Aqara Hub 101 [updated Dec. 1st]

[update – Dec 1 2018]
The Aqara hub firmware and Aqara app software have both been updated to versions 1.4.7 & 1.4.5 respectively. This update has completed a new phase that allows the Aqara Hub to be added to the Mi Home app. Adding the hub to the Mi Home app has some additional benefits, including historical data from temperature and motion sensors, including power usage from smart plugs. It also allows more non-Aqara devices to be paired with the Aqara hub (like the Mijia/Honeywell Smoke detector), although this doesn’t mean these devices will also automatically be exposed to HomeKit…yet.

The release of the Aqara Hub for the US market, followed by an EU version, is fast approaching still not with us, but whilst these are yet to surface, many people (including myself) have gone for the Hub with the Chinese plugs, and have been toying with them for a few weeks now. One thing we’ve noticed with talk regarding the Hub is the amount of uncertainly and confusion surrounding what will and won’t work with the Aqara Hub, along with a lack of information on what can be achieved. So, in this article we’ll try to cover as many questions as we can, so as to not only prepare those of you that are eagerly awaiting the US Hub, but also those who already have one and are a little baffled by the Aqara system.

Setting up an account
Ok, this is fairly straightforward, but in order to get the most out of your Hub and any associated devices, you’re going to need to set up an account with Aqara. Currently the best way to do this without a hitch, is to set the server to Mainland China. Apparently other servers are yet to go live, so if you live in another part of the world and are trying to set up an account using a more local server, chances are you’ll not be able to, due to not getting a confirmation code in order to finish setting up your account.

[update – Nov 10 2018] you can now add the Aqara hub to the Xiaomi Mi home app, but as there is no definitive word on what this entails and whether everything is working as intended, so we will not say any more right now. See the first paragaph regarding the Mi Home app.

The Hub and HomeKit
The Hub itself comes with a HomeKit code, so if you’re at all familiar with adding a new device via the Home app, this will be very easy for you.

Adding devices
The Aqara Hub works in the same way that the Hue Bridge works in relation to HomeKit, in that the Hub itself is HomeKit compatible, not the devices themselves. This means all Aqara devices that you want to appear in HomeKit need to be added to the Hub via the Aqara app. The process of adding an Aqara device is actually very easy;

  • Click on the Plus symbol in the top left of the Aqara app
  • Select the relevant accessory you want to add from the gallery of devices
  • Select your hub
  • Then follow the onscreen instructions, which usually involves holding down a button on the device until you get a flashing blue LED
  • The hub will confirm the device was added successfully and then ask you to choose the room that the device is located in, along with the opportunity to rename the device from the standard name it comes with
  • Once that is all done, the device will appear in the relevant room in Apple’s Home app, although you may need to choose whether to add it as a favourite
  • From there, all automations triggers and timers will work in the same way as other HomeKit enabled devices

The Aqara Hub in the Apple Home app
The Aqara hub is both a bridge device for other Aqara products, but it’s also a night-light and an alarm. The night-light is capable of millions of colours, as standard. In the Home app, the Hub will appear as a light. It will also appear as a hub, although this isn’t visible by default. So, from the Home app, you’re able to turn the light on or off, along with the ability to change the brightness and hue.

Aqara Hub Speaker/Alarm
At this point, there’s no way to make use of the speaker/alarm in HomeKit. You can only access the functionality of the speaker/alarm in the Aqara app. This may change down the line, but it’s not possible as of typing this article. [update – Oct 15 2018] The expected 25th Nov update from Aqara that will hopefully complete the transition, allowing the Aqara Hub to work the Mi Home app will also include HomeKit support for the built in alarm. This is demonstrated in the video below, which shows the Aqara hub being added to HomeKit via the Mi Home app, and showing three distinct functions within the Home app – Light, Speaker and Hub.

Aqara Hub Language
if you’re in possession of the Chinese version of the Hub, it will ship with the Prompter voice set to Chinese, however it’s easy to change the voice to English.

