Review: Zigbee Alfawise Z1 gateway / Tuya Smart Life, home automation with no home automation BOX required

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A home automation light solution provided with several captors, scalable, controlled by Smartphone or by voice for 50€, this is the Promise of the Zigbee Alfawise Z1 Gateway in this test. The opportunity to clear up the growing confusion between the role of a home automation box and a simple gateway.

Home automation for everyone is the trend of the last few years with cost-effective and easy solutions.

Besides the conventional home automation boxes (Zipato, Somfy Tahoma and other EEdomus) or home made solution (Jeedom or Domoticz), much lighter solutions are emerging following the IOT trend. The Alfawise Z1 Zigbee kit tested here in part of this group.

The Alfawise Z1 Zigbee gateway is sold when in a deal around 50€ at Gearbest with 3 captors.

TUYA SMART for Light Home Automation

It’s a challenge to test the Alfawise Z1 Zigbee Gateway without understanding the environment in which it will fit into your home. The Z1 is not a home automation box. It is a device that integrates Zigbee-compatible sensors/captors and makes them available to an external control and programming system. This system is Tuya Smart whose visible side are the mobile applications TUYA SMART HOME and SMART LIFE which are almost identical and interchangeable. They exists for iOs and Android.

The TUYA SMART solution allows any manufacturer of a connected object to be integrated at lower cost and complexity in a home automation hosted on the Internet. This solution gives a manufacturer the ability to interact with devices from different brands via scripts. This virtual home automation box located in the “cloud” is secure and complies with European regulations for the protection of personal data, contrary to those of Xiaomi or Aqara. Performance is also on the agenda with an average response time of 10ms.

Each object connected in this way has its own user interface and can be remotely operated (e.g. lights, heater) or used to return information (e.g. temperature, intruder alert).

You can automate tasks as you would do in a physical home automation BOX at home.

This solution already integrates several thousands of products from different manufacturers and maybe you already have products driven by TUYA solutions at home. For about two years now, the market has been flooded by a whole set of accessories that can be controlled via a smartphone or a Google Home or Amazon Alexa voice assistant. Often the application to use is Tuya Smart or Smart Life. I’m speaking about light bulbs, power outlets, air purifier, locks, video doorphone, camera , … using TUYA.

ALFAWISE Z1, a Zigbee Gateway

The “objects” connected to TUYA must be able to reach the Tuya servers. They use your Wifi network and Internet connection and then need power.It is easy to investigate for a camera, a light or a device directly attached to a power sock but not for a basic window or a temperature sensor. Wifi is not an option for them.

This is where the Alfawise Z1 ZIGBEE gateway comes in. It acts as a “bridge / gateway” between these objects and the Tuya platform via your Wifi network.

To integrate these objects, the Alfawise Z1 gateway uses a low-power radio network based on Zigbee IEEE802.15.4.

Zigbee is an more and more a popular communication protocol in the field of home automation that for a long time sworn only by ZWAVE.

The advantages of this Zigbee protocol are multiple:

  • Two-way communication which allows a status feedback (door open or not for example).
  • Low consumption with several years autonomous sensors via a single button cell.
  • Mesh network. Each Zigbee device which is connected to the power supply (light bulbs, connected plug) repeats the signal to the others without the need for a repeater, which helps the installation of the sensor on large areas.
  • An increasing offer because the standard is open source and thus almost without cost for the manufacturers.
  • Low final price with sensors starting at 10€.

The Alfawise Z1 solution implements the ZIGBEE protocol as standard, which gives it the possibility of integrating sensors from other brands than its own.
Some manufacturers integrate Zigbee in a proprietary way without promoting it. This is the case of Xiaomi with its Mijia Smart Home Gateway i did review on my French blog, Philips with its HUE or IKEA with its home automation range.

A mini Zigbee kit ready to use

I didn’t expect such a small box when I received the Alfawise Z1 Gateway Kit and its three sensors.

The Zigbee Gateway

The Zigbee Gateway, the heart of the solution, is very small. It is the size of an AC adapter (57 x 57 x 22mm) and plugs into an AC outlet without the need for an adapter (CE standard).

The station has two LEDs on the front panel that indicate its general status and the association mode via a single button.

The Alfawise Z1 gateway does not have light sensors or other sirens, as Xiaomi or Aqara did on its earlier generations of hubs. Nor does it offer an Ethernet network input. It is therefore very small.

Smaller than the AQARA Zigbee Gateway

The station has two LEDs on the front panel that indicate its general status and the association mode via a single button.

The Alfawise Z1 gateway does not have light sensors or other sirens, as Xiaomi or Aqara did on its earlier generations of hubs. Nor does it offer an Ethernet network input. It is therefore very small.

Once connected to a socket, a long press on the button puts it in association mode.

To make it work, you must install the TUYA SMART or SMART LIFE application on your smartphone (iOs or Android) then add a {{Gateway (Zigbee)}} device to the “Gateway and other” category.

Tuya Smart Life

The procedure is very simple and only requires you to indicate your 2.4GHz wifi network and its network key in the interface.
A Zigbee Smart gateway then appears in the first screen of Tuya ready to add chldren sensors. You will be able to understand at this moment what kind of device follows this radio standard.

The Alfawise Zigbee Kit includes three sensors in addition to the Gateway so that you can discover put of the box the possibilities of the Gateway/Tuya Smart.

Adding a children Sensor in TUYA thanks to the gateway

Each Zigbee module is added by placing them in association by pressing their button.

Alfawise has chosen first of all to highlight an Alarm type use.

