Author Topic: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)  (Read 3152 times)

Offline garyd9

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First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« on: September 12, 2016, 11:08:33 pm »
Coming from SmartThings, and having played with VeraPlus for a couple days now, I thought I'd post my initial impressions.  (I should point out that I'm a software engineer, and that certainly influences how I see things.)  Perhaps this will assist someone else considering the same move...  (This post is copied/edited/pasted from a similar post I made on the smartthings forum.)

1. My first "Vera support" experience was many times better than ST. I called, someone answered, and not only did they seem interested in my problem, but they ALSO had a clue. Oh, and vera has a switch so they can remote into the local system and see/fix what's going on. One phone call, and both issues (nest not authorizing and fibaro motion sensor not showing battery) were resolved within 20 minutes. (My average "report to fix" time with ST is > 2 days, and I still have open tickets over a year old today.)

2. The UI isn't as bad as I thought it'd be. I suspect most people feel that the vera UI sucks because they think of the UI as a "remote control" thing, when it really should be a "set it up and don't mess with it anymore" type thing. When used like that, it's not so bad. (ST is still prettier, but it also crashes more often.) A HUGE difference is that the ST "UI" is purely a mobile app (with dev tools via a web browser.) On vera, the primary is via a web browser (and the mobile app seems like a poor afterthought.)

3. For setup/configuration ease of use, ST is better. It's just easier to use. Thankfully, I shouldn't have to set things up more than once with the Vera. (Unlike ST, Vera seems to offer migration tools when they sell new hardware.)  This goes back to the last point with the UI, but with the same conclusion:  once I've set things up, I shouldn't have to use the UI much.  (Even for remote control on my mobile device, I prefer using android widgets via "sharptools" for ST and "autovera" for vera.)

4. For raw power and flexibility (from a developer point of view), it can be a toss up. I'm already familiar with ST, so Vera is going to be more difficult to get going with. However, assuming I don't run into major limitations, I expect that Vera will end up beating ST hands down. Not only is everything run locally, but I'm not reading reports on Vera forums of firmware updates constantly breaking API's, etc.   (It's fairly common for ST updates, both firmware and server-side, to break API's.)

5. Migrating does require a mental shift. In particular, SmartThings "smartapps" don't exist, but there are Vera "scenes" (that are NOT the same as generic z-wave scenes.) Vera scenes, depending on if you're using the base firmware or something like "PLEG" that extends them, range from simple to very complex ITTT type rules along with lists of actions, conditionals, and triggers. If all else fails, you can always write custom code (that also runs locally.)

6. The Vera community forum is a bit more difficult to navigate. My initial impression is that the primary reason is that vera is a much older product line than ST, so when you're searching for something, you often hit threads that are very old (and out of date.) With the ST forums, the product line is only a few years old, and ... well.. nothing much has changed from a user point of view (and even from a dev point of view, most of the stuff that was broken 3 years ago is still broken.)  I'm also running into snags with Vera's forum where I've posted questions on this forum, and those posts sit for > 24 hours (so far) in a "hidden while waiting for moderator to approve" state.

7. So far, the biggest negative in regards to Vera Plus: I can't use my minimote as a secondary controller to include z-wave devices.  That makes including/pairing low power devices (such as window/door sensors) that are a fair distance from the controller annoying.

8. Another Vera "oddity": The vera plus has a 802.11ac radio. I have no clue why. As far as I can tell, it has no purpose. Thankfully, it's easily disabled. (I read somewhere that the wifi radio is useful when setting up without internet service/ethernet, but I read somewhere else that the wifi radio doesn't for that.  There's lots of conflicting info out there...)

Take care
Gary

Offline aa6vh

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2016, 10:17:36 am »
Interesting. It will be also interesting for you to come back and revisit this in say one month.

Quote
I'm also running into snags with Vera's forum where I've posted questions on this forum, and those posts sit for > 24 hours (so far) in a "hidden while waiting for moderator to approve" state.

