The Acurite SmartHub and monitoring solution

I purchased an Acurite 10 sensor indoor humidity and temperature monitoring system and am surprisingly happy with it. I was expecting a generally crappy experience but I have to say I was wrong, and it wasn’t that I’d set my expectations so low; the system is truly quite good.

The system I purchased is this one.

You get a smartHub and 10 sensors. Pictured below is the hub and a sensor.

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The setup: smartHub

The smartHub comes with a little power adapter and an ethernet cable. Stick it into a wall outlet and connect the ethernet cable to your router and DHCP does its thing and the smartHub gets online.

It initiates a series of accesses to some locations and downloads firmware and the like. (I’ve captured network traces, if I find anything interesting, I’ll blog about that). In a couple of minutes the lights stabilize and you have to press a button that says “Activate”.

The setup: online

Then you create an online account at the Acruite site and once you are logged in, you associate your account with the device. You identify it by the number on the bottom (spoiler alert, the number is the MAC address of the device).

Within about a minute, the device shows up and you are good to go for the next step.

The setup: sensors

Each sensor takes two AAA batteries, pop them in and within a minute the web portal shows a new device which you can rename and mount wherever you want it. Very slick and easy.

Within about 15 minutes I had 10 sensors online and reporting.

I was so happy with this that I’ve purchased another smartHub and 10 more indoor/outdoor sensors; they don’t have the LCD display.

Enough of the happy talk

OK, so what did I not like?

  1. It has been years (literally, years and years) since I’ve purchased a gadget that requires batteries, and the batteries are not included. It’s a good thing that I purchase AAA’s in packs of 50. Like every other commodity piece of electronics these days, these sensors are made in China, so just stick two AAA’s in the box please.
  2. Once you power up a sensor, it takes under a minute to initialize and register with the smartHub. But, if you stick batteries in two of them in quick succession, there’s no way to tell (on the Web UI) which is which. There’s no number on the sensor, nothing which you can associate with what you see on the screen; just “Temperature and Humidity Sensor – NN” where NN is a number incrementing from 1 to 10.
  3. Once you get sensors on the Web UI, there is no way to re-order them. The will forever remain in the same order. So if you decide to move a device from one location to another, and you want to group your devices based on location, you are not able to do that.
  4. Wired ethernet, really? I’m sure the stupid cable they have to give you will cost about as much as it would to get wireless setup. But it would make the setup just a bit harder.
  5. The web app is just about OK. Fine, it sucks. It allows you to add alerts for each device. By default, low battery and loss of signal rules are added for each device. But, I want to add temperature rules for different devices. Yes, you can do that but you get to do it one device at a time. No copy/paste available.
  6. They claim to have an android application but it won’t work on a tablet; instead they expect you to use a full blown web app for the tablet. The android app won’t install on my android phone; lots of others seem to be complaining about this as well.

Closing thoughts

Acurite strikes me as a company that makes fine hardware and they appear to have done an absolutely bang up job on the initial setup and “getting started” part of the experience.

They are not a software company. The software part of the “after setup” experience is kind of horrible.

They offer no easy API based mechanism to retrieve your sensor data. Yes, on the web app, you can click a couple of buttons and play with date controls and get a link to some AWS S3 bucket mailed to you with your data as a CSV but really, advertise an API, get someone to write an IFTTT channel, then you’ll be cooking with gas.

Next post will be a deconstruction of the protocol, what you get when you point your web browser at the smartHub’s IP address, and those kinds of fun things.

One more thing

The people at Acurite Support are wonderful. I have (in the past three days) spoken with two of them, and interacted with one via email. The people I spoke with were knowledgeable, and very helpful.

The wait times on hold are quite bad. I waited 25 minutes and 15 minutes respectively on hold. There is the usual boring elevator music while you stay in line with an announcement every minute that you are “XX in line”. No indication of how long your wait will be but you are offered the option of getting a callback.

An odd thing though is that while I was in line and I heard the message “you are second in line” a couple of times, I suddenly ended up being “third in line”. How someone got ahead of me in line, I know not.

But, their support is great. 5 stars for that!

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