Review: British Gas Hive 2 takes smart homes to another level

    The latest Hive is wowing customers - but does it live up to its star billing?

    British Gas’ latest Hive products help you to save money, time and energy. But how good are they really? We find out.

    The Internet of Things has arrived and it is already changing how we live in our homes. Smart home products are emerging and smart metering is already upon us, with suppliers like Nest and British Gas’ Hive showing the possibilities of monitoring and managing our homes, for greater convenience, security and saving money.

    Hive, in particular, has gained significant traction over the last two years, with British Gas telling Internet of Business back in April that over 300,000 customers now own a Hive product (both British Gas customers and customers who work with alternative energy suppliers).

    So with the firm having launched the Hive 2 thermostat not-so long ago (July 2015), IoB tech guru and contributing editor Jan Maciejewski found an excuse to stay home and test out the thermostat, as well as the more recently released active light, active plug and movement sensors.


    Slick Hive thermostat, improved app

    It’s fair to say that the Hive2 active heating thermostat marks a significant upgrade on the original design, which was basic but functional.

    Compared the original design, the new Hive brings real style and greater design, and it’s clear that a lot of strategic thinking has gone into creating the Eco structure of products around it.

    The first generation controller/programmer can be upgraded to Hive 2 for around £99 ($130) and it makes sense to do this if you want remote app control over both your heating and hot water (rather than just using a standard static programmer.)

    It’s worth noting that this work has to be carried out by qualified British Gas engineer – which is a good thing in my view – but once the basic components are installed the rest is easy.

    The Hive 2 has a much slicker thermostat and clearly British Gas has put a lot of thought into its design and place in the home. Now, not only is it functional but it actually feels and looks a lot more like a smart home product than its predecessor ever did.

    The cleverly designed mobile app allows you to control the hot water, central heating and the rest of the family of Hive products quickly and easily.

    They are really easy to set-up; All you need to do to connect the accessories to the Hive home network is to power them up (insert battery in the case of the motion sensor) and then simply log-in with your email address and password.

    Once that’s done, you can control the heating or any of the connected devices from any number of Android or iOS phones and tablets. It is easy to use and very simple to add additional products to at any time as you need them.


    Reliable, robust and very easy to use

    You can control most aspects of Hive via the website too, which is well presented and employs an intuitive, easy to use dashboard to navigate and manage temperature control and timer settings.

    Hive also has a record of your home temperature settings over the year, so you can easily see how warm your house has been. Furthermore, you can even see comparisons of your average temperature control versus others in your geographic area.

    At the heart of the system is the Hive active hub. Once connected to the internet (via the home router), the system boots up very quickly.

    Sensors and accessories

    I have been a user of the Hive 2 system on my hot water and heating system for about a year with no issues at all. So when the new family of products came out recently, I immediately ordered light bulbs, a movement sensor and an active plug to trial.

    The light bulbs are a direct replacement for standard bayonet or screw fitting lights. Once added to the system, the app can control the on/ off function, dimming and the time control function of the individual light.

    The movement sensor is a very small discrete device which is easily mounted and once discovered by the hub gives a visual, time stamped indication on the app of any movement that takes place in the room or area it has been mounted.

    british-gas-active-plugThe active plug simply plugs in to a standard 13-amp socket and provides an outlet that can be switched on / off or timed depending on how it has been set on the app.

    To say the installation of the above devices was easy is a bit of an understatement.

    It took less than ten minutes from getting the products out of their boxes to having them all fully operational. Once plugged in they are automatically discovered and connected by the hub and all you have to do is name them in the app or web interface. They just work!

    In summary

    In summary, it’s not just about saving energy and money. These products are also about convenience and comfort. As well as being able to turn off the heating remotely, you can also switch it on when you are on the way home unexpectedly early or if you are away switching lights on and off can be an additional security and peace of mind measure.

    Hive has chosen not to be the cheapest in the market but what they have produced just works brilliantly and I’m sure many people will be attracted to Hive’s design, style and product functionality.

    In conclusion, I think this strategic move by Hive to get into the intelligent home market early is a very clever one. Hive is well on its way to creating a new standard in the home and no doubt will continue to add products to the range which will make it very difficult for people to switch to anyone else.  Anyone at Hive reading this, cameras would be a good next launch then you have definitely have me, hook, line and sinker.

    And when Hive integrates boiler performance alerts and automatic maintenance booking facilities to the system, we will start to see some really interesting uses of IoT.

    Finally, as more and more people add vibration and movement sensors – and if Hive does indeed add cameras to the portfolio – perhaps insurance companies will take note and offer discounts to customers for having these kinds of home monitoring and control devices fitted.

    Jan Maciejewski is technology adviser and contributor editor at the Internet of Business. He also works as an analyst at Beecham Research and advises start-ups at Level39 and Startupbootcamp.

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