March 22, 2023
Let’s take a closer look at the first Z-Wave focused hub for US and Canada. We will uncover its primary benefits, UI features, how to use the Z-Box mobile app, and what sets the system apart from other hubs available today.
As we often tell our customers, there isn’t one perfect smart home platform to solve it all. The Z-Box Hub is no exception. What makes it unique is its focus on easy access to advanced automation functionality while keeping the key data and processes off-cloud.
The Z-Box Hub offers a very clean UI with a modern layout and intuitive default outlook. But what’s really great about it is that you can easily customize and organize all parts of your system to navigate it in a way that makes sense for you.
Divide your smart home into sections and rooms where you can add individual devices, rename them, or even hide them. There is a nice set of built-in icons available for you to choose from but you can also upload your own icons for devices and scene to enhance the visual experience on your Z-Box Hub.
Program all of your smart rules from one convenient block scene tool. Drag and drop the elements of each automation and create the most elaborate logic in minutes. The interface is easy enough to accomplish simple If… Then… scenarios quickly but robust enough to help you accomplish advanced automations with multiple triggers and conditions.
You can also set up notifications to your phone or email so you know what’s going on even if you’re not at home. One of our favorite features of the Z-Box Hub are interactive notifications where you can add an action into a push notification sent to your mobile device. For example, if a leak is detected, you can program a notification to ask you if you’d like to shut the water off with your smart valve actuator and do it with a single click. Or if motion is detected at night, you can create a notification to ask if you’d like to turn on your smart security sirens with one tap. This way, you stay in control of what happens if unexpected activity occurs in your home.
Speaking of security, the Z-Box Hub comes with a comprehensive DIY alarm panel. Much like with the rest of your system, you decide how to protect your home. Add alarm zones, assign security devices to them, and arm or disarm your home alarm with a PIN code on a built-in keypad, just like you’re used to.
You can also arm and disarm your system remotely from the app or even have it change the mode automatically based on time, day of the week, or presence with the geofencing feature enabled. Use the alarm panel however feels right to you. Thanks to multiple security levels in the Z-Wave protocol and your hub’s local connection, the system remains safe and reliable.
With the Z-Box WEB UI, you get easy access to advanced settings for your Z-Wave devices, network connectivity, and user permissions. Change parameter values on your smart switches or sensors to customize their behavior. Download and upload json file templates to manually add or edit the settings displayed for any product. Set, change, and remove associations between your Z-Wave devices to establish direct communication outside of the hub.
You also get the ability to update the firmware of your Z-Wave devices over the air using the files provided by the manufacturer. When it comes to updating your platform, you’ll be notified when a new release is out but it’s up to you whether you update the hub right away, wait a few days, or just leave it as is. There are no forced updates pushed to your system and both local or cloud backup is available before you proceed.
The Z-Box Hub comes with a free mobile app for Android and iOS. It’s a companion tool for the robust WEB interface where you set up and program your system. The app allows you to monitor and quickly control your favorite smart home devices. You can access it offline in your local wifi network when at home and enable remote access to check in from anywhere (Internet connection is required for that part).
Create custom dashboards by organizing the Favorites screen in the app to quickly access the most important aspects of your connected home. Add, organize, and edit rooms or sections to have full control of the layout.
The app keeps you close to your home, even if you’re away. Thanks to a few different types of notifications, you can monitor devices more effectively and react quickly. As we said before, our absolute favorite is the ability to build in actions into interactive notifications so you can turn on security sirens or shut off water with a single click when a sensor is triggered.
It all starts from the moment you receive your new hub and it’s time to install it. You can set up your Z-Box Hub from an Internet browser on a computer or from the mobile app – it’s your choice. Unlike other systems out there, the Z-Box allows you to use the interface and device you feel most comfortable with to start your home automation journey.
Just like with your Zooz devices, you can count on expert and personal customer support if you need help. Community forums are wonderful and hold a wealth of experiences and advice but sometimes you just need the correct answer quickly. You can email or schedule a call, whatever works better, and you’ll always hear from a real person.
