Requires a wired Ethernet connection. Live video is laggy.
With support for many Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi devices, the Samsung SmartThings Hub is one of the most versatile home automation hubs around.
When we reviewed the original SmartThings Hub last year, we were impressed by its ability to work with multiple wireless protocols, as well as its support for user-created Smart Apps and If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes. We griped about its lack of camera support, but that didn't prevent it from earning our Editors' Choice award for home automation hubs. Samsung acquired SmartThings last year, and the new Samsung SmartThings Hub ($99) offers several improvements over the original model, including a more powerful processor with video camera support, a battery backup, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity. It's a breeze to install and lets you control more devices from your smartphone than any other hub, making it our new Editors' Choice.// Compare Similar Products
Design and Features
Samsung sells the SmartThings Hub on its own, or bundled in a Home Monitoring Kit ($249). The Home Monitoring Kit includes two multipurpose sensors that monitor temperature and vibration and let you know when doors or windows are open, a motion sensor that also monitors temperature, and a smart outlet.
The hub itself sports the same glossy white finish as the original model, but at 1.3 by 4.2 by 4.9 inches (HWD), it's a shade smaller. The back edge of the hub holds an Ethernet port, two USB ports, and a power jack, while the front edge has a single small status LED.
In addition to Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi radios, the hub contains Bluetooth circuitry but it is not yet activated. The upgraded CPU can process certain automation commands locally, which allows for enhanced performance and continued operation if you lose your network connection. It can also process video from compatible security cameras so you can view live and recorded video from within the app, a key feature that was missing in the first model. Moreover, you can have a connected camera begin recording when triggered by other SmartThings devices, such as a motion detector or a window sensor. By way of comparison, the iSmartAlarm Premium Package lacks the ability to record video, as well as support for Z-Wave and Zigbee devices.
Thanks to an active developer community, the SmartThings Labs development group, and an impressive list of vendors enrolled in the Works with SmartThings certification program, there are close to 200 compatible products that can be controlled through the hub. The list includes thermostats, lighting products, door locks, dimmer switches, video cameras, garage door openers, audio devices, and smoke detectors, among other things. There are a variety of SmartApps available that make it easy to have these devices interact with each other, and you can create IFTTT recipes to make things happen according to Web-based event triggers.
The hub uses a newly designed app for Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices. It took me a little while to get used to the new layout, but once I became familiar with it I found it to be well-organized and a bit more user-friendly than the previous version. It offers plenty of in-app and online help, including step-by-step instructions and videos.
The app opens to the Smart Home Monitor page, which shows you the current status of your home at a glance. It'll tell you that everything is OK, or if an event has taken place such as a leak or an intrusion. This is where you go to configure smoke, leak, and security alerts, and to configure the Smart Home Monitor which has three alarm states. Arm (Away) is for when nobody is home and all sensors are active, Arm (Stay) is for when the home is occupied and only select sensors are active, and Disarm disables all sensors and alarms. You can press a button to enable a desired state, or use geofencing to automatically arm and disarm the Smart Home Monitor system (geofencing uses your smartphone's location services feature to trigger certain events based on where you are).
The Home page contains tabs for Rooms, SmartApps, Family, and Things (as with the original SmartThings hub, devices that are connected to the hub are referred to as Things). Along the bottom of the screen are hot keys that take you back to the Smart Home Monitor page, the Routines page, the Notifications page, or the Marketplace page.
When you add a device you must assign it to a room. You can see a list of installed devices grouped by room on the Rooms page, or individually on the Things page. Tapping on any device lets you see its current status, recent activity history, and any SmartApps associated with the device. Here you can also edit or remove a device and turn it on or off. The SmartApps page displays a list of all SmartApps that have been installed, and the Family page keeps tabs on family members that have presence sensors, or by tracking their whereabouts using their smartphone's location services.
The Routines page is where you go to have devices behave a certain way depending on your daily routine. You can use the four default phrases including I'm Back (to trigger Home Mode), Good Night (to trigger Night Mode), Goodbye (to trigger Away mode), and Good Morning (to trigger Home mode). You can configure each Routine to have any connected device turn on or off or react in a certain way, and you can create your own custom Routine. The current Routine mode is displayed on the Home page. On the Notifications page you can view messages such as which Routines have been activated and when, and you can view an Activity Feed that shows what has been going on with each device (such as doors unlocked or motion detected).
