MiCasaVerde VeraLite Review

Note: You can also find a lot of information about the VeraLite in our initial Z-Wave project. We have also undertaken a separate review of the UI7 firmware.

In The Box

MiCasaVerde VeraLite box contents
The first thing you notice on opening the box is just how small the VeraLite is (approx 120mm × 105mm × 45mm). In the box is the main unit, a Cat5 network cable, four AA batteries, a plug-in 12Vdc/1A PSU and a 'getting started' leaflet.

The plug-in PSU is not much use in the UK as it is a European 2-pin version. The VeraLite is also incredibly light.

Setup & Configuration

Initial installation and set up of the VeraLite is quite a painless process as can be seen on this set up video by MiCasaVerda have a set up video on their YouTube channel:

In reality, the ease of configuration depends very much on the number and type of Z-Wave sensors and devices you include in your Z-Wave network.

Rooms

For convenience of browsing the devices and Z-Wave network, it is possible to create 'rooms' and assign devices to a room.

Location

Location
This part of the setup UI has been updated recently. It now supports UK pounds for energy usage aspects. The main part though is setting you home location, which is used to determine sunset and sunrise (used to trigger scenes).

Network & WiFi

This setup section enables use of DHCP or a fixed IP address.

Backup

This setup section allows you to backup and restore settings for the VeraLite. It generally seems to do automatic backups quite regularly.

Logs

The VEraLite can log locally or store logs on a USB memory stick (much larger capacity). Logs can also be archived in the network on the MiCasaVerde server.

Z-Wave Settings

Z-Wave heal report
When you move Z-Wave devices or add new ones, it is advisable to do a network heal, which rebuilds the network topology model.

Firmware

Here you can check for firmware updates and install them. As of 14th August 2012, we are running version 1.5.408. We can see no reason not to run the latest version.

Apps

This section lets you manage you apps, install new ones and even develop apps. We haven't used these as they relate to specific pieces of hardware or duplicate features we already have in our Home Control System (HCS).

In Use

We have been using this device for many months now as part of our initial Z-Wave project, where we go into a lot of detail about the configuration and set up we have been using. The device has proved very reliable and easy to configure. The new UI5 interface makes it quite easy to set up the VeraLite and there also seem to be frequent updates. It is also very easy to backup your Z-Wave network configuration.

Scenes & Schedules

Using the Vera UI5 user interface, you can create scenes. These are like scripts where things happen based on events or schedules. Scenes also can be run from mobile apps or the other HTTP interfaces. This means our existing Home Control System (HCS) can run them and we won't need to use schedules in the future. There is more information about scenes in our initial Z-Wave project.

Z-Wave Devices

As you can see from our initial Z-Wave project, we had some issues with the Vera and the Everspring ST814 but, these have been worked through now. We now have quite a complex network of sensors and devices, from a wide range of manufacturers. One of the better things about Z-Wave is the interoperability of the components.

Remote Access

VeraMobile app
If you enter the following URL on your Smartphone: http://mios.com/phone, you get access to a mobile web interface or a list of suitable apps for your device. We installed the VeraMobile app and it seemed to work pretty well giving direct control of appliance modules and a view of our other sensors.

It also enables you to run scenes from your mobile device, an iPhone 4 in our case. We were impressed with the speed and responsiveness of the app and its actions. It also highlights the advantages of a 2-way networking technology such as Z-Wave, as the app indicates command transmission and also confirms any request.

Note: We are unable to see our Fibaro Universal Sensors using this app.

Plugins

VeraLite supports plugins, available from the MIOS plugin download area. The Google Weather plugin is a good example and downloads Internet weather data from Google and displays conditions such as sunny, rain, snowing, as well as current temp, high temp, low temp and humidity.

Legacy X10

The Vera controller also claims to provide the ability to control X10 devices. To use VeraLite as an INSTEON or X10 controller you'll need a PowerLinc Modem - INSTEON USB Interface. Our advice is to avoid X10 at all costs though. It's an old, 1-way technology that is simply not reliable.

Remote Control

The plan is to investigate remote control of the Vera using the UPnP and HTTP interfaces.

