Vera Home Automation- A Great Smart Home System?

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An Introduction to Vera

If you want to create a smart home then you might want to consider using some of Vera’s home automation equipment. Introduction to Vera

Vera Control was created in 2008. It was the new name of an existing company that was developing smart home systems and equipment.

The original company was called “Mi Casa Verde” (My Green House) which wanted to create products that were smarter, “greener” and more eco- friendly.

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And that idea is still central to the philosophy of Vera Control.

They also want to “provide home control and home entertainment solutions that are far simpler to setup and use than products currently sold..”

And they want to do this without charging people monthly fees or subscription plans.

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Vera Smart Hubs

Central to a Vera home automation system are the 3 controllers or smart home hubs that they have created.

Currently, Vera Control sell 3 smart home hubs.

The names of the smart hubs are called; VeraEdge, VeraPlus and VeraSecure.

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The table below compares the three hubs.

But before we look at I want to explain a basic difference between the three smart hubs.

The Vera Edge and the VeraPlus are, what I would label as traditional smart hubs, whereas the Vera Secure is something a little different.

The VeraSecure is a smart hub for those that want to focus on home security.

Part of Vera’s mission is to provide easy to use and affordable smart hubs. And the people at Vera think that your smart home security systems, that come with hefty monthly and annual monitoring fees, are a waste of money.

And the VeraSecure is a cheaper and easier alternative, which comes with no compulsory fees or subscriptions. 

But, more on that later.

OK, let’s take a look at the chart.

The Vera Edge
The Vera Secure
VeraEdge
VeraSecure
VeraPlus
CPU
600 MHz
880 MHz, Dual Core
880 MHz, Dual Core
Flash Memory
NAND 128MB
NAND 128MB
NAND 128MB
Memory
DDR2 128MB
DDR3 512MB
DDR3 256MB
Z-Wave
Z-Wave Plus
Z-Wave Plus
Z-Wave Plus
Zigbee
HA 1.2
HA 1.2
Bluetooth
4.0 + BLE
4.0 + BLE
Wi-Fi
802.11 b/g/n
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
VeraLink
Proprietary 354 or 433 MHz
Cellular Backup
Optional, External
Embedded 3G
Optional, External
Battery Backup
Optional, External
Internal 2400mAh/18Wh
Optional, External
USB Port
USB 2.0
USB 2.0
USB 2.0
WAN Port
10/100 Ethernet
Gigabit Ethernet
Gigabit Ethernet
Compatible Devices
Up to 1200
Up to 2000
Up to 1500
Not Launched Yet!

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The Chart Explained

Let me start by saying that this comparison chart is copied from Vera’s own site.

But, what does all of the information actually mean?

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The Vera Edge is the cheapest of the three and the Vera Secure is most expensive.

I will discuss the chart feature by feature.

CPU

The “Edge” has a slower processor in it than the “Secure” or the “Plus” has.

Flash Memory

All of these hubs have the same flash memory in.

Z- Wave

All three hubs are compatible with Z- Wave Plus.

Z Wave Plus is an “operating system” that smart devices use.

Zigbee

Zigbee is an “operating system” that smart devices use.

The Edge is not compatible with the Zigbee system but the other two smart hubs are.

Bluetooth

The Edge cannot connect to devices using Bluetooth but the Secure and the Plus use devices that use 4.0 + BLE versions of Bluetooth.

Wi-Fi

All the controllers can connect to other devices using Wi- Fi.

However, the Secure and the Plus can connect to devices using more “types” of Wi- Fi than the Edge.

VeraLink

VeraLink is software that allows a smart hub to connect to iOS devices and be controlled by Siri.

Of the three controllers, only the “Secure” device can use this software.

Cellular Backup

All of the smart hubs connect to the Internet via your home’s Wi-Fi.

If for some reason that fails, a backup connection to the Internet can be provided by linking to a cellular network.

If am not 100% sure, but I presume that you will need buy your own SIM card and sort out a contract with data.

Only the “Secure” hub has this facility built in.

In an ideal world you don’t want any part of your smart devices to stop working because they have lost connection to the Internet.

But, I think this is especially true for your devices that monitor your home’s security because they need to be working all the time.

If you want this function in the “Edge” or the “Plus”, your will need to buy an external device and a SIM card with a contract with data.

