Meet the smart hubs competing to control your home
Compatible with today's most popular smart home devices, these gadgets promise to cut through the chaos and bring a little gravity to your connected universe.
Perhaps the most overwhelming thing about the smart home revolution is the fact that so many of these new gadgets come with their own separate apps and control hubs. If you buy more than one or two, you'll end up needing a whole bookcase to store all of the blinking control centers plugged into your router, not to mention the fact that your various automation rules and schedules will probably be scattered across several different apps and websites. Wasn't home automation supposed to make things easier?
It's a reality that's created a bit of a jump ball in home automation: whichever hub can best consolidate all of these smart devices into a single, dependable system -- complete with a killer app -- is going to be positioned especially well as the connected home continues to move into the mainstream. With several multipurpose smart hubs already out there, and even more coming on the horizon, here are the ones we've been keeping tabs on.
No clowning around -- this funny-looking gizmo wants to manage all of your connected devices, and it promises voice controls, to boot. A crowdfunding hit from Netherlands-based start-up Athom, Homey recently raised more than twice the amount of money it was seeking on Kickstarter from supporters around the world. Of course, it won't be shipping out to them until April of next year at the earliest, but still, Homey is a hub we'll be keeping an eye on. Read our first take of Homey.
We found a lot to like with Insteon's comprehensive, fee-free network of home automation devices when we reviewed the system last year, but we thought that the veteran smart home network needed more in order to remain competitive. Enter Microsoft. In May, the tech titan announced that it would be teaming up with Insteon to bring smart home controls straight into the Live Tiles of phones, tablets, and PCs running Windows 8, and to bring a plethora of kits and devices (pricing varies) directly into Microsoft retail outlets. It's a smart home marriage that has us intrigued, and it might be just the jolt this automation old dog needed. Read our full review of the Insteon Hub.
New this summer in the US, Canada, and Mexico, the Lutron Smart Bridge transforms Caseta Wireless plug-in lamp dimmers, Pico remote controls, and Serena battery-powered window shades into Wi-Fi-enabled home automation products. Moving forward, there's plans to support products like the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, too. Read our review of the Lutron Smart Bridge.
Revolv, currently available only in the US, scores big for its fun, funky design and its playful app. Plug one in at home, and you'll be able to control your smart lights, smart locks, connected thermostats, wireless cameras, and more, all from within a single ecosystem. We also love the way Revolv incorporates geofencing to trigger your automations as you come and go. The only problem: at a price of $300 (which converts to £175/AU$320), Revolv is competing with a new generation of hubs that make similar performance claims -- and cost a lot less. Read our review of the Revolv Smart Home Solution.
SmartThings is the rare crowdfunding success story that managed to live up to the hype. With a wide array of sensors for monitoring activity around the home and a robust, growing list of third-party device support, this is a powerful system with a lot to offer, especially if you're willing to get creative. International shipping beyond the US and Canada isn't available just yet. Read our review of SmartThings.
We liked what we saw from the original Staples Connect Hub last year, and this year, the retail giant is taking another big step into the smart home. The new D-Link version of the hub retails for $80 (which converts to £45/AU$85) and boasts a bold, eye-catching new design, along with added support for Zigbee and Bluetooth LE-based devices. Staples will roll out the new flagship device into 500 stores across the US, while cutting the price of the original Linksys model down from $100 to $50 (converted to £30/AU$55). Read our first take of the Staples Connect Hub (D-Link Edition).
It's been a busy year so far for the Wink brand, with the launch of Quirky-branded smart home products ranging from connected air conditioners to app-enabled egg trays. Now, the Wink name is stepping out on its own from under the Quirky umbrella with the $50 (converted to £30/AU$55) Wink Hub, available now in Home Depots across the US. Along with controlling those aforementioned Quirky devices, the Wink Hub promises to wrangle popular third-party gadgets from big brands like Honeywell, Kwikset, and Lutron, as well as notable products like Philips Hue LEDs and the Dropcam Pro. Like the significantly more expensive Revolv Smart Home Solution, you won't need to keep it plugged into your router -- a nice flexibility perk over other hubs. Read our hands-on first take of the Wink Hub.