Thanks to Fibaro’s dedicated work on the Z-Wave implementation for the platform, you don’t need to worry about compatibility for Z-Wave devices that follow the protocol. There are no drivers or custom code needed, the products are simply recognized for what they are out of the box.
Once you add your smart switches and sensors to the hub, you can automate them with a single automation tool. The intuitive scene builder is easy to use yet powerful enough to help you achieve even the most complex scenario. The goal after all, is to have your smart home run itself so you can relax and enjoy the secure convenience of Z-Wave technology.
|Feature||Z-Box Hub||SmartThings||Hubitat||Home Assistant|
|Full Z-Wave compatibility without drivers or templates||Yes||No||No||No|
|Quick and easy hub set-up from the browser or app (your choice)||Yes||No||No||No|
|Single intuitive tool in the UI to build all automations||Yes||No||No||No|
|Built-in DIY Alarm Panel including virtual PIN pad||Yes||No||No||No|
|Interactive push notifications with action shortcuts||Yes||No||No||No|
|Expert customer service with email and phone support||Yes||No||No||No|
|Basic hardware to run Z-Wave included||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Clean and intuitive mobile app||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Powerful WEB UI to program automations||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Ability to go 100% off-cloud for a private smart home||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Full remote (cloud) access included, no extra fees||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Ability to update Z-Wave devices over the air||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Ability to opt out of a platform update||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Open access to the local API for easier integrations||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Open access to create third party plug-ins and integrations||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Voice control integration with Echo and Google Home||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Built-in Zigbee chip||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Built-in WiFi chip||Yes||Yes||No||No|
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May 05, 2022 2 Comments
Insteon just became another smart home company to shut down their services. Overnight, the platform’s servers were disconnected, leaving their customers without a functional smart home. SmartLabs, Insteon’s mother company, claims to have sold over 5 million connected devices; that’s a lot of sensors, switches, and controllers that became orphaned. Does it mean that all of this hardware is now completely useless?
It turns out that there are ways to salvage your Insteon products and continue using them, at least to some extent, on other platforms who stepped up and provided integration for this protocol. However, these workarounds are less than user-friendly and will require more time and possible frustration around a system that’s no longer backed by any official support. What’s the alternative and is it even worth it to have a connected house these days?
August 06, 2020
If you already have Amazon Echo set up, you know how convenient it can be. There’s nothing like walking out the front door with full hands and telling Alexa to turn off your lights last minute. But these smart lights and plugs can be slow to react as you keep adding more smart home devices and clogging your network.
Alexa only “speaks” WiFi (and ZigBee if you have the EchoPlus). It currently doesn’t support Z-Wave, the protocol of choice for home automation thanks to its high speed and low interference with other connected devices in your home. That means you can’t have a Z-Wave switch or plug speak directly to your Echo. BUT you can use a smart home hub as a bridge between your Z-Wave devices and Amazon Alexa. Now that’s a whole other level of functionality to unlock!
And if you already have a Z-Wave hub but no smart speaker, you might be thinking how cool it would be to have voice control for your automations and smart home devices. It’s a step towards a more integrated, easy-to-use smart home with improved security, comfort, and convenience.
May 10, 2020 13 Comments
Starting May 13, 2020, Wink will be charging its users a $4.99 monthly subscription fee. If you don’t pay, you’ll lose your automations, smart rules, and access to voice control. [Update 5/30/20: Wink has since backed out of the decision, at least for now. Update 7/27/20: The subscription service for Wink is finally in effect.]
So is it worth paying $5 a month for Wink’s service? The platform hasn’t been adding new features or expanding its list of supported devices for a while now. The announcement introducing the subscription model didn’t include any details on when and how the system would start updating again. They also failed to give users at least 30 days notice to consider how to move forward. If you’re thinking about switching to another platform, we can’t blame you.
Here are a few alternatives for reliable smart home solutions that are most popular among our customers and the team here at The Smartest House. They’re all one-time investments without monthly fees. You’ll find a list of benefits and limitations with each platform, but if you have any questions about specific features we didn’t cover here, get in touch or post in the comment section below.