The Smart Home can be a very confusing to get into. In my opinion there are just too many hubs and communication protocols. This confuses most people when they first start out (and even people who are already deep in it). There is so much uncertainty about which hub is needed for which devices. As an industry this needs to stop, home automation cannot thrive until it is easily accessible without the need to spend hours researching. How is anyone supposed to walk into a store, see two hubs next to each other and decide (one that is going to shape the future of the “smart” home for them)?
I think some people will make this decision based on brand. There are two heavyweights with big brand names, Samsung SmartThings and Amazon Echo Plus. Now I have not used the Echo Plus but what I have learned through my research is out of the box it is only has a ZigBee radio which limits the number of devices it is directly compatible with anything that is not ZigBee (read any Z-Wave product or sensor) will need another hub and some type of API integration or an Alexa Skill. To me this is not very user friendly. Then you have Samsung with the Smartthings brand which takes this a little further by having both a ZigBee and Z-Wave radio in it allowing it to directly connect to many products in the marketplace. Smartthings also has a big community that can write custom device handlers and “SmartApps” that only further Smartthing’s integrations. Now I am currently a Smartthings user and I can say if I had started my Smart Home journey with a Smartthings Hub that journey would have quickly ended.
The middleweight in the brand awareness category I would have to say is Lowes with its Iris Smart Hub. There is not a lot to be said about Iris however because frankly Lowes has no business in the hardware or connected home game. They have no clear displays for Iris in any of the stores I have been in and I have never been able to find someone there would could answer even any basic questions about Iris. Basically, what I am trying to say about Iris is simple…DO NOT BUY IT!
Now that the “Name” Brands are covered that brings me to my next hub (and the one I started my Smart Home journey with) Wink Hub 2. While they do not have the big brand awareness (maybe that will change with its recent acquisition by i.am+) it is in my opinion the best bang for your buck hub available. Wink went the “kitchen sink” route meaning they included every radio they could get their hands on into this hub which give them direct compatibility with more products than anyone else. On top of ZigBee and Z-Wave they included the Lutron Clear Connect Radio, the Kidde Smoke/CO detector radio and Bluetooth LE (only in the Hub 2). For the first-time customers were really given the freedom to choose which products they wanted to incorporate into their systems.
In the end I have two recommendations. For people who are just starting out Wink will always be what I recommend. Hands down has the most compatibility and is the most user friendly. If you are someone who has been into Home Automation for a while and want to do more advanced automations I would recommend Smartthings as the community behind it really allows you to get creative and do some amazing things. WebCore which is a 3rd party SmartApp (and the topic of a future Blog Post) is so incredibly powerful the automations that you can do with it really are endless.
Which Hub to you use and why? Let me know in the comments below.
Next week I will discuss the next biggest factor…Apps
I am passionate about the IoT and connected devices. Using connectivity to automate our lives will empower civilization to achieve greatness.