Deciding your first Z-Wave controller can be a daunting task. We always get questions such as the difference between Vera, Fibaro or Zipatile controller, which controller is more value for money, which ones are more user friendly, how is SmartThings compared to the rest etc.
We think we will have a different answer today because we've just laid our hands on one of the up and coming smart home hub Homey. And we are very excited to share our first impression as we were totally blown away by it's user interface and product design.
Homey is a voice-activated home automation hub created by Netherlands-based startup Athom. Athom recently launched Homey on Kickstarter in 2014 with 996 backers.
The hardware looks un-usually minimalist. In fact one of the most minimalist design we've seen do far. Just a sphere with LED ring, with a USB power port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a speaker grille. Not even logo or any single letter on the device itself. In fact the box does not even come with an instruction manual because Athom provided 13 instruction videos on YouTube just for setting up Homey.
These guys are seeing things differently and the number of protocols it supports make it stands out from Fibaro, Vera and even SmartThings :
- Wi-Fi ® 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz
- Bluetooth ® 4.0 Low Energy 1
- ZigBee ® 2.4 GHz 2
- Z-Wave Plus ™
- 433 MHz
- 868 MHz
- Infrared Receiver
- Infrared Transmitter (6x)
- NFC (ISO14443A)
You are actually getting an infrared blaster, 433 Mhz, NFC on top of whatever the competitors are offering in the market! The hub is also a speaker that can channel audio via the 3.5 mm headphone jack as well as Bluetooth A2DP.
Upon boot up, the Homey will prompt you by voice to connect to http://setup.athom.com. From this point, everything will be done on your browser until the point you download the Homey app.
The downloading of latest firmware and the voice files actually took some time as the files are around 150 MB to 200 MB in size.
Once the Homey hub is connected to your Wifi and firmware updated, you can download the Homey desktop application to start adding devices and create flows. Homey named their scenes as flows and we must say we were quite impressed with the user interface.
Homey supports an impressive array of devices as shown in the screenshots. There is an app for each brand of Z-Wave devices and you will need to download the app from the Homey App Store into Homey before pairing them.
Furthermore, the pairing instructions are very clear and device specific. The device parameters for each brand of Z-Wave devices are laid out very clearly. We feel that they have outdone both Fibaro and Vera in terms of parameters management. Till date, Homey is compatible with over 20,000 devices.
Once you are done with the setup, adding of devices etc, here's how the look and feel of the app. Again, we love it's simple and material-design like UI. (Vera app had a flat UI but seems overly flat and Fibaro app looks like it is till in the iPhone 3GS era).
With the wide range of device support, clear parameter management and clean UI, Homey is definitely a strong contender among the existing hubs out there. The best thing about Homey is that, like SmartThings, it depended on a strong community in building more support and yet do their quality check on their app and UI assets. For geeks, their add-on are all written in Node.js (the geek in me is screaming woo!).
So do we recommend Homey over Fibaro and Vera? We think our answer will be very likely but we are still doing range and more testing to discover out more of its cons. So far we are still very impressed!
Look out for more articles as we will be covering more on Homey especially on the flow (scene) editor, App Store and other non-Zwave controls (IR, NFC, Bluetooth etc).
Automate Asia Team