Opening Door Sensor

The first sensor in the box is a Zigbee Magnetic Window and Door Sensor reference D02. This is a typical two-part system, the master part, 65 x 28 x 18 mm size, powered by a button cell and the slave, 30 x 16 x 12.5 mm size .
As soon as the two parts move apart or touch each other, an alert is sent to your smartphone (push notification) or an automation can be activated. You can, for example, activate a siren or even send an SMS by subscribing to an optional service in Tuya.

The Zigbee Motion Detector

The second sensor provided is also traditional in an alarm environment. It is a motion sensor M02. Powered by a 3V button cell, with 3 years of autonomy, this module is very small 46 x 38 x 35 mm. It can be placed at a height of about 2 meters and it detects on an angle of 120°. Again, this detection can trigger a scenario, for example the activation of a lamp. Depending on the hour of the day, it can switch on and off automatically after a delay.

Temperature/Humidity Zigbee Sensor

The last sensor in the box provides other types of service. It is a two-in-one module that informs about the temperature (range -20 °C ~ +60 °C), humidity level (range -20 °C ~ +60 °C) and humidity level (range 0 ~ 100). The aim of this sensor, reference T02, is to give information and maybe activate a heater or air conditioning unit if needed. It is easy to install due its small size 42 x 40 x 23.5 mm.

Light Home Automation

The Tuya Smart solution remains fairly straightforward.

It allows you to query the status of the sensors.
The information depends on which sensor is being interrogated.

  • The temperature sensor shows you a temperature and humidity curve since it has been in use. These values are stored in the “Cloud”.
  • If you select the opening sensor, you will get its current status (open or closed) and be able to display all the events. The same applies to the motion detector.
Automation thru TUYA SMART

Tuya / Smart Home can then be used to create automated scripts.

The application allows you to launch a series of actions in sequence one after the other or to set up intelligent automations.

You can for example pull down shutters, switch off lights and activate detectors with a single click {{Launch action in series}} with one click.

You can also do action without human action. It is a matter of taking variables into account at any time to define what to do in the form “When one or more conditions are met”, “execute one or more actions”, “during a defined period”. For example, it could be to switch on a lamp on presence, but only in the night.

Tuya proposes general conditions such as leaving / arriving in a certain area, anticipating the weather in addition to the values of the devices. The IFTTT system is also compatible with Tuya. The Tuya solution will continue to grow.

One point bothers me though. At this point, only the humidity sensor can receive a command which is to adjust its alert level. I would have expected to arm the presence or door sensor. I could only activate them manually, which is not suitable for an alarm function.
I’ll have to look into that. I can’t tell if the restriction comes from the sensors, the Alfawise Zigbee Gateway or the Tuya / Smart Life ecosystem.

Integration via Google Home / Alexa

Same questions on the interface side with the modules managed by the Alfawise Z1 gateway and the voice solutions on the market.

The Gearbest commercial sheet highlights possible integration with Alexa or Google Home. This possibility is not linked to the Alfawise Zigbee gateway but to an integration function offered by Smart Life / TuyaSmart. Switching on a lamp or controlling your TV by voice via an Infrared module is thus possible.

I did not succeed to query sensors thru Alexa despite advertissement

As for the Zigbee modules in the Alfawise kit, the documentation provides no information. The interactions according to the advertisement include the possibility of obtaining a sensor status (temperature, window open or closed) or arming an alarm.

I did not succed without knowing what the problem can be.

{{{Integration via Google Home / Alexa}}

Same questions on the interface side with the modules managed by the Alfawise Z1 gateway and the voice solutions on the market.

The Gearbest commercial sheet highlights possible integration with Alexa or Google Home. This possibility is not linked to the Alfawise Zigbee gateway but to an integration function offered by Smart Life / TuyaSmart. Switching on a lamp or controlling your TV by voice via an Infrared module is thus possible.

As for the Zigbee modules in the Alfawise kit, the documentation provides no information. The interactions according to the advertisement include the possibility of obtaining a sensor status (temperature, window open or closed) or arming an alarm.

I did not succed without knowing what the problem can be.

{{{A small price with little risk}}

In the world of home automation for everyone, the Alfawise Zigbee Z1 station was an opportunity for me to better understand the Tuya Smart solution that I had encountered on several occasions on products without realizing its major interest.

Even if the possibilities of scenario do not compete with a dedicated solution, for many consumers it is the minimum they are looking for. Of course these cloud solutions only work via an internet connection.

The complement to Tuya Smart provided by the Zigbee Alfawise Z1 solution is obvious. A simple Google or Amazon search on the term “Zigbee” will show you dozens of compatible products that need this low-power connection. I will mention this compatibility in my next articles about connected products.

Alfawise offers a Zigbee-compatible gateway at a price I find good enough to recommend it without risk (link on Gearbest). The sensors supplied as an accessory, compatible with other gateways or Zigate keys, alone cost more than 30 Euros.

I will continue to investigate the real possibilities with Google Home and Alexa offered by the kit as well as the way to arm the sensors by script. Your comments are welcome.

7 Total Score
Welcome to the Home Automation World

The Zigbee Alfawise Z1 Gateway Kit and its three sensors allows anyone to enter the world of home automation at a low cost. This solution integrates with the Tuya / Smart Life cost-free boxless home automation solution to further increase the already wide range of possibilities. I still need to confirm its compatibility with other Zigbee standard sensors/devices and to understand how it works from a vocal assistant to increase my note.

PROS
  • Simple
  • Zigbee Universal
  • SmarHome / Tuya compatible
  • Ready to use kit
  • The Price
CONS
  • Operation with Alexa Voice assistant unclear
  • How do we activate some sensors by script?
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