Homey - Review, Unboxing and Setup

Homey is a smart home hub that supports a wide range of wireless technology by Athom.

It started out as a Kickstarter project on the 28th of May 2014.

It was successfully funded on the 27th of June 2014 where it raised €203,918 from 996 backers. The initial funding goal was only €100,000.

June 2015 was the targeted ship date, but like almost all Kickstarter projects, it got delayed. Athom finally shipped Homey to their backers on April 2016, nearly a year later.

I did not back Homey on Kickstarter, instead I bought mine from Inspiredtech.eu, which is an online smart home shop selling Homey in Europe.

Homey is retailing for 910 BGN or 465 euro in Inspiredtech.eu and they also provide 2-years local warranty for the Homey.

Frequencies Supported

        Infrared: 430THz

        NFC: 13.56MHz

        RF: 433MHz

        RF: 868MHz

        Z-Wave: 868 MHz

        ZigBee: 2.4GHz

        Bluetooth: 2.4GHz

        Wi-Fi: 2.4GHz

Specifications

•        CPU: 1GHz ARMv7 CPU

•        RAM: 512MB

•        Flash Storage: 4GB

•        USB On-The-Go: Yes

•        Accelerometer : yes

•        Dimensions: 12cm in Diameter

•        Audio Output: Internal Speaker, 3.5mm Stereo Jack, Bluetooth A2DP

•        Power Input: 100-240V 50/60Hz 0.5A

•        Power Output: 5V/2A

•        Peak Power: 10W

        Power Cable: USB A to Mini-USB B, 1.8m.

Unboxing

The box contents of Homey is no frills, and I like it. It doesn’t even have a printed manual. It is just the Homey itself, mini-USB cable and a power adapter.

Homey the box from top
Homey box bottom
Homey box frong
Homey box
Homey inside
Homey package

It’s included power adapter outputs a max of 2A.

I am not sure why Homey is powered by a mini-USB cable. I would prefer it to be a micro-USB cable or even better, a USB-C cable.

Because USB powers it, it is possible to power Homey by a power bank. This allows you to bring Homey around your house to include non-portable Z-Wave devices like your light switches or window/door sensors.

Design

Homey

Homey’s design is a white plastic sphere which is 12cm in diameter with a colorful LED ring light in the middle. It looks nice.

There are only two ports at the bottom. One is the mini-USB port for power, and the other is 3.5mm audio out port.

Unlike most smart home hubs, Homey doesn’t have a LAN port for Internet connection. Instead, Homey connects to the Internet over wi-fi (2.4GHz). This and coupled by the fact that Homey can be powered by power bank makes Homey extremely portable.

There is no reset button because to factory reset it, just overturn your Homey and hold it in that position for 10 seconds. The internal speakers will play the countdown timer for you.

This factory reset method is rather unique, and I like it. You can read about it here.

Homey ports

Setup

Homey setup is done using your browser. After powering on, you just have to go to setup.athom.com and follow the on-screen instructions.

Homey is extremely lightweight regarding software, and hence the setup process is longer than usual as it needs to download a lot of things over wi-fi.

It started out by downloading an update to the updater, followed by an update to Homey’s firmware and lastly voice data so Homey can speak to you using its internal speakers.

Once the setup is done, you need to download Homey Desktop App to use Homey.

Homey Desktop App

Homey home

Homey Desktop app is a beautiful designed app. In my opinion, it has the best UI/UX for a smart home device.

It is not written natively. It is written in Node.js and packaged as an Electron app.

The desktop app is split into four sections, Devices, Flow, Music, Insights, and Settings.

The Devices section is where you add/remove your devices to/from Homey. Your devices are associated with zones. Zones are areas in your house, like Living Room, Computer Room, Kitchen. etc.

Zone and devices

Homey’s home automation system is called Flow. Flow works like “When something happened, and this and that is true, then do that.”. You can use it to bridge multiple wireless technologies together which is not possible on a standalone Z-Wave hub. For example, you can set to automatically turn on your Z-Wave lights and Sonos speakers when you reached home.

The next section is Music. Since Homey has an internal speaker, you can use it to play music. Of course, you need to install the relevant streaming app from Homey App Store.

Insights section as the name suggests, allows you to monitor the usage of your device graphically. It will graph your device usage time, power consumption for power switches, and temperatures for temperature sensors, etc.

The Settings section is pretty self-explanatory. The weird part is that Homey Apps come under this section. I think Apps should be a section by itself.

To install Apps on Homey, you need to use your browser and visit apps.athom.com. You cannot do it within the desktop app. I find this experience very disjointed.

Pairing Process

The pairing process for Homey is swift. I am very impressed. It makes Fibaro pairing process feels like a snail.

I realized once you start adding more z-wave devices (I got about 55 z-wave devices in Homey), the z-wave network will be congested. You will begin having pairing problems, especially when pairing a battery powered z-wave device.

When pairing, it will go from Node Found -> Node Identified -> Could not reach the device anymore. And the best part is that I did not even move the pairing device!

I guess because of z-wave network congestion; it will take more time to pair the battery-powered device and hence the device times out.

I still have one Fibaro Smoke Sensor that no matter what I do (including factory resetting it), it refuses to pair. I got the same message as above when I tried it for like ten times, and I gave up.

