Home automation in modern conditions is an extremely flexible system that the user designs and configures himself, depending on his own needs. This assumes that each smart home owner decides which devices and where to install and what tasks and how they will perform.
There are now many offers on the market for the installation of turnkey multifunctional elite systems. But, firstly, they usually have a high price, and secondly, they are closed systems that do not allow adding third-party devices.
Our task is to find something budgetary, with the ability to independently configure the system and add new devices, without involving qualified specialists.
As a result of the search and comparison of available technologies, the Z-Wave technology turned out to be the most suitable for the required criteria . She is the market leader in Do It Yourself (DIY) systems. Exactly what is needed!
Z-Wave Home Automation
The main element of a smart home automation is the controller, this is the central unit of the entire system. The most popular ones for today are Vera, Fibaro, Zipato, BeNext.
The most affordable of all the popular ones is the BeNext controller. Like the others, it had a web-based management interface (in Russian), free applications for a smartphone, and a wide range of devices (instructions in Russian are also available for devices).
Home automation, BeNext system
The product is aimed at the mass market and provides electrical load and temperature management, consumption control and other popular functions. The system is configured via the web interface, in addition, remote access from mobile applications is implemented.
BeNext system structure
The design of a wireless home system is generally the same for all manufacturers. As mentioned above, the main element in the system is the controller.
- Providing the user with a control interface and receiving commands for execution from it
- Storing rules, scripts (more about them below) and storing information about all devices in the system
- Communication with all remote executive devices (sending commands to them) and sensors (receiving current values from them).
General scheme of work: the user through the application or web interface sends commands (or saves them in the form of rules) to the controller, which in turn sends commands to the devices.
In the BeNext system, you can control it locally via an app from a smartphone and tablet, or remotely via a cloud web service.Devices are added to the system by a simple procedure - using the interface on the controller, the search mode for new devices is activated. And on the device the mode of adding to the network is turned on (for more details, see the instructions for the device). After that, the device will be added to a single network and become available for management.
The body is made of white semi-matt plastic. The top cover bears the manufacturer's logo and the website address, which, however, no longer exists. The controller can be simply laid on a flat surface or hung on the wall. Note that there is a temperature sensor inside the device that can be used in rules.
At the rear there is a status LED, a power supply input (10-20 V AC / DC, device consumption, according to the manufacturer, does not exceed 1.5 V A), a network port with indicators, a port for a power consumption sensor and a reset button / settings.
The set includes a network cable and a power supply. The latter surprised me a little with its format - a transformer model 15 V AC 500 mA.
As with other similar systems, the controller's firmware can be updated via the Internet to implement new features and fix errors. So the further description refers specifically to the version at the time of preparation of the material.
The most significant advantages of this cloud solution are the absence of the need to configure a router for remote access, the ability to work without a "white address", a built-in notification system. And the disadvantages can be written down the impossibility of completely autonomous use of the system, the inaccessibility of changing settings in the absence of communication with cloud servers.
This device uses the familiar loop-through socket format. The body is made of white matte plastic. The dimensions are perhaps too large for convenient use (61 × 44 × 125 mm excluding the plug). On the case there is a button for turning on / off / connecting to the network, as well as a red indicator light.
BeNext socket switch
The model is designed for indoor use, uses a traditional relay and is designed to switch resistive loads up to 3000 W / 16 A. At the moment, there is no such model in the manufacturer's catalog, since it is replaced by a similar device that additionally has the function of measuring load consumption. Let us remind that models permanently connected to the power supply can also perform the function of a Z-Wave network repeater, which allows to expand the coverage area.
The device settings provide for blocking local control, Home automation enabling state memory when the power is turned off, selecting the operating mode of the LED indicator.
For a less powerful load, but requiring dimming, it is suggested to use a compact dimmer. It measures only 20 x 36 x 67mm, excluding the plug, and is designed to work with 2-prong and C-format plugs.
BeNext socket dimmer
The body is also made of white matte plastic, on the front side there is a power / pairing button and an LED indicator. The device is designed for door use. The maximum load is 125 W. There is a built-in consumption control and shutdown when the 200 W threshold is exceeded. In addition to dimming, this model has the function of measuring the current load consumption.
Despite its small size, this model has a lot of settings. In particular, you can select the power limit, dimming speed, state memory, and block local control.
Multifunctional MoLiTe sensor
The model is made in the form factor of a motion detector. Its overall dimensions are 63 × 40 × 63 mm excluding the bracket. The device is self-contained and powered by two AA batteries. The manufacturer speaks about three years of work from one set, but this figure depends significantly on the activity and settings of the device. The motion sensor works at distances up to 10 meters with an angle of 110 degrees.
On the front side, in addition to the motion sensor lens, there is also an indicator LED. A compact hinge is used to mount the device. If you do not need to change the position relative to the wall, you can do without it. Under the cover there is a case opening sensor, which is also used as a button to turn on the device to the network.
The sensor settings indicate the interval for sending data to the controller, the time of sending the shutdown command after the motion sensor is triggered, the temperature correction, the sensitivity of the motion and light sensors.
Door or window opening sensor
We have already met this model in one of our previous publications. The device consists of two parts - the sensor itself (33 × 18 × 58 mm) and a block with a magnet (12 × 18 × 58 mm). The cases are made of white matte plastic. Fastening is carried out on double-sided tape or screws. The operating range of the reed switch is about 17 mm.
BeNext door or window opening sensor
Powered by two AAA batteries. One external dry contact can be connected to the sensor, which makes it possible, for example, to service two window sashes at once. In addition, a temperature sensor is built into it. However, do not forget that when installed on a window, it may give readings that do not reflect the situation in the room.
This model has two settings - the interval for sending data to the controller and the temperature correction.