Most forums these days place new members under moderation until a certain post count is reached (I do not know what the Vera forum magic post count is, though). If a forum doesn't, then they should. Otherwise, we would have to suffer the inevitable avalanche of spam messages (as what happens on forums that do not moderate new members). Blame the spammers!

Offline Marc Shenker

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2016, 11:26:49 am »
Gary, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, I found it very insightful; especially since I was accidentally sent a ST kit by accident  and am going to set it up in my office to see what it is all about.

Regarding Point 3. With Z-Wave Plus which is the chipset in the VeraPlus there is a feature called Network Wide Inclusion which allows you to pair Z-Wave devices over a distance. Start your pairing process with your AC powered devices closest to the VeraPlus, these devices can act a repeater, and work you way outward. You shouldn't have to move your devices except for very old ones.

Regarding the time it took to approve you post, There are several of us who approve posts, we do it as fast as we can. And yes, we do get enough spam attempts to warrent what you have to initially have to go through to post. I delete and block spam that still gets through on a daily basis.

Welcome to the Vera community, We are happy to have you as a user!
Marc Shenker ▾ Sr. Manager of Community Relations and Development
Vera Control, Ltd. ▾ Smarter Home Control ▾ www.getvera.commarc@getvera.com ▾ +1 (866) 966-2272 x814

Offline garyd9

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2016, 12:28:30 pm »
Welcome to the Vera community, We are happy to have you as a user!
Thank you.  Could I get you, by chance, to please review and answer the following post?

http://forum.micasaverde.com/index.php/topic,39178.0.html

(I'd hate to call the tech support number for every tiny problem...)

Thank you
Gary


Offline garyd9

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2016, 10:01:46 am »
Interesting. It will be also interesting for you to come back and revisit this in say one month.
2 weeks in...

My impressions are mostly the same.

1:  Support:  I've had reason to contact support for two other issues, and while they've been responsive, neither resulted in a resolution.  In one case, it's a bug in the android app apparently, and in another it's a requested "feature change."  At least they responded.

2 & 3:  The UI for vera still sucks.  However, as I get the "automation" portion of things moving along, the UI is less and less significant.  I do wish that if Vera is only going to allow device pairing/inclusion via the web interface, that they'd make a more mobile-friendly web page for it.  It currently works via chrome on my android devices, but it feels clunky.  At the very least, the webUI should give some kind of positive feedback when the vera z-wave inclusion process actually makes contact with the other device and starts syncing.  Right now, there are subtle hints that are easy to miss on a mobile web browser (and the timer keeps counting backwards) so it's hard to be sure...

4 & 5:  I've been using this for 2 weeks, and everything has been migrated off smartthings for over 10 days.  Using the PLEG plugin, I haven't found any need to write a single line of code myself, and I have everything working more or less as I want.  I see the ability to go quite a bit farther than I did with ST...

6:  No real change of impressions on the community aspect.  One point of amusement is that there aren't as many "I'm leaving" threads on vera's forum when compared to ST.  (Of course, there's a lot less activity overall.)

7:  The inability to use the minimote to include z-wave devices is still a PITA.  In regards to Marc's comment on "network wide inclusion", that might be a feature of z-wave plus or vera, but it certainly doesn't work out for me.  Perhaps its something not supported by any of my AC powered devices (wall switches/dimmers/sockets) and so it's irrelevant. 

8:  I hope the cost of the wifi radio in this thing didn't drive up the hardware cost if it's never going to serve any purpose.

Some additional thoughts:

For z-wave devices that Vera doesn't know about (perhaps a new command class), it'd be nice if Vera passed the z-wave data to the user luup layer.  That would allow a user to develop at least a temporary device for new devices.  For example, the "homeseer" z-wave dimmer switches apparently use a unique command class for extra features.  If vera provided a hook to allow user-code to see the low level z-wave data for that unknown command class, we could implement the class very quickly while "mios" developers took however long as needed for a proper implementation.