  • Open the Aqara app and select the Accessories tab.
  • Scroll to the room the Hub is located and select the Hub to access its settings
  • Once in there you can change various parameters, including the volume and the ‘Hub Language’.
  • You have a choice of English or Chinese currently

Which devices work with the Aqara Hub?
 [update – Oct 11 2018] The Aqara app now allow you to add certain Mijia devices. [update – Oct 11 2018] Previously, the app allowed for adding other HomeKit devices, but this no longer an option. The Aqara devices you’re able to add, according to the app, is as follows;

  • Aqara Hub
  • Door & Window Sensor
  • Motion Sensor
  • Wireless mini Switch
  • Temperature & Humidity Sensor
  • Wall Switch (single rocker)
  • Wall Switch (double rocker)
  • Wireless Remote Switch (single rocker) *
  • Wireless Remote Switch (double rocker) *
  • Vibration Sensor
  • Water Leak Sensor
  • Smart Plug
  • Curtain Controller

New devices added to the list since the updates:

  • Wall Outlet
  • Mi Window and Door Sensor
  • Mi Motion Sensor
  • Mi Wireless Switch
  • Mi Temperature and Humidity Sensor
  • Mi Smart Plug (Zigbee)
  • Cube
  • LED Light Bulb (Tunable White)

[update – Nov 10 2018] Since the latest firmware and app updates, some devices, including some older Aqara switch that wouldn’t pair, will now pair successfully, however some devices will not show up in Apple’s Home app. It would seem, after speaking to Aqara directly, that there are some older versions of the marked devices available, that whilst having the same model number, are in fact different in some way. Additionally, people with the Chinese Mi Smart Plugs are now able to see them in the Home app.

[update – Dec 1 2018] Now that the Mi Home app can be used to add Aqara and Mijia devices to the Aqara Hub, the older model of the Aqara Wireless Rocker Switches (Double Rocker – model AK004) can now actually be exposed to HomeKit, although the functionality is limited to single presses for each button in HomeKit and the same in the Mi Home app, with the additional option to use both buttons pressed together.

If you’re also lucky enough to have the Taiwan version of the Mi Smart plug, with US style pins then these have also been made ‘sort of’ compatible; Essentially they will seemingly fail to pair in the Aqara app, but actually appear as a device. However, you can’t create an automation in the Aqara app, as they don’t appear in the Automations section. Luckily they do appear in the Home app.

Do other Xiaomi / Mijia devices work with the Hub?
 [update – Oct 11 2018] Yes – some. The list above has new devices that have been added that are Mijia, not Aqara. As regards LED bulbs, in our last test, we were unable to add the Yeelight Tunable White LED bulbs, but we will be testing other Xiaomi bulbs very soon. [update – Nov 10 2018] The Xiaomi Philips tuneable bulbs do not currently work with the Aqara Hub and cannot be added.

According to two different sources who have contacted Aqara on Twitter, Aqara have said that more Xiaomi/Mijia devices will be officially supported later this year, or possibly early next year, so this is welcome news for people who already have Xiaomi/Mijia devices and don’t want to buy the Aqara equivalents when they’re not needed. This may also mean that the older Aqara devices that currently don’t seem to be working with the Hub, will (in theory) gain official support.

Aqara app automations
Whilst the Aqara Hub is HomeKit compatible, and you can add HomeKit devices via the Aqara app, the app itself is not actually a fully fledged 3rd party HomeKit app, unlike the Eve app for example. This means that automations that are created in the Aqara app will not appear in the Home app. If you create an automation in the Aqara app, you can only create these automations with Aqara devices. The Aqara device you choose as the trigger (e.g. Aqara motion sensor) can only automate functions of other Aqara devices, so if you created an automation in the Aqara app with the Aqara motion sensor, you can’t automate a HomeKit bulb. This can of course be done in the Home app. The only benefit of creating an automation in the Aqara app is the additional options that some of these devices have, like the Aqara Mini Wireless Switch, which can use the ‘shake’ option to trigger another (Aqara) device, like the alarm on the Aqara Hub.