Finally, the Marketplace is where you go to connect new devices and select SmartApps. Clicking the Things tab while in the Marketplace displays a list of device categories such as Lights & Switches, Climate Control, and Health & Fitness. Within each category are lists of specific devices that you can add to the hub. There's also a SmartThings Recommends category containing certified devices. Clicking the SmartApps tab in Marketplace displays a list of available SmartApps for each device category. Simply choose a SmartApp to install and configure it. For example, you can have the Ready For Rain SmartApp send a push notification if doors or windows are open when bad weather is in the forecast.
Installation and Performance
Installating the hub was straightforward and fast. I downloaded the app, created an account, and entered the Welcome Code included in the box. I then followed the app's step-by-step installation instructions. I installed four AA batteries (included) for the battery backup, connected the hub to my router, and powered it up. The hub cannot connect to your router wirelessly, like the Wink hub; it requires a wired Ethernet connection. After connecting it my router with the incuded cable, I gave my home a name in the app and entered my location to enable geofencing triggering. The geofence perimeter is 500 feet by default, but you can make it as big as you want by tapping and dragging the fence outward.
You can choose Connect Now to have the hub search for compatible devices or select a device from an extensive list. I removed the battery tabs from the two multipurpose sensors and a motion sensor, and plugged in the smart power outlet, then hit Connect Now. The hub discovered each device within seconds. It also had no trouble discovering a 100dB Aeotec Siren. a SmartThings Water Leak Sensor. and a D-Link DCS-2330L Camera .
The SmartThings Hub worked flawlessly. I received notifications instantly whenever a connected window sensor was opened or closed, and when the motion detector sensed activity. The sensors also reported accurate room temperatures. Results were the same for the leak detector. The Aeon siren reacted instantly to the security SmartApp that links it to the motion detector.
The hub armed and disarmed itself each and every time I left my geofence perimeter. I installed a SmartApp to have the D-Link DCS-2230L begin recording whenever the motion detector was tripped, and it too worked perfectly. However, live video, when viewed through the SmartThings app, had a noticeable lag of around eight seconds.
The Samsung SmartThings Hub is the most versatile home automation hub we've tested. It can control close to 200 Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi devices, and its new and improved app makes it easy to add and manage those devices from your smartphone. The constantly growing SmartApps library offers a wealth of options that let you find new ways to have your home automation devices work in harmony, and the added support for in-app video and video cameras is a welcome upgrade, despite the lag. As such, the Samsung SmartThings Hub is our new Editors' Choice for home automation hubs.
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The good Wink's $80 hub works with a lot of different protocols and brands and costs less than the competition.
The bad Pairing products with the hub can be complicated and the app isn't as accessible as some of its partners' standalone designs.
The bottom line While the Wink Hub has some design and usability kinks to work out, its affordability and versatility make it a very desirable option for whole-home automation.CNET review
Wink has expanded from Quirky's simple app to control GE + Quirky products like the Aros A/C unit and the Pivot Power Genius to a full-fledged smart home-focused spin-off company that supports both Quirky's own products and those from outside vendors. The new, $80 Wink home automation hub is the focal point for this new company's ambition of controlling your house.
Wink isn't the first company to try for a unifying automation platform, but its hub is definitely the most affordable and versatile option we've come across. It works with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron ClearConnect, and Kidde's RF-equipped devices, and Wink's open, competitor-friendly style promises more and more product integrations to come. In comparison, the $300 Revolv Hub. the $100 Lowe Iris Hub. the $100 SmartThings Hub. and the $130 Insteon Hub are either priced too high or have limited compatibility with third-party devices (or both).
Factor in the Wink Hub's $80 price (you can find it at Home Depot and on Amazon for $50 through Labor Day) and it becomes even more appealing. I did have trouble pairing select products, and the app isn't a perfect replacement for some of the more sophisticated standalone smart home device apps, but this low-cost hub comes pretty darn close to the whole-home security and automation ideal.
Take a closer look at Wink's new hub (pictures) At a glance
The Wink Hub is finished in glossy white plastic and comes with a built-in stand and detachable power adapter. The case plastic doesn't feel particularly durable and the hub is a bit larger than I'd like, but it isn't as distracting as Revolv's red teardrop-shaped hub. A simple LED indicator light is located on the hub to alert you to its status.
