Aviva Smart Home will keep you safe, warm and cosy this Christmas
Review: this handy home package covers security, heating and even Christmas tree lights
Broadband is key for the remote monitoring, but it won’t break the system itself if something goes wrong; your alarm will remain active even if your broadband fails briefly
Product name: Aviva Smart Home
Where to buy: www.aviva.ie/aviva-smart-home
Some people are a home security nightmare. The back door left open for hours without realising it; windows left ajar and only discovered at 2am; on several occasions while in the depths of sleep deprivation, discovering you’ve left the keys in the front door . . . you know who you are.
Life for these absent-minded householders is becoming much easier thanks to smart home devices which have become more advanced and affordable in the past couple of years.
Even the insurance companies are getting in on the deal. Aviva has signed up with Cork-based SmartZone to offer a package to its customers. For €249 plus monthly monitoring, you get a smarthome installation that covers smart heating controls, monitored security and a bit of automation; more importantly, someone else comes in and sets the whole thing up for you. The only caveat? To make the most of it, you need a broadband connection.
The Aviva Smart Home is relatively painless to install, but there are many different parts to it. The security element includes everything from contact sensors and motion detectors to a glass breakage sensor (that I also set off by dropping a stainless steel flask on tiled floors) and a smart smoke alarm that will rat me out when I incinerate the third round of toast of the day in a row. The heating controls cover a wireless thermostat, boiler controls and a hot water thermostat, and there are also two smart plugs, which can be used for lamps or appliances (pro tip: they’re great for Christmas tree lights to avoid jabbing yourself in the eye with decorations and/or tree branches).
No ugly boxes
There are no ugly boxes on your wall, as everything runs through a smarthome hub that sits near your modem, and everything can be controlled via the smarthome app, which gives you an overview of your home and will give you alerts if anything trips the system. Crucially, that includes leaving a door or window open, even if you aren’t setting the alarm. At the very least, you can see what motion sensors are being activated, and you can also access footage from the cameras in those sensors, setting them to take a snapshot when they detect motion. There is a limit on how many images you can upload to your account to view remotely each month, but the average user isn’t going to come close.
Broadband is key for the remote monitoring, but it won’t break the system itself if something goes wrong; your alarm will remain active even if your broadband fails briefly. If you don’t want to rely on the app for the alarm, there are keyfobs to set, unset and trigger the SOS alarm. The first two weeks I managed to accidentally set the latter off, which resulted in a prompt phone call from the monitoring centre.
The best bit for me? The smart immersion switch. There is no more panicking about leaving the hot water on because you can simply switch it off through the app.
And there are extras – from a video doorbell and external security cameras to smart locks and leak sensors, this system can be expanded as you need it, although you do need to go through SmartZone as you can’t do it yourself.
It also works with Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa and with Siri. You can set up voice commands for Siri that will simply disarm and arm your alarm without you even lifting a finger, or you can instruct Alexa to tell Alarm. com to turn off plugs. It will also work with Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Apple Watch and Google Home. It’s impressively simple.
Once the system is up and running, you can customise it a bit. You’ve got “scenes” that cover scenarios such as last thing at night, first thing in the morning, leaving the house etc. So you can set your lights to come on and your heating to kick in as soon as you disarm the alarm, and turn on various switches around the house. There’s the option for geofencing too, triggering lamps or heating controls when you hit a certain area on your commute home, or turning your thermostat to “away” mode when the system detects you aren’t in the house.
The good If you want to try smarthome devices but aren’t technically inclined, this is a good way to get started. The install is done by professionals, they’ll run through everything with you, and then you can just get on with it. The hot water controls meant that not only could I access it from outside the house, but could also see the temperature of the water in the tank, giving me a good idea of whether or not a nice relaxing shower would end in a cold shock after 90 seconds.
The not so good You need a good internet connection to control it remotely, although the security system itself doesn’t depend on it . Occasionally, commands to set the alarm through the app said they had timed out, so the system looked to be disarmed on the app. However, there were no security issues as – without fail – the alarm had actually armed itself; it was just the connection to the app that was failing. To put it in context, I had similar issues with a rival alarm company’s app, but in that case the alarm wouldn’t set.
It’s not easy to add things to it yourself; tinkerers may find it a little restrictive.
The rest Everyone can have their own alarm code, so you know who is coming and going from the house. Also, you can set codes for use only at certain times; using outside that time will set off the alarm.
This particular package is only for Aviva customers, and it comes with a three-year contract for €30 monitoring per month.
The verdict A good way to dip your toe in the smart home water if you want a simple, straightforward system.