Battery Backup

Battery backup is critical to keeping your system going if there is a power failure.

The only device that has battery backup built in, is the “Secure”.

The battery will last 8 hours from a full charge.

The “Edge” and the “Plus” do not have a backup battery.

As I explained in the Cellular section above, a smart hub that has home security features built in has a special need to be working all the time (over and above a normal smart hub) even when there is a power failure.

USB Port

All three controllers have one USB port, which if you’re interested is version 2.

WAN Port

All three of these smart hubs have a WAN Port or Ethernet connection.

The connection in the “Edge” can just transfer data at a slower speed than the Ethernet connection used in the “Plus” and “Secure.”

Compatible Devices

Compatible devices show the number of smart devices available to buy that could possibly work with the hubs. 

It is not maximum number of smart devices that can be connected to a hub!

The “Secure” has the greatest number of compatible devices to choose from, which is 2000 and the “Edge” has the fewest number to choose from- about 1200.

1200 products is still a large choice in my opinion.

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Vera Secure- What is Different?

As I said earlier, the VeraSecure is a smart hub that has been designed not only for the general smart home market but for those people who want a smart home with a strong emphasis on home security.

These people possibly already have a home security system and are looking for a cheaper or no cost alternative.

They are sick and tired of paying “sky high” monthly fees or subscriptions!

Some of the more security related features are;

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We have already discussed how the built in cellular 3G and battery back up are important to a system that includes home security but let’s have a look at 2 other key features.

The Vera Secure has a built in siren which is 100 decibels alerts neighbors and scares off intruders.

And it also has a microphone and a speaker built in as part of a 2 way talk system.

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Central Monitoring Service

Although you do not need to pay any activation, monthly or annual fees with this Vera's Central Monitoring Servicesystem, Vera Control do offer a Central Monitoring Service (CMS).

This costs from about $17 per month- the cost depends on the type and number of smart devices that you have in your system.

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This service offers 24/7 coverage.

The key features of this service include;

  • Alarm Monitoring Service- if an intruder or smoke is detected, a call operator will phone your local police or fire department.
  • Emergency Panic Buttons- on your smartphone that will connect with local police, fire and ambulance services.
  • No Change to Existing Setup- You can continue to self monitor your system and CMS offers an additional layer.
  • Flexibility- You can start and stop the service at any time.
  • Annual Plan Bonus- If you sign up for the annual plan, you will be provided with an battery backup and cellular back up pack.This means that if there is a power or Internet failure your monitoring service continues.
  • Home Insurance Discounts- If you subscribe to this service, you might receive reduced rates on your home insurance.

You can order the CMS package on any of Vera’s smart hubs- the Edge, the Plus or the Secure.

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Compatibility- Wireless Protocols Explained

One of the strengths of Vera’s controllers is the vast number of smart products that they are compatible with.

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A smart device connects to other smart devices or a smart hub using a wireless protocol or language.

There are several languages that smart devices may use.

The two biggest wireless languages that smart products use are Z-Wave and Zigbee.

Smart products will tend to only use one language. For instance a device will use Z- Wave OR Zigbee but not both.

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So What Languages Does  Vera Speak?

The table below shows most of the languages that smart devices use and which ones of these can be used in a Vera home automation system.

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Do Vera Smart Hubs work with Bluetooth?
Do Vera Controllers work with Wi-Fi?

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Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo language is rapidly becoming a major player in the smart home space.

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Since an update in November 2016, the Edge, Plus and Secure controllers can connect to the Echo system as part of a Vera home automation system.

It is still quite limited but you can use your voice to make simple commands of any smart devices that you have that are lighting or climate related.

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Bluetooth Smart

The Vera Plus and Secure smart hubs can connect to devices using Bluetooth but the Edge can’t.

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A great advantage of Bluetooth is that it uses very little energy but it has a limited range compared to other wireless languages.

Currently, there is only one smart device that uses Bluetooth to connect to the Vera home system and that is a lightbulb.

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Wi-Fi

All three Vera controllers can use Wi-Fi to connect to smart devices.

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There are different types of Wi-Fi connections and The Edge uses the three most common-b,g and n.

The Plus and the Secure use five types of WiFi connection- b, g, n, a and ac.

An advantage of WiFi as a wireless language is that it has a great range- it can connect to devices that are far away.

A disadvantage is that WiFi is very power hungry and uses lots of energy.