You'll need to refer to the manual to decode every LED message. When it flashes pink it means that it's disconnected from the Wi-Fi network, a flashing yellow light means that it's trying to connect to the network, and so on. The basic signaling system is no better than that of your average cable model or Wi-Fi router, and while it's not that intuitive, keeping it spare likely helps Wink keep the price down.
The Wink Hub can translate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron ClearConnect, and Kidde networking protocols. There are also a number of products that can work on the Wink app that don't need the hardware hub to communicate. Wink differentiates between these products with a sticker on the packaging that reads either "Wink app compatible, Wink Hub required" or "Wink app ready, no Wink Hub required."
Wink's current list of hub-enabled products includes Bali automated blinds, GE Link LEDs, GE Profile Series Remote Enabled Built-In Convection Wall Ovens, the Kidde 2-in-1 Wireless Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm, Kwikset SmartCode 910 Deadbolts, and an assortment of others.
To compare the breadth of support, Revolv's $300 hub has plans for seven different protocol integrations, but it currently only has Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and Insteon procotols activated. It also has a variety of third-party partnerships, including some that Wink doesn't currently offer, like the Nest Learning Thermostat. Sonos, Belkin WeMo products, and Yale locks, but the Revolv is also significantly more expensive.
The $130 Insteon Hub is limited to its own protocol and products. Lowe's Iris Hub costs $99 and has a variety of compatible products, but only works with Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and ZigBee. Plus, you have to pay a $10 monthly fee to get the most from it.
SmartThings has IFTTT compatibility and is continuously adding new third-party partnerships, but it only works with Z-Wave and ZigBee-compatible devices, and it costs $100.Up close
The free app acts as the user interface for the hub and any other Wink-compatible products -- no Web app or other Wink Hub access points. I downloaded the app on an Asus Nexus 7 tablet and on an iPhone 5. The account holder can extend access to other users on a product-by-product basis and make updates over time, as needed.
Connecting the hub to the app is straightforward. Simply open the app, select the hub under the product list, and follow the instructions. The instructions included plugging in the hub (the app suggests placing it at least 3 feet away from the router), enabling Bluetooth on your phone, and providing your Wi-Fi network details. Done.
Now you can add other products -- the process works in much the same way. Select a product from the list and follow the step-by-step instructions to set it up. I connected an assortment of devices: some that needed the Wink Hub and other that could connect directly to the Wink app.
Specifically, I connected a Lutron Caseta plug-in dimmer, a Pico remote, and a Kidde 2-in-1 Wireless Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm from the list of app-compatible, hub-required products and a Quirky + GE Aros A/C unit and a Dropcam Pro from the list of app-ready, no-hub-required devices.
I definitely had the most trouble pairing the Lutron plug-in dimmer and the corresponding Pico remote to the hub, to the extent that I had to call Wink's customer service line. A quick online search revealed that others are having similar troubles with this particular pairing.
The fix required a complex over-the-phone explanation of how to reset both the dimmer and the remote to factory settings. It involved a series of very specific rhythmic button presses on the dimmer and the remote, tough for the customer service representative to describe over the phone and akin to a middle-school music class where you have to clap out rhythms in unison.
After all of that, the interface on the Wink app was pretty basic, but then again, so is the dimmer's core functionality. You can dim the lights, turn them on, or turn them off.
The Kidde smoke and CO alarm was much simpler to connect -- I followed the steps and it worked after the first attempt. Its interface, though, isn't particularly useful. It displays a check mark next to the smoke, carbon monoxide, and battery level indicators, showing that all is well. It would be nice to have a more detailed battery-life indicator, but it works for an at-a-glance safety and maintenance check-up.
The Quirky + GE A/C unit gave me a bit of trouble. At first, I had it set up far away from the hub and experienced a series of error messages during the setup process. The steps are also a bit convoluted.
You have to share your Wi-Fi info, plug in the Aros, wait for the Aros LED indicator to blink, and then initiate a countdown on the app to a series of screen flashes. While it's counting down, you have to align your phone with a sensor on the Aros and your phone screen will begin to flash. When the flashing stops, you can remove your phone and it should connect soon after.
