The term “smart” finds its usage on everything from light bulbs to toasters. Now that there are enough of them, we’ve started to see smart hubs on the market, designed to bring them all together. They allow us to control all our smart devices from a single menu. This makes it one of the most important components of any smart-enabled home.
Is It Really Worth Buying Something to Control All of My Smart Home Devices?
One of the biggest questions people tend to ask before buying a smart home hub is if it’s even worth the investment. Let’s face it; if you only have a couple of bulbs and a smart TV then it can feel like an unnecessary investment. However, what most people don’t realize is that having a smart home hub comes with a lot of fantastic advantages. These are, of course, not immediately obvious.
It is best to understand what a smart home hub does for your home and its position in your smart-enabled network. Think of your smart home hub as something that connects all your individual devices. This means that it acts as a “brain” in which all your smart appliances and sensors can connect. You can also control these through a single menu on your smartphone or computer. With this, you can get rid of certain apps on your phone and just have a single app that controls everything.
For those with long or large homes, a hub can also act like a range extender for your WiFi connection. For example, if your home is two or three floors tall, you tend to get poor reception. It is due to the position of your internet router. You’ll find that a range extender for your smart home connection can help ensure that you get full coverage. It can control your smart devices no matter where you are in the house.
What Do I Need to Get Started Using a Smart Home Hub?
In most cases, all you need is a smart home hub! This is because some smart home hubs can already work on their own. For instance, it can play music or order food with voice commands. However, if you have a couple of smart devices such as smart bulbs then you cannot control them with the home hub.
You’ll also need a smartphone or a computer to control the devices. Besides, you can buy sensors. It allows you to create some very simple conditional triggers which I’ll be explaining below.
What Are Sensors and Do I Need Them?
Sensors can connect to your smart home hub. They give you conditional triggers that control your devices. One of the most common examples is a motion sensor. You can program it to trigger a certain device or feature of your smart home hub when it detects motion. For example, if you install a motion sensor overlooking your front door, you can set a trigger. If the sensor detects someone, it will switch on your smart security cameras. These cameras will then start recording until it no longer detects motion.
You can even purchase flood sensors that tell you if there’s a flood in the home. Your response could be to call emergency services and alert your mobile phone. Even if you’re at work, you’ll know that your home is in danger. In short, sensors give your smart home appliances more ways to use and a smart home hub can control it all.
Are Sensors and Smart Home Hubs Difficult to Install?
They’re very easy to install, but the process itself can depend entirely on the exact device you buy. For example, setting up conditional triggers with a sensor may need tech knowledge. It is to navigate the menus. Due to there being many smart home devices, you may need to figure out which device is compatible with yours. It is more important especially if it’s a new or unknown brand of the smart home hub. However, if you’re experienced with technology or have installed it before, you’ll have no trouble with it!
Are There Any Downsides or Problems with Having a Smart Home Hub?
Smart home hubs are incredibly easy to install, use and control. But, one of the biggest issues that you might face is compatibility. There are many smart home devices and hubs available. You could end up in a situation where the brands aren’t compatible or don’t know how to communicate with each other. This can be frustrating to deal with. So it’s always best to check if a device is compatible with your smart home hub first. You can also wait until there’s a software update for the hub.
The Benefits of Having a Smart Home Hub
So let’s round up the benefits of having a smart home hub and add a couple of new ones.
- Extend the range of your home network to ensure that every corner of the home can use smart home devices
- Connects all your smart home devices and makes them control with a single smartphone app or menu
- Allows you to create conditional triggers using sensors
- Enables voice-controlled commands (depending on the smart hub you use)
- Set up devices to automatically enable or disable themselves at certain times
- Gives your family and guests a way to control your smart home with ease
- Greatly improves the security and convenience of living in your home
- Even if a device is incompatible, just a simple software upgrade can update it
We’ve covered all the major advantages of having a smart home hub. Now let’s take a look at five of the best smart home hubs to invest in and the advantages they offer.