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Zigbee

Zigbee was discussed earlier. It is one of the most common languages that smart devices use.

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Only the Vera Edge and the Vera Secure can connect to devices using Zigbee.

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Z- Wave

Z- Wave was also discussed earlier and it is also one of the most common languages used by smart devices.

All three of Vera’s smart hubs can connect to devices that use Z- Wave.

IFTTT (If This Then That)

IFTTT is not a language in the traditional sense but it is being used more and more to control smart devices.

Although there are a few ways that people are using IFTTT to manage their Vera home automation,  these ideas are not in being used by many people as yet

Remote Access

MiOS
iOS 8 or Later
Android 4.0 or Later
Via a Web Browser
Via a Web Browser

No matter whether you use an iOS, Android or Windows device, the free Vera app allows you to monitor and control any or all of your devices.

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And you can do this no matter if you are watching TV in your home or visiting family thousands of miles away.

iOS

The iOS app from Vera requires your device to be running iOS 8 or later.

The app will run on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and an Apple Watch.

It has been rated 287 times and has an average rating of 2.5 out of 5.

Android

The Android app from Vera requires your device to be running Android version 4 or later.

The app has been rated 867 times and has an average rating of just under 3 out of 5.

Windows 10

Very unusually for a smart device, there is a Windows 10 (and 8) app.

The app has been rated 61 times with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Windows

You can control your smart devices by logging in your account on the Vera website via a Windows laptop or desktop PC

Apple

You can control your smart devices by logging in your account on the Vera website via a Macbook or iMac.

MiOS

MiOS is another sort of app store that will work with smart homes that are controlled by a Vera smart hub.

MiOS contains free or paid for apps that will control individual smart devices that you have on your Vera system.

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The Vera Home Automation App

In this section, I want to go on a brief tour of the Vera app.

The information in this section is from a video.

When you first load it up you are on your Welcome page.

On your left is a menu that includes all of the different sections of the app;

  • DashboardImage of the Vera Home Automation App
  • Devices
  • Cameras
  • Scenes
  • Energy
  • Settings
  • Apps
  • Users and Account Info
  • Logout

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Dashboard

There are three sections in the dashboard.

Cards

At the top are cards which display different pieces of information such as how much electricity you are using and which of your devices are connected or if you have any system alerts.

Then in the middle of the screen are the different Modes; such as day, night and vacation.

These are a set of rules of procedures that control your devices in a certain way.

My Shortcuts

These allow you to control a set of devices with the press of one button, such as locking and unlocking all of the doors.

Favorites

At the bottom are your favorites. This is where you can gain fast access to individual devices.

Cameras

In this menu item you can view the images from any cameras that you have connected.

Scenes

A scene is a set of rules that control a device or a group of devices.

A scene contains three elements- a trigger, an action and a mode.

A trigger is an event, such as a certain of day or a temperature. As an example for a lighting system the trigger could be 15 minutes before sunset or as a temperature you could decide on 70 ℉.

Your action for your lighting could be to turn the light outside of your front door on.

Your action for the temperature could be to turn your thermostat on.

Your mode for the light and the temperature could either be daytime or nighttime.

You can also ask for an email or a text to be sent to you when the trigger event happens.

Energy

There are four sections in the Energy tab.

Current Usage

This shows you how much you are spending now, how much you have spent in the last week, last month and last year.

Device Usage

In this section you can view how much energy individual devices are consuming.

Home Usage

Reports

Once you have had your Vera home automation system up and running for a time, you can start comparing your energy usage.

For instance maybe you would like to compare yesterday with today or this Saturday against the previous Saturday and so on.

These comparisons could help you find ways to reduce your energy consumption.

Settings

There are To state the obvious, in this section you change your settings.

The sections within this part of the menu are

Rooms,

Location

Network settings

Backup

Logs,

Z- Wave

Visit this subsection to check on your Z- Wave devices

Insteon

Visit this subsection to check on your Insteon devices

Firmware

Visit this section to check that you have the latest version of the firmware installed

Set Up Wizard

If you have bought a Vera kit then this is the best place to start your setup.

Apps

In this section you can download and manage apps that have been created for individual smart devices.

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Final Thoughts

I hope that you have enjoyed reading my detailed guide to the Vera home automation. If you have any of your own comments, please leave them below.