A few months back, Aztech reached out to me to review their new Kyla Gen 2 Smart Home system. As I have already tried out the Gen 1 in 2018, I readily accepted and even purchased additional smart switches at the same time so that I can offer a more comprehensive review experience.
The benefit of Smart Home devices is not just remote or voice control of lights and switches. It’s much more than that. The bigger benefit is the automation of lights and switches that are triggered by sensors or rules.
For this review, I have set up my home with the following devices:
- Smart Switches (2x 3-gang and 3x 2-gang, one switch is complimentary)
- Smart Station (complimentary)
- Smart Hub (complimentary)
- Smart Door and Window Sensor
- Smart Motion Sensor (complimentary)
The WiFi Smart Plug I reviewed previously can also work with these smart home devices.
Smart Hub KHUB-210-ZB (S$89.90)
The Smart Hub is the command centre of the Smart Home system based on Zigbee. It is not compatible with Gen 1 Kyla, as Gen 1 products are OEM from Orvibo. Gen 2 products are developed in-house. You must have at least one Smart Hub to run the Kyla Gen 2 Smart Home System.
The biggest advantage of Gen 2 Smart Hub is that it does not require Ethernet cable connection (it has a RJ45 port but not operable). That means I can place the Hub anywhere as long as it’s within the home Wi-Fi network coverage and a power point. Actually, it can even run on power bank.
If you live in a large property or have blind spots, you can get additional Smart Hubs and place them strategically for better coverage.
Why Need Hub?
There are some Smart Home systems that do not require a “hub”, and I admit they are far more convenient and cost-effective as it does not require the purchase of a Hub. The main purpose of the hub is to translate commands between different networks. Devices with hubs typically run on Zigbee or Z-Wave protocols rather than standard home Wi-Fi.
In general, a smart system with a Hub offers better network security management, supports more integrated use cases among the devices, and potentially less Wi-Fi issues. Smart Home systems with hubs can also be controlled outside the house, although several brands also support app-based solutions. Kyla Smart Hub and Kyla Smart Station have been the firsts to successfully receive Cyber Security Agency of Singapore’s Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme Level 1 certification rating.
- 1-Gang KSWS-211-ZB: S$59.90
- 2-Gang KSWS-212-ZB: S$65.90
- 3-Gang KSWS-213-ZB: S$69.90
Most of the smart switches sold in Singapore – including Kyla Gen 1 – require neutral wire connection which allows the switch to be powered up even though the circuit is open. The Gen 2 Smart Switches do not need neutral wire, so practically every household in Singapore can install them without costly re-wiring.
The drawback of a no-neutral wire smart switch is that if you connect to an energy-saving lightbulb below a certain wattage, it might flicker even when the switch is off, because the smart switches continue to carry low levels of electricity which could ignite the lights but not high enough to keep them lighted up.
Kyla Gen 2 Smart Switches come with a capacitor that solves this problem by introducing electrical resistance so that there is lower current going to the lights. The capacitor should be installed at any one of the lighting points belonging to the same Smart Switch. In other words, for a 3-gang Switch, you just pick one of the lighting points to install the capacitor. In the unlikely event that it doesn’t work, you may have to to install additional capacitor on the affected light (it happened to mine).
Smart Station KSMT-110-WF (S$69.90)
The Kyla Smart Station is an all-in-one smart sensor. Not only does it comes with infrared sensor to control IR appliances, it also has an air-quality sensor, a temperature sensor, and humidity sensor. These sensors can be used to create automated triggers. The PM2.5 air quality sensor activates a fan to take in air, so it creates a high-pitched whirling sound that can be a little annoying.
There are hundreds of pre-defined remote control brands and models, so just select and test with the appliance. If all else fails, the Smart Station can also learn IR commands.
One useful automation setting I configured is to turn on my living room air-con when the room temperature is 28-degrees and above. I also created another rule that if the temperature drops to below 22-degrees, turn off air-con.
Smart Door and Window Sensor KSEN-220-ZB (S$29.90)
I ordered and paid for this sensor as I was writing this review because I wanted to light up my main door area whenever I open it. Thanks to this, my door lights have been more frequently used.
Stick the sensor where it detects the magnet to determine if there are activity. You can leave a few mm gap and it can still detect.
You can create multiple rules using the same sensor to trigger different lights. I have one rule to turn on lights and another to turn off. During evenings, when the sensor is open, I would also trigger the living room lights. This way, when I return home at night, I do not need to reach for the lights when I open the door.
Smart Motion Sensor KSEN-210-ZB (S$39.90)
Aztech found out that I bought the door sensor and so decided to also send me the smart motion sensor to have a variety of setting the scenes. Motion sensors are more useful in constrained spaces where traffic is low but impact is high, for instance, a dim walkway.