I made it through these steps several times only to have the app tell me it hadn't connected properly. I moved the unit closer to the hub and the router and it worked after a few additional tries. We've commented on some connectivity issues in our Quirky + GE product reviews, but it was still disappointing that the brand that the Wink app was originally designed for took so much effort to connect. Once connected, though, the Aros' app interface was very easy to use. I noticed periodic lag times, but experienced no issues otherwise.
The Dropcam Pro was the simplest device to pair. I don't like its Wink app interface as much as Dropcam's own standalone app, though. You can't change the orientation of the video display in the Wink app, limiting the viewing options considerably.
I didn't experience any major performance issues with the hub or the app (after the initial setup). It's very simply to monitor and make changes to the paired products from the app. But that's only half of what Wink can do. Beyond checking in on products individually, Wink's Cloud capability allows you to create robots and shortcuts -- two Wink Hub-specific features that let you make custom automation settings.
Robots are programmable rules that create an IFTTT-style recipe. One of the robots was an automated rule for the Dropcam Pro. When the Dropcam Pro detected motion, the Lutron Caseta dimmer-connected lamp turned on and sent me a push notification. You can set a specific schedule or let it run continuously. Some home automation systems, like the $250 Archos Smart Home Starter Pack would require you to create two different rules here, one to turn on the lamp and another to receive a push notification.
Shortcuts are similar, but let you control multiple products at the same time with a single button press. That way, you can turn on your Aros and your Lutron dimmer-connected lamp for a "wake-up" setting or the reverse for a "sleep" setting whenever you want.
While Wink is well-positioned for home automation supremacy, it still has a lot to overcome. Larger companies like Google and Samsung are swooping into the smart-home scene and snatching up smaller, successful brands like Nest and SmartThings. We don't know what these tech giants and their new acquisitions have planned for the market, but they definitely have the resources to take on Wink, Revolv, and any other startups that cross their path.
Still, Wink has a fair shot. Its connection to Quirky and relationship with HomeDepot gives it stability and a heavily trafficked place to showcase its hub and other connected products. If Wink can match the inclusiveness of SmartThings and continue to add support for devices from Wink and its Quirky parent, any apparent kinks in Wink's line could become obscured.Conclusion
Yes, the setup process can be tedious, but the early effort is worth it in the end. The $80 Wink Hub and app are a dynamic duo that make it easier than ever to connect your connected products. It's also a fantastic value when you consider that similar products cost upward of $300.
Consolidating so many different protocols, brands, and products into one universal app isn't an easy design feat, and Wink's execution is pretty elegant. Still, there's room for improvement and competitors offering a similar list of protocols and third-party integrations at a comparable price could be on the horizon. For now, though, Wink is a very good hub that manages to offer more than most of its counterparts for less.About The Author
Megan Wollerton writes about smart home tech and appliances for CNET Reviews.
bilkvn (Kirk L) 2015-09-18 03:40:13 UTC #1
I'm running openhab on raspberry pi and wanted to add z-wave capability to control a z-wave thermostat (because cheapest thermostats seem to be z-wave ones). I've seen some posts where people rooted the wink hub and control it with openhab. Also, the wink hubs cost about the same as the usb sticks or even cheaper on a deal once in a while. So I'm wondering if there's any disadvantage in buying the wink hub instead of a z-wave usb stick or card. Any information is appreciated.
watou (watou) 2015-09-18 07:08:56 UTC #2
The same could be said for buying the cheapest Vera hub and using the MiOS binding, but ultimately the simplest and cleanest solution (in my opinion) would be to use an Aeon Z-Stick connected via USB to your Raspberry Pi.
Pros: existing library of supported devices is large and easy to add to (open source), whereas proprietary implementations like Vera and Wink may not support all of your Z-Wave devices or be in a hurry to add support for them. Possible delays or loss of access to some information and control when translated through the proprietary hubs' APIs. Unofficial APIs to proprietary hubs could break with firmware updates, thereby breaking openHAB bindings. Too many variables when relying on a proprietary hub.