How does the hub communicate?
The Hub itself connects to your home network via Wifi, but uses Zigbee to communicate with its child devices. This seems to generally make for a faster, more efficient connection, in addition to making sure your network isn’t clogged up with lots of devices all wanting to connect to your network directly. The Philips Hue system works in the same way essentially. From what we understand, like the Philips Hue implementation of Zigbee using bulbs to act as repeaters for the Zigbee signal, thereby extending the range of the Zigbee network, battery operated Aqara devices do not extend the network and so they act as a ‘dead end’ or final destination for the Zigbee signal, however the in-wall Single and Double Rocker Switches would act as repeaters, as they are always powered. Even though this isn’t ideal, from our tests, the Aqara hub has a greater reach than we anticipated, so unless you live in a very large property, chances are that one Aqara Hub will suffice.

What is shown in the Home app when Aqara sensors/devices are added (via the Aqara Hub)?
 [update] In many ways, the rules appear to be the same for many Aqara sensors, as they would any other HomeKit sensors, meaning some additional sensors will appear only in the devices’ specific app and not the Home app, and some appear across all apps. Below is a simple list of the Aqara devices, what sensors they contain, and what is exposed to Homekit, the Home app and 3rd party HomeKit apps (varies depending on the app). We have only included information on devices we have been able to test, so a few devices in the list above don’t have corresponding details in the list below;

Aqara Hub – hub | night-light | speaker/alarm | ambient light sensor (only for automations)

  • Home app – hub | night-light | security system
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – hub | night-light
  • Mi Home app – hub | night light | alarm

Aqara Temperature Sensor – temperature | humidity | atmospheric pressure

  • Home app – temperature | humidity
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – temperature | humidity | atmospheric pressure
  • Mi Home app – temperature | humidity | atmospheric pressure | historical data

Mi Temperature Sensor – temperature | humidity

  • Home app – temperature | humidity
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – temperature | humidity
  • Mi Home app – temperature | humidity | historical data

Aqara Motion Sensor – motion | ambient light

  • Home app – motion
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – motion | occupancy threshold
  • Mi Home app – Motion | event log

Mi Motion Sensor – motion

  • Home app – motion
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – motion | occupancy threshold
  • Mi Home app – Motion | event log

Aqara Door and Window Sensor – contact

  • Home app – contact
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – contact
  • Mi Home app – contact | event log

Mi Door and Window Sensor – contact

  • Home app – contact
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – contact
  • Mi Home app – contact | event log

Aqara Water Leak Sensor – water detection

  • Home app – water detection
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – water detection
  • Mi Home app – water detection | event log

Aqara Vibration Sensor – tilt | drop | vibration

  • Home app – motion
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – motion
  • Mi Home app – motion | event log | event log | vibration curve | vibration sensitivity

Aqara Smart Plug – on/off | energy monitoring

  • Home app – on/off
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – on/off

Aqara Wireless Mini Switch – single press | double press | long press | shake

  • Home app – single press | double press | long press
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – single press | double press | long press
  • Mi Home app – single press | double press | long press | shake | event log

Mi Wireless Switch – single press | double press | long press

  • Home app – single press | double press | long press
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – single press | double press | long press
  • Mi Home app – single press | double press | long press | event log

Aqara Wireless Remote Switch (Double Rocker – model AK012) – single press (L & R) | double press (L & R) | long press (L & R) | single press both switches

  • Home app – single press (L & R) | double press (L & R) | long press (L & R)
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – single press (L & R) | double press (L & R) | long press (L & R)
  • Mi Home app – single press (L & R) | double press (L & R) | long press (L & R) | single press both switches | event log

Aqara Wireless Remote Switch (Double Rocker – model AK004) – single press (L & R) | single press both switches together

  • Home app – single press (L & R)
  • 3rd party HomeKit apps – single press (L & R)
  • Mi Home app – single press (L & R) | single press both switches together | event log
  1. It would be fair to assume that the in-wall versions of the rocker switches have the same feature sets, but I can’t confirm at this time.
  2. I Don’t currently have information on the other devices, like the curtain controller or the wall outlet as I don’t have them.

If there’s something we’ve missed feel free to tell us in the comments below and we’ll add them for the benefit of our readers!

Simon T Bramley

Editor - Musician, graphic designer and HomeKit aficionado, living in Taipei, Taiwan.