Selecting a smart hub

Before I buy and install smart objects in the house, I want to select the smart hub I’ll be using, because each hub supports only certain protocols or objects. Here are the steps I took to select my smart hub.

I’ve been initially tempted to use Insteon because they have a pretty extensive product range, and also because their product like the switches, outlets and dimmers are designed to be installed in place of the non connected devices that are currently in the house. However I backed out as soon as I discovered that their devices do not interoperate with other brands. They’ve set up a closed ecosystem that will not allow add to your ecosystem of devices a particular device from another brand that you need.

I also considered HomeSeer which has an impressive spec sheet. The smart hubs are real computers and support a very large set of devices. The price range of a HomeSeer hub is between $200 and $1,200, so I’ll call it the Rolls Royce of smart homes.

Simple set up with a vocal assistant

Then, I’ve looked at the big techs. Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home Hub are all voice assistants connected to the services of their mothership. You could ask them any questions like “Alexa, how old is French President’s wife?”, or have it do small tasks for you like “Alexa, remind me at 6pm to feed the dog”.

They can be configured to control other smart objects connected on the same network. So a simple configuration would be an Amazon Echo Dot with a Wifi connected color bulb like this one, and the user can say something like “Alexa, turn on the light”.

The serious hubs

But I want a smart hub that controls dozens of objects, and can be programmed with automatic behaviors. So I’ve looked at smart hubs that support a wide range of protocols and brands, and have a reasonable price point. Looking at the market end of 2017, it comes down to few brands, and here is what I found out:

Wink Hub 2 Samsung SmartThings Insteon Hub Logitech Harmony Hub
Protocols Z-Wave, Zigbee, WiFi, Bluetooth Z-Wave, Zigbee, WiFi Insteon Inferred, Wifi, Bluetooth
Brands supported Kidde, Clear Connect, Philips Hue, Lutron, Nest, ecobee, Gocontrol, Sensi, Schlage, Commercial Electric, Cree, Canary, Kwikset, Ring, Leviton, Arlo, Rheem, Rachio, Honeywell, Bali, Carrier, Andersen, Ecosmart, Osram, Chamberlain, Sonos Samsung, Schlage, Honeywell, First Alert, Yale, OSRAM LIGHTIFY, D-Link, Bose, Leviton, Cree Insteon August Smart Lock, Ecobee thermostat, Honeywell Thermostat, Hunter Douglas Shades, LIFX LED light bulbs, Lutron Caseta Lights, Lutron Serena Shades, Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect Alarm, PEQ switches and sensors, Philips Hue Lights
Android App Yes Yes Yes Yes
iOS App Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows 10 App No No Yes Yes
Other App Apple Watch
IFTTT Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Backup No Yes No Yes
Alexa Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes
Google Home Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes
Price $99 $99 $79 $99

 

Conclusion

In the end, I’ve selected the Wink Hub 2. It has the broadest coverage of supported brands, it supports all the protocols (Z-Wave, ZigBee, WiFi, Bluetooth), it is popular and well supported, it has a great application that lets you find out supported objects per category, and it is affordable ($99).

Though, when I select smart objects to install, I will when possible select a model that is supported both by Wink Hub 2 and SmartThings, so a move from Win Hub  to the Samsung ecosystem would be possible and quite cheap.

 

 

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