Hubs are a little pointless. An extra device that exists for the sole purpose of bridging the internet with whatever proprietary protocol ecosystem is using. Xiaomi Mi Home (review) hub offer at least a speaker and a mood LED light, while the Tuya hub delivered as part of the Benexmart ZigBee kit (review) had no extra functionality whatsoever. Aqara put a ZigBee hub into their latest IP camera: Aqara G2H and that makes sense, especially that you are likely to get more than one IP camera and benefit from a strong ZigBee network.
Shopping for Aqara G2H isn’t exactly easy. The camera is offered for multiple markets and it is country locked by the Aqara app. From my source, I know that the camera is launching in the EU market very soon, but I got one on Banggood to check it out. Pay attention to online listings to get the SKU that works with your local servers. I nabbed one that works with a Chinese server due to one reason or another. In other words, if it isn’t white in colour, it’s probably set for Chinese servers. You can get one on Banggood, AliExpress, AmazonUS and hopefully soon On AmazonUK too.
Aqara G2H – the IP camera
It’s a 1080p stream to your phone, apart from that Aqara G2H has SD card support and 7-day cloud backup for motion recordings. It’s a reasonably generous service without paying extra. The camera can rotate and tilt, so you shouldn’t have troubles facing it in the right direction and the build-in magnetic stand will come in handy for sure. Both, the EU variant and Chinese unit can be set after the initial pairing to English.
Aqara G2H can be triggered by motion detection, abnormal noise levels and external sensors. A really nice feature is the ability to add a colour label to each event in the timeline so you can easily track motion triggers, vibration activated alarms or loud noises recorded without scrolling through the video or the log of events in the Aqara app.
Press the button on top of the camera for 3 seconds and you can leave up to 15-sec video message, to be replayed in the Aqara app. Apart from sensor integration, Aqara G2H can detect motion using a video sensor too. More advanced options are available for HomeKit users including area detection and Face AI. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with Android and I don’t get these extras! Bad Aqara, bad!
You have the ability to save the motion recording to the cloud for 7 days and to initiate the conversation from the app as well. The speaker on it is serviceable. It’s not the worst one I heard, but it’s not going to win any rewards, simply good enough to have a conversation.
Aqara ZigBee 3.0 line up so far:
- Aqara Contact sensor (US, UK, AliExpress, Banggood)
- Aqara Temp & Humidity (US, UK, AliExpress, Banggood)
- Aqara Vibration Sensor (US, UK, AliExpress, Banggood)
- Aqara Leak Sensor (US, UK, AliExpress, Banggood)
- Aqara PIR with Luminosity (US, UK, AliExpress, Banggood)
The resolution is 1080p but after seeing the stored on the card footage and the in-app stream, I strongly believe that this is an upscaled 1080. The compression is significant and the camera is more suited for indoor use than pointing through the window. Point it at a moving tree or snowfall and compression artefacts will obliterate the video feed.
On the positive side, the camera handles the low light situations decently, switching to the night mode in the absolute pitch black.
Indoors the image is handled better. It’s not the sharpest IP camera I took the look at but it’s passable. Files are recorded at 1080p resolution at 20FPS and 1382kbps. That’s roughly 10MB per minute 32GB card should last about 50 hours (2 days) of constant recording.
While I appreciate the free cloud storage and other functions, there are no ways of exporting the stream via RTSP or similar services. You will be locked by the Android/iOS apps with no access from desktop computers or 3rd party services.
Aqara G2H – your ZigBee hub
It’s not the cameras that Aqara is famous for, it’s pretty good sensors and integration with MiHome from Xiaomi. This is where I first came across their products. Aqara is breaking with Xiaomi for now and taking on western markets with their range of sensors, smart devices and cloud services. It’s a though space for Chinese companies, full of distrust and privacy concern.
The selection of sensors and smart devices looks interesting enough to get my attention and with more coming soon (also to my blog) I welcome a new player in the European/US market. After all — how many years do I have to run my automations on severs based in China?
Aqara take on the ZigBee hub is interesting, especially that they already have a hub in their ecosystem. The actual MiHome hub was an Aqara rebrand and got my positive review for not being lazy and actually providing a usually feature-less hub with the speaker, ambient lights and doorbell integration. Now, you can have a hub inside the IP camera – why not? If you just need a hub, Aqara has got you covered with these two ZigBee hubs.
A single-camera can support up to 64 devices. It’s probably more than you will ever need. Aqara offers a fair range of sensors and devices that you can connect to Aqara G2H. These are:
- Aqara Motion sensor (Banggood, AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress)
- Aqara Door and Window sensor (Banggood, AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress)
- Aqara Vibration sensor (Banggood, AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress)
- Aqara Temp and Humidity sensor (Banggood, AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress)
- Aqara Water Leak sensor (Banggood, AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress)
- Aqara button (Banggood, AmazonUK, AmazonUS, AliExpress)
All Aqara sensors run ZigBee 3.0 and are very easy to set up. Thanks to Aqara G2H sensors will interact not just with ZigBee products, but also with connected WiFi products from their ecosystem. Apart from sensors, you can also link the following ZigBee devices:
- Single Switch Module T1 (neutral and no neutral flavours) – review soon
- Wireless Mini Switch
- Smart Plug
- Smart Wall Switch
- Smart Door Lock N100 (ZigBee flavour) -review pending
- LED Light Bulb
All this comes connected to your smart speakers via relevant Alexa and Google Assistant skills.
Aqara PIR sensor
It’s really small and comes with a small stand that can be used to attach the sensor to a wall and set it to a preferred position. It’s not just a PIR sensor, as apart from the motion information it will report the luminosity values in lux.
Ranges from 0 to -100 000lux (use menu to open full scale) with the values over 1000 being in full sunshine and 200-300 reflecting an evening sun in the room. Values around 70-100 would necessitate a light in the room based on the activity. It’s cool that you can use these values to automate other devices like lights and shades for the window.
Unfortunately the sensor isn’t triggering the reads on it’s own. It sends the updates when the motion sensor is triggered. There might be also a timeout based reporting but I was not able to establish that reliably.
The sensor is pretty good too with great poll frequency.
I was able to get a new alert every 8 seconds, (Aqara confirmed that the sensor is polling every 5 sec for the first hour, then it returns to one every minute) which is probably the most frequent PIR sensor I queried. I wonder how often will I be able to read the values with NodeRED.
If you are looking for a PIR sensor, you should really give it a go. Just make sure to pick the Aqara PIR T1 version.
Despite the name, the sensor comes with more than just vibration sensing. It can recognise 3 types of movements: vibration, drop and tilt. All these are stored as separate events and can be used to trigger different events.
While the vibration sensor isn’t exactly exciting (apart from using it as a washing machine monitor – something I used my power metering plug for), you could get creative with extra modes. The vibration sensor isn’t terribly sensitive, you can grab the puck and move it gently without triggering it if you have steady hands, but the drop and tilt readouts are pretty accurate.
I’m looking forward to playing with sensors more and extracting their data via NodeRED for my personal automation projects. I doubt the camera would be hacked any time soon, but it’s a pretty decent IP camera that can work in a standalone mode. Thanks to the microphone and noise-based alerts this could easily be used as a baby monitor. With ZigBee sensors, I’m pretty sure I come up soon with more entertaining usage of the sensor data. If you have any cool ideas, let me know in this Reddit thread.