The "wifi" LED on the Vera Plus isn't accurate.  I turned off the wifi radio on my vera plus, but after a reboot the "wifi" LED is lit.  The wifi radio isn't on, but the wifi LED is.  (Yes, I verified that no wifi signal was being emitted by the vera.)

Overall, I'm still happy with the purchase and migration.  In 2 weeks time, all my little automations have worked 100% of the time - and that's what is most important.  (I don't think SmartThings ever went 2 weeks without a single failure.)


Offline garyd9

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2016, 09:17:00 am »
I've recently hit 30 days with Vera, and my opinions are mostly the same.  However, I've also decided to put vera aside for a while and give HomeSeer a try.  So, I loaded that up a couple days ago and have been playing with it... and so far I'm fairly impressed.  It works well.  The web interface is (in my opinion) better than Vera's, and the android app is just as bad.  The "events" system beats vera scenes easily.  While PLEG does much to level that playing field (and even surpassing it in one regard: sequences), the homeseer events system just feels more natural to use to me.

One massive pitfall of homeseer, however, is the add-on/plugin system.  While add-on authors for vera seem to give things away for free or charge extremely reasonable prices for them (such as PLEG), homeseer plugins seems to be extremely overpriced for what they are.

As an example, one "plugin" I'd need would be something to send push notifications to an android phone - both for the purpose of actual user notifications and to do something similar to autovera on vera.  There already exists a plugin, but the author is charging $40 (US) for it.  Oh, and then you ALSO need to purchase "autoremote" from the google play store.  That's just not acceptable when I figured out how little work was involved in reproducing the same functionality on my own (at least for the simple needs I have.)

In less than an hour time, I was able to whip up a script or two in homeseer that does exactly what I need it to do (also using auto-remote, but without the extra $40 US charge.)  No, I don't have a pretty UI to set it up in, but it really wasn't needed for my purpose.

Then there are the plugins for "Nest" integration (and I don't know if that uses the official WWN API, or something undocumented that could break and render the paid plugin useless), MyQ (which probably uses the same unofficial access mechanisms that the Vera plugin uses - and therefore could break and render another paid plugin useless.)   I'm fully supporting of developers being paid for their work, but it's REALLY hard to justify paying someone for back-end API hacks that aren't supported and could disappear with no notice whatsoever.

So, homeseer has the potential to be extremely expensive when compared to Vera (and I'm not sure if there's much benefit to compensate for the higher cost.)  Thankfully (for me) there's a 30 day trial period. :)

Take care
Gary

Offline Egbert

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2016, 02:40:12 pm »
Hello garyd9,

Im doing the same. Had a Vera lite when it came out and bought a Vera plus about a year ago and untill today it has it problems ; restarts/cant detect devices and alert problems. Some problems posted here but after some updates never solved.
Now i sold my Plus and bought to try an Intel Nuc and installed Homeseer trial.
Also inpressed by the software and ofcourse the speed of the little Nuc.
Also know that the software has its price but i wait for next month because in November its always 50% sale so maby i buy it then.

Offline integlikewhoa

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2016, 04:27:16 pm »
I'm around 1 year in to Homeseer after have A number of vera's over a 3 year period. From the Lite to the PLUS. Using my existing windows computer a 36.00 usb z-wave stick and buying HS3 during the 50% off 2 months of the year program I was able to spend less on HS then I did with vera. And without haveing to upgrade Hardware every year I expect it to be way cheaper in the long run. Also with HS3 you get both windows and linux. So while I have been running windows for the last year I currently got a 35.00 Raspberry Pi3 and have been testing my existing license on that with the possibility of moving fully to a Pi3 instead of the windows computer im using now for Blueiris, Plex and HomeSeer. 

The point is the flexibility is limitless and you have total control of the hardware you want to buy or already have.
 

