Last year Johannes Jensson reviewed the Heat Genius system for us on Automated home. Now he’s controlling his heating from his telly with the addition of a few accessories…
Heat Genius – Android TV Box
For those of you who have not heard about Heat Genius, the system lets you control your heating from anywhere. Connect to the Internet with your Smartphone, Tablet, Laptop or Computer and the Heat Genius app gives you complete control of the heating in your home.
Android is a mobile operating system (OS) based on the Linux kernel and currently developed by Google. Android works on many platforms such as Phones, Tablets, Wear and TV.
Before I attempted to test out my theory I decided it was better to be safe than sorry so I contacted Simon at Heat Genius and asked him, if he though this could work and he agreed with me that in theory it should work but he said Heat Genius had not tried to operate the Heat Genius through a TV and he did not know anybody who had tried it either. Heat Genius native Android App is compatible with Jelly Bean: Android 4.1 and KitKat: Android 4.4 so yes it should work. However, Simon had one warning for me, he said they had found that new Android releases have an issue with the App. He then went to explain that Heat Genius are currently going through another development cycle, and so the next release will certainly pick up any issues with KitKat: Android 4.4.2 compatibility, if they exist.
What Android Hardware do I need?
To access Heat Genius through your TV you need Android hardware attached to your TV. In my instance this connection was done through an UGOOS Android TV Box. There are 100’s of manufacturers worldwide who make Android Mini PCs and Android TV Boxes. Many of these Android devices are inexpensive but still powerful computers in their own right. The price of a Android Mini PCs can start as low as £20 to £30 but as with anything else you get what you pay for so the better performing and higher specification Android TV Boxes can cost as much as £120. But, what if my TV is not the latest Digital TV and it does not even have a HDMI port? Don’t worry you can buy a HDMI composite cable for few pounds on eBay etc.
The Low budget Android Mini PC solution
The Ugoos Um2 Android Mini PC TV Dongle has a decent specification and excellent price (2GB RAM 8GB Flash Quad Core Rk3188 Android 4.2).
These dongles feature internal hardware similar to that of many smartphones and tablets. An ARM-based SoC attached to a bit of memory, flash storage, and network controllers, and they run the Android OS. Plug the device in to an available HDMI port on an HDTV and supply the needed power, and the dongle will essentially turn your TV into an all-in-one computer running Android. You’ll have to plug a mouse/keyboard into the dongle (or connect input devices wirelessly via Bluetooth) to complete the setup and click icons or enter text. When you’re done, you’ll have access to everything the Web and the Google Play store have to offer.
However, a word of warning. These devices are very small and if you cannot hide them from display, once loaded they do like a mess when all your cables and add-ons are connected.
The High-end Android TV solution
For a more powerful option check put the Ugoos UT3 kit. It has an impressive quad-core specification (2.0GHz 4G+32G, RK328, Quad core, Android KitKat 4.4, XBMC TV BOX with 2.4/5Ghz WIFI, Bluetooth 4.0, H.265)
The High-end Wireless Remote Control Air Mouse
It doesn’t get much better than the MELE F10 Pro 2.4G Wireless Remote Control. The advantage of using a Air Mouse over lets say traditional wireless mouse is that you don’t need a table when you operate your Air Mouse. If you’re buying either a Android Smart TV Box or Apple TV Box this item is highly recommended as it’s much faster to use and significantly enhances the user experience.
You just wave it about and click the buttons, It really is like child’s play. Surely you have seen someone use a Nintendo Wii? Well you don’t need to take it to the extreme of trying to beat Andy Murray at Wimbledon. No your task is much more serious than that – your task is to beat the energy companies at their own game by better managing and ultimately cutting down your heating bills and your new Air Mouse is one tool that will assist you with this task.
5-1 port HDMI splitter – Optional
You probably need to get yourself a HDMI splitter if you already have Playstation, Xbox, Humax or other devices connected to your TV. Again these are fairly inexpensive like these ones on Amazon.
Home Plug – 100 or 1000Mbps (Pack of 2) – Optional
When it comes to buying Powerline Home Plugs the choice becomes very confusing indeed. Many Home Plugs are sold with a description that states that they can operate at up to 200Mbps or 500Mbps and then there are other 1,000Mbps Powerline Gigabit Ethernet Adapters.
I can recommend the ZyXEL PLA5206 or the TRENDnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter because I own and have had no issues with both these Powerline Ethernet Home Plugs devices. To use them you need two matching identical plugs one for each end and you don’t need to configure anything. Both these devices work beautifully. You can run different type of plugs at the same time on your electrical power grid and there will be no data interference between them -for simplicity sake – same lets say they will not know about each other.
