Home Automation: Sonoff, Tuya ...or both? - Gadget Victims

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Home Automation: Sonoff, Tuya ...or both?

My old X10 equipment is being replaced with the cheap Wi-Fi-based sockets and switches from Sonoff and Tuya.

Before learning the difference between these competitors, I found myself with a mix of both "standards"...



For 20 years now, my not-so-smart house was equipped with various X10 devices.  When this protocol was invented, back in the 70's, there was hardly any source of interference in a typical home, but today, signal suckers (most power supplies), noise generators (LED, CFL bulbs...) are everywhere and just plugging a blender in the kitchen can easily render the whole X10 network inoperative!

Time to leave from the X10 hell...
...to join another one. 😀


I bought my first "Smart Wi-Fi gadget" in the form of a socket for ~20$ (Innens XS-A14) shortly followed by a super-tiny motion detector for ~15$ (Neo Coolcam NAS-PD01W) with the obvious plan to make them interact and see how it goes.
(In comparison, same from X10/Insteon would cost at least the double!)



Both devices are from the same Tuya/Smart Life family, so they worked together seamlessly.
I was just lucky at that time since I didn't know anything about Sonoff/Tuya differences yet.

I discovered the Sonoff world when I wanted to extend my new system with a pair of 8€ un-branded wall switches (DVSmart DF-S101) and tried to link them with Smart Life. to eventually find out they would only work with the Ewelink app! 

Both ecosystem are very similar but differ by their app and cloud servers, and also have slightly different hardware solutions available.

So far, I gathered a few facts:


Tuya ecosystem
Mainly based on Espressif ESP8266
Plug-in socket switches are easy to find
Wall switches are harder to find and tend to be more expensive than Sonoff
PIR detector uses Wi-Fi. Slow response timed, takes a few seconds to trigger an action.
Some smart products like smart floor lamps are found with Tuya switch integrated.
App: Smart Life  and Tuya Smart , same app but different clouds (I stick with Smart Life which seems to respond faster in my location). One user can login on several devices at the same time. Local weather information can be used as a trigger in smart scenes. LAN only mode is automatic.




Sonoff ecosystem
Mainly based on Espressif ESP8266
Plug-in socket switches are easy to find
Wall switches are found everywhere and cheap
PIR detector uses RF 433Mhz, fast, cheap and reliable. (Requires RF Bridge)
Less Sonoff-integrated appliances,
App: Ewelink using servers depending on your location. One user login supported per computer, launching Ewelink on another tablet/phone requires to login again. Manual LAN only mode has been recently added.

 

Both worlds have their pros & cons. I like some details in the Tuya/Smart Life apps, like the weather information that can be used as a trigger in smart scenes.

However, in term of sensors I prefer the Sonoff approach which bridges with faster responding RF devices to the Smart Life Wi-Fi only sensors.

Buying the intended standard can be challenging as many gadgets are unbranded and vendors do not always state if the device uses Smart Life (Tuya) or Ewelink (Sonoff). I have even seen some mentioning both for the same product!

It's all fun and games until someone looses Wi-Fi!


I haven't had issues with the cloud services from either universes. Both solutions have a LAN only mode (automatic with Smart Life, manual with Ewelink), and I still can ultimately walk to flick the switch no matter what.

Even if I prefer a local hub rather than relying on several external cloud services, for the moment, I'm happy enough with both standards, as long as it's just to control some lights (not security alarm or heating control).

Unifying these 2 universes under one interface is where Google Home or Alexa come handy (...more cloud services)


Grouping both standard in Google Home, or Amazon Alexa is very straightforward. Both have a similar way to link with devices (or skills for Alexa), and "turn on the living room lights" will all the light switches in that room regardless where they come from.

As a consumer of Google services, I naturally started to use Google Home but I'm also trying Alexa and I'd be hard pressed to tell which one I prefer right now!

The current better choice in Alexa-enabled speakers makes the Amazon solution appealing, but things might change during 2019. 


Hacking...

With all this external (although AES encrypted) traffic allowed to runs things, I feel like I'm hosting a huge open house party with anyone invited. Beside the data mining concern, there's also the question of the cloud services reliability.