Cons: lock support is not yet present in openHAB's native Z-Wave binding. Also, there are some rare reports of duplicate messages on Raspberry Pi (but not sure if any have been reported on RPi2 -- works great for me on Raspbian on RPi2). Some say the RF range of the Aeon Z-Stick is not as good as some Vera unit's range due to antenna (but with Z-Wave being a mesh network this can be mitigated and I've not experienced the issue myself.)
bob_dickenson (bob_dickenson) 2015-09-18 09:56:06 UTC #3
I'll second @watou 's advice. Also running fine (ie no duplicate messages) with a Pi 2 and Aeon z-stick USB.
guessed (Mark Clark) 2015-09-18 16:10:24 UTC #4
Some say the RF range of the Aeon Z-Stick is not as good as some Vera unit's range due to antenna
Z-Wave is supposed to use the mesh when the RF antenna isn't capable of direct-reach, but there are real-world issues with that. Oddly enough, I didn't have problems in my system until I expanded it's node/mesh (early days)
A few yrs back I had a Sigma/Zensys engineer at my house, since I had a dense Z-Wave network and stability problems using the Aeon. They identified route-management issues that weren't specific to the Aeon. things that were impacted by the size of the net. At the time mine was
20 nodes, almost all Leviton Vizia RF+ (40Kbit models).
Anyhow, after adding the Z-Wave Antenna Hack to the [newer] MiOS unit. almost everything is in direct reach of the controller node, range/hop problems went away, and Z-Wave stability went way, way up.
MiOS's custom route-management helped with remaining issues. Hopefully Sigma has baked that type of logic into their newer chipsets - now they have more on-chip capacity to do that type of thing.
So some of the choice will also be about stability of the system which, due to RF, will be different in each deployment.
ie. the normal variances: house size, wall/floor construction, J-Boxes etc
So while Z-Wave Lock support & Range aren't the only reason to use an external controller, it does add a level of complexity to the deployment.
If Aeon added a u.FL, or RP-SMA, connector to their dongle I'd add my remaining definitions to the Z-Wave Binding, and cutover. but it would probably violate local RF rules (like the Antenna hack does ). I spoke with their rep at CES this yr, and it's not on the books to do that.
Other than broad/stable Z-Wave support, I'm not a fan of MiOS Units. as you know.
Unofficial APIs to proprietary hubs could break with firmware updates, thereby breaking openHAB bindings
Possibly, but the MiOS Binding uses official API. It's been the same for
I'd agree with your comment for boxes with no official API, but not all federated solutions are implemented the same
watou (watou) 2015-09-18 16:27:31 UTC #5
Thanks for the back story on Z-Wave RF reach; it's very helpful to understand the issues more deeply.
Possibly, but the MiOS Binding uses official API. It's been the same for
True, but then again, I never imagined they would have broken so many UI5 plugins and been so nonchalant about it. Who's to say they won't later decide their giant JSON payloads are a mess, or add OAuth but only for "approved clients," etc. thereby breaking all the 3rd-party clients? I would count on very little over there.
guessed (Mark Clark) 2015-09-18 18:01:43 UTC #6
Sure, but that argument holds true for using any non-documented/reverse engineered API.
Your comments are specifically about MiOS UI-Se7en at least the API still is the same.
You're awfully trusting of Sigma/Zensys, given their history of breaking API compat across their ZWave firmware revs
watou (watou) 2015-09-18 22:30:12 UTC #7
SmartThings VS Wink VS Vera VS Insteon VS Aeon USB Stick VS Tasker
Below is a comparison of the current major players in the home automation world. Since this is just getting competitive now the prices are still somewhat high. Prices will drop with the more entrants into this game. Ideally you have a box that isn’t dependant on a server but if price is an issue than you can try a different route (such as a USB stick or Tasker). Things to look for. Open API’s, Apps, Plugins, Z-wave, Wifi, Zigbee, Google Now or HomeKit Integration (iOS ), Android Wear and iOS ‘Watch’ apps. Technologies: Z-wave is the technology you should be looking for as it has the biggest product catalog support and it’s extremely secure. BLE may be the future but right now the current future isn’t as developed as it should be. Zigbee is great but you are limited in the type of products you can purchase. WiFi only hubs such as a Tab 3 can be used to control your Philips Hue lights but there are far more Z-wave products to purchase.
Update Oct 18th, 2015:
There has been a lot of changes in the past year and the items below reflect the changes.SmartThings V1 Or V2
Above is V1 and the price is very low to reflect the older technology inside. It’s a great start if you’re looking for something cheap to get into the smart home technology.
Sample GET/POST/PUT/Delete Request
Version two of the Smartthings hub have added bluetooth, an battery as a backup incase the power goes out, better processor and more RAM. It improves the speed of actions and provides a more reliable connection to your smart home. It also supports more video cameras (not just DropCam).
Here is a comparison image between V1 and V2:
We replace the VeraLite with the Vera Edge as it is a newer model with possible device connections (can connect up to 220 devices), more video camera controllers, latest gen technology.
We purchased this model and had some issues but their support team quickly rectified the issue and got it working.Insteon Hub
Why not the new Smart Hub PRO and a HomeKit Solution?
HomeKit isn’t ready yet for home automation; everything on your network has to be HomeKit compatible for Siri to see it. I wouldn’t recommend it yet and there are far better solutions (see Beecon voice technology ) to control your system from your voice.USB Stick S.S. 2 ($35) or Gen 5 ($49)
There is also a Generation 5 device (2015) like the one below
Tasker with Wifi Solutions
This model allows for all Aeon gen 5 products like their new LED’s. It will hopefully provide a more reliable connection than their Series 2 stick as well.
I personally like the Vera solution as it has enough features for the advanced techie but enough tutorials and help to support a mid to moderate newbie. There are a ton of plugins available and can easily integrate with Tasker. I do like the fact that it has it’s own hardware versus a USB stick as having a server running all the time isn’t very ‘green’. This is a long race so expect a few new players to enter the game and surprise us. We will keep you posted. Let us know what other
The firmware on the Sigma Designs Z-Wave transceiver chip is based on the original design recommendations of Sigma Designs published in the System Development Kit 6.51 (5th gen ) and 4.54 (3rd gen ). (This SDK is accessible under NDA with Sigma Designs only).
The firmware implements a static network controller supporting Network Wide Inclusion, Explorer Frame Network Healing and Wakeup of FLIRS device. The SUC and SIS function of the old Z-Wave network management architecture is not implemented for 3rd gen hardware.
Compared to the standard firmware design used by almost all Z-Wave USB Sticks and other Z-Wave Host Interface hardware, the RaZberry firmware offers several extensions and enhancements:
The firmware comes preloaded to the Sigma Designs transceiver hardware. It is possible to upgrade or downgrade the firmware, but the update file must be provided by Z-Wave.Me.
For 3rd gen hardware beside the standard firmware based on SDK 4.5.4 there is a downgraded firmware based on SDK 5.03
Attention: Do not flash a standard Sigma Design Firmware to the chip on the RaZberry Daughter board. The Z-Way Z-Wave Controller stack solution will not work anymore after such an operation.Z-Way Z-Wave Controller
The transceiver firmware communicates with the Z-Way communication stack using the serial interface /dev/ttyAMA0. The Z-Way communication protocol stack organizes and manages the Z-Wave network and its devices and offers a simple to use and simple to understand User Interfaces hiding most of the complexity of the Z-Wave wireless network. The Z-Way API allows to write own Applications and Designs on top of the stable Z-Way protocol stack. The Application Programmers Interface to do this is documented and can be used without any Non Disclosure Agreement Restrictions. The Z-Way protocol stack offers a lot of unique features:
Smart homes are on the up and up. For a while, people thought of the idea as nothing more than a gimmick – some people still think that way – but recent product releases have shown that smart home automation is starting to live up to its promises.
And as it turns out, smart home automation is cheap when compared to the cost of other home renovation projects. While there are several easy smart home ideas for newbies, one of the best ways to get started is by purchasing a smart hub.SmartThings Hub ($99)
Any discussion about smart hub eventually lands on SmartThings, so let’s cover this one right from the start. The SmartThings Hub requires an Ethernet connection to operate properly, but can connect to devices using WiFi, Z-Wave, and ZigBee.
What does it do? Basically, the SmartThings Hub is a central controller that can be configured and programmed to operate multiple devices. How does it control these devices? Through an Android or iOS app that you need to install on your smartphone. No web interface is available right now.
SmartThings Hub, 1st Generation
Compatible with Amazon Echo
SmartThings offers a variety of products that seamlessly integrate with the hub: Moisture Sensor (alerts when moisture is detected), Motion Sensor (alerts when motion is sensed), Open/Closed Sensor (alerts when windows or doors or drawers are opened or closed), among others.
