Complete guide to Hive: Heating and smart home platform explained

Everything you need to know about Hive's smart home platform

Complete guide to Hive
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It’s not that often that a rank outsider comes and challenges the big tech names, but that’s the story of Hive. The smart thermostat, born out of a spin-off from British Gas, has cornered the UK market and is now much more than just a smart heating company.

The company has created a smart home platform, adding everything from smart bulbs and plugs to cameras. But while it's a big deal in the UK, the brand withdrew from operating in the US at the end of 2019.

If you do live in the UK though, you'll want to know how does Hive compare to its rivals, should you plump for the brand in your home – and how can you get the most out of it?

Hive: More than just a thermostat

More than just a thermostat, Hive is a smart home platform all of its own. However, it will always be centred on the connected heating element. Hive ships with its own smart home hub, and it’s this that drives the entire platform – the hub connects to your router and talks to all Hive devices, while allowing remote access via a smart home app.

There are actually two versions of the hub - the basic one, which will cost you £80; or the Hive Hub 360, which is £99 but adds in noise detection, alerts and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The thermostat, bulbs, camera, door sensors and plugs all fall under the spell of the Hive hub. You can then control them via the Hive smartphone app, available for Android and iOS devices, which enables you to set temperatures, schedules, rules, relationships and alerts.

Can you use other devices with Hive?

Because Hive uses its own Honeycomb platform, that means that largely it's a closed system. While you can add Philips Hue bulbs into the mix, that's an exception not the rule – you can't generally add other company's plugs and bulbs into the Hive app, despite the ecosystem being based on the Zigbee standard.

Hive does play nicely with Alexa and Google Assistant, and that's actually a big deal. This means that you can lump together Hive products with your other devices, using Alexa/Google Assistant as the over-riding controller. It's actually the best thing to do, and means you get all the benefits of Hive without being locked in.

Users of SmartThings can also get control of their Hive devices through the system, but it requires an unofficial workaround by the community.

Top Hive smart home devices

We round up the devices within the Hive platform across heating, lighting, security and smart plugs.

Complete guide to Hive: Your questions answered

Hive Active Heating

£179.99 with Hub / £99.99 without, | Amazon

The thermostat and heating device is a wall mounted unit, which talks to a sensor placed on the boiler. It’s pretty eye-catching, and was designed by Yves Béhar, legendary tech designer who’s had a hand in a ton of high-profile products, including Herman Miller chairs.

Primarily, it offers thermostatic control of your home’s heat, enabling you to set target temperatures and turn on/off the heating wherever you are.

You can also create advanced schedules, having the heat come on and reach a certain temperature at different times of the day. There’s also a boost feature that enables you to top up with an hour's heating.

Generally, Hive keeps things simple, and unlike systems like Tado and Nest there’s not much in the way of radiator sensors, schedule learning or geolocation. However, there’s a holiday mode and frost protect, so you can stop the house falling below a certain level, even if you’re away.

A lot of people ask whether the Hive thermostat is battery powered and where to put it. It runs on four AA batteries, which means it can be placed anywhere. But as this unit also acts as the temperature sensor for you home, you should keep it in the main room and away from drafts or you might find your home getting too warm.

Hive Radiator Valves

From £54,

You can now smarten up individual radiators as well as your whole home heating. It can be installed yourself, by unscrewing your existing values and adding the smart versions.

You can then control the temperature from within the Hive app, and include or exclude rooms in schedules – so you can avoid heating bedrooms during the day, for example.

Hive Active Lights

From £19 | Amazon

Hive smart bulbs come in a range of white and coloured options, and you can pick up both screw-fit and bayonet fittings, as well as GU10 spotlight options.

Controlled via the Hive app, you can set brightness and hue (for the coloured option) from within the Honeycomb. You can pair the bulbs to other actions (when door sensor opens or closes), you can control them via Alexa and they also work within your Routines and Groups, which means they can be paired up with other types of bulbs.

Complete guide to Hive: Your questions answered

Hive View

£179, | Amazon

The Hive View is a detachable 1080p smart video camera which can be remotely accessed. While there’s no facial recognition, you can set up motion alerts within your home and you get 24 hours of video storage/playback for free. It also records a 130-degree field of view, although most home camera have a 160-degree FoV, so it’s slightly narrower.

The really neat aspect is that you can detach Hive View for an hour of wireless video, so you can keep an eye on other areas of your home before returning it to the magnetic charging mount.

Complete guide to the Hive smart home platform: The missing manual

Hive View Outdoor

£179, | Amazon

The Hive View Outdoor is a well-designed camera, with 1080p video recording, two way audio and 24 hours of free storage. It can’t touch Nest or Arlo. However, we had some connectivity issues with it on the outside of our house.

However, video quality was decent, you get a strong 130 degree FOV and if you're already using the Hive ecosystem, it's hooks in nicely.

Hive Active Plug

£39.99, | Amazon

Fairly standard plugs, the Hive Active Plug is a simple pass-through set-up, offering one single point. That means remote control via the app, and the ability to add to Actions within the Hive app.

It will also be recognised by Alexa and work within Routines and Groups. You can buy them in packs of three for a discount.

