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Sensibo Sky - A Quick Review

With the proliferation of affordable home automation systems on the market lately I have been experimenting with a number of devices I can...

With the proliferation of affordable home automation systems on the market lately I have been experimenting with a number of devices I can gradually add to my home.  I especially appreciate those with a bit of robustness and it is alwasy a bonus if I can make it work easily with my Google Home setup.  Reliability and convenience, in my opinion is key to the whole theme of automating a home, after all you wouldn't be automating very well if you have to touch or maintain a system more than if it were left in its default state prior to automation.

The hot and humid wet season we have been having in Darwin lately has naturally turned my mind to cooling.  The house in particular is  uncomfortably hot when getting home from work so the priority is to get in and turn on the main air conditioning units as soon as the door is unlocked.  Then there's the wait for the cool-down.

Enter the Sensibo Sky a compact little unit that connects to your home WiFi network and can turn your 'dumb' air condition into an intelligent device that can be controlled via an app.  As a bonus it can also be voice controlled via Google Home or Amazon Alexa, a huge plus in my book.

Sensibo claim it can be made to work with almost any air conditioning unit that operates via infrared (IR) remote control.  My testing was done with various Daikin Inverter models that I have installed at home.

First impressions on unboxing were that it was surprisingly compact.  A lot smaller than I had imagined from the pictures on the net. The merits of these are down to individual preference of course.  Personally I like that it does not stand out in the living space.

SETUP
I expected the device setup itself to be quite simple, after all we are not talking a DIY program-it-yourself solution here.  This is a consumer targeted ready-to-go device.  On this point it delivered (mostly).   Like a lot of modern setups Sensibo allows you to scan a QR code to connect your device.  However this is where I hit a snag.  I tried unsuccessfully to scan and connect the device a few times, always getting an error and having the unchanged on/off blinking blue light stare back at me.  After no success and a couple of device resets I queried Sensibo's support pages and found the following documented password restrictions:

"The password length is not longer than 32 characters.
The password does not have special characters."

For me this wasn't a deal breaker but definitely not ideal for any of you who make full use of WPA2 password standards (not that I personally know anyone who would go over Sensibo's 32 char password limit but I know plenty who utilise special characters in their password string).

To get around this limitation I made a quick amendment to my wireless network configuration and set up a 2.4GHz guest network specifically for IoT devices and restricted it by MAC address to bolster the security a little.

Finally it was just a case of fixing the device to a wall or shelf within range and line of sight of your aircon unit.

OPERATION
The Sensibo Sky combined with the app turns out to be an elegant and robust solution to extending the capabilities of controlling a home aircon.  It allows you to easily establish schedules or manually control the aircon from wherever you might have internet access.

The app also comes with support for geofencing that tracks your location and can switch your aircon on or off dependent on your distance from home, which sounds cool but has some caveats in that it seems to only work if your personal mobile device is unlocked.  Not ever needing a GPS to guide me home means that my phone remains locked and in my pocket and Sensibo doesn't know that I am back in the trigger zone.  I did test this a couple of times by keeping my phone unlocked and it does work beautifully.


The big bonus for me was that the Sky is compatible with Google Home voice commands so I can turn aircons on and off just by requesting as I move around the house.  For further integration and automation you can also extend interactions with the Sky via IFTTT recipes

For the tinkerers at heart Sensibo even has an open API to allow third parties to interface via select platforms.

The Sky has sensors that will feed back data to your app showing ambient room temperature and humidity and will allow basic temperature adjustment's via the app which is a huge plus for me.


All things considered,  I really like the Sensibo Sky.  However the question of affordability comes up when you need to scale up a solution for an entire home.  As the device only supports a single aircon unit the price point may be a hurdle.  With the amount of air conditioners I have in the house  I certainly can't afford to automate them all with the Sky.  I have however found a less advanced but much cheaper solution for simple on and off control and will put that in an article soon.  Stay tuned.

PROS
Reliable & robust so far,  Logical layout for the Sensibo app makes it easy to navigate and use.

CONS
As this is only an IR blaster the Sky is unable to sense the current state of their air conditioning unit if someone uses the remote to manually set temperature or toggle the power state. Quite a high price point for a unit that will only control a single air conditioner unit.

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The Official Auki Henry: Sensibo Sky - A Quick Review
Sensibo Sky - A Quick Review
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The Official Auki Henry
https://www.aukihenry.com/2019/04/sensibo-sky-review.html
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