Thursday, 07 September 2017 00:02

B.One Hub: not just remote control, but real home automation

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The B.One Hub is designed to integrate and control a wide variety of sensors and devices around the home.

Resembling the progeny of a skateboard and an iPhone 4, the B.One Hub is the fastest wireless smart home automation hub, according to Accumulus Energy Group chief executive Anup Raghavan (pictured). Accumulus is handling the product in Australia, including local R&D and support.

It uses dedicated chipsets to work with a variety of standards: Wi-Fi, GSM/GPRS, Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth LE. 

The inclusion of infra-red capability means it is also capable of controlling a wide range of "dumb" devices such as air conditioners, TVs and other home entertainment products. This is the reason for the distinctive shape – it makes it more likely that at least one of the eight IR transmitters will align with a destination device. 

The Hub is easy to to install with wireless devices, even for "mums and dads", said Raghavan, "that's one of the key features".

Anup Raghavan CEO of AEG with B One Hub

It works with more than 200 devices, according to Blaze Automation chief executive Sridhar Ponugupati (US and India-based Blaze is the company behind the device), more than 80 of which have been tested and certified.

However, Accumulus has already been training electricians and others to install and commission the product, especially where integration with wired-in devices such as light switches and motorised blinds is required.

The system uses "military grade" encryption for communication between mobile apps and the Hub, the Hub and devices, and the Hub and the cloud, said Ponugupati. 

While the Hub allows the remote control of connected devices from iOS or Android phones and tablets, it also supports sequences of commands, which are known as 'actions'. So a "wake up" action might switch on selected lights and the kettle, and disarm the security system in the kitchen and family room.

It's possible to restrict functions to particular users. This could be useful to prevent children changing the heating or aircon settings, Raghavan suggested.

But here's where things get really clever: a proprietary AI engine will learn patterns of use and suggests actions to automate them, Ponugupati explained.

Eventually it will be smart enough to realise that, for instance, the family has left home for the day leaving the air-conditioning running, and take the appropriate action. "We want things to happen autonomously," said Raghavan.

The Hub can also be controlled by voice, via Amazon's Echo smart speaker. Support for Google Home is planned. Examples demonstrated to the media included "Alexa, turn off the fan", "Alexa, turn off the TV", and "Alexa, turn on goodnight" (the 'goodnight' action lowered the blinds, turned off the lights, and so on).

The company is also developing "probably the world's first chatbot" for controlling a home, Ponugupati said. A pre-release version allows users to type in commands or pick operations from a list (eg, kitchen lights on/off). 

Additional technologies will be added through software, with DLNA support slated for 2018.

In addition to general home automation and AV control, Accumulus sees assisted living as a significant market for the Hub.

B.One Hub is being launched first in Australia, and distributor B1 Smart Home Automation has set up the first B.One Hub experience centre. Located in Mitcham in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, the centre lets potential resellers and customers see the system at work, controlling lights, blinds, entertainment equipment and more.

B.One Hub Elite costs $650, or $1250 (about $1500 including installation) with two smart sensors (wireless door and windows switches) and two wireless motion sensors. A cheaper version of the Hub, without Zigbee or BLE, costs $550.

Raghavan estimates that an average three-bedroom home can be fitted with the Hub and around 30 wireless devices for about $5000, including installation. 

Local distributors can be found by calling 1800 180 810 or via the local website.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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