Aqara FP2 occupancy sensor review: The only HomeKit occupancy sensor

Cupertino, August 1, 2023

Aqara has launched the first occupancy sensor that works with Apple Home and can easily trigger automations based on whether someone is in the room or not. Here's how it works and if it's worth the money. Aqara FP2 Presence Sensor Smart home automation can be triggered by different circumstances. Time, location, the sun, a door opening, a button being pressed or when someone enters the room. This is usually achieved via motion sensors, but their temperamental detection makes them less than ideal for many rooms in the home. Aqara's FP2 sensor tries to solve that. An interesting design The Aqara FP2 is very interesting in design. It has the front of the sensor with an Aqara logo printed on it that sits atop an articulated arm. A USB-C cable plugs into the back of the sensor, coming out of the top - assuming you place it on a table. The base is magnetic, allowing it to be mounted on metal surfaces - such as a refrigerator - or on the two self-adhesive metal plates that Aqara includes in the box. Most motion sensors are small square battery-powered boxes that you can place around your home. The design makes it easier to place, but the power requirement is more difficult to overcome. Aqara FP2 is a small circleAqara includes a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box, but shame on you for not including a Type-C to Type-C. USB-A devices are becoming legacy devices, so including a Type-A cable in the box is no longer appropriate. Occupancy versus motion What is important to establish is the distinction between a presence sensor and a motion sensor. The latter is common, while the former has been elusive for Apple Home users. Motion sensors require significant movement to activate and can be triggered by pets, a car passing by a window, or someone in the room. They mostly use passive infrared radar - PIR for short - which is not very accurate and has other problems. Aqara FP2 vs. Eve Motion One of the most common problems is that when you sit still in a room, the motion sensor no longer knows you're there. It doesn't make automation easy. Enter occupancy sensors. They don't detect motion, but use mmWave radar to detect up to five people in the room. It can lead to other functions which we will discuss later. Aqara FP2 on our bar shelf Between the two, a occupancy sensor is much more preferable, especially if you want a simple automation that turns the lights on when you enter a room and off when you leave. Apple Home Control Unlike some other Aqara accessories, the FP2 doesn't require the Aqara app, although it does benefit if you choose to use it. Initially, we just added the FP2 directly to the Home app with the pairing code pasted onto the stand. The Home app will guide you through the setup process as usual. The sensor was quickly identified after we plugged it in and assigned a room and a name. Technically, the FP2 has two sensors inside: a light sensor and the occupancy sensor. You can name them individually or leave them labeled as they are. Aqara FP2 continued setup in the Home app Finally, the Home app provides recommended automations you could use the sensor for based on the devices in the same room. For us, it suggested turning on the lights when occupancy is detected. Compared to controllable accessories, sensors are displayed at the top of the Home app for the entire home and each room. In our dining room we see the brightness in lux plus the occupancy. Aqara FP2 in the Home app Tapping on any of those sensors brings up the full view where you can rename, change the room, customize notifications and create new automation rules. The most basic automation you can make is to turn the lights on when you enter a room and then off when you leave. You can get more creative by configuring conditional rules to turn the lights on only when it's dark or turn them on for different levels of brightness and color tones based on the time of day. More Aqara functions Outside the Home app you can add the FP2 to the Aqara app. Again, this isn't necessary for bare-bones HomeKit control. If you have already added the device to the Home app, you need to bind the accessory to the Aqara app. If you start in the Aqara app it will be added to both from the start. Aqara app shows additional sensorsAqara shows the device as three different sensors; a light sensor, a presence sensor and a fall detector. The last is the most unique. If the FP2 is mounted on the ceiling, fall detection can alert you if someone falls in the room. This can be especially useful for those who care for the elderly. Even with the included magnets, mounting to the ceiling can be tricky. Unless you have ceiling-mounted outlets, there's no neat way to run a cord through a wall to plug the thing in. Most users will probably choose to place the sensor on a flat surface such as a bookshelf or table, although the higher the better. Apple Home's support for motion is quite limited, but Aqara offers a lot more controls. For example, you can create independent motion zones in a single room. Aqara FP2 features in the Aqara app To create the motion zones, we positioned ourselves at a certain point in a room and marked that area on the 2D scan generated by the FP2. You can even add stickers for objects such as sofas, chairs, etc. Automations can then be performed based on specific motion zone detection. It's basically the same as having multiple motion sensors in a single room. The sensor can detect up to five people at a time, so you can trigger one scene when someone is sitting on the couch and a second scene when someone enters, with a third light show when someone walks up to the aquarium. Adding presence sensing to Apple HomeMotion sensors can be one of the more useful accessories for a smart home, but they are fraught with limitations. A presence sensor helps to a certain extent, but doesn't completely solve the setbacks. Aqara FP2 is great for turning on bathroom lights. With a occupancy sensor, you can activate the lights in a room when you enter and not turn them off until you leave. This is great for common areas, bathrooms, closets and more. It also has an extensive feature set that can get incredibly detailed and technical for users willing to venture that far down the rabbit hole. In our testing, the device works well, detecting motion almost instantly when we walk into a room and causing our Hue and Nanoleaf bulbs to turn on instantly. There was usually only a maximum delay of a second before the lights came on, and they always went off a few moments after we left the room. There's a huge functional difference between a occupancy sensor and a motion sensor, but it's nowhere near as affordable. The hefty price tag makes it inconvenient to outfit every room and closet, but without competition you have little alternative. If you want to get the most out of your smart home, you have to pay for it. Aqara FP2 occupancy sensor - Pros Full Apple Home support USB-C power The first and only occupancy sensor to support Apple Home A bunch of extra features in the Aqara app No hub required Aqara FP2 occupancy sensor - Cons USB-C to USB included A cable rather than all Type-C No power adapter included Not easy to position Rating: 4 out of 5 Where to buy the Aqara FP2 occupancy sensor Pick up the Aqara FP2 on Amazon for $84.

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