Wall-mounted two-gang switch
This model at the time of writing was not represented in the company's catalog. The device is made of white matte plastic and has the usual 80 × 80 mm wall switch format. It is fixed to a wall or other surface with a couple of screws.
BeNext 2-gang wall switch
Powered by two AAA batteries. Under the keys you can find two service buttons and an indicator LED.
There is also a wake-up interval and temperature correction in the model settings, but this was not indicated in the product description.
In addition to the models described above, the system can use IP cameras, panic buttons, siren, RFID tag reader, built-in dimmer, thermostats, remote controls, door lock, smoke detector, gas, heat, water meters (with P1 interface), bridges to others interfaces. A total of 24 items were presented in the section of original models at the time of this writing.
The system allows you to work not only with your own sensors and actuators, but also with Z-Wave products from manufacturers such as AEON Labs, Danfoss, Duwi, Fibaro, Secure and others. But the model must be known to the service. At the time of writing, there were almost four dozen devices on the list of third-party products.
Connection and configuration
An internet connection is required to get started and change settings. The system uses the resources of the company's cloud services to implement remote access, send notifications, and store reports. In the absence of a connection between the controller and the cloud, the user-programmed rules of the system will generally remain operational. But remote access and notifications, for obvious reasons, won't work.
Depending on the option of purchasing the system, different procedures are used to launch it. If you purchased a boxed kit, you will need to register an account on the manufacturer's website, connect the gateway to a local network (with Internet access), wait for it to load and then add it to your account via the web interface of the cloud system. If the purchase was carried out directly from the manufacturer, then here you create an account before buying and the received controller will already be linked to it. In any case, as a result, you get access to the controller and the entire system through the cloud service.
First of all, let us note that the system also has an extended version of the interface, which we will discuss below. The base interface is designed for a fixed window width. Menu items are displayed at the top of the page and along the left margin. First, let's take a look at the "Settings" section. There are seven points in total.
Home automation, system setup
In the first, you can program rooms by specifying a name for each and choosing your own background image.
The system actively uses the concept of "Mode of life". Three options are preinstalled - "at home", "all gone" and "sleep". You cannot add your own modes in the current firmware version.
The "Devices" item is used to rename, delete and configure sensors and actuators. Depending on the type, the user is presented with a list of valid parameters. For example, for a motion sensor, this could be a shutdown period, and for a temperature sensor, an offset for correction. For the controller, the geographic coordinates of the installation site, which are required for the "sunrise" and "sunset" events, are specified here, and the clock is also set. Note that the situation with time zones is somewhat strange and we were unable to achieve a convenient setting.
Home automation, system setup
New devices are added to the system through the "Installation" section. Here, the supported devices are collected in two groups: the first - the BeNext models, and the second - from other manufacturers (in particular, AEON Labs, Danfoss and Fibaro). In total, you can count more than six dozen models. Since we did not have third-party models for the European frequency, we could not check how they were connected. But for their own devices, the user is provided with detailed information, including the appearance, required operations by pressing buttons and even sometimes videos.
During the setup process, you can choose a device name (in English only) and, for some models, specify the appropriate icon (for example, a lamp or water heater). Some of the profiles include certain basic rules that can be automatically added to the system at this stage of configuration.
The basic rule-making capabilities are divided into four subsections - climate, governance, tariffs, and security. Note that in some other solutions the user has the ability to create virtual devices for climate control from temperature sensors and conventional relays.
Home automation, system setup
The "Control" tab allows you to create universal rules, for example, for servicing sockets and dimmers. The use of events related to sunrise or sunset, schedule, mode change, sensor triggering is provided. There can be only one source as an input for a rule, there is no possibility of combination with logical conditions, except for taking into account an additional schedule and selecting modes when the rule is active. However, if you are using a multifunction sensor, you can combine the data from it in one rule, for example, "motion is detected and the light level is less than 50%."
When a rule is triggered, a group of actions is executed. Their roles are: sending push notifications to a smartphone, changing the state of executive devices, changing the mode, activating a scene, sending an e-mail message. Each action has a delay timer. This is the only way to deal with time-limited activities. At the same time, in each rule, devices can be used only once, so to solve the simplest problem of lighting using a motion sensor, you have to write two rules for one sensor triggering - the usual one for turning on and with a delay for turning off.
Home automation, system setup
The item "Tariffs" is a modified version of control of actuators when changing the mode for easier customization.
The "Security" page works in a similar way, where you can configure the activation of an alarm when the selected sensors are triggered in the specified modes.
The "Scenes" section provides the familiar from other solutions the ability to create preset combinations of states of executive devices (in particular relays and dimmers). Then scenes can be used in rules for quick activation in one action.
The "Tariffs" page looks interesting. On it you indicate the cost of electricity, gas and water. In the current software version, only fixed rates can be used. True, the possibility of using this function with domestic data collection devices is questionable.
The "Profile" section is designed to configure system parameters - name (but not login), password and e-mail address of the user, interface language, notifications. The latter are divided into several categories and for each you can select recipient addresses, of which there can be several (they must be specified in the system in advance).
After making some settings, you will need to synchronize the changes with the cloud service.
Home automation, work with the BeNext system
For operational control of the system, the switches, sensors and other devices provided in the project are used, which, in combination with the controller, control the automation according to the programmed rules.
Home automation, mobile app
The mobile version is implemented with a special proprietary utility for a smartphone or tablet running Android or iOS. The main page contains buttons for switching the "Life Mode" and activating scenes.
Through the menu, you can switch to other pages of the program: Energy, Climate, Management, Sensors, Cameras, Statistics, Settings.
"Control" shows all executive devices in the house and allows you to quickly change their state.
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