The Aqara FP1 presence, announced recently, caused a lot of buzz within the Home Assistant community. Why? Compared to standard passive infrared sensors (PIRs), it detects presence opposed to motion. This sensor can detect the smallest amount of motion, even breathing will trigger it.
The next major release of Home Assistant Core, version 2022.7, will add native support for the Aqara FP1 to ZHA (Zigbee Home Automation). This brings Home Assistant’s integrated Zigbee solution on par with Zigbee2MQTT, which already supports the Aqara FP1. The only problem for the community now remains actually finding the product in stock.
How does the Aqara FP1 work?
The Aqara FP1 functions similarly to how a bat finds it’s way around in the dark. Whereas a PIR sensor detects infrared light radiating from objects in its field of view, the Aqara FP1 uses a mmWave radar sensor to detect the smallest movements. While this does allow the Aqara FP1 to detect presence, as you are never sitting perfectly still, it also has its downsides. Besides people, a fan, an open window, or a pet gerbil will trigger it. This would make its use rather limited, but Aqara does have a (partial) solution for this issue.
If paired with one of Aqara’s hubs and set up using the appropriate app, an owner of an FP1 can define detection regions. To help counter false positives, you would simply only select the regions that are motionless without any person present.
Another downside of the Aqara FP1 is its power consumption. Whereas a PIR sensor can be powered by a button cell for over a year, the FP1 needs to be connected to the mains.
Unfortunately, Zigbee2MQTT doesn’t yet support regions, and I haven’t found any mention of them in the pull request for Home Assistant. On the upside, developers of deCONZ do appear to have found a solution for region support. As the code is open source, one would hope the functionality is migrated to Zigbee2MQTT and ZHA sooner rather than later.
What are the alternatives to the Aqara FP1?
The hardest part of setting up the Aqara FP1 is actually finding one. Since its release, they have been incredibly rare and sold out shortly after appearing in a store. Luckily, though, there are some alternatives for you to consider.
If you are into tinkering with ESPHome, there are many projects detailing how to set up an ESP8266 or ESP32 and an off-the-shelf mmWave presence sensor. This will, however, not be the same out-of-the-box experience you would experience with the Aqara FP1. If you are insistent on using mmWave, without tinkering, you must wait.
Another way of achieving similar results is by installing room-assistant on a Raspberry Pi or Raspberry Pi Zero, and integrating a Grid-EYE or Omron D6T sensor. These are thermopile sensors that measure a matrix of temperatures in front of their lenses. Their functionality is very different to that of a mmWave radar sensor, the results, however, are similar. Instead of just large movements, they are successful at measuring presence. The downside of this solution is, once again, the fact that you will need to do some tinkering. Add to that the fact that the field-of-view is quite narrow, and it might not be what you are looking for.