Hive: the centre of your smart home
Installing other devices to your Hive setup is simple too. As mentioned before, we also installed motion sensors in our home, window sensors and smart, dimmable bulbs.
To install these, you connect them as per the simple instructions on their box, then click on the Install Devices section of the app. It will ask you to Add a Heating Zone or Add Another Device. Add Another Device will automatically push the app to search for any devices in your home. There is a time limit of 10 minutes on this, but each one of our devices were found in under a minute.
Once found they will be labelled rather generically Plug One, Light One etc. You can easily rename them which helps massively if you have a few of them dotted around your house.
Controlling these is simple. With the lights, you just have to make sure that your light switches are always on, and then turn the lights off through the app.
Through the app you can dim them by a percentage each time - there’s a slight delay in telling the app to do this and it actually happening but it’s mere seconds.
Hive has also introduced colour-changing bulbs. These work really well. For our tests, we installed one in our nursery and it worked a treat. Like with the standard smart bulbs, the idea is that you switch the lights to 'on' all the time, then turn the light on and off with the app. If you don't do this, you will notice a weird flash that lasts around half a second when you turn the light on from the switch. It takes some getting used to and may make you jump so best to keep the light switched on and work within the app.
Much like the standard lights, the app is setup so you can change the look of the light in increments. As well as being able to choose how dim the light is, you can also change the colour - by pressing the pipet icon. The colour choice goes from red to orange, yellow, blue, purple and back to red again. There is also the option to have them simply as 'white'.
We had a lot of fun with the bulbs but at £44.99 they are more than double the price of the standard bulbs.
When it comes to the motion sensors, for some reason notifications are switched off to begin with. So, even through your motion detectors will detect motion, the only way you will know about it is by looking at the activity log in the app.
Switching notification on is just a couple of clicks away and - and you have the choice of how to be notified, through push notifications, text or by email. In our trials, it took around five seconds for the motion to be detected and the notification to be sent. When it comes to the smart plugs, these work well as light timers - add one to any light in the house and you can schedule them to go on and off. We added it to one of our outside lights - which has a plug on the inside - and it worked great.
Frustratingly, there's no option to hook the motion sensor up to your thermostat, so you won't be able to have your thermostat automatically know that you're home just from sensing your motion.
Since we reviewed Hive, the sensors have been redesigned. We will be trying out the new sensors, although they should work the same as the ones we have reviewed - they've just been given an updated look.
The real fun comes in with the recipes built into the app. Think of it like IFTTT, but with only recipes that you'll actually want to use. For instance, you can pair up a light with a sensor. If the sensor is tripped then you can have a recipe that will automatically turn one of your connected lights on.
For obvious reasons, this sort of approach would be good in deterring burglars but it's also good if you want your light to come on in the middle of the night when you get up and walk past one of the sensors. It’s a great addition to the app and really makes you want to buy more Hive-related products.
And that’s the thing about Hive’s modular approach - you can smarten up your home with the smart thermostat and be more than happy (and warm) but add a motion sensor here, an active light there and the whole system begins to marry together really well.
Be warned, though, this is when it starts to get expensive. Each active light costs upwards of £19, the sensors are around the same price and the plugs are nearly £40. Add this up and it can be pricey, but the whole idea of Hive is to add things over time.
Hive does have a monthly plan you can buy into for £4.99 a month, which will give you big discounts so that might be worth looking into.
While Hive is pretty much a closed smart home system (in that Philips smart lights won’t work with Hive and Hive sensors won’t work with Nest) it has integrated with Amazon Alexa, meaning that you can control your heating with your voice. We tried the Hive system with Alexa on an Amazon Echo and it really raises the bar for what a smart home can be.
Turning off and on your lights by saying: “Alexa, turn on the hall light to 50%” will never get boring, and neither will upping your heating another few degrees by asking Alexa nicely.
Adding Hive to the Alexa setup was really easy - you just add in your account credentials. Once done, you don’t actually need to go into the app again, just use your voice. Obviously, integrating Alexa into this setup is another cost, but the Amazon Echo combined with Hive really is a fantastic experience.