Complete guide to the Hive smart home platform: The missing manual

Hive 360

£99.99, | Amazon

The Hive 360 replaces the standard hub, and seriously ups the features. The Hive Hub 360 comes in black/copper and white/gold, and is a whole lot more stylish than your average hub.

It features a built-in microphone, which listens out for events in the home such as glass breaking, dogs barking, or the smoke alarm going off, and will then notify you, or start an Action. It's also wireless, so unlike most hubs, it doesn't have to be hard wired to your router.

Hive Door Sensor

£29.99, | Amazon

You can clip these onto doors or windows, and get an alert when they’re opened. However, they really start to make sense when you use them within Hive Actions. Opening the front door and having your Hive Active Light turn on is a simple idea, and you can create other set-ups such as having the heating turn off if the windows are opened.

Hive Motion Sensor

£29.99, | Amazon

A small discreet unit that uses infra-red to detect motion in your home, which like the door sensor, can be used to create Actions within the Hive app.

Complete guide to Hive: Your questions answered

How is Hive installed?

Now, this is where Hive really got its grip on the market. In the UK its parent company Centrica (better known as British Gas) is in a position of trust within the market, as installers and contractors of heating systems. When you buy Hive, one of their guys comes and installs it, and shows their customers how to use it.

This puts Hive at a big advantage over competitors. While Tado is just as good a system, we found the install process laborious to sort, and once in the house, the contracted engineer didn’t know how the system worked, didn’t install one aspect, and left behind a confused and slightly baffled homeowner.

How to add Hive devices

When you buy Hive devices, it’s easy to get them set up within your app. Open up the app and hit the menu in the top right. From there choose Install Devices. Choose the relevant device and then follow the instructions to connect it to your network.

Hive Actions explained

Hive has the ability to add IFTTT-style Actions within the app, which helps you to automate some aspects of the home. Actions can be set within the Hive app, and after a new update, can involve unlimited devices within your set-up.

Unlike IFTTT that means that multiple devices can all be attached to one Action – and given the amount of sensors in the Hive range that means its easy to automate lights turning on when the front door opens, for example. What's more, Hive has now added the ability to add environmental elements to Actions, such as whether it's light or dark outside.

Hive makes creating Actions pretty easy, and you can choose from 50 pre-set settings such as “When door opens” or “When motion is detected”. You don’t need to delve into any heavy settings and most users should be able to set something up in their home.

To start an Action just go to the Hive app, choose the top-right menu button and hit Actions. Tap an Action to head into an editor. From here you can select pre-made Actions, if you're feeling a little stuck for ideas.

To start building new Actions just choose Build your own. You can choose a trigger which can be from a window/door sensor, motion sensor, sunset/rise, temperature or motion from a Hive camera.

Choose an option and then it's time to set the devices. Choose a sensor for When, and then if you want to add an environmental condition, put that under While. Finally, add a device to be controlled under Then. You can add as many Then devices as you like. Press Next and you're all set.

Complete guide to Hive: Your questions answered

Hive Alexa commands

If you really want to get in control of your Hive Home, voice assistant control is the best way to get started. Hive is compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant.

In terms of Alexa, you’ll need to install a skill in order to gain control of your Hive Active Heating, Light and Plugs. There are actually two skills on the app store, so bag yourself the Optimised skill and the Boost+ skill. which means you don’t have to tell Alexa to ask Hive to perform every command – however, some will still require you to give Alexa a little prompt.

Once you’ve installed the skill and linked your two accounts, then you’re good to go. Here’s a list of Alexa voice commands for Hive.

Hive Active Thermostat

"Alexa, set my heating to 20 degrees"
"Alexa, increase the [thermostat]"
"Alexa, decrease the [thermostat]"
"Alexa, what is the temperature in here?"
"Alexa, what is the [thermostat] set to?"
"Alexa, tell Hive to boost my heating (One hour at 22 degrees is default)"
"Alexa, tell Hive to boost my heating for 2 hours (22 degrees is default)"
"Alexa, tell Hive to boost my heating to 23 degrees (one hour is default)"
"Alexa, tell Hive to boost my heating [downstairs] (as above, choose your relevant zone)"

Hive Active Light

"Alexa, turn on my light"
"Alexa, turn off my light"
"Alexa, brighten my light"
"Alexa, turn my light to XX%"
"Alexa, dim my light"
"Alexa, change my light to [name your colour]"
"Alexa, make my light cooler"

Hive Active Plug

"Alexa, turn on my plug"
"Alexa, turn off my plug"

How to add Hive to Alexa Groups

Once your skills are installed, Alexa will be able to find your Hive devices – as long as they’ve been installed via the Hive app. Then you can add them to your Alexa groups.

You’ll have to scan your network via the Alexa app. Head to the Alexa app and go to Smart Home; choose Add Device. Make sure your device is powered on and then let Alexa do the work.

Once added it will appear within the Alexa list. These will be randomly named by Alexa, so make sure you go through and give them new ones and think carefully about how you will naturally refer to them. The names don’t have to be the same as specified in the Hive app, however.

Check out our full guide to Alexa for more details.

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