So, soon enough, I'll hook my USB to serial UART interface to a dead unit and experiment with alternate firmware.

While both Tuya and Sonoff are highly hackable, there's apparently a larger community and better documentation on the Sonoff side.

Sonoff also allows to integrate RF switches and sensors to the Ewelink app via their RF Bridge.
Expectedly, I found that and RF PIR with the RF bridge reacted much faster than the Wi-Fi-Only solutions for Smart Life.












The Sonoff RF bridge is far from being universal and is only guaranteed to work with the Sonoff but According to Sonoff documentation,
some 433Mhz gadgets (beware of 315Mhz versions) with fixed code encoding (control chips PT2260, PT2262, PT2264, EV1527) should work.

This excludes secured RF equipment like the alarm fobs and sensor because they typically implement -and it's a good thing- rolling or dynamic RF codes.

I could indeed re-use an old EV1527-based door sensor, and also a pair of cheap RF control sockets.



The RF-Bridge is frustrating in many aspects and it would deserve a full article just to cover that.
The number of RF devices to pair is limited to 4, and even if multi-button remotes are supported, only "alarm" type devices can be used as trigger for Wi-Fi component in the "Scenes"...

Is it worth it?

I'm not sure that a hub-less solution, relying mostly on external services and your router resilience is the ultimate solution, but it the prices are certainly very attractive.

And that's the problem...

Before you know, for less than 100€/$ (most component cost around 15€/20$), you have a complete solution up and running and you may just decide to stick with it.
However, there are very worthwhile hub-based solutions, like Samsung SmartThings or Wink, and  Zigbee or Thread devices that deserve a close look too.

Useful reading:
Ewelink app permissions explained
Are smart homes vulnerable to hacking?
Tweaking the PIR sensor
Are smart homes vulnerable to hacking?


My Shopping list

This is just for reference.
Do shop around as the prices can vary a lot depending the shops and their occasional flash sales.

Tuya/Smart Life devices:

Teckin Smart Floor Lamp

From amazon.co.uk
Price: ~80€ / 100$
Comment: a bit pricey for what it is but good lamp otherwise with Tuya dimmer integrated. 
Only gripe is the noise from the dimmer when the light is not at 100%.

Innens XS-A14 WiFi Socket

From Gearbest / Amazon
Price  ~18€ / 20$

Innens BS-D29 WiFi Socket


From ebay / Amazon
Price: 11€ /12.5$
Comment: Described by vendor as using eWelink but turns out to be an BSD29 from Innens which works with Smart Life! I asked for the listing to be updated. BS-D29 feature an integrated energy monitor.




Neo Coolcam NAS-PD01W WiFi motion sensor

From ebay
Price ~13€/16$
Comment: works well but slower than a RF device. Limited Wi-Fi range due to the small size.


Sonoff/eWeLink devices:

DVSmart DF-S101 (similar to Sonoff Touch wall switch)

Found on flash sale at: Gearbest
Price: 8€ / 10$
Comment: bought 2 of them. One died after some time, no even serving its own AP anymore when trying to pair it. Might be better to buy from Sonoff which also has more hacker friendly boards.


Sonoff S26G (UK)

From ebay
Price: 11€ / 15$
Comment: Obviously bigger and not as nice as the tiny round socket below but better Wi-Fi range.



Sonoff bridge with RF PIR detector

Found at Bangood.com
Price: 18€/20$
Comment: Interesting alternative to Wi-Fi sensors. The bridge works well but offers limited options for combine RF with Wi-Fi equipment through smart scenes. 

5 comments:

  1. im also using both tuya and ewelink and also broadlink. if u have not used it already u should try broadlink rm pro. it can control rf433 and ir devices like aircond rf433 smart bulbs and many more.

    ive used the rf bridge with many other non-sonoff sensors and it work like a charm.

    Tuya came a bit later but it is starting to gain more interest from other manufacturers. I will also be launching an induction cooker just remember the name Slick induction cooker and google it in a month time hehe

    ReplyDelete
  2. did you try to connect tuya products to ewelink app?
    did you know how i can combine them? i use ewelik app

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They must use their own app to be registered but both Tuya and Ewelink are supported by Google Home and Alexa, so they can be combined this way.

      Delete

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