Choosing a Smart Home Controller is very much like buying a car - the decision to choose a particular manufacturer is only the first choice you have to make, after that there's a bewildering array of models and options on top!
Athom are a relative newcomer to the Smart Home area, having only started out during 2016. Despite their young age, they've already got an impressive track history with their Athom Homey Controller on its third revision already, along with the recent release of the Athom Homey PRO Controller.
Unlike others, Athom doesn't reduce software features and functionality across their range of Controllers - so you get the same capabilities in all Athom models, with the only differences being purely hardware related. Athom also takes a slightly different approach with regards to device compatibility where individual Plugins / Apps are installed to handle specific sets of devices - for example to add support for Fibaro Z-Wave devices you install the Fibaro Plugin / App, to add support for Aeotec Z-Wave devices you add the Aeotec Plugin / App, for LightwaveRF devices you add the LightwaveRF Plugin / App... you get the idea!
This means that compatibility for devices can be added by the official Athom developers or by third party developers (maybe even the device manufacturer themselves), or even by both (competition is never a bad thing). It also means that compatibility is a simple case of a Plugin / App install or a Plugin / App update, as opposed to other Controllers that seem to require a lengthy firmware update to add support for any new devices.
|Feature||Athom Homey||Athom Homey PRO|
|Graphical Block Scene Editor|
|Virtual Devices - IP Strings|
|Virtual Devices - Script-based|
|Virtual Devices - Scene Triggers|
|Android Wear Support|
|Alexa Voice Assistant|
|Siri (via iOS App Shortcuts)|
|Number of Plug-Ins / Apps||15 - 20||40+|
|Recovery / Backup|
|Bridge (Linking Controllers)|
|Home Automation Support|
|Z-Wave Plus (868.4MHz)|
|Recommended No. of Z-Wave Devices||up to 232||up to 232|
|Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)|
|IP Camera Support|
|Processor (CPU)||Single-core IMX6 (1GHz)||Dual-core IMX6 (1GHz)|
|Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)|
|Dimensions||120mm diameter||120mm diameter|
|- Features may require third-party Plugins / Apps, experimental (BETA) functionality, additional hardware or optional paid-for subscription services.|
What do these differences mean?
All of the current Athom Smart Home Controllers will run your Home Automation system with stability and reliability and, as mentioned previously, the software features and functionality aren't limited in any way across the different versions.
That said, the Athom Homey PRO Controller does give you much more powerful hardware which can be beneficial as your Smart Home expands to include other technologies such as ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy, either now, or in the future.
Graphical Block Editor Scenes
Flows are available in all the Athom Controllers. These enable you to create relatively sophisticated scenes using a number of customisable blocks. These scenes can have multiple triggers, conditions and actions.
Virtual Devices are exactly what they sound like - devices in the Smart Home Controller that aren't physical devices. Virtual Devices are very useful for controlling devices via other networks, such as AV equipment that can be controlled from your Wi-Fi / Ethernet network ("IP Strings"). Other types of Virtual Device support scripting directly ("Script-based"), allowing much more complex logic and control. The simplest type of Virtual Device ("Scene Triggers") can be used to create a simple button in the smartphone / tablet App that can control a number of scenes - quickly and easily.
Athom Controllers support Scene Trigger Virtual Devices via experimental (BETA) functionality and these can be used to trigger Flows.
General Software Features
Remote and Mobile Access
You are able to control the system from a smartphone, tablet or computer whether you are at home or away. App Widgets (provided from a third-party Plugin / App) can also be created to allow quick running of common tasks directly from the home screen on your smartphone or tablet.
Alexa and Google Assistant are both available across the range of Athom Controllers, with the integrations being improved upon all the time.
Alexa has two types of Skill available - a Smart Home Skill that offers basic functionality ("Alexa, turn on the light") and a Custom Skill that offers more advanced functionality ("Alexa, tell Homey to set the mode to Home")
Google Assistant and the Athom Controllers work together to make your Smart Home even more convenient to use! With the Google Assistant integration you can control lights, scenes and more, all without lifting a finger.
Similar to Alexa, Google Assistant is available in two integrations, one for simpler control ("OK Google, turn on the TV") and one that lets you talk to Homey directly ("OK Google, tell Homey I'm home").
Siri voice control is also supported via Siri "shortcuts" and there's also experimental (BETA) functionality to add full HomeKit integration - as far as we're aware this is the first commercial Smart Home Controller to offer HomeKit!
Geolocation features use the location based services on your smartphone. When you are within a pre-determined range of your home, this can trigger scenes to run. For instance, a heating scene could be triggered when you are 5 miles from home, or an outside light scene when you are just arriving home. This functionality is built right in to the Athom smartphone App and is available in all the Athom Controllers.
