December 24, 2010

MiCasaVerde Vera Review: DIY Home Automation and Home Security

Vera by MiCasaVerde is a solution for DIY home automation and home security. Vera can also be used for home energy savings and Home Theater. Once Vera is installed at your home, you control and monitor these functions remotely using an iPhone, Android or a computer.

MiCasaVerde sells a hardware controller (Vera) to control these functions that interfaces to 3rd party Z-wave and ethernet products to provide a complete solution. MiCasaVerde also provides a SmartSwitch that can be used with each power outlet to control the energy consumption at home.

The Vera controller ($250) provides interfaces to
  • Z-wave products - which automate common functions at home e.g. alarms, motion sensors, door/window sensors, blind controllers, thermostats, light switches, door locks, home entertainment systems
  • Ethernet/WiFi devices - which provide functions such as home security cameras 

Vera connects to the Internet via your home router. Any of these devices can then be monitored and controlled over the Internet using an iPhone, Android or a computer.


Vera Controller


The SmartSwitch ($70) can be used to monitor energy usage from any power outlet at home i.e. for any appliance at home e.g. lights, dishwasher, washer, dryer, A/C, pool etc. Together with Vera, the energy usage of each appliance can be monitored remotely and controlled by turning the power off/on to the appliances. One SmartSwitch is required per outlet. SmartSwitch is also a Z-wave device interfacing directly to Vera.


SmartSwitch


Using Vera - Vera can be controlled with a web browser or with iPhone, Android Apps e.g.

iVera for home automation control - iPhone
AutoHTN for home automation control – Android



iVera


AutoHTN for Vera


Security Cameras – Vera only supports a few models from the extensive lineup of Panasonic IP cameras, Panasonic BL-C131, BL-C30 IP cameras are supported. Additionally, Linksys WVC54GCA, iCamView (ip camera server for Lorex CCTV cameras) and a few models of Axis IP cameras are supported.


Setup and Use
Vera is meant to be a DIY solution and the open tools provided have created a passionate group of users and an active discussion forum, although, more accurately, it should be called a “professional setup and DIY use”. Setting up the Z-wave devices with Vera can be a complex process and it is best to take help from a professional or someone who has done it before. Once setup, Vera is easy to use with the Apps and the browser interface.

An overview of Vera and its usage is in the video below




How much does it cost?
The total cost will depend on the type and number of devices that you install at home and can range from $500 to a lot more.

A Vera 2 controller ($250) is always needed in the setup e.g. if you only automate your front-door lock, the cost will be $500 (1 Vera 2, 1 Kwikset Z-wave lock).


The Good
  • DIY solution
  • Provides a full home automation solution
  • Flexibility to purchase only the functions and devices you need
  • Expandable to add more functions
  • No monthly fee


The Bad
  • Setup is complex
  • Weak in Home Security e.g. all cameras supported are “old” technology,
    security camera recording is not supported, limited number of cameras


Should I Buy
Vera is perfect if you like putting together your own home automation solution and for DIY usage. The prices are reasonable, there is a decent ecosystem of Z-wave devices and apps to control Vera are available.


Alternatives to Vera
Alternatives to Vera include ADT Pulse (monitored service for home security, home automation), Life Shield (monitored service for home security) and Logitech Alert (for DIY home security). Reviews for each are at the links.

While these services are not Apple-to-Apple replacement for each other, each service has its strengths and unique features. Pick one according to your needs and budget.