What is it like to have a Smart Home? Let’s just say it is not straightforward, with lots of trial and error, surprises and frustrations. I believe one should not jump into smart home just because it sounds fun to automate stuff. Every household will have different use cases and it is important to find the one that suits you. Having the opportunity to try out the Aztech Kyla Smart Home ecosystem is another step to discovering more use cases for my Smart Home.
For this review, Aztech has provided these Kyla products for me to produce this insightful article. There was no agreement for sponsorship or endorsement.
Personally, I do not have any convincing reason to fully go smart home, as I am still a very traditional home owner where I like to manage my electricity usage manually, which means I will turn off the lights after use instead of relying on sensors. I am also not comfortable using voice commands to operate appliances or ask Google Assistant. Plus, smart home is highly dependent on network availability. I have to admit that there are some scenarios that I would love to have smart devices to help me. Over the years, I have come to appreciate some situations and find out how smart home devices can work for me.
Aztech, an established Singapore brand, finally launches its range of smart home products under the sub-brand Kyla, offering more than 25 products which can be bought over the counter from Challenger stores (exclusive tie-up during launch). Products include:
- Smart switches
- Smart curtain motor
- Smart door/window sensor
- Smart emergency button
- Smart IP camera
- Smart motion sensor
- Smart IR cube
- Smart smoke sensor
- Smart combustible gas sensor
- Smart temperature/humidity sensor
- Smart water leakage sensor
- Smart Wifi plug
- Smart door lock
Products will be rolled out progressively over the months. For this review, Aztech passed me 2 smart switches, IP camera, Wifi plug, door sensor, motion sensor, IR Cube, and the ZigBee Hub. Kyla uses ZigBee technology (except IR cube), so the products require a ZigBee Hub to connect all products.
For those who has done a lot of smart home research, you would have noticed that the Kyla products looks similar to Orvibo, who is actually the OEM of Kyla. Aztech has worked with Orvibo to personalise the Kyla products to ensure a user-friendly experience when operating the Kyla products. However, if you already have Orvibo products and the HomeMate app, they all work interchangeably, even sharing the same login to their respective apps.
Kyla ZigBee Hub
This device connects to your router, acting as a central brain to manage all the communication across the devices through ZigBee technology.
Kyla Smart IP Camera
This Full HD webcam should be a familiar device to home owners. There are minimal customisation options, for instance, it cannot set detection zones, nor can it disable night mode. While it supports cloud storage, paid subscription is required. Otherwise, microSD card for local storage can be used to store the recording, and accessing the recorded footage is by dragging the timeline to the desired time, where detected movements are indicated on the time bar. It does not require the Kyla ZigBee Hub to work.
Kyla Smart Wifi Plug
Another familiar product that many home owners may already have at home from other brands. This plug allows user to control the power via smartphones. There is only one operating button to turn on and off the switch.
Kyla Wifi plug does not require the ZigBee Hub to work. It connects directly to the home Wi-fi network. It is more compact size and lighter compared to most other smart plugs, like D-Link.
Kyla Smart Door/Window Sensor
This small device is operated with a button battery that can last for almost a year. It detects if a door or window or drawer is opened when the magnet is separated from the main sensor, which you can trigger an action. I will elaborate later. Requires ZigBee Hub.
Kyla Motion Sensor
This device is operated with 2 AA batteries which can last more than a year. It can be wall mounted or just placed on a flat surface. When it detects infrared heat from a living object, it can be programmed to trigger an action. Requires ZigBee Hub to work.
Kyla IR Cube
The device blasts infrared signals within the 10-metre radius. It comes with a database of over 8000 appliances, or if none of the models work, you can customise the remote control and learn IR signals. AC adapter is not included in the retail package but it can be powered by any USB charger. This device works directly with your home Wi-fi network and does not require ZigBee Hub.
Prior to this, I already bought several Orvibo Smart Cubes and got it working at home. My main use case is to control my air-conditioner and ceiling fan. I also connected the TV remote but seldom use it because my family does not watch much TV.
The whole setup experience is identical with Kyla. My Mitsubishi Electric air-con and Philips TV are straightforward, but the KDK ceiling fan does not work, and the database only has 2 models. I attempted to customise the IR but was not a smooth process, as the device kept refusing to learn after creating one button. I have to try many times before I could be successful.
As the Smart IR Cube acts as an IR blaster, it does not sync the device operation status. For instance, if your air-con is already turned on, the app will not reflect the status.
Through smart assistants like Google Home, it is possible to command the Smart IR Cube to operate the air-con, including adjusting the thermostat. However, it does not work if you customise the remote. So for my case, I cannot use Google Home to adjust the KDK ceiling fan. Also, it is not possible to trigger a series of device actions from a single IR Cube. Meaning, I cannot ask Google Home to turn on TV and turn on air-con as a single automation task.
Kyla Smart Switch – 1 Gang and 2 Gang
The smart switches are the best part of the review, because lights are a big part of our lives at home. With it, the home lights can be automated to turn on or off. Note that the Kyla smart switches require Neutral cable, and works only with ZigBee Hub.
It is also the most hassle to install as I need to remove my existing switches. Theoretically, it’s not difficult, but I enlisted my dad to do the swap. Fortunately for him, we found that the existing socket had obstacles, which he cleverly removed. If not for him, I would be lost.
The front plate which also carries an operational circuitry, can be easily pried open to expose the installation screws. The design is practical as it allows user to replace just the front plate, if necessary, instead of changing the entire switch. Turning the switch on and off will emit a light snapping sound no louder than the mechanical switch.
