Thursday, October 26, 2017

IKEA had 20% off for the Trådfri products - An offer a nerd UNFORTUNATELY could not resist.

So off I went and bought the following Trådfri items:

  • Gateway.
  • Remote control
  • Bulb E14 WS opal 400lm (warm/cold)
  • Bulb E27 WS opal 980lm (warm/cold)
  • Bulb E27 CWS opal 600lm (Color)

Here are my experiences so far.

The positives


  • Installation was very easy (Even though the pairing with the Gateway was not really clearly described, resulting in accidentally resetting the Remote control and had to restart from scratch.)
  • The price was nice (compared to competitor's).
  • The light color/temp adjustment is enjoyable.
  • The bulbs can be switched on/off as normal bulbs and the still remember their settings.

Unfortunately this was the end of the positives.

The negatives

Failing Gateway


  • The gateway stops responding after approx 1 day of operation. The middle LED is blinking indicating that it has no contact with bulbs, even though the bulbs are all powered and in range.
  • The App cannot connect to the Gateway, neither can a third party secure CoAP program. After power cycling the Gateway it starts working. 

Slow during restart


  • After a power cycling the gateway, the reconnect/rediscovery of the bulb is annoyingly sluggish. However, this would be no problem if I could avoid restarting the Gateway.

The App/Gateway communication is unstable


  • The mobile App consistently fails to connect when started. After 30s it reports failure but on a retry, it always connects. Very strange.
  • Once the App is connected and operative, it often and seemingly randomly looses connection with the gateway and a manual reconnect is needed.

Lamp's dimmed performance


  • The light from the bulbs is noticeable flickery when dimmed. When dimming the light, at least I, want a cosy and relaxing atmosphere. The flickering light is then pretty annoying. It is obviously an effect of the relatively low PWM frequency made even more noticeable at lower duty cycles. This artifact is nothing you will notice in the well lit IKEA stores.
  • The lowest dim level possible is not very low. Even at the lowest level a room with several bulbs gets pretty bright - at least in my opinion.

Controller/Devices pairing strategies


  • While setting up initial relations between control devices and lamps is easy, re-configuring and (re-)distributing bulbs over several controllers is a tedious task. Especially if the things are already mounted in the ceiling or elsewhere.

Remote Control badly designed


  • Unfortunately, it is very easy to get the bulbs in a group out-of-sync when connected to legacy lamps and you switch them on/off as "normal" lamps. It is annoying having to get a group into sync again. The Remote Control has only a toggle-switch, so pressing it, some light will go on while other go off after lamps get out of sync. A much better solution would have been to give the remote a dedicated on-switch and off-switch. That (economical) trade-off was a really bad choice when it comes to using the controller in everyday situations.


Conclusion


  • I want a reliable and predictable lighting system that shall required no maintenance after set up. It must be 100% reliable for the family to use every day without having to resort to fault finding, re-synchronization of bulbs, resetting of the Gateway and constantly re-connecting the App.
    Unfortunately the current release of Trådfri fails in all these areas. 
  • The shortages in the design of the remote control and pairing strategies could be acceptable as I really is planning to include the whole thing in my home automation. However, also that plan fails as I cannot  rely on even the Gateway to do its job.  


Summary as of 2017-10-26: 

  • Not predictable enough for everyday use (low family-acceptancy-factor) . 
  • Not reliable enough for automation.

Tomorrow 2017-10-27:

I will contact IKEA support and discuss my problems. Hopefully they will provide a solution to at least the lock-up of the Gateway and buggy App/Gateway connection.

Notes:
Saw that others also noted instabilities in Trådfri Gateway and hence implemented a remote power-off solution. Sad! : http://www.hobbyelektronik.nu/forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=31&p=123#p123


Update as of 2017-11-04:


Some days ago IKEA update the Gateway to version 1.2.42. No improvement in stability. Compatibility features was added but basic operation still is crap.

  • Gateway still locks up and becomes inaccessible from the App and from the 3:rd party coap lib. 
  • App frequently looses contact with the gateway.
  • Gateway frequently looses contact with the bulbs. Re-establishment is sloooow.
When it comes to having a swap of units at IKEA, according to a IKEA developer insider hints, there are no known HW problems, so swapping the unit may not solve the problem.

Update as of 2017-11-11:

Version 1.2.42 is stable after all. After two initial lock-up (fixed by power cycling) the gateway actually works. Touch wood. 

Update as of 2017-11-16:

Nope. Today the Gateway locked up again. It does not answer ARP reqests. Unplugging/Plugging in the ethernet connection does nothing. Neither does an attempt to "wake" the GW by re-pairing the remote. Still stone dead. Powercycling did the trick. All signs of amateur SW craftmanship. Sorry IKEA. Try to hire more skilled engineers. 


Update as of 2017-11-20:

Bad day. Two lock-ups today.

Reading hints:

Andreas Speiss' Youtube video on Trådfri
Reddit thread



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