I have recently upgraded my remote heating setup from Horstmann Z-Wave thermostat to the Hive Zigbee Thermostat (2nd Generation). The Hive Active Heating system is an innovation of the UK energy supplier British Gas, but you do not need to have your energy supplied by British Gas to have a Hive installation, it is however at present only available in the UK.
British Gas have dabbled in the home automation market for many years, one could probably argue that they have been responsible for introducing many new innovations which have become the forebear of home automation as we know it today including; boiler timers, wireless thermostats; energy-saving and home security devices.
In 2011 British Gas partnered with a small UK-based start-up AlertMe to manufacture their Remote Heating Control (RHC) system. In September 2013 British Gas re-launched their RHC product as ‘Hive’. In February 2015 British Gas bought AlertMe also acquiring its portfolio of other IoT technologies, software and hardware and taking full control of the Hive platform. I believe that at present the Hive Active heating system is the UK’s #1 connected thermostat with over 50,000 customers . British Gas then released their second generation Hive thermostat in July 2015.
The Hive system is composed of 3 components: Thermostat, Hub and Receiver which all communicate via the Zigbee wireless protocol.
The wireless thermostat is wall mounted in an appropriate room which the house which is an average or most representative temperature for the house (i.e not right by the front door or above a radiator).
The thermostat was designed by Yves Béhar who was the designer for Jawbone. Its most prominent design aspects being its mirrored front and its large twist dial.
The mirrored display is very clever, when ‘asleep’ the display interface is invisible and all that can be seen is a clear mirror. When any button is pressed the display magically illuminates clearly through the mirror, it sounds like it would not work but when lit up the interface is surprisingly clear in any light.
The thermostat also has a prominent twist dial which is used to interact with the thermostat to turn the heating up and down as well as navigate menus. The dial appears to be manufactured out of aluminium feeling firm and easy to turn. The design of the dial has an almost retro feel and is reminiscent of the control ‘paddles’ on the old console game ‘pong’.
Aside from the twist dial there are 3 smaller buttons which are used to access the menu, confirm and cancel. There are also 2 larger buttons on the top side of the thermostat to quickly ‘boost’ the heating and water temperature. In my opinion, although inconspicuous, the buttons seem a little too large and at times are accidentally pressed.
One other design aspect is the option to change the frame which surrounds the thermostat. As the thermostat comes as standard with an off white frame. But, for the more adventurous, you can buy alternative coloured frames from a selection of “colours by Dulux”, these currently cost of £20. I am tempted to change my frame for the ‘Luscious Lime’ colour but I feel the cost is a little steep for something which is essentially a ring of plastic. I also can’t help but feel this is akin to the mobile phone accessory culture, to which we again are often ripped off for.
The hub plugs into your broadband router connecting it to your home WiFi network and the internet. The hub is the intelligence of the Hive system and, as well as forming communication bridge between the thermostat and the receiver, it also relays commands from the internet or wireless mobile phone app. Although the hub is connected to your home network you can not connect to it via a web browser nor does it have an API interface.
The hub has 3 status LEDs which are used to display the status of the Hub, power, connectivity, firmware upgrade, errors.
It also has an ethernet connection, AC power connector and a small black reset button. There is also a USB port which is covered up by a small blanking cover, I am not sure what purpose the USB port serves, as it is not mentioned in any Hive documenting, I can only guess that it is future possibilities such as diagnostics, data logging, firmware updates or interface to additional sensors.
The receiver is wired into your boiler and basically acts as an on/off switch telling the boiler when to heat more water or when to be idle. The receiver is given its instructions from the thermostat and hub. With 2 simple lights; the first indicating power and the second indicating the on/off status of the boiler.The status lights also turn a different colour during the initial paring process with the thermostat and hub. There is also a manual on/off button should the rest of the Hive system go awry (or the batteries in the thermostat run out).
I am very pleased with the Hive 2. It was a simple replacement for my old thermostat with simple setup. It has a great design, simple and intuitive user interface and to date has not failed. My only gripes would be over the high cost of the thermostat frame accessories, its lack of API for developers and likewise lack of support for web services such as IFTTT. With new innovations being recently announced for the Hive such as smart plugs, contact and movement sensors I am excited about the future possibilities which the Hive will bring. Especially seeing as Hive is only currently available in the UK it is a real competitor for other similar systems such as the Nest and Tado thermostats.