I was surprised that the package comes with a pair of premium Energizer AAA Lithium battery. That ought to last for a year, depending on the frequency of the passive IR detection.
I currently place the sensor in my daughter’s room, and created a rule that whenever motion is not detected after 60 seconds, it would turn off the room lights. Similarly, when motion is detected, lights will turn on. I set the rules to trigger only during the early evening so that the lights would not turn on when she is sleeping.
Benefiting from Kyla Smart Home
During the initial weeks after installing, I found some odd behaviour on two of the Smart Switches, so I feedback to Aztech and they replaced the faulty switches. Once that is done, the system worked within expectations. My LED lights below 6.5W do not flicker after installing the capacitor.
The whole idea of putting smart switches is not just about remote controlling the switches from anywhere or setting on/off timers, but also to create “scenes” or rules where you can automate based on events or triggers. For instance, as I shared earlier, with the Smart Station, I can create rules to turn on the air-con automatically when the room temperature increases too high.
Coupled with motion sensors or door sensors, I can get creative with the automation rules. I like that I could automatically turn off lights when they are left on for too long. This always happened at my master bedroom toilet because in the morning after the sun rose, we would forget to turn of the lights. You can also set trigger by specific timing or when there is an activity from another device. So, I can set to automatically turn on lights are certain time, or to turn off lights when another light is also turned off.
The challenge is to create rules that make sense. For instance, the sensor would not know whether you are leaving the room or entering the room. Hence, with more sensors, it will give better indication. For instance, if you have sensors in all the rooms, you can create a rule to say that if all the sensors have no motion, that means you can assume that no one is home, and so, turn off all lights and switches at home.
Using the Kyla app, you can name the switches, assign them to rooms to look neat. You can also link the devices to Google Home or Amazon Alexa to command the devices by voice. The app supports widgets, so you can quickly control devices without opening the app. There is also a feature to enable smartphone alert if any sensors detect activity whenever you set the security mode to “Away”.
There are other Kyla devices that you can add to the ecosystem. The ones that I find most useful would be the Smart Wi-Fi plug (S$18.90), Smart Door and Window sensor (S$29.90), Smart Motion Sensor (S$39.90). Aztech also sells smart Wi-Fi ceiling lights so you can use that instead of smart switches. There are also Smart Wi-Fi Curtains but I find them too pricey to be worth it (unless you absolutely need that convenience). More devices will be available in the coming months. I hope that they can develop a brightness sensor which will automatically turn on lights when it gets dark.
So to summarise, here are some general automation scenarios that you would benefit from a Smart Home system like Kyla:
- Turn on/off devices (task) when motion/door sensor is detected/no motion (condition).
- Turn on/off devices when humidity/temperature/PM2.5 sensor hits a certain value range.
- Rules apply only at specific times of the day (e.g. from 8am to 5pm).
- Rules apply only when one condition or all conditions are met (e.g. when all lights in the living room is turned off, then do task).
- Activate devices (on/off) at specific times of the day (i.e. timer).
Working with Voice Assistants Like Google Home
Smart speakers like Google Home does not replace Kyla, as they predominantly allows you to control your network-connected devices via voice. Google Home supports simple “Routines”, such that when you say a key phrase, it will trigger several tasks at once. Google Home also supports location-based routines, say, if it detects you are near home, it can trigger some switches or lights to be activated. But Google Home does not support complex “if-then” scenarios, for instance, if you turn off one light, another device gets activated.
Kyla Gen 2 devices are fully compatible with Google Home, which means once you link the devices, you can actually control them from Google Home as well. It helps when sometimes you just wanted to manually control some Kyla devices. With the new Android 11 OS, it is even easier to access the devices by long-pressing the power button.
M1 Smart Home
Currently, M1 is offering Smart Home packages that use Kyla products. It comes with free installation and 24-month instalment plan to make it more palatable to subscribers. There are 3 packages to choose from with different smart devices, and you can add-on more devices.
Kyla Gen 2 smart switches have allowed me to install in my apartment without neutral wires. Coupled with the other sensors, my light and switch management have become smarter and more interactive. Kyla Smart Home has helped me to turn on the lights automatically whenever I open the main door, switch off my bathroom lights during the day if I accidentally leave them on for too long, switch off my daughter’s room lights when no one is in the room, among other things.
But with automation comes occasional hiccups and bugs that could result in a bitter-taste. For instance, there is higher chance that the smart switch might fail compared to a traditional switch. Sometimes, the rules don’t get fired instantly, causing some inconveniences. Other times, the room lights turned off because it did not detect motion even though I am in the room.
I feel that smart home management makes better sense if you implement more sensors around the house to design more accurate rules. But instead of over-purchase, it’s better to start small and progressively add more devices as you learn more about the rule settings.
For this review, Aztech has provided four devices for free, while the rest are purchased by me. The article does not represent the views from Aztech.