That Xiaomi products with their own brand and with those associated and promoted are literally invading the western market by now a certain fact but certainly few would expect to find a Homekit compatible peripheral with the Chinese brand.
In reality the Aqara brand has existed for some time and one of the many incarnations of Xiaomi to market the peripherals in the field of the smart home and so also the hub or gateway that we present in this review was already on sale for a few months but only at the end of November 2018 received a firmware update that makes it compatible with Apple's Homekit system and the Home application on iPhone, iPad and Mac for integration into scenes and automatic actions which is extremely necessary if you want to create a security system or for activating lights and heating through sensors .
Obviously, devices such as humidity and temperature detectors, presence sensors, water leak detectors compatible with Homekit already exist on the market but the costs, although having reduced in recent months, are still significant.
What amazes instead of the Aqara offer the variety of sensors (and controllers) available and above all the price that you see in the table that we show alongside.
What's the secret?
The secret lies precisely in the Aqara gateway we are talking about that works as a bridge between Wi-Fi and Zigbee, the wireless protocol for peripherals low consumption that can also be connected in mesh mode to create a network of interconnected products and above all, thanks to the gateway exposed to Homekit.
While Xiaomi peripherals have been on sale for some time in Italy, the gateway is not yet available in a version with a European plug even if it already works very well in our continent.
So consider this review as a preview or, if you are reckless as a guide to the use of the version, still Chinese, of a product that can be found for the moment on sites like Gearbest and that needs a small adapter for the socket to be used. (update: it seems that a "European" version – in practice only the thorn changes – is coming in April, at least in Northern Europe)
The Akara gateway compatible with Homekit
Since the Aqara lhub is not compatible with Homekit officially available in Europe, we purchased an international version directly from the GearBest website together with two peripherals useful for carrying out the test, a door-window sensor and an Aqara brand presence sensor. As we will see in a special table with the tried and tested hub, Xiaomi's sensors and other peripherals that are available on both Gearbest and Amazon also work.
The packs are in white cardboard with Chinese writing but with a QR code that will allow us to install the gateway directly from the homekit. It should be noted that the minimal packaging and all the recyclable content. Given the origin, obviously there is no manual in Italian.
In any case, you must equip yourself with an adapter that transforms the Chinese plug located on the back of the gateway into a European plug. (see the gallery below).
To install the Hub you can proceed in two ways: either acquire it between the Homekit peripherals by framing the code on the back with the iPhone and iPad camera (which is a bit difficult since the adapter socket tends to hide it) or start from the Aqara Home application. Once this is done, you must authenticate yourself on the Aqara website and activate the recognition of the peripherals.
In our case we have chosen to try a door-window sensor (very small in size and with a negligible cost) and a presence sensor that is also small in size.
The peripherals are thus included in the system and "by magic", thanks to the firmware update (always obtained through the application options) on November 25th, they will be seen as Homekit peripherals and included in our system (quite varied).
In reality on Homekit not only the Aqara gateway will appear as a bridge but also the ring LED light that we find on the gateway: it can serve as a steplight if you install it in a socket at the bottom of the room or activate as an alarm if a window is opened ( o remains open at night) or if there is interception of a movement with the sensor.
It is a pity that we cannot currently manage the loudspeaker like a little siren.
Here is the sequence of screens for activation that requires downloading the Aqara Home application from the App store to add the Zigbee peripherals that will be "exposed" to Homekit
Being this review based on Homekit and having a limited number of sensors, we will not mention theAqara application (you can see it in the gallery above) which still manages scenes and actions with an excellent IF-THEN interface and can also detect the energy consumption of the controlled sockets (which are not yet available in the European version). In addition to this, it is possible to recognize the lhub in the Mi Home application even if we actually didn't succeed, perhaps because the operation must be done before the Homekit inclusion.
Exposure to Homekit of peripherals and Automation
However, what interested us was the inclusion of the peripherals connected to the Aqara gateway in the home Homekit system and this happens without problems. As you can see in the image below in the Veranda room we have the gateway itself, the gateway lamp, the door-window sensor, motion detection and you hear a new icon with the alarm symbol which in fact is a functional button that will allow us not only to manually activate an alarm condition or a state that tells the system I have exited but allows you to manage this function even when programming a scene or automation.
Obviously the sensors are excellent for creating automation rather than for single actions: we can program an automation like the one you see below that activates a lamp in a corridor at a certain intensity if we pass in front of the sensor during the day or at night, we can turn off a thermostat if some windows in the house are open and so on.
Below we show you some of the automations made for our test. First of all it is necessary to "expose" the sensors for use in the automations themselves, including the "Security System" and the alarm activation option.
Available and compatible peripherals
What is interesting in the Aqara system, as we explained in the introduction, the price: the Homekit Gateway costs, if ordered on Gearbest, about 32-34 euros which would be a bit too much for a simple path marker lamp but thanks to the introduction of a bridge to the Zigbee protocol at negligible cost we can enrich our system with compatible and exposed peripherals which in turn have very low prices.
In practice you can build a passive alarm system with a gateway, a lamp, a presence sensor and 4/5 door-window sensors for just over € 100 and you can also integrate it into your Homekit system for other functions such as intelligent regulation temperature or switching the lights on or off according to your presence.
Where to buy the gateway and accessories
As said at the moment, the gateway is not sold in Europe but the international version present together with many peripherals whose compatibility is mentioned above. For those who have a mixed Homektit Apple system at home and also use Mi Home or Aqara Home on iOS Android we have above a table that indicates which sensor capacities are available in the various configurations.
Below are the links related to Gearbest on the most interesting products compatible with the Hub at the moment, as well as a page with all the products available: prices are indicative and vary by about 10-15%. The peripherals are also available on Amazon but the prices are higher and the delivery times correspond to those of the shipment from China.