- Simple setup process that doesn’t need a computer
- Covers roughly 1,300 square feet
- Integrated support for all major smart appliance brands like Philips Hue
- Includes an Android and iOS app for smartphone control
- The built-in LCD screen with touch support
- The software may need slow updates for newer devices
- The Android app is a little lacking compared to the iOS one
The Securifi AL3-WHT is one of the simplest and most elegant-looking designs for a smart home hub. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the slowest in receiving updates. Despite all of the modern features that help it become one of the most easy-to-use home hubs available, it suffers when it comes to accessibility and adoption of newer devices.
- Relatively simple setup and configuration with your smart home devices
- Compatible with all major smart home devices – thanks to having access to four protocols
- Not reliant on cloud-based services and systems like other home hubs – so you can use it without internet
- The documentation isn’t very clear and it takes a while to understand the features
- The interface is very outdated and you can only change or fix it with an update from Vera
The Vera Control VeraPlus is a unique device that doesn’t actually need the internet to act as a smart home hub. This means that if your internet goes down, it’s still possible to use it as intended. But, to receive updates, you’re still going to need to connect it to the internet now and then. This is one of the major selling points. It is a great option if you’re in an area with poor internet connectivity or don’t want to rely on cloud-based services.
- Sleek and modern design
- Compatible with a very wide range of devices on the market
- Connected via a cable to your network for faster connectivity
- Automatically pairs with new devices
- The Wink hub can’t access certain advanced parameters – this is a problem depending on the devices you use
- No Bluetooth support
- Doors have limited automation and smart control
A very sleek and small design, allows you to get the most out of your smart home devices in a small package. Unfortunately, there are a couple of questionable design decisions. When it comes to the interface, the compatibility isn’t fantastic. There are missing advanced features on certain devices. For some reason, doors have limited automation and control through this hub. What the Wink is capable of doing might disappoint you. This results in frustrations that aren’t helped by the lack of real support from the company. Overall, it’s not a great choice, especially for the price.
- Well-known brand means high compatibility rate with other devices
- Voice control options
- Receives constant updates all the time to add more support and features
- For whatever reason, the updates occasionally break older devices
- Customer support isn’t very helpful
Samsung is a household name when it comes to tech devices. The hub is no exception when it comes to timeless design and compatibility. It’s relatively inexpensive for the brand name but customer support is lacking. The updates tend to break newer devices. It removes features or is unable to access specific advanced parameters. This issue depends on the devices you use. This means that it’s more of a compatibility issue than a software problem. However, Samsung smart devices work fine with it. If you’re going for an all-Samsung household, this is a fine option for the cost.
- Incredible compatibility and support with other devices
- Extremely good customer service support
- Voice controls and integration with Amazon
- Certain devices lack full functionality and compatibility
- Can be a little finicky to configure for people that aren’t tech-savvy
The Echo has become an incredibly popular choice. Its incredible compatibility, customer service support, and voice controls make it somewhat iconic. There aren’t really any downsides outside of the often-finicky setup due to it being so small. Thankfully, the device itself is incredibly easy to use, set up and also customize. If you’re looking for a single smart home hub that does everything, then the Echo Plus is an easy choice to make. It’s always on sale which makes it fantastic value. It’s always going to receive updates due to the size and scope of Amazon’s compatibility.
The Final Verdict
One of the major flaws with the hubs is that they don’t always offer full compatibility with smart home devices. One way to combat this is to use the Echo Plus. It is one of the most popular smart home hubs available on the market. It comes with constant updates, customer service support, and even voice control commands.
As Amazon’s very own product, they constantly work with other companies. This is to ensure that their device is able to connect to new devices available on their marketplace. This means you don’t need to worry about compatibility at all. You can generally just assume that even a no-name smart device will work with the Amazon Echo Plus.
In addition, the voice controls are iconic thanks to the “Alexa” call name used to access the commands. Alexa has improved significantly over the past few years. It will continue to develop as Amazon pushes for more smart home hub adoption. I believe that if you only have the money and patience to try a single smart home hub, the Echo Plus is the best choice.