The Launch Review: Cozify Smart Home

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May 10, 2016
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Using Cozify

I discuss with my wife. I want to try out a few different setups. I know it makes the most sense to use the sensor with the lights, but I want to try a slightly nonsensical use case first. Let’s put the sensor in the kitchen and tie it detecting movement to playing music on the Sonos (I’m no misogynist for those wondering, the kitchen is kind of the hub of our house and where we spend a lot of time). Kim gets excited at the idea so I start plugging things in.

“There’s obviously not much to it, right?” I think to myself. Plug in the hub, plug in the Sonos and put the sensor somewhere it can detect movement, the hub will find everything itself, I’ll create the rule and before I know it I’ll be listening to music on a Sonos whenever I walk into my kitchen.

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WRONG!

Of course I’ve forgotten a crucial step. I need the app! So does Kim. A few minutes later and the Android and iOS Cozify apps are installed on our respective devices. Ok, of course I need to do some basic setup on the hub. Name it (my house name, I’m original like that!), authenticate my phone as a master user and now I’m ready to let the Cozify hub scan for devices.

The Cozify hub…

Scanning. Hmm, can’t find the Sonos. I suppose my excitement and lack of instruction reading is a factor here. Looking through the Sonos documentation I discover I have to download the Sonos app to set it up on the network, didn’t realise it connected via wifi but suppose it makes sense since I’ll be streaming music to it. Another app and some setting fiddling later and the Sonos is now online and the Cozify hub has found it!

Ok, so after a reasonable amount of faffing about, I’m now having my first real experience with the Cozify hub that I’m here to review and I have to say that the experience (post setup) is a relatively easy and intuitive one. Score marks for Cozify here. The app isn’t the fanciest or the whizz-bangiest (yes Word, I know that’s not a real word but I don’t care!), but it’s pretty straightforward and easy to navigate. I’m into the rules and setting up for music to play when movement is sensed in the kitchen.

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At this point, I think it’s worth taking a look at the Cozify app itself, since this is really your gateway to the services the hub provides.

The App!

Let’s face it, if you’re going to go the smart home route, you’re going to be spending a reasonable amount of time in the apps that manage it. I’m using the Android version on a Sony Xperia Z3+ (running Marshmallow) so it’s a relatively decent spec phone despite the widely known Snapdragon 810 overheating issues.

The app has 3 main sections to it. These are:

  • Rules
  • Scenes
  • Devices

In addition to these 3 screens, there is a settings menu.

The basic principle of the app is that you have devices which you can setup rules for on the basis of certain triggers. Those triggers can be a variety of things from a set schedule through to smart sensors hitting certain conditions (temperature, humidity, movement etc, depending on what sensors you have available of course).

Rule options…

The app itself is fairly intuitive and once you’re familiar with it, it’s relatively easy to setup new rules and timers etc. A few small things that could be improved in my opinion:

  1. Setting up timers can be a slightly less optimised affair than it should be. Let’s say you want to setup a rule for while you’re away on holiday to turn the lights on and off at various times to make it look like someone is home to any would be thieves. You can of course do this, but you need to add the time intervals one at a time meaning a slightly cumbersome click to add, select day range (weekdays, weekends etc), select the time range to turn on and turn off, complete the rule, then go through the same process again just to add another time interval to the same day range. Would be easier if you could just add another range within the same parameters (start/stop interval one, start/stop interval two etc).
  1. On the Android version of the app, I have a small annoyance that the app takes over the entire screen and if I want to get my navigation buttons or notifications back, I have to swipe the top or bottom of the screen to get at them. I can understand the decision though, if you’re committed to having a smart home, you’ll likely have a lot of rules and scenes setup for the various rooms and devices in your house etc. In this scenario, screen real estate will be king for usability, but for me with just a few devices it’s a small but noticeable hindrance. If like me, you’re also accustomed to using the Android “back” button this will particularly bother you as my instinct is to go to the bottom left of my screen but Cozify often has back at the top left.
  1. There is a small issue that if you leave the house, disconnecting from the local network (and therefore use the Cozify cloud servers), once you return, even if you reconnect to your local wifi, the app doesn’t recognise that you’re on the local network and will continue to use the cloud servers. You can rectify this by force closing the app and restarting it while being connected to the local network at which point the app will stop using the cloud servers. It doesn’t stop you from using the app, but for those of you with a mild or higher level of OCD, it will be a slight “there’s something wrong here” itch that you’ll invariably end up scratching. Cozify are aware of the bug and I believe are working on it.

Besides the above, the app itself is a decent and relatively easy to use implementation. When you explore it a bit more, it’s surprising the number of options you have and it’s a testament to the designers at Cozify that they’ve managed to cram this much functionality into something that doesn’t look ridiculously bloated and complex. I have a background in automated systems (financial trading ones rather than home automation) and to give this level of control in something without a scripting interface is impressive.

As Kimmo mentioned in the interview, it looks like there are plans afoot for a scripting interface as there are a few things I explored which would be nice to be able to get some more granular control over such as perhaps including a randomisation factor in turning lights on and off if you’re away on holiday. Additionally, if you want to create a lot of similar but slightly varying rulesets, the power of being able to type using a keyboard and use a copy/paste on a PC would be invaluable rather than sitting on a tiny screen for ages setting up tons of rules by touch clicking.

That much said, browsing through possible rules on the app is amazing! There are ideas here for things I’d never considered when I first started thinking about a smart home. I’m not sure how many of these rules are Cozify’s ideas and how many have been suggested by users, but the selection is a great way to introduce the brave new world of smart homes to users who haven’t had any experience with them before.

I’m not going to list them all here, but some examples you can setup triggers for:

  1. Movement
  2. Temperature
  3. Humidity
  4. Door/window opened/closed
  5. Time
  6. Doorbell

On the basis of the above triggers, you can:

  1. Turn various devices on or off.
  2. Send email alerts.
  3. Send app notification alerts.
  4. Enable or disable a scene.

Cozify rule setup

Initially I was slightly confused with some of the functionality and how the logical split between a “Rule” and a “Scene” occurred, thankfully Aki from Cozify explained the functionality in an easy to understand manner, so rather than rehash, I’ll put the explanation below.

The purpose of scenes is to act as a container for a set of presets (i.e. device states: e.g. light A: on, red) and rules (e.g. “Turn light A on when a door opens”).
They allow one to group unrelated device states and automation functionality together and say that these are in effect at a certain time.
Maybe it helps to think that presets and rules tell “what” should happen and scenes tell “when” it should happen.

When you want to bind a rule to AWAY scene, do the following:
1. Create/open the rule for editing.
2. At the bottom of the rule view under title “When rule should be active” select the AWAY scene.
3. Select “Done”

Now the rule is part of the AWAY scene and it is in effect when the AWAY scene is on (indicated by the blue line under the AWAY scene icon in SCENES tab).

And now it makes sense to me. I can create scenes independently of rules which I can just activate as and when I need them, additionally I can create rules which are bound to a scene so only run when I’ve activated a certain scene.

Example:

I’m at home, when I’m in a room I want the lights to be on and music to play. I create a rule for the hub to turn on the lights and music in that room when the motion detects movement there. Easy enough.

Now, let’s say I’m out of the house and live alone. If nobody is supposed to be there and motion is detected, maybe it’s someone who has broken into my house to rob me? I don’t want to turn on the lights and music in this case, I want to be notified that someone is in my house!

Ok, so the rule for lights and music needs to be bound to the “Home” scene, I need another rule bound to the “Away” scene which says on movement, send me an email and notify my app, stat!

This is just a small example of the kind of automation which Cozify provides.

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