Getting Them To Work Together
Using the Kyla app, add the devices one at a time and follow the on-screen guide.
Each device has a different way to set up. Some like the sensors are more straightforward because they link to ZigBee Hub which handles all the device discovery. Others like Smart IP Camera that link to the home Wi-fi network is a little more tricky because the smartphone needs to connect to the Kyla device’s temporary Wifi SSID to do the configuration.
To operate the devices manually, look for them under the respective “rooms” that the user assigns during the device setup. The assigned devices will appear only in the rooms. Additionally, the Smart IP Camera can be displayed as a live window in the assigned room by selecting “Homepage Suspension” option in the Smart Camera window.
Sensors don’t appear under devices because you cannot operate on them. They work transparently as event triggers. To start, go to the “Me” tab and select “Automation” to add your triggers. Select the sensor that you want to trigger the condition, e.g. motion sensor, and then indicate what to execute, e.g. turn on smart switch.
There is no way for the motion sensor to detect someone has left the room, hence you cannot set an action to auto turn off when that happens immediately. The workaround is to add another condition to delay turn off after a few seconds. As long as the sensor detects movement (i.e. when someone is in the room), the “turn off” delay trigger will restart, and the lights will not turn off.
There are also certain restrictions on the number of conditions that you can configure. For instance, you cannot configure both motion sensor and door sensor under one automation command.
Do the sensors and devices respond quickly? Generally yes, but it depends on the router. During my period of review, I was using the D-Link COVR-C1203, and the performance was somewhat laggy. When I trigger an action, sometimes it would take seconds before the device could respond. After I switched back to TP-Link Deco M5, the response is immediate.
So there you have it. A combination of sensors and smart devices for you to set up all around your house. How you make use of it depends on individual. But here are some use cases that you could try out.
Motion Sensor + Smart Switch (or Smart Wifi Plug)
You can configure such that when the motion sensor detects a warm body (human, animals, etc.), activate lights. This is a common scenario for bathrooms, stairways, corridors. The challenge is to position the motion sensor such that it will not result in false trigger.
In my case, I tested in my study room: whenever I enter the room, the smart switch will turn on the ceiling lights and my smart wifi plug will turn on to start the table fan. I also configure such that if no motion is detected within 10 minutes, both devices will be turned off. The position of the motion sensor is such that it will not trigger if someone just passes by the door, and the sensor should also sense my presence in the room. My optimal position is at the study table, as this is where I am seated and I need the sensor to be extremely sensitive where the study table is, since I might be very still at times when listening to music or watching videos on my PC.
Door/Window/Drawer Sensor + Smart Switch
The use of the door sensor is more accurate, because you can set action for both “door open” and “door close”. If you have the habit of keeping some doors closed at all times, it can be a useful scenario for store rooms, where upon opening the door, the smart switch will turn on the lights, and when the door is closed, the switch will turn off the lights.
Another useful application is display cabinets, where upon opening the cabinet doors, the interior deco lights will be turned on to showcase the items – be it your wine collection or toy figures.
Here’s one hack for the lazy bummers: set the sensor to active a smart device or a group of action when you bring the magnet together. For instance, when I go to bed, I will place the magnet against the sensor and the whole house lights will be turned off. OK, it’s a bit far-fetched, but you get the point.
Door/Window/Drawer Sensor + App Alarm
The sensor can be used to check if someone is opening certain doors or drawers when they should not at certain times of the day. For that, you can configure the Kyla app to sound an alarm when these sensors are “open”.
Schedule Timer to Turn On/Off Smart Devices
With smart devices installed, it is easy to schedule devices to turn on or off at specific timings. For instance, I can schedule the air-con in the house to switch on in the evening – via the Smart IR Cube – so that the family can return to a home that is cooled down.
Works with Voice Assistant
Of course, the most “fun” scenario is when you can control smart devices with your voice through Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Now before we go to sleep, we no longer have to get up of the bed to turn off the lights, then fumble in the dark to the bed. Just shout “OK Google, turn off bedroom light” at the comfort of the bed. Or, give a master command to turn every smart device in the house off. For this, you do not require any sensors, just get all the devices and switches smart-enabled. I do hope the app comes with widgets for me to quickly access certain switches, but I guess voice assistant gets the job done faster.
Verdict: It’s Smart to be Smart
Contrary to what you may think, setting a smart home requires some brains to get all the automation logic going. Deciding which sensors to trigger what actions takes some trial and error to determine the best scenarios. Some situations might not work with just one sensor. For instance, if you program to turn on the lights every time the main door is open when you come home, won’t it also turn on the lights when you open the main door to leave the house? Hence, you will need another motion sensor for the living room so that the lights will auto turn-off when no one is home. Another situation: if I try to manually turn off the study room light, the sensor might detect motion and then trigger to turn on the light again.
The Aztech Kyla experience is no different from any other smart products in the market. The outcome is to automate some of the home processes for convenience. It can be to save electricity by managing appliances automatically, it can be to remotely control the appliances, it can be to detect events to trigger automated actions.
There may be other brands and solutions out there, so take your time to compare and make sure the solution is cost-effective, easy to install, maintain and expand. Most importantly, there must be available smart devices to meet your growing needs. Aztech is a Singapore brand with dedicated local support, and will be bringing in other smart devices as listed above to ensure you will get the home automation that you desire, for young and old. I look forward to more brands for greater choices, as well as a common standard so that consumers can mix and match (Aztech Kyla can only work with Kyla or Orvibo smart devices).
Aztech Kyla is available at Challenger retail stores, Hachi.Tech online store, and will be open to more retailers in the future.