But the best thing about SmartThings is that they are constantly expanding support for non-SmartThings products. For example, the hub can control Belkin WeMo switches. If you want an all-in-one hub, SmartThings is probably your best bet.Insteon Hub ($115)
The Insteon Hub is a great starter product for newbies who are interested in basic home automation without going to the extreme. The hub connects to all kinds of Insteon products, which can be controlled through your smartphone or your computer.
Devices can be scheduled to turn on or off according to time of day. Email and push notifications are available for event triggers, such as when a device needs repairs. For deeper functionality, the Insteon Hub can be hacked (but we don’t recommend it unless you know what you’re doing).
Control your entire INSTEON network
The Insteon Hub has actually been around for a while. It started off on rocky ground so it has a reputation for being crappy, but their products have made big improvements over the past few years. Are they the best. Maybe, maybe not. Are they bad. Not at all.
Insteon products include thermostats, wall outlets and switches, door locks, energy monitors, motion sensors, leak sensors, wireless cameras, and more. Worth checking out if you want a simple hub with a wide network of available products.VeraLite ($99)
The VeraLite is an affordable home automation system that won’t confuse you with complexity. It’s built using Z-Wave compatibility and can interface with hundreds of products even if they aren’t Vera branded. One hub can control up to 70 devices at a time.
Once VeraLite plugs into your home network using the accompanied cable, it will automatically configure itself. In fact, VeraLite can function as an Internet router, though this functionality will disable itself if VeraLite is plugged into a router (rather than a modem).
Mi Casa Verde VeraLite Home Controller, White and Green
VeraLite is the most flexible, powerful and affordable home controller on the market today. And no monthly fees.
At that point, VeraLite will connect to the Z-Wave devices in your home and you will be able to control them through your smartphone. Like Insteon, VeraLite can be set up to send text and email notifications for certain event triggers.
The Vera Store sells Z-Wave-compatible devices ranging from thermostats to energy meters, lamp modules to dimmer switches, motion sensors to door locks.openHAB (Free)
A lot of the pushback against smart home automation involves issues of privacy, security, and the proprietary nature of home automation protocols. What if you stand against all of that? Is there an option for you? Yes, there is!
openHAB is an open source home automation system that’s both hardware-agnostic and protocol-agnostic. It can run on any device that’s capable of running a Java Virtual Machine and can interface with all kinds of home automation technologies with more support always being added.
Control over smart devices is possible through Android and iOS apps as well as a web-interface on computers. The downside – or upside, depending on how you look at it – is that openHAB is incredibly heavy on the DIY side of things.
If you like to tinker and experiment and learn through failure, you’ll love it. If you’re a big proponent of open source philosophy. this one’s for you. If you just want a plug-and-play solution without much thought, the involvement and learning curve may be too steep.Lutron Smart Bridge ($120)
The Lutron Smart Bridge. which is part of the Caseta Wireless system, is one of the less-popular hub solutions because it’s nowhere near as mature or flexible as its competitors. Not that it’s bad. but the limited support for connected devices is a real damper when looking to buy a hub.
But depending on your circumstances, it may still be worth buying. Lutron’s forte is in the areas of lighting control, shading, and energy savings, which is why the Smart Bridge only connects to Lutron devices that control lights, shades, and temperature.
Lutron L-BDG-WH Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge, White
Control your lights, shades and temperature from anywhere using the FREE Lutron app
Everything is controlled through a smartphone using Lutron’s app. The Smart Bridge must be connected to a WiFi router using an Ethernet cable. Setup is incredibly straightforward.
So, really, the price tag is only justifiable if you really like Lutron’s product line. They have some pretty cool offerings though, like dimmer switches, timers, fan controls, automated shades, and several sensor types. If energy and lighting are your main concerns, Lutron may be the way to go.Staples Connect Hub ($45)
Of all the hubs on this list, Staples Connect Hub is certainly the one that’ll put the smallest dent in your wallet if you don’t include openHAB. At this price level, it’s not even an investment — cheap enough that there’s almost no risk in trying it out.
If you don’t want to buy it online, you should be able to find it in your local home improvement chain, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. Local electronics chains may carry it as well, such as Best Buy.
