The Launch Review: Cozify Smart Home

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May 10, 2016
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The Interview

W: So how about redundancy in the case of an extended outage in your primary cloud facility/servers?

C: The Cozify hub works well without a constant connection to the internet or Cozify Cloud for the following reasons:

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  • All logic for automation resides in the physical hub itself.
  • Apps connect directly to the hub whenever you are at home and on the same network as the hub.
  • The hub of course connects to smart devices directly via its own radios, not via their cloud services. The cloud is of course required for remote access as well as software upgrades and backups etc.

The team here at Cozify has a lot of experience in scaling highly reliable services up to meet increasing loads. Our cloud server architecture as such has been designed to be both scalable and redundant (in the event of a primary cloud outage).

The server/network virtualisation and managed application environments have made life for developers much easier when it comes to building a scalable and reliable system. There are of course some basic design principles which generally hold true which we plan for including:

  • Your servers will fail, plan for it.
  • Use stateless services as much as possible for ease of scaling.
  • Avoid single node instances, if you can’t then make sure you have a hot failover for it.
  • Virtualise where possible to allow you to quickly shift from one location to another.
  • Distribute your servers/services over multiple physical locations (such as Amazon availability zones) or even with multiple service providers.
  • Store backups in multiple locations and with different service providers.

W comment: The above are some basic design principles which often hold true in the financial world too (among others). There are much cheaper ways to run a shoestring operation which will work “most of the time” but when they go down, they go down hard and you will have a real outage as opposed to a “blip”. It’s reassuring that Cozify are not trying to run something as important as your home on a shoestring.

The cloud… yep, it’s here too…

 

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W: Is there a “guest control” type of capability where guests can have limited access to the hub?

C: Yes, you can give a user guest rights. Guests have limited rights to do things and can only use the system locally.

W: How do customers get support from you if needed?

C: Basic instructions are on our website: http://en.cozify.fi/pages/support We’ll be adding instructional videos there as well, we already have some on our Finnish language site.

Additionally, you can also email support@cozify.fi Our support team has a good reputation and it’s important to us that we keep our level of service high.

We also have a very active discussion forum in Finnish where users help each other out and share ideas about new use cases. We’ll be doing the same thing in English too.

W: Once I program something (for example lights turn on when sensor detects movement in a room), where is that “code” stored? In the sensor and lights or in the hub?

C: The “rule” as we call it is stored on the hub.

W: So in this case, what is the dependency on the hub? If/when it dies, what can I do or not do? For example if the above is stored in the hub, can I make the lights function like normal lights if the hub has been broken somehow while I wait for a new one?

C: As a rule of thumb, good smart home devices work also autonomously (without the presence of a hub). In the case of smart lightbulbs, you can control them as ordinary lights from the switch, the downside is if you use a switch to turn them on and off when the hub is there, the hub will of course not be able to turn them on automatically.

Additionally, you can also change the light switches to be smart instead of the bulbs. This is usually cheaper for big setups (for example a large group of lamps).

W: We have both Android and iOS devices in our house, can the Cozify hub work with both at the same time?

C: Yes you can use both Android and iOS devices with the hub. There is also support for Windows Phone too, although this is currently in alpha.

Both major mobile OS’ supported, Windows to come…

W: If I have the lights attached to a sensor in my lounge set to come on when people are detected, can I override this setting easily if I want to turn them off to watch a movie for example?

C: Yes, you can tell when a rule is used by adding it to what we call a “Scene”. Scenes can be “Home/Away”, “Cooking”, “Dinner”, “Morning”, “watch movie” etc.

We are currently in the process of making the scenes/rules interface even more transparent and intuitive.

W: What is your competitive edge vs. other smart home products available on the market today?

C: We believe we have the most elegant rule engine. It is very easy to create rules to automate your house without needing any programming skills. For example, to automate a light, just drag a motion sensor icon on top of the light. We’re also going to make it even more simple and proactive so that if Cozify is aware that you have both motion sensors and lights in a room, it will ask “Do you want to automate the lights in this room?”

We’re also an open system. We have five radios (Wifi, BLE, ZigBee, Z-Wave and 433 MHz), support multiple standards and are manufacturer agnostic so you can choose products from many brands and technologies. We will also provide API’s for others to integrate different devices and use scripting to make more complicated rules.

We build the product in a very consumer centric manner. We do not only listen to our customers, but are also able to quickly react and implement their wishes. Our current development sprint length is less than 4 weeks and each sprint brings new features and supported devices for the user. Software updates are done automatically without the need for the user to do anything.

W: Who do you see as Cozify’s biggest competitors?

Fibaro is a good product but really needs a professional level user to install and configure to make the best use of it. Also it mainly supports Z-wave devices.

Samsung SmartThings is obviously a big name. Wink in the US has a large installed user base, however there have been some quality issues.

I believe all the good products are now there to grow the market and competition is good.

W: Any plans to integrate home heating etc. with Cozify like Nest?

C: Yes, we are going to integrate with Nest for sure. Our process has always been to listen to our customers and our channel partners in order to prioritise the integration work.

W: After smart homes, smart cars are seen as the next big thing. Any plans for Cozify to get involved in this area?

C: Yes, while car manufacturers open their dashboards for applications, smart home applications will also be there.

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