Offline garyd9

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2016, 04:38:38 pm »
The point is the flexibility is limitless and you have total control of the hardware you want to buy or already have.
Well... not completely.  You're still at the mercy of some company to implement z-wave interfaces.  That was one of the REALLY nice aspects of SmartThings:  The raw z-wave data is accessible, so if a new device comes out, you can implement your own device handler for it without waiting for something official.  (I did this when fibaro came out with new devices, and it was really nice.)

Of course, with smartthings, you're at the mercy of "the cloud" as well as some sloppy developers breaking things (and pushing those broken updates to their cloud servers AND your hub without your consent.)

There really isn't a "perfect" HA hub solution.  I think the best we can hope for is to try to find a solution that works best for our individual needs with the least number of sacrifices.  At least there are a LOT of choices. :)

Take care
Gary

Offline integlikewhoa

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2016, 06:07:41 pm »
The point is the flexibility is limitless and you have total control of the hardware you want to buy or already have.
Well... not completely.  You're still at the mercy of some company to implement z-wave interfaces.  That was one of the REALLY nice aspects of SmartThings:  The raw z-wave data is accessible, so if a new device comes out, you can implement your own device handler for it without waiting for something official.  (I did this when fibaro came out with new devices, and it was really nice.)

Implementing Z-wave devices doesn't have anything to do with hardware control of the controller. That's actually a software issue (similar to driver).

Smartthings you cant just update the z-wave controller without replacing the whole smartthings hub. Vera the same. If you had a vera lite and wanted z-wave plus you couldn't just buy a 36.00 usb z-wave stick and keep all the rest.  If you run out of RAM or max out your CPU usage, you cant just add more or upgrade without throwing out the whole box and starting over or trying to restore a backup. 

Also as far as not having z-wave devices implemented right away..... I have only had that problem with VERA. Z-combo devices didn't work for over a year while I was on vera. And devcies I thought worked fine I found were missing alot more information after I have moved away from vera. My Z-combos now have heartbeat monitors, my Kwikset door locks now display if the lock was "unlocked manually by lever" as a status message. In vera only a limited amount if children were created and you would get just the basics like locked or unlocked. Not things like I noted above.

Offline dagrider

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2017, 02:37:55 pm »
Wanted to add my impressions also, as a user coming over to VeraPlus from SmartThings.

This month SmartThings announced that they were dropping the Windows Phone app. I bought into SmartThings because of the Windows Phone app, though it always lagged behind the iOS and Android apps in functionality and aesthetics.

Maybe being that I only used the Windows Phone app (SmartThings doesn't even have a web app) my experience is worse than most SmartThings users, but I found the app to not be logically laid out and a real pain to control devices. I also had to install and edit a lot of user created apps and device handlers via the developer IDE to make some devices work, such as the Kwikset 916 lock and the Lightify Tunable bulbs.

When I found out that SmartThings would no longer support the Windows Phone app, I started looking for alternatives. At first I thought I might install an Android emulator, but my PC doesn't have virtualization support and I'm not about to buy a new one just to communicate with the SmartThings hub. I don't even remember how I stumbled upon VeraPlus, but I sure am glad that I did  ;D

I've been reading through the forums a lot, and there are many posts about how bad the UI is. Maybe the older versions are (from screenshots that I saw) but I LOVE UI7! It is SO much better than the Windows Phone app for SmartThings! Everything is laid out so logically and setting up and controlling devices is super easy. I installed the Vera Windows app, works like a charm although it seemed like some devices didn't show exactly the same as in the web app. I installed the Vera app for Windows Mobile and it works like a charm too, though I've not yet tried the geofencing. I think I have to get my husband to use a smartphone before that will be extremely useful.

So far I have moved all my devices over from SmartThings, except for the SmartThings water sensor and the Lightify bulbs. I have ordered an Aeotec water sensor and will just give the SmartThings water sensor to the "lucky" person that gets my SmartThings hub. My Evolve LOM-15 wall outlet, which doesn't have official VeraPlus support, still worked when I used Generic Z-Wave device. I have also ordered some new devices, such as the Aeotec Power Strip and the Aeotec Recessed Door Sensor (making sure the devices are supported by VeraPlus) and so far no problem.

