of locks. Simply remove the thumbturn, attach the base plate and secure the lock onto the baseplate.
The Danalock V2 can be easily mounted with the 2 screw from the sides (the V1 requires you to open up the lock and insert the screws through the lock). There we go, a fully mounted Danalock in less than 5 minutes.
The Danalock App uses Bluetooth smart technology and works on Android phones equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) or Android 5 (lollipop) as well as on iPhone 4s and above. The Danalock App has improved leaps and bounds from its first iteration.
Calibration of the Danalock V2 is automatically performed via a step by step wizard. If you are not satisfied with the auto calibration, a custom calibration can be done to tweak the locking and unlocking position.
The Danalock App allows setting of auto unlock zone. The auto unlock zone for this version is rather logical. Instead of worrying that the lock will auto unlock whenever you get near, it uses a 2-zone logic such that it will only auto unlock when you come from beyond the outer zone into the inner zone. With this the lock will only auto unlock when you come home from work but not when you are walking around in your house.
During the few days of test, we realised that the lock has already been unlocked long before we climb up the stairs to reach the office door.
Features such as twist assist, auto relock timer and changing of locking speed to save battery or to tweak to work with doors that require bigger force to rotate the thumbturn.
You can also send permanent, temporary or recurrant access to another user via SMS or email and monitor the access logs.
Up till this point of time, the capabilities are just from using the BlueTooth Smart feature alone. What impressed us is the array of system that the app integrates to. The Danalock V2 is already integrated to Logitech Harmony, Google Nest and Airbnb out of the box! (We will delve into the details on these integration in future posts)
Coming back to our core interest, this lock we are reviewing also has a Z-Wave radio. We did a quick test and found it fully compatible with with Vera, Fibaro Home Center (it used to be totally incompatible with HCL or HC2) and surprisingly the ZipaTILE!
We noticed that the functionality to include a Danapad and a Danafob is already available in the app. The Danapad was supposed to be launched in Q3 2016 but will delay until the end of 2016. No news on the Danafob yet.
The Danalock V2 is the only smart lock that uses both Bluetooth and Z-Wave. Danalock offers a model that comes with only Bluetooth as well. With the Bluetooth smart feature alone could already provide an array of features such as auto unlock as well as integrations to other systems and services such as Logitech Harmony, Nest and Airbnb. For the model with the Z-Wave radio, remote unlock over internet and mobile data is made possible via Z-Wave gateways such as Vera, Fibaro and ZipaTILE. In terms of security, this retrofit smart lock depends on the strength of the deadbolt you attach it to. The battery life seems quite decent for now as it remains full after 2-3 weeks of use with daily auto unlock. We will update on the battery life in 2-3 months time.
The Danalock is now available for preorder from SGD 340. With the promise of future add-ons such as Danapad and Danafob, looks like the Danalock is going to give existing Z-Wave and Bluetooth smart locks a run for their money.
The ZipTILE ahead of CES 2016 earlier this year as the new wall mount home automation controller. We’ve got the wind of this device and awed by the introduction video. Now we’ve finally got our hands on this device, let’s see how it stack up against the existing smart home gateways in the market.
The wall mounted home automation controller looks somewhat like a square frame for a tablet in portrait. With a dimension of 205mm x 205mm x 5mm, it is powered by a Quad-core 1.6GHz ARM Cortex-A9 with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of Flash storage. Similar to Vera Plus and Samsung SmartThings v2, it comes with multiple radios: Z-Wave+ 500 series, ZigBee and Bluetooth 4.0. In fact, it is simply a tablet with the standard connectivity such as Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) and Ethernet over USB plus all the major smart home radio standards.
The 8 inch tablet runs on Android Lollipop, has 6 preprogrammed scene touch buttons (programmable via the Zipato portal) laid out on the two side of the screen and in inbuilt with an array of sensors (Sound, Light, Humidity, Temperature, Motion and Shock). That’s not it, it also has on-board connection for dual AC dry outputs (230VAC, 1A), one DC Dry input (12-24VDC), external temperature sensor, a 2MP video camera, alarm siren and SD card slot! It is almost like buying a smart home controller with control modules, scene controller and sensors, except that it is all packed in one device.
The interface of the controller is just like a usual Android system, less the usual Google Playstore
In the last screenshot where we attempted to add device, it is evident that the gateway integrates with IP cameras, Sonos, Philips Hue and Google Nest out-of-the-box. Even though it has a ZigBee radio, clicking on the ZigBee option prompted that the option is only available in the future updates. As for the option named “Arwii”, it is still a mystery as to what it stands for. The Android, home screen is also designed to allow quick control to temperature, and music. What amazed us was that when we arm the system alarm and unplug the power, it immediately tripped and triggered an automated call all the way from Pennsylvania to one of our mobile phones to inform us on the event! Seems like a suite of backend monitoring is already in place!
This is only an initial impression of the device while we have tested the ZipaTILE to work with Fibaro 2*1.5kw relay, Remotec Z-Wave to IR extender and also the Danalock v2, making it capable for typical deployment in apartments. The ZipaTILE is simply a class of it’s own by being a tablet, a smart home controller, an array of sensors and a bunch of relays and contact. Which also explains the price of $700 Singapore dollars. We’ll definitely post more details of the interface with the tested devices in upcoming posts.
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.
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