Plugin / App Support
There are a vast array of Plugins / Apps available from both Athom themselves and from third-party developers. These Plugins / Apps help provide support for external systems, such as Sonos, Kodi and Spotify, allowing you to do more advanced things without needing to develop your own code.
As mentioned previously, Plugins / Apps in the Athom Controllers are also used for direct device compatibility too - so you'll install the TKB App to support your TKB Z-Wave devices and the Aqara App to support your Aqara & Xiaomi ZigBee devices.
While there is no real limit to the number of Plugins / Apps that can be installed on any of the Athom Controllers, the non-PRO version has a recommended maximum of 15 - 20, so you may see the performance affected if you run too many! Bear in mind the CPU and Memory specifications mentioned previously - if you are planning to run a lot of Plugins / Apps then it would be worth considering the higher specification of the Athom Homey PRO Controller.
Recovery / Backup
Backup and Recovery are available on all the Athom Controllers, but this is a paid for service as part of the new Homey+ subscription. Backups are stored on the Athom Cloud Servers every night, or you can manually carry out a backup. Up to a maximum of 7 copies of the backup are stored, with the oldest being deleted to make way for a new one once the limit has been reached.
Bridge (Linking Controllers) Capability
When we talk about "Bridging" of Smart Home Controllers it's usually in terms of the Z-Wave protocol and we typically mean the ability for several Controllers to be used together to create a much larger system than is possible with just one.
With multiple Controllers it allows you to have more than 232 Z-Wave devices on the whole system and you can configure your system to maximise Z-Wave network access by locating the Controllers in different parts of the building.
Athom don't currently support bridging of their Controllers, but it may be something that they look at adding in the future.
Home Automation Support
Although all of the Athom Controllers will support a Z-Wave network, it is also a good idea to look at support for other technologies as this enables you to choose from a wider selection of products going forward.
All the Athom Controllers are fully certified Z-Wave Plus devices and will therefore experience all the improvements that the Z-Wave Plus protocol implements when used with a Z-Wave Plus interface.
The extended features of Z-Wave Plus include increased range (up to 150m), greater battery life, more available RF channels supporting higher bandwidth communications, standardised methods for Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware upgrades amd improved self-healing, fault tolerance and diagnostics on the Z-Wave network.
ZigBee is a popular technology used by many products. It has been very popular in the US for a number of years, and although Europe has been slow to adopt it, we are seeing more and more European centric ZigBee devices coming to market. Athom Controllers support a huge number of ZigBee devices!
Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices can be controlled directly from a mobile phone or tablet (or computer) that supports these Bluetooth protocols. This makes them very easy to install and configure - a true plug-and-play experience. Athom Controllers support a number of Bluetooth devices, allowing you to use these products alongside any Z-Wave or ZigBee devices you also have.
433Mhz / 868Mhz
Since the Athom Controllers have these radios already built in, many Plugins / Apps are available that support all sorts of 433MHz and 868MHz based devices including LightwaveRF, Somfy, Oregon Scientific, Visonic, KlikAanKlikUit and many, many more!
IP cameras are supported by all the Athom Controllers and many popular camera types such as Foscam and Hikvision have dedicated Plugins / Apps. There's also support for generic cameras too and you'll find that certain Cloud based cameras such as Ring, Netatmo and Arlo will also work.
There are some key differences in the hardware between the Athom Controllers. Some will affect the performance of your system, and others will give you extra features.
The CPU (or Processor) is the Controller's engine. The faster it runs, the faster your system will run. Both Athom Controllers use IMX6 CPUs which are high performance and well suited to the embedded nature of the hardware. The Athom Homey Controller uses a single-core CPU whereas the Athom Homey PRO Controller uses a dual-core CPU - this allows it to run two processes at any time incredibly quickly.
The other aspect of the hardware that affects performance is memory. The memory is split into two types - Flash and RAM. The basic rule (as for computers) is that the more memory the better, and you can never have too much!
- Flash - This is permanent memory, it holds the main Controller software and details of all devices, scenes, and programs for your system.
- RAM - this is used when the system is running. The more RAM available, the more things the Controller can do at the same time. This translates into allowing it to run more devices, run more scenes and allow it to run quickly regardless of what you ask it to do.
Athom Controllers have 4GB of Flash storage and in terms of RAM, the Athom Homey Controller features 512MB and the Athom Homey PRO Controller has 1GB to support larger Smart Home systems with many devices, Plugins / Apps and scenes.
Ethernet / WiFi
Athom Controllers don't support wired Ethernet connections and instead rely on 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz WiFi connectivity.
Getting Help and Advice
Hopefully this guide has helped clarify the main differences between the Athom Controllers and what they mean in actual real-world use. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will answer all your questions.