I am especially happy that the VeraPlus runs locally, was never satisfied that the SmartThings processing happens all in the cloud (V1 hub). I set up a SmartThings app so when the Lightify bulbs go on, their color temperature is set based on the time of day, and it always takes at least few seconds after the light goes on for the color temperature change to occur, and sometimes it never occurs.

I always had to write my own apps to make things happen in SmartThings. Perhaps this is just ignorance on my part, or lack of functionality in the Windows Phone app, but VeraPlus scenes are so much better and do everything I need right out of the box.

If anybody knows, or can suggest the best way for me to try to find out, I would be interested in knowing when the VeraPlus firmware will be updated to support ZigBee color temperature (or at least that it is in the queue). I have a lua script ready to go to replicate my Lightify bulb color temperature change, but can't actually make it work until the firmware supports the color temperature change. So for now, I have the SmartThings hub still controlling the Lightify bulbs.

I do not have a huge amount of home automations devices, nor do I have a lot of scenes set up, so maybe a power user would run into more roadblocks than I.

In a nutshell, sure would like to get my Lightify bulbs working with VeraPlus, but overall very pleased that I am using VeraPlus instead of SmartThings!

Offline a-lurker

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2017, 05:05:27 pm »
For those who don't like the Vera UI and even for those that do like the Vera UI - do yourself a favour and install the AltUI plugin.

Offline pshotton

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2017, 01:32:51 pm »
Fascinating thread - thanks to all for your comments and thoughts.

I'm a software engineer, fascinated by HA and playing around with the technologies. I've had X10 for a while  - mostly cheap and effective but lack of feedback (no status responses) and variable reliability led me first to Insteon (very good, but pricey and limited) and then on to Smartthings, Vera and Homeseer. Basically I'm still looking for the perfect solution.

ST is slick - but flaky. I wrote an X10 controller interface and then the next upgrade broke it in some undocumented way. I think it's a very nice toy but not there in full HA mode.

Vera is very good but the UI is horrid, and Z-wave inclusion is a bit random. However most of what I've wanted to do, I can do in Vera.

I have Homeseer a trial (actually bought the software and then had it refunded after I didn't like it). UI is very complete but looks about 10 years old. I don't run windows and HS is less complete on Linux so that was a downside. Hardware and software are expensive, particularly when you start adding in all the missing bits at $49 a pop!

Currently playing with Openhab2 - and this could be my final solution. It's getting better and better, but still has a steep learning curve (and big holes in the documentation). However the community support is the best, and it covers a huge number of bases. Still playing but so far I like it.

There's lots of others out there too - Domoticz looks pretty good too, but life is too short to try everything- and Z-wave exclusion/inclusion is a real pain, but as I'm starting to plan my next big HA project (renovating a house) I think I'm going to go Z-wave everywhere, sell my X10 kit, but integrate with Alexa (Google home if it comes to the UK?) and Hue.

If there's any good tech I've missed, let me know!


Offline markd

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2017, 07:14:44 pm »
+1 on the UI being 'horrid'.  I started using UI2 and I still see some of the same quirks from that interface replicated in UI7.  There are add on interfaces but I really wish Vera would step up and come out with something a bit flashier and more ergonomic  for people who want to use the UI to control and configure their devices.

Offline tomtcom

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Re: First impressions of VeraPlus (coming from SmartThings)
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2017, 11:13:20 pm »
+1 on the UI being 'horrid'.  I started using UI2 and I still see some of the same quirks from that interface replicated in UI7.  There are add on interfaces but I really wish Vera would step up and come out with something a bit flashier and more ergonomic  for people who want to use the UI to control and configure their devices.
Maybe we can get more white space on the page?  ;D