The Web-Of-Things is a catch-all term for apps and devices that connect your home and basic non-internet-enabled objects to the web, allowing you to control your home, heating and other variables from anywhere in the world. Google has sold the Nest thermostat in the Google Play store for a while, and there are others which do the same. WeeMo plugs allow you to control the lighting from your phone. Archos‘ entry in to the Web-Of-Things is this unassuming little box which packs quite a punch for a surprisingly small price: We give you the Archos Smart Home Hub.
Archos Smart Home Hub Review:
The Archos Smart Home Hub is a small package that will give you information about your home direct to your phone. In the box you will find the following:
- 1 Archos Smart Home Hub tablet
- 2 movement tags
- 2 weather tags
- 1 motion ball
- 1 mini camera ball
Because there is so much hardware in the box, we will break it down into these 5 categories and explain more about them.
Archos Smart Home Hub Tablet:
The Archos Smart Home Hub tablet is the central focus point of your Smart Home Hub. It connects to each of the tags via Bluetooth and records their responses in the Smart Home App. The app is the main use of the tablet, which, when not in use, can display your photos like a digital photo frame using the DayDream feature built-in to Android 4.2 which it is running. When you need to use it, simply tap the snooze-like button on the tablet’s top edge and the screen will return to the app.
For those hoping to set the tablet on the wall like a picture frame, the downside is that the construction of the tablet has a bulge out the back to give the tablet a portrait stand. This, we feel, is a slight design flaw of the tablet itself, but doesn’t, by any means, make it worthless. On the rear is a Micro USB plug, Micro SD slot and a proprietary charging port for the plug which will charge and power your Smart Home Hub Tablet. There is also a 3.5 mm Headphone jack should you wish to plug it in to more substantial speakers and use it as a music hub too.
Like any modern tablet worth it’s salt, the Archos Smart Home Hub tablet has a forward facing camera, which can be used as a second camera. It also has temperature recorders which will tell you the temperature and humidity wherever the tablet is placed.
Two Movement Tags:
The two movement tags that come supplied with the Archos Smart Home Hub kit have a dual function. Both have two parts, but can also be used singularly. The larger square tag can be used as a vibration sensor on its own which will detect movement through the inbuilt accelerometer. When paired with the smaller rectangular magnet, the tag can be used to keep guard over a window or door. When the door/window is closed, the two tags sit next to each other and the circuit is complete. When the door/window is opened, the circuit is broken and an event triggered. This event can be configured in the Smart Home App to perform a number of tasks (explained later).
Two Weather Tags:
The Two Weather tags can be placed anywhere in the house (preferably inside as they are not waterproof) and will report their temperature and humidity in the room. This can be useful for a library or wine cellar and can give the user of the app an idea if the heating needs to be put on prior to returning home.
One Motion Ball:
The Motion Ball is like any you would find in a normal security alarm. Placed anywhere in the room, its infrared beam will detect any movement in the room and sent a trigger to the Smart Home App. The ball is magnetically secured to a base which will stick to the wall/ceiling/shelf. The ball is then allowed to move freely in almost 360 degrees, meaning that you can get the perfect angle to cover the room as desired.
One Mini Camera Ball:
The Mini Camera Ball is similar in design to the Motion ball other than having a small camera attached. Again, the design allows the camera to be rotated almost 360 degrees and be hung any which way the user wishes. The quality of the pictures sent are not HD quality by any means, more like VGA, but they would be enough to get a clear picture of whatever was captured (as you can see in the picture gallery, the photo’s of me when trying to set it up are clear enough). In this case, the Camera will work as a result of a trigger (which could come from the Motion ball or one of the other motion tags) and will either send a short 10 second video or freeze frame back to the Archos Smart Home Hub. The speed of the transfer does depend on the Bluetooth signal, however, so don’t expect instant feedback. You also can’t view a live feed, just 10 second clips, although these can be ordered at any time from either the mobile app, or the tablet. You can even get audio through the tiny microphone embedded in the ball, although, again, quality is rough.
The Smart Home App comes pre-installed on the Archos Smart Home Hub tablet and runs concurrently with the Smart Home Gateway app, which manages the connection to all the tags and peripherals. Upon first setting up the hub, you will be asked to connect each of the tags to the tablet via Bluetooth. This is achieved by pressing on the small button on the tag which will start flashing. Once the device is connected, the LED won’t flash anymore and it will appear within the app.
Setting up alerts are similar to recipes on the popular IfThisThenThat (IFTTT) service. First, a trigger is chosen (such as motion detected on the motion ball). This then starts an action (for example, taking a 10 second clip from the camera ball). This can then be used to send an alert to the user’s phone via the companion Mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android of via Email. When the user picks up the notification on their phone, they can choose to view the video (for example) or to view it on the Archos Smart Home Hub tablet when they get home.
These recipes can be used to, for example, let you know who and when your front door opened so you know when your kids are home safe from school. Or maybe, you could set up the tags so that when the temperature in your home drops bellow a certain temperature, you’re alerted so that you know you’ll have to leave earlier to defrost the car.
The tablet does have a battery, but due to its design and function, it is not designed to be used as a ‘normal’ tablet. It’s purpose is to control your Smart Home devices. As such, the battery life of the Archos Smart Home Hub tablet is woefully short. We left the device unplugged just after dinner, and by breakfast it was out of juice. In fairness, this isn’t a surprise when you realise it has several Bluetooth connections open at any one time with an app running constantly in the background to log all the triggers and actions. That being said, when the tablet is plugged in, it is a very useful hub which can be used not just for the Smart Home App, but also as a music station and digital photo frame.
Each of the tags have their own individual battery. They are user replaceable and, depending on the tag, are either singular or in threes. Both the Motion ball and the Camera ball take 3 CR2450 batteries which are accessed by gently twisting the ball open. Both the Weather tags and Motion tags take a singular CR2430 battery. The obvious downside to this is that those batteries are not the cheapest on the market, selling from £2 each (although some swift searching will most likely find bargains for bulk purchases). The good thing is, the Smart Home App will keep track of the battery life of each tag and when the battery level is low, the LED on the tag will flash intermittently. We had all four tags powered up over Christmas for about two months, after which the tags were still almost at full charge, only a small percentage taken from the battery logo. That being said, more use is likely to increase the drain, especially, we imagine, on the Camera Ball.
The Archos Smart Home Hub is a great package that will keep being useful as features are added. For example, we recently reported that Archos had partnered with Freshub to help you with your grocery shopping, using an adapted version of the Smart Home Tablet. If the app was released via Google Play, your Smart Home Hub Tablet could used in your kitchen to help build your grocery list over the week. Moreover, the addition of other peripherals (such as a plug available from Archos) means you can connect more and do more with the tablet. It’s true the tablet is not the most good-looking or the most transportable, but with the use of the Smart Home App on your phone, there really is little need for it to move once set up.
The Archos Smart Home Hub is available from Archos at £199 ($300/€260). This gives a slighly different pack to the one we reviewed with two Camera Balls and no motion ball (although that can be purchased at £50 extra).