A smart home without sensors and automations is in fact a remote-controlled home. Using your voice or an app to turn on lights isn’t much easier (and in some cases more difficult) than turning on a light switch. Smart is when the lights just come on when you walk into a room. But when you come in and they? do not turn it on, that’s even worse. This common smart home frustration is something that Eve Motion Sensor ($39.99)with its shiny new Thread protocol on board, promises to fix.
Thread is a mesh network protocol designed for the smart home. It claims to be faster, more reliable and more energy efficient than the current smart home protocols that run most sensors – Bluetooth LE, Zigbee and Z-Wave. (Don’t buy Wi-Fi motion sensors. They’re no good.) While all of these protocols have mesh components, Thread’s selling point is that it doesn’t have a single point of failure in the form of a single hub or bridge of devices to connect to. .
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I have motion sensors all over my house from a number of manufacturers, all of which work to turn my lights on and off. I also use one to kickstart my morning routine. A sensor in my bedroom tells my kettle to boil, turns on the lights, plays my favorite radio station through a smart speaker, and sets the thermostat. All I have to do is get out of bed.
But my biggest complaints are that sometimes these sensors aren’t as fast as flipping a switch, and sometimes they don’t work at all. This often has to do with how they communicate. In my two weeks with the Eve Motion, I’ve never had this problem. It worked quickly and responded reliably – as long as it was on my home’s Thread network. When it was forced to switch to Bluetooth (which the previous Eve Motion ran on), it was slower and less reliable.
The new Eve Motion is the second-generation motion sensor from the European smarthome company. The biggest changes, besides the addition of Thread, are size (it’s much smaller), price (it’s a bit cheaper), and a new additional sensor (it can now measure light levels too). It also uses two AAA batteries instead of two AAs, but the battery life is still a year, according to Eve. It retains the water-resistant IPX3 rating of the earlier model, so this is still a good option for use in a bathroom or covered porch.
Currently, Eve’s products only run on Apple’s HomeKit platform, so you’ll need an iPhone or iPad to set this up. You also need an Apple Home hub (such as a HomePod or Apple TV) to create automations and scenes with the Eve Motion. To take advantage of the new Thread protocol, you’ll need a HomePod Mini or Apple TV 4K (second generation or newer). Without either of these, the sensor will work via Bluetooth LE.
When testing the Eve Motion to trigger lights to turn on and off based on movement and light levels in various rooms of my house — my laundry room, kitchen, dining room, and an upstairs hallway — the response time was impressive. It turned them on right away when I walked in, even in the farthest corners of my house, where Eve’s previous Bluetooth motion sensor struggled to keep up.
But while the responses were excellent, the Eve Motion isn’t noticeably faster than the Hue and Aqara motion sensors I use. The big difference is that it has always worked. Both Zigbee-based sensors require a dedicated hub – that one point of failure I was talking about. The Eve Motion uses Thread, which in a robust Thread mesh network means it has backup options.
A Thread network can have multiple routers (smart plugs, smart bulbs) and border routers (Apple HomePod Mini, 2nd generation Apple TV 4K) that work together to forward messages to devices. If one fails, the motion sensor can just talk to another. If my Hue bridge or Aqara hub gets disconnected or goes down, all my automations stop working.
I tested Thread’s robustness by disabling and retesting the Eve smart plug and HomePod Mini that Eve Motion relied on. (I can see the Thread network topology in Eve’s app.) It kept working all the time, and although the network took a while to reconfigure when a device went offline, I didn’t have to do any troubleshooting other than wait a few seconds.
The only time I had other issues with the Eve Motion was when I turned it off all my Thread devices. Then the sensor switched to Bluetooth and the response speed dropped dramatically – in some places it took more than five seconds to respond to movement.
Eve has said all of her Thread devices will support Matter when the smart home standard is released later this year. And when it comes, there will be many more Thread border routers and devices that the Eve Motion can rely on — including smart speakers from Google and Amazon. You can also use Eve’s motion sensor and the other Thread products with those smart home platforms when Matter launches. But for now, it’s only Apple HomeKit.
Setting up the Eve Motion was easy, just open the Apple Home app or Eve app and scan the HomeKit code. Then you can set up automations using the sensor. The Home app will suggest some for you based on the room you placed it in. You can also create your own using “motion detected” or “no movement detected” as triggers.
With the new LUX sensor in the Eve Motion, you can also create automations based on how light it is in a room. For example, you can set the lights not to activate on movement if the room is already bright enough. It can also be combined with smart shades, such as Eve’s MotionBlinds, to adjust the shades based on the light level in the room.
Here I would have liked to see a temperature sensor – it is in the Philips Hue sensor, the closest competition to this model. I live in the south where it gets very hot, and I like to make automations that close the shades in a room when both the light level is high and the temperature rises above 78 degrees Fahrenheit. You could do this with Eve by using a . to add Eve Room or Eve again sensor, both of which detect temperature but cost $99 and $80 respectively, while the Hue motion sensor costs $45.
Keep in mind that the more advanced automations work best when set up in the Eve app, as the Home app is limited when it comes to setting multiple conditions (unless you’re using the complicated Shortcuts solution). The Eve app adds more options, such as only triggering motion in the dark, adjusting motion sensitivity (low/medium/high), and changing the motion’s re-trigger time. The latter is useful to adjust if you find that your lighting automations are shutting down faster than you want.
Overall, I was impressed with the Eve Motion and can see how this kind of reliability and speed can make the smart home a better experience. But while there are more Thread border routers and compatible devices today than there were a year ago, there still aren’t enough to make this an unequivocal recommendation. And Thread border routers from different manufacturers still can’t talk to each other (although a fix is coming).
If you don’t have a Thread network set up at home, don’t buy it. Without Thread, the Eve Motion reverts to Bluetooth LE, which isn’t nearly as fast or reliable as Zigbee or Thread. If you just want to turn the lights on and off, you’re better off with the excellent Philips Hue motion sensor ($45 plus a Hue bridge). The Hue app has much simpler lighting control automation options and works with Apple’s HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings.
However, if you’re like me and getting your smart home ready to work with Matter when the standard arrives later this year, this little gadget will be an excellent block to build a truly smart home.
Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge