Smart home hubs ensure that your technology works together. If you have smart bulbs from three different manufacturers and you want them to all work in one room and be controlled as a unit, you’ll need to use a hub.
In addition, remote access is a problem that can be solved by hubs. If you need to turn on the heater before leaving the office, or plan to have the lights on vacation, you need remote access and secure access to your stuff -Fi connection so it can communicate with your smartphone.
A good example of this is Apple HomeKit. HomeKit devices connect easily to your Apple Home app, regardless of whether a hub is required. However, Apple needs a constantly active hardware hub to enable remote access, using iPad, Apple TV or HomePod.
When people think of smart home hubs, their heads tend to pull to the hosts of third-party hubs. These guys have been on their way for a few years, helping people control their smart homes in the early days of the networked home.
Dedicated smart home hubs
High-profile examples include Samsung SmartThings, Wink and Harmony – you may have advertised or seen them in stores.
These are – supposedly – equipped with all necessary protocols and software to suck all your devices and control them from one app. And they would have been an integral part of every smart home.
As you may have noticed, most mini-ecosystems (Hive, Philips Hue, LightwaveRF, just to name a few) are already equipped with their own – because they run on protocols such as Zigbee or Z-Wave, which is an additional device to Sorting will need otherwise. This does not apply to all devices because for better or worse purposes many use Wi-Fi for communication. Therefore, no hub is required – Lifx is one such example.
But there are a few problems. Just because you’re down and investing in Samsung SmartThings does not necessarily mean that you now have a hub to handle them all. Many ecosystems work only with their own hub, and if you can eliminate them, the functionality can be severely limited. In many ways, it simply collects another plastic box to control all the other plastic boxes.
Second, companies like Amazon and Google have left this kind of hub in the dust with the advent of voice assistants. In controlling your smart home, language has become the de facto standard, and none of those dedicated hubs can do that natively. You can pair a voice assistant, but that’s the secret – these smart speakers have almost replaced a third-party hub.
Although not technically classified as hubs, Amazon Echo and Google Home have evolved into a smart home hub. Yes, readers with eagle eyes will know that the Amazon Echo Plus actually works as a Zigbee hub – but the Works with Alexa and Works with Google Assistant programs allow most smart speakers to work as hubs.
Take for example Amazon Echo. Once a device is working at home, download an Alexa skill that connects the two to enable the voice control of that device. While a true smart home hub can communicate with these devices through Zigbee, Z-Wave, or the relevant protocol, software capabilities provide the same level of control, and most users would not know the difference.
The topic here is the same with dedicated hubs. Smart speakers can only communicate directly with devices that use Wi-Fi. If your lights, thermostats, cameras, or whatever has a hub, your echo or Google Home must keep it that way. As already mentioned, the Echo Plus has its own Zigbee hub – that’s great and means that Philips Hue devices are connected without Hue Bridge, the functionality is, however, reduced to a simple switching on and off and brightness.
Once Alexa’s devices are captivated, you can control them by voice as well as with groups and scenes. This means you can quickly and easily group and control devices from a variety of companies, and with your voice. And the manufacturers are rushing to support Alexa and Google Assistant, who are now at the top of the queue.
You do not always have to buy new hardware for your home – there are some apps that do the job as well. This involves unifying the different devices on your smartphone so you do not have to rush into multiple apps to control elements of your home.
Examples are Yonomi, Wink (which is quite useful without hardware), Stringify and EVE, all of which have the ability to control a bunch of devices. You do not need hardware, just a little patience to set up the app properly. They are also pretty powerful.