Hubs are often the backbone of a smart home and you can choose from an extensive list of hub manufacturers. But not all smart homes are made equal, and not all deserve your attention. Here are a few to skip.
Smart Hubs Connect Your Devices
The first thing you should learn with SmartHome is that there is no single standard for communication between SmartHome devices. Some smart devices use Z-Wave, some Zigbee, and others use either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. If you want a Z-Wave smart light to work with a Wi-Fi outlet, you need something to bridge the gap. Currently, smart hubs are one way to fulfill this role.
Wink and SmartThings are well-known smart hubs, but there are many other options with different features. While some of these alternatives may be good, others should not be placed in your home. They may not stay on for long or may not be compatible with enough SmartHome devices.
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Iris By Lowe’s — abandoned hub
Even big company products fail, and Iris by Lowes is no exception. Iris may have been one of the first smart hubs available, first launched in 2012, but despite being quite competent and backed by Lowe, it never really took off. Mistakes were made, including a $10/month subscription to functionality other hubs offered for free, and a lack of multi-user support—in the end, a hardware store was wanted.
Lowe initially announced that he wanted to find a buyer to take over the Iris product line, but later took a drastic turn and decided to go completely offline. Iris Hubs will not operate after March 31, 2019. You won’t find them in Lowe stores anymore, but if you see them for sale on the secondary market, you should pass.
Securifi — silent radio about updates
Securifi has been around for several years and has always made high promises. His Almond 3S device will include both network router and smart hub capabilities, as well as promised integration with Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT, Philips Hue and more. The problem is that this has been a constant promise of a possible project for many years.
The latest Securifi product update appeared on Twitter. The pledge was completed in April 2018. He does offer the Almond 3, but describes it as a router that turns into a smart hub. Users on the Securifi forums complain about the lack of firmware updates to address existing issues. Your SmartHome setup may be broken and there is nothing you can do about it. Therefore, the best step you can take is to avoid a product that already has a dubious reputation.
Insteon uses a protocol separate from Z-Wave and ZigBee
For $80, Insteon offers a competitive hub that boasts an impressive number of integrations. Insteon will work with your Nest thermostat, Google Home, Amazon Echo, and your Logitech Harmony hub. If your home is large, Insteon will still work well, and Insteon devices create a mesh network to expand their range.
If you’re wondering why Insteon made this list, the clue is in the wording «Insteon Devices» above. Instead of using ZigBee or Z-Wave (or both, as most smart hubs do), Insteon uses its own proprietary protocol. While it has advantages such as dual band support, the downside is that you can only use devices built for the Insteon hub.
This list is smaller than Zigbee or Z-Wave so you put all your eggs in one basket and limit the number of eggs you can have at the same time. It’s better to choose a smart hub that supports Zigbee and Z-Wave to maximize your experience.
Trådfri Gateway is for IKEA lighting only
IKEA surprised the world when they announced their leap into the smart home world. He quickly announced a light switch, followed by a light switch, a dimmer box, and an external control gateway. Eventually, IKEA added a smart plug-in, Alexa, and Siri support.
By comparison, Trådfri’s prices are the same or less expensive than other smart light products (especially when compared to Philips Hue), but that remains their only selling point. In addition to offering only white bulbs, the gateway only supports a small selection of IKEA devices and doesn’t play well with other systems. If you want to use a Z-Wave or Zigbee lock or sensor, you will still need a different hub. So it’s better to skip Trådfri altogether.
Unfortunately, too many nodes already exist, and sometimes it seems that this list will not stop growing. Therefore, if you are planning to create a smart home, take a close look at your choice, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each device. If you’re careful with your choices, inexpensive smart home items do exist. But be careful not to take a path that forces you to back off and start over.