Review of the Fibaro HomeCenter 2

by | Jun 6, 2015 | Controllers, Home Automation

Today is a huge day! Just a few moments ago, UPS guy dropped off a little box with my name on it. Inside was the device I had been waiting for, the new Fibaro Home Center 2! Without any hesitation, I took the opportunity to allow myself a break from my regular job, and unbox it. This little initial review is the result of that.

Please understand this is by NO means the only review I plan. I will be developing this on an almost daily basis.

Contents of the Review

  1. Appearance
  2. Unboxing
  3. Setup
  4. Initial Screens
  5. Security (problems spotted)
  6. Scripting Actions and Scenes
  7. Configuring a Device (Phillips HUE)
  8. Phillips HUE Impressions
  9. My Initial Impression of the HC2
  10. Open Questions for my follow on review

Appearance, Physical Impressions

A lot has been made of the case, and sleekness. I don’t really want to go over that much, it lives in my furnace room and in many ways – I don’t care. It could be a cardboard box and I wouldn’t care… as long as it works well. This isn’t in my front room, or in my pocket so this is a very distant priority for me.
The controller is in a custom aluminum case, and it very much looks very nice and clean. I wouldn’t be opposed to displaying it in my front room…
Now for what I don’t like about the case. I wish it mounting holes, I install devices on the wall in the device closet/furnace room for management purposes. I will need to fabricate something. For the cost and design aspects of this, I wish this had been included. I’m sure I won’t be the only one noticing this.

Unboxing

Unboxing is always one of those things that bring back memories of childhood. Sure, that element of wonder of mystery is lacking, yet it still makes me giddy with excitement. ‘Ohh look what the Santa-UPS has brought me’!

Setup

Setting up the HC2 is very and quick. Plugin in power and internet and your pretty well done… well you do have to press the power button on the front. One very nice thing about this device regards cable management. The design of the case ensures all it’s cables are well organized. It continues to assert itself as a very designed device.

Fibaro Home Control Finder – install on Mac
You need to install a little client that finds the device on the network. Its a quick and easy download.

Initial Screens

First thing I did was change the admin password. I use a password generator and store the passwords in a secure password app. Your site install can only be as secure as the weakest link. Don’t leave your devices admin password as the default. I am knocking them huge on not requiring a password.

Story of a Software Update

The system informed me that an update was available (. Being that I want to review on the newest and most stable release, I went ahead with the update. When I went to install the update, something went wrong. No longer did it list the version on the configuration screen. I suspect I got install image.
Rebooting the device appears to have resolved the funky issues. When in doubt reboot, I guess.

Security

Rightfully so, much attention is paid to the topic on Home Automation and the lack of security in older protocols. This is a device that connects critical components of your home together, so its more than a little ‘attention to detail’. I found a few important issues with the product, and I hope they are corrected soon.

  • Unbelievably, your not required to change the default password
  • Pins, limited to 4 digits – another negative.
  • No 2 phase authentication supported.

Score – 2

Scripting

Scripting on the Home Center 2 is a wholly different experience to the vera edge. There are definite limitations imposed on the developer for instance there is no direct support for user shared libraries, and log files are inexplicably hidden.

However this is definitely a mixed bag. There is an immediate window where you can see debug messages and errors immediately. Additionally, it appears that they are actively documenting their API and providing current information about their product which is an ongoing struggle with the Vera ecosystem.
It was very painless to create scenes automating behaviors and provided useful information when there was a syntax error. I’m really impressed with what I saw and experienced, I’m really excited about the future of this area.

One of the concepts that really could be extended here would be support for user defined libraries. This would be very useful in reducing the amount of code being repeated and also make maintenance a lot easier.

Configuring a Device (Phillips HUE)

I am a huge fan of the Hue. I have a lot of lights in my house controlled by it. A lot of people cite the cost of the bulbs as a negative, I don’t think its a negative, nor is it a positive. The cost is simply the price of being an early adopter. There are other choices for RGBW lights in the marketplace, but Phillips Hue without any doubt in my mind is simply the best on the market today. If you want to play, you’re going to pay. Remember – these are LED lights, and your only paying for it once.

I use these in a few places, My theater lighting is Phillips Hue based, and my bedroom. I use them in my morning wakeup scene, it provides for a better way to get up (More on that in a later article).

First device I installed also happens to be… You guessed it – the Phillips Hue.

Install is pretty easy. Follow the directions on the screen and you should be good to go. One word of advice, have a helper handy if you aren’t next to the device and hub. You have 30 seconds to hit the button on the hub and ‘Create User’ in the Fibaro UI.
Steps,
Click the search to find the device. You will need to select the hub, and ok
Create a Phillips Hub User. Have your helper, or you press the center button on the Hue Controller

Phillips Hue Impressions

First the Bad News
The device listing is a tad messy (Ok, Really, Really Messy). I have another 6 bulbs waiting to be installed. The Vera immediately shows to me a superior device handling over the Fibaro. Vera’s UI collapses all the bulbs instead of the long uninformative bulb listing. Lights show as 1,2,3, etc where you manually now go and change the 1 to be something more informative such as ‘Hue Bulb 1’ or ‘Master Bed Can 1’ and so forth. It also wont allow you to collapse the devices.
This all bodes ill for the future. I have a hunch my device listing will get quickly unmanageable.

Good News
The device listing frightens me. Finding stuff is going to have be organized by the Room, and not the list. I like lists, but I never get everything I want, compromise it shall be.
Best news today –
The Web UI
Fibaro has a color chooser. I’m very happy. Vera’s controller frankly SUCKS when it comes to the color wheel, hue, saturation and brightness. Fibaro has this nails, pat.
Being picky, jQuery has had support for drag and drop of div’s for a while. I instinctively attempt to drag it around. It would be really neat if this UI was more advanced.

iPhone UI

Experience here actually closely reflects the Web UI for the controller. I’m very pleased.

My Initial Impression of the HC2

After initially setting up the Home Automation Controller, iPhone client, user security, and the Hue I have gained a little hands on experience and overall I’m impressed. I believe its very well-baked and far more mature than the Vera. I I’m disappointed over the attention to security, and a lack of 2 phase authentication. If I could lock it down to the mac address that would be nice as well. Perhaps I can at the firewall, however that will likely be problematic with the Fibaro gateway. I do travel on occasion and its nice to respond when away from home.

The UI is very slick, and much more advanced than Vera’s, or frankly any of the other controllers within the range of a regular person’s budget. OpenHab, HomeGenie, Vera, etc are all far away from this.

Open Questions, and Follow up

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are some of the questions immediately springing to mind.

  • Development, extending the core functionality of the device. What tools exist, and how mature is the documentation?
  • Support for OpenSprinkler and my other odd devices
  • Logitech Harmony integration. My home theatre is all controlled by Logitech.
  • Scene composition. What is it like, really? Conditionally execute some things but not others based on other variables is a big selling point for the big boys. How far will this get me, without a bunch of loop holes other controllers demand.
  • Alerting. I love getting alerts when the garage door is left open, or something awful like window flooding. This ties back to the scene composition, but it is central to many themes.
Name of Reviewed Item: Fibaro HomeControl 2 Rating Value: 4 Review Author:Review Date: