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In this article, I will help you to understand what is a smart hub and why you don’t need one, but it’s still an option to consider considering the additional features you might get.
I believe you are reading this article because, while creating your smart home, you found so many smart devices with different configurations and compatibility lists causing sort of a mess in your head about how to deal with it.
In fact, it would be much simpler if every smart device speak the same language, sort of a standard, so they can communicate and integrate easily with each other without having to spend more time and money than expected.
A smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home can serve a similar purpose. You can give commands the same way, with your voice, and those command will be translated in something that your smart device can understand and execute. Manufacturers have also began bundling hubs into different devices like some Wi-Fi Routers and some security systems, making domestic automation less complicated for those that are starting.
Let’s start with the basics…
So, what is a smart hub?
Think of the smart hub as the brain of the house, a central organ that connects all the smart devices in the house. Able to receive or send information and individualized instructions to each one, and better, able to coordinate their actions as a well-tuned orchestra. Able to centralize in a single app the functionalities that would otherwise force you to use a dozen different applications, one from each manufacturer or, at the limit, from each smart device.
But that’s not the only reason for what is a smart hub used.
Another reason why smart hubs can be useful is that not all devices have the same wireless standard. For example, on smart lighting, Philips Hue and IKEA Tradfri require a ZigBee gateway to work.
Other Smart Bulbs like LIFX A19 connect via Wi-Fi. There is also the Z-Wave standard, which is preferred by brands like Linear or GE and requires yet another gateway to function.
Some brands created Kits to bundle smart devices but also their gateways.
Some device manufacturers even pack their own hubs in a kit, such as the Philips Hue lighting system, although their compatibility is often limited.
Many people tried to run both Tradfri and Hue lamps simultaneously with just one Gateway (either Hue or Tradfri) but some features get messed up like multicolored lamps picking the wrong colors, or when trying to dim the lights only the bulbs batching whe gateway brand actually took that command. So those who use lamps from two different manufacturers end up choosing to use the two respective gateways simultaneously.
An independent hub, such as Samsung SmartThings or Wink WnkHub, includes connectivity for all of these different wireless standards and also compatible with most of the smart devices from different brands.
Some brands created hybrid devices which can work as a Smart Hub.
There are also sobre hybrid devices that offer partial compatibility. Iota or Abode Home Security Kits includes a gateway which can work as a Hub, and also Amazon Echo Plus which includes builtin support for both ZigBee and Z-Wave.
Although they work as Smart Hubs and even are compatible with several devices, these are hybrid devices. Their main functionality is not to connect to other devices so they are not specialized in this task leaving behind some features that you may find useful.
In the other hand, these hybrid devices were made to serve a specific function, like a Smart Speaker or a Camera. Cameras will be installed in places to get higher visibility and Speakers will be installed in places where they can hear your voice easily. Those places, more likely, aren’t on the center of your house or apartment. So you will not place these devices in the best places to facilitate the interconnection of devices.
Of course, if you choose Wi-Fi smart devices, they will also pressure your Wi-Fi network, a hub between devices and Wi-Fi Router can filter some indoor network traffic from and to smart devices that doesn’t need to reach your smartphone or even the internet.
And I say more, if your gadgets all use WiFi, there’s definitely no want for a dedicated hub. And if you’re concerned about juggling too many apps.
There are third-party programs like Stringify, IFTTT and Yonomi that provide a centralized place to control all your smart home devices.
These apps can also guide automation like you would on smart hub, so you can program those smart lights to turn on every night at the same time, for example.
In short, we seen what is a smart hub and what is it used for. We seed that it is a useful central piece on your smart home but also that it is not really needed. You have a plenty of alternatives to avoid it.
You may be also interested in Why do a hub for smart home is required for some devices?
So, interested in a dedicated smart hub?
You still interested in getting a dedicated hub? I will recall the two maximum popular and fine-rated gadgets at the market: the Samsung SmartThings Hub and the Wink WnkHub-2.
- Samsung SmartThings Hub actually on it’s 3rd generation is now a bit smaller than the previous generation cheaper than the older versions. Now you can connect it with Wi-Fi so it won’t be necessary to connect to router by cable like previous models.
- Wink WNKHUB-2us Hub is actually the 2nd generation of this Hub. Easier to configure and more stable, it’s ultimate compatibility list enables you to connect and control 400+ smart home devices, including those made by Nest, Philips, Ring, Ecobee, Go Control, Schlage, Sonos, Arlo, Yale and Chamberlain.
Did you like this article? Did you decide to go with or without a smart hub? Do you have another suggestion? Please leave tour comment below, we’d love to hear you.