Although the newer and faster Powerline Home Plugs are true Gigabit Ethernet Adapters you need to be aware that your comms will only be as fast as your slowest component, so put some thought into it when your are specifying and buying your components.
But… what about wireless networking?
The same rule applies also when you are planning to use your wireless networking, but everything is not always what it seems so before you start you should consider the following aspects of wireless networking – Speed, Interference, Range and Application.
Wireless Network Speed
The Gigahertz (GHz) range that a wireless device is using does not necessarily determine the maximum speed of the wireless network. A Wireless-A device that runs on the 5 GHz band can also support a maximum data rate of up to 54 Mbps, which is exactly the same data rate that a Wireless-G device running on the 2.4 GHz band supports. The environment in which the network will be set up is what really should be considered.
A 5 GHz network has a lower chance of picking up interference because most wireless devices such as Bluetooth devices, cordless phones, wireless door bells, baby monitors, microwave ovens, and computers use the 2.4 GHz frequency. However, if you WiFi network has truly slowed down it is probably your neighbours’ Wi-Fi Networks that is probably be the biggest source of interference. The problem is that most existing Wi-Fi equipment operates on the crowded 2.4GHz band. There are basically three non-overlapping channels that can be described as a three-lane road that’s really, really busy. If you use a 2.4GHz router and live in a densely populated area, your neighbours’ Wi-Fi networks could interfere with yours, hindering the performance and range of your wireless network.
The 5 GHz band has a shorter range compared to a 2.4 GHz band because in radio frequencies, the higher the frequency the shorter its range. In other words, if you are using a lower frequency like the 2.4 GHz, the distance it will cover will be greater than the 5 GHz band.
It is recommended to select the 2.4 GHz if you will be using computers to access the Internet for simple browsing and email. These applications do not take too much bandwidth and work fine at a greater distance.
Making the Connections
Installing either a Android Mini PC or Android TV is rather painless affair. As often as these words are muttered something will not work as you planned or you discover you need additional component that you forgot about in all your excitement of connecting your latest Android Kit. Just make sure everything is working OK before you proceed to the next stage of downloading the Heat Genius Android App from Google Play Store. For the ones of you who are not sure what the path is for the store I have added the path here: https://play.google.com/store?hl=en_GB – you will be able to navigate to this location through your installed Android Device.
For the ones of you that have not yet bought Heat Genius Controllers or have not had your kit delivered or you just want to test how the system will work
Running Heat Genius on your TV
Once the Heat Genius Android App has been installed on either and Android Mini PC or the more advanced Android TV Box, you can Login using your Username and Password and subject to how responsive your Android device is you should have a direct connection to your Heat Genius Hub and at a same speed as if you were using your Android Mobile or Tablet.
With a user interface based on direct manipulation, Android is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, with specialised user interfaces for televisions (Android TV), cars (Android Auto), and wrist watches (Android Wear). The OS uses touch inputs that loosely correspond to real-world actions, like swiping, tapping, pinching, and reverse pinching to manipulate on-screen objects, and a virtual keyboard. Despite being primarily designed for touchscreen input, it also has been used in game consoles, digital cameras, and other electronics.
My experiment worked better than I had anticipated. It turned out that there is little or no difference in operating the Heat Genius on a TV or Android Mobile Phone / Tablet. All the functions work the same, the only difference is the method you use to access it. It does however depend on what control device you are using how easy it is to navigate and move between areas in your Heat Genius Android App in order to change different options but it is a skill a user will master very quickly and it is certainly no more complicated than to operate your TV with your remote control.
It was my intention to do a Heat Genius compatible test on an Apple TV but the unit as it currently comes as standard does not support iOS Apps but don’t despair as Apple is just about to launch a new much improved Apple TV Box that will support just about all iOS Apps.
Home Automation is becoming mainstream and you can judge how serious companies like Apple take Home Automation in that their new Apple TV Box will be set to become the device that you use to control all the devices in your home. Although this might be fresh news to many Apple TV Box owners – anyone with third-generation Apple TV Box and with the latest 7.0 software update will now likely have a HomeKit-enabled central hub, whether they know it or not.
Apple has already revealed that HomeKit will use Bluetooth and WiFi to communicate, and Apple TV offers both. It’s always connected to WiFi and is always in your home. You could connect to it at any time and control your house heating and other Home Automated peripheral enabled devices such security lighting when you are absent.
My Next Experiment
Heat Genius on Apple TV and Android Wear? Well why not. Is anyone interested in voice operated Heat Genius?