Nexia Home Intelligence: One of the best premises automation systems

Despite it's intrinsic weaknesses, this is one the better premises automation solutions I've tested

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Credit: Nexia
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Over the last few months I’ve been testing  Nexia Home Intelligence, a premises automation solution owned by Ingersoll Rand which also owns a number of  other well-known brands including Schlage, Trane, and American Standard. Given that there’s a lot of competition in this increasingly hot market the question is how well does Nexia stand up? The answer is much better than most but …

Before we get to the “but” let me explain what Nexia offers. From the outset, Nexia is simple to install and to use. You plug in the Nexia Bridge, a small gateway device that connects Z-Wave based devices (for example, the Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt I reviewed some time ago) to Nexia’s cloud service via your wired network and Internet gateway. Alternatively you can use a Trane XL824 thermostat or an American Standard Gold XV thermostat  which bridge between Z-Wave and your wireless network. All communications with whatever the bridge is and the Nexia cloud service is secured with  AES128 encryption.

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I installed Nexia using a Bridge. To introduce devices to the Nexia system you either bring the device to the Bridge or you can take the Bridge to the device as it runs on both mains power and batteries. You then press the appropriate buttons on the device and the Bridge to either enroll or un-enroll  after which you configure the device using the Nexia Web interface.

In addition to the Web interface for configuration and control Nexia offers apps to control your Nexia setup from iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Oracle’s J2ME (Java Platform, Micro Edition). 

The devices supported by Nexia include door locks, video cameras, lighting, sensors, thermostats, and garage doors offered by both Ingersol Rand brands as well as other manufacturers. It’s a pretty good range of devices but not, by far, all devices you might want to integrate into a premises control system as it leaves out smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide sensors. Even so, as the core of a premises management system Nexia’s supported devices are solid options (my complaint about the Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt’s inability to detect when the door is closed and extending the bolt so that closing the door damages the door frame notwithstanding).

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Nexia home screen

Through the Nexia Web interface you can enroll and configure individual devices, define automations, configure alerts, and examine the history of events all presented at a level only the most technically incompetent consumer would find difficult. Nexia also provides pretty granular access control for mobile apps so you can, for example, remove access to the thermostat to prevent your teenage children from running up your heating bill.

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Trane XL624 thermostat

In my house I’ve been running Nexia with a Trane XL624 Z-Wave Thermostat , a handful of door sensors, a few PIR occupancy sensors, the aforementioned Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt, and, recently, a Linear Z-Wave Garage Door Opener Remote Controller which I’ll cover in another post.

The Nexia Home Intelligence is one of the best consumer premises automation system I’ve tested. It works well, has a nice design, and many good features and here we come to the "but" … 

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Nexia automation setup

The automation options are too simple. For example, you can’t create an automation so that  when the front door deadbolt is locked it triggers another event such as turning off the porch light if it’s on after five minutes but only after midnight; that kind of logic just isn’t available. You can’t even detect when anyone rather than a specific person unlocks the door; the only option is to trigger an automation based on a single user access code unlocking the door.

You also can’t trigger automations to be active at specific times so, for example, you can’t specify that if a lamp is turned on at 1PM it should turned off but if the lamp is turned on after 6PM the event should be ignored.

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Nexia thermostat configuration

Another limitation is that you don’t get a notification if a device is instructed to do something but doesn’t respond (for example, if a lamp is unplugged and automation tries to switch it on at sunset).

Finally, there's one problem that Nexia has in common with many other premises automation systems; if the Internet connection goes down nothing works. Sure, your door lock can lock and unlock but lights won't turn on and off nor will anything else that isn't in and of itself responsive to local events.

The assumption that Internet connectivity will always a) be there, and b) always have adequate responsiveness for automation purposes is a huge assumption given that all of the major ISPs make no consumer service level guarantees. Thus, in an Internet service outage or performance lapse you might find that your Nexia system is unresponsive or really slow. This means, for example, if you're trying to close your garage door and the Internet is down or slow and a zombie horde is around the corner, things might not work out so well for you.

Overall, the Nexia Home Intelligence system is very good and, as I said, one of the best I’ve tested so far. A starter kit consisting of a Bridge and a single Home Appliance module (the latter controls power to an appliance) is available for around $80 with add-on such as the Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt priced at around $150 and  Schlage Outdoor Camera priced at around $190. After the first thirty days of service the Nexia cloud system is priced at $9.99 per month for up to 230 devices on a single account.

I’m awarding the Nexia Home Intelligence system a Gearhead rating of 4 out of 5.

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