Thursday, 10 March 2016

Devolo Home Control Starter Pack

Devolo Home Control Starter Pack

Devolo is riding the Z-Wave to the future of smart devices

In the past couple of years Devolo has delivered some very classy Powerline gear, but now it's branching out into IoT territory with its Home Control range.

By way of giving your home control ambitions a kick start, Devolo has bundled three items into an appropriately named Starter Pack. It includes the all-important communications hub or ‘Central Unit’, and alongside that a door/window contact and a smart metering plug.

My immediate reaction to this is that it covers both the home control and security imperatives, though I’m not sure people generally come to this party expecting to attack the problem so widely from the outset.

For those interested, you can buy the Window sensor and smart plug separately for £39.99 each, making the central unit worth about £100.

To get this kit operational the central unit needs placing at good location in your home, where it's roughly equidistant from all the other devices, but is also near enough to the router to be connected. Router connection can be via an Ethernet cable or in a power socket that’s part of a Devolo dLan powerline network.

Once this bridge to the internet has been created, you can use it to remotely control any Devolo smart equipment using an app on a phone, tablet or through the web. And it also enables the device to alert you should something change that you need to be aware of.

Those wondering why you need the central control box, rather than just use the router to talk to the peripherals need to realise that this hardware communicates using a wireless technology called Z-Wave, and not any variant of the 802.11 standard.

Z-Wave operates in the sub-gigahertz frequency range, around 900MHz, so it isn’t competing with wi-fi or Bluetooth. Howwever, it does overlap some cordless phone services a little.

This technology isn’t designed for high data transfer rates; instead it’s focused more on reliability, and it offers a generous range of up to 100m if outdoors, and 30m indoors.

Getting set up is a little fiddly, though you only really need to do it once, thankfully.

Each central control has a unique code that you register on the website, and if your router allows the correct ports through, you’ll soon be able to add the other items to the system.

Or you can once it has done a firmware update, in my instance.

But actually, you can do so much more than just control them, because this is an IoT (Internet of Things) solution, and you can build a complex web of interactions through rules, schedules and device interactions.

Therefore you can make the smart meter switch off whatever is plugged into it at 9pm each day, or when the door that the contact sensor is attached opens, or any more elaborate scheme that you can come up with.

Equally, you can ask to be informed when the temperature in any location hits a certain point, or whenever someone comes into the house. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless.

Along with this starter kit, Devolo also supplied a room thermostat, radiator thermostat, key fob switch, wall switch, motion sensor and smoke detector. These are all easily integrated into the environment, and you can buy additional items of each, depending on your needs.

The only thing really missing here is a control system for a boiler, though I’m sure Devolo is going to add that or enable a connection to Hive or a similar device.

Depending on the direction you want take this solution in, you can have it make your home as energy efficient or secure as you need, or any combination of those.

Comparing this with other IoT collections I’ve seen, this is by far the slickest yet and not especially expensive. Each of the devices is generally well made and designed, and getting them to work as part of a bigger setup isn’t overly complicated or challenging to manage.

What’s great about this hardware is that it starts the user off in the shallow end of IoT control, yet you can build something much more sophisticated once you’re ready to. This is exactly the right approach, because overwhelming people early on with smart devices is very likely to alienate them.

The only reservation I have is that most people will want the central unit not necessarily with the smart metering plug and the door/window contact sensor. Devolo needs to release it as a stand-alone item, so those wishing to use a particular facet of the solution can focus their initial investment better. Mark Pickavance

A slick IoT home control solution.