Flow

Flow is probably one of my favorite features in Homey. It is so easy to use, and the UX/UI is lightyears ahead of Fibaro, Vera, and even SmartThings.

Each Flow executes almost instantly without any visible lag time, unlike Fibaro where there is a lag time of a few seconds.

I have a couple of flows like for example to turn on my lights if I am at home and the time is after 6.30pm.

The presence detection of Homey is pretty accurate, and I can rely on it to determine whether I am at home. I can’t say the same for Fibaro, and hence while I am using Fibaro, I used IFTTT to overcome this.

My presence flows go along the lines of when I reached home, I want selected devices to be turned on automatically, and when I leave the house, I want those devices to be turned off.

On top of Flow, Homey supports IFTTT as well. So you can link external services to execute a Flow on Homey.

Settings

If you find the Homey’s LED lights very distracting when placed in the living room, you can reduce the brightness or disable it altogether.

The date and time of my Homey were in UTC when I first setup Homey despite my location was in Singapore. You might need to choose the location manually, and reboot Homey after that.

You can check whether the date and time of your Homey are correct by going to Settings -> System -> Stuff for geeks. Look out for the JSON field date_human.

Voice/AI Assistant

Homey supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and, Facebook Messenger

For Amazon Alexa, you have to install the Homey Skills. Then, you have to invoke it by calling: “Alexa, ask Homey to turn on the lights”. You can’t just say Alexa, turn on the lights.

For Google Assistant, this is the part where it gets very confusing. It supports Google Assistant as in the app and not Google Home. I made the mistake of trying to find out how do I install the Homey App on my Google Home.

You are supposed to link Google Assistant with your Homey and only Android phones can do that. Visiting the Homey Google Assistant link on iOS devices does nothing.

Also, your Android phone needs to be in English (US) locale. You can change it in your phone settings. Other locales will not work as I have tested it with English (Singapore).

Once you have linked up Homey with Google Assistant, that is when you can use your Google Home to invoke Homey. Similar to Amazon Alexa, you need to invoke it by calling: “OK Google, ask Homey to turn on the lights.”

Unfortunately, that is not the case for me. After linking up, I could not get it to work. As you can see from the screenshot below, I encountered an unknown error.

Apparently, I was missing a step where I need to say “Ok Google, tell Homey to select a Homey”. You can replace “Homey” with the name of your Homey, mine was the default, and hence it is Homey.

Once I did that, it works!

HA Bridge

Personally, I find the “Ask Homey” part pretty troublesome. So I emulated Philips Hue lights using HA Bridge. Now, I can just say, “Alexa, turn on the lights” and it will call HA Bridge, and HA Bridge will call Homey via a REST API.

The above will only work for Amazon Echo as it will scan your local network for Philips Hue compatible lights. So an emulation will work.

It will not work with Google Home as it uses the cloud version of Philips Hue.

To workaround this, what I do is to let my SmartThings detect my Philips Hue emulation within my local network and then link my SmartThings with Google Home. In this case, when I say “Ok Google, turn on the lights”, it does Google Home -> SmartThings -> HA Bridge -> Homey.

HomeKit

There are two HomeKit apps in Homey. HomeyKit by swttt and HomeKit by sprut. HomeKit by sprut is a fork of HomeyKit by swttt and both of them are built on top of Homekit Accessory Server (HAS).

I have seen mixed reviews for both apps in the comments section and in the forums for the app. I would probably wait for it to stabilize first before attempting to use it.

If you want to give HomeKit a try, I would recommend HomeKit by sprut as the developer is more active.

REST API

Like most smart home hubs, Homey has an API as well. The REST API is undocumented as it is still in beta stages, so use it at your own risk.

To list all your devices, just do a GET to http://<HomeyIP>/api/manager/devices/device/.

To get an individual device, do a GET to http://<HomeyIP>/api/manager/devices/device/<DeviceID>.

To turn a device on, do a PUT to http://<HomeyIP>/api/manager/devices/device/<DeviceID>/state with the body {"onoff": true} and vice versa, to turn it off, do a PUT to http://<HomeyIP>/api/manager/devices/device/<DeviceID>/state with the body {"onoff": false}. Your content type has to be application/json.

Z-Wave Graph

One of my favorite z-wave related features of Homey is the Z-Wave Network Graph. The graph shows how your z-wave devices are connected with one another. It makes debugging easier if you happen to have an orphaned z-wave device.

Conclusion

My primary complaint of Homey is the z-wave pairing issue. It gets frustrating and everytime you failed to pair, you will have to remove the device and re-pair it again. Imagine going through this process at least two times for every battery-powered z-wave device.

Another thing to note is that Homey doesn’t have a backup and restore feature. It is on their high priority list, so I guess it will be out before the end of the year. So till then, if your Homey crashes, you will have to re-add all your devices manually. And that can be a very annoying.

If you are worried about devices compatibility, rest assured that as the community matures, there will be more support for devices.

My z-wave devices consist of Fibaro, Aeotec, MCO Home, and TKB. All of them are compatible with Homey, and I have no issues using them.

Despite some flaws mentioned above, I still think Homey is probably the best smart home hub out there, and it is reasonably priced. I would recommend this over Fibaro or SmartThings. I have not used Vera before, so I can’t pass judgment on that.