D-Link Staples Connect Hub, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave Plus, ZigBee, Zonoff, Lutron Clear Connect, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Staples Connect App for Android/Apple iOS (DCH-G021)
Wireless: Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g/n), Z-Wave Plus, ZigBee, Zonoff, Lutron
The Staples Connect Hub supports devices that use Z-Wave, Clear Connect, ZigBee, and WiFi protocols. This gives you great freedom in choosing smart devices that are affordable and not having to be pigeonholed into a particular brand.
All you have to do is connect the Staples Connect Hub to your WiFi router and you’ll be given a walkthrough on how to set it up.And the Final Verdict Is…
If you want the freedom to mix-and-match different devices, go with SmartThings Hub (the most popular choice) or Staples Connect Hub (the cheapest choice). For those who support open source and don’t mind the struggles of DIY, go with openHAB. If simple and straightforward is your priority, Insteon Hub won’t let you down.
Smart homes are just getting started. People mocked smartphones when they first debuted, and now people can’t live without them. These hubs are just the beginning. Not sure which devices to start with? Try these smart home gift ideas .
Do you have a smart home hub yet? If so, how has your experience been? If not, what would tip you over the edge and convince you to get one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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I am leaning towards a VeraLite. I have a smarthings hub and it worked great for a while but then the problems started. First mode changes stopped working then I was not able to control some devices. I worked with support but they were unable to help. Their only advice was to exclude and run network repairs which I did many many times. No Luck.
VeraLite is not a good choice unless you are only looking to control a few, simple devices and they will be in relative close physical proximity to the controller. When mine was set up with just a few light switches and a door lock, I could almost always get the functions I needed from it. After adding a couple of plug-in "sockets", a garage door control unit, and another light switch, everything is severely impaired. I'm basically giving it "one more chance" by completely wiping everything out, re-adding all of my devices, and starting all over again. The next hiccup will be its demise and I will be going with a SmartThings hub.
Vera simply does not keep up with things with the firmware development and relies far too heavily on its user community to debug things and put together fixes.
I have used the wink hub for approximately 6 months now. I am satisfied with the unit and how it operates. It does has its flaws, but I do recommend it. It does need access to your wi-fi [2.4]. If you are looking for automated lights, look no further. The price is really inexpensive compared to all others [GE Link bulbs or Cree connected bulbs A19 are $15.00 each]. Customer support is open 24/7 and items are available at Home Depot.
Since 1975. It can be as simple as plugging in a single module to control a lamp, or as complex as using a computer interface to control your entire house - lights, hot water heater, fans, burglar alarm, Heating, & Air. or anything else that can be used with a switch, dim lights, set timers, even holidays and vacations can be automatically set up. It knows when sunrise & sunset are and can be set to do something like turn on a security light 10 minutes before sunset, then off at a random time within 15 minutes of 11:30PM or at sunrise. It can do macros, multiple presets and a lot more. There are several 3rd party apps available to control the entire thing over your cell phone. You can add a new module at any time, so you can build your system one thing at a time. And, it's cheaper that any of the others. Just google x10 to get an idea of what is available.
I have been using X10 devices for over 20 years now and nearly all the lights / devices in my downstairs are connected via X10. X10 has challenges in modern households and is getting less & less reliable -- some of the components are cheaper, but if you purchase the paddle type controls rather than the push-button wall switches, the new round of ZWave based switches are about the same price.
Regarding X10's reliability, X10 transmits its signals over the power lines, which I expect you (bben) know. Many of today's modern devices impair the transmission of X10 signals. Any device with a transformer (i.e. nearly all electronics such as computers, TV's, stereos, etc.) and many other large appliances (e.g. refrigerators) 'absorb' the X10 signals. The X10 devices themselves absorb/block signals as well, which degrades X10's ability to reliable communicate between devices, especially when you have a large network of X10 devices.
I have attempted to use blocks that prevent the absorption of the X10 signals, but they only help so much. A bridge between different legs / phases on your power lines helps as well, but it can only go so far.
I have just started looking at zwave, and its ability to communicate via wireless is very nice. The primary downside I have found is that you cannot have local control, which is provided by most 10 devices. Also, using multiple controllers to 'control' a single device is challenging and require much more work to setup.
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