The findvera.com service makes it very easy to access VeraLite from any web browser. When setting up the VVeraLite for the first time, on the findvera.com tab just pick a username and password. Then, from any web browser in the world go to findvera.com and enter that same username and password to be directly connected to your Vera 2 and be in full control of your home with the ability to view your security cameras. The findvera.com website is secure, using the same security as online banks to protect your financial transactions.

Summary

This review is an on-going set of projects now but, so far we've been quite impressed. With no real prior knowledge of Z-Wave, we managed to get quite a few sensors and some real home automation working in an evening. Within a week we had achieved the core objectives of our initial Z-Wave project. Subsequently, we have been running a quite complex Z-Wave network and reliability has been very good.

The VeraLite is capable of doing whole house automation using Z-Wave technology alone but, the main thing we like about it is that it has enabled us to incorporate Z-Wave into our hybrid technology Home Control System (HCS). The ability to activate scenes and devices over an IP network is very powerful. Similarly, the ability to add LUA code and thus communicate with other elements of our home automation system is also very powerful.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the VeraLite (and other MiCasaVerde devices apparently) is the non-conformance with the UPnP specification, which means it can only report temperatures as integers and this level of granularity is not enough for some applications. The UPnP specification states that temperature values are centi-degrees, not degrees. This means that all temperature related UPnP variables are out by a factor of 100. This is unlikely to be fixed, as it would break a lot of existing code.

Further Reading

There are a number of reviews of the Vera (versions 1, 2 and 3) on the Internet:

Updates

24th December 2012

INSTEON announced that they will be entering the UK market and we will be testing out the VeraLite's support for INSTEON in the new year. There is also a MiCasaVerde sub-forum dedicated to INSTEON support.

5th March 2012

We had our first glitch with the VeraLite today. Came home (about 5:15pm) to find that the bathroom fan was on and according to our HCS log had been since 14:26:25. Although our HCS log showed the scenes had run to switch various lamps on, none of them were on either. We tried manually switching on two lamps and only one came on too.

Whilst you can view the live logs on the Vera Lite, you need to telnet into Vera. You can do this using a Windows telnet client but, only if you haven't already set a password If like us you have set a password, then you must use a ssh client like PuTTY.

The problem is that MiCasaVerde don't tell you how to find the root password. After much Googling I found the only way to get it was to create a test scene with the following LUA code and to then look for the password to appear in the Vera log file. It wasn't anything I had entered or that could be guessed!

cmh_conf = io.open("/etc/cmh/cmh.conf")
for line in cmh_conf:lines() do
local match = line:match("^Password=(.+)$")
if (match) then
luup.log(match)
end
end
cmh_conf:close()

To actually download the log file, I thought I could use a tool like FileZilla. Tried this but it does not work as Vera does not support FTP. I did managed to use PuTTY to SSH into Vera as root though. The log file is found in the '/tmp/log/cmh' directory.

17th March 2012

Had a similar glitch again today, with the same symptoms. The Fibaro module didn't switch off, leaving the bathroom fan running. We are still struggling to get access to the full logs. The way to do appears to use the WinSCP client. This worked for us and we got a copy of the LuaUPnP.log onto my laptop for analysis. We were too slow though. Although this file was ~4900 lines long and 857KB, it only had data going back a few hours.

July 2012

We have started another Z-Wave project that has hilighted the limitations of the VeraLite when it comes to recording and measuring temperatures at a reasonable resolution. This is still our biggest issue with ths Z-Wave controller.

5th October 2013

We don't use the very latest beta firmware on our Vera Lite, just the latest published versions that are pushed through the user interface. We were asked to update from V1.5.408 to V1.5.622 today. There is a rumoured V7.x due fairly soon, which represents a major update in the style and appearance of the user interface.

17th February 2014

Everspring AN1573 Plug-in Appliance Module
We started using Z-Wave technology to fill in the gaps, where it was not possible to easily run wires and cables in or current home. We now have 17 physical nodes, which equates to 36 logical devices (many Z-Wave nodes have multiple functions or channels). Z-wave has proved extremely reliable and is often easier to use than a wired solution. A good example of this are the plug-in appliance modules (Everspring AN1573 pictured) that make manual and automatic control of lamps and other plug-in devices extremely easy.

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