Welcome to HomeTechStar.com, the home of unbiassed smart home analysis and today, we’re focussing on the very most important component of your smart home: The Smart Home Hub. We’re going to help you identify which technology makes the most sense for you to construct your smart home around. We have investigated over 20 of them, we have directly lived with the best dozen and today we distil this down to the best of the best for you. Lets dive in.
Firstly, what the heck is a smart home home anyway?
What is a smart home?
By the fact you have found yourself on this page, I assume that you are pretty sold on the whole concept of the smart home. However it pays to circle back quickly and ponder this, as we rapidly approach the dying embers of 2016 and set 2017 into our crosshairs.
We dived extensively into this topic here in our piece on ‘what is a smart home‘, and to save going over old ground, we can summarise it quickly as the concept of connecting our home appliances together in order to make them controllable remotely, typically via an application for your smartphone. There are swathes of devices which have been made ‘smart’, from kettles to fridges in the kitchen, through to lighting solutions, heating systems and security consoles for the whole home, and other such devices. The concept however centres on the idea of using technology to automate, connect and make more functional the types of devices which have remained the same forever – bringing together a science fiction vision of a home which can be controlled from anywhere in the world.
The concept has use cases for everyone – from making the home easier to secure and operate for everybody through to more isolated and niche benefits for society members that need extra help – form the elderly through to the disabled. However the early adopters are typically younger homeowners in bigger cities, reflecting the early adopter nature of urban dwellers and the homeowner piece reflects the infrastructure piece required to say add a smart thermometer, which often rules out the rental markets.
What is a smart home hub?
The smart home hub is designed to act as the central nervous system for the smart home, combining together the different elements to ensure that the autonomous home that your building has a series of devices within it which can properly ‘talk’ between themselves and thus be controlled via the app that comes with the hub.
The best smart home hubs of 2016
Without further ado, lets look at the best of the hubs as we see it so far this year.
- Samsung SmartThings – Samsung are perhaps the biggest proponent of the smart home out of all of the big tech manufacturers – and this is reflected in their market leading SmartThings solution. Perhaps the biggest competitor is the Amazon Echo – and we extensively researched and compared the two here. 8/10
- Silk Labs Sense – We did a deep dive on this smart home hub here and found that it had perhaps the best brains out of any of these systems. We thoroughly recommend you read our review through the link. 7.5/10
- The Wink Hub – At an average of around £15 cheaper than the Samsung SmartThings, the Wink Hub has quickly gained popularity throughout this year. Its simple to use, with big clear displays and has an impressive array of connected devices. 7.25/10
- Linksys hub – With over 100 connected devices and super-easy to use, this Linksys hub has gained popularity with good reason. The fact it has no monthly fee and is available via both a web interface and an app, further aids its popularity. However, it lacks the richer features that drive the power use towards the SmartThings. 7/10
- Domotz smart-home hub – This newcomer to the world of the smart home has raised eyebrows because its both cheap and functional. $35 and just $2.99 a month brings the selling points of the PEQ. It plays ball with the other big players, like NEST and Phillips Hue smart lights, providing a wealth of feedback on these individual smart home systems in a manner which is functional and easy to use. 6/10
- PEQ Hub – At its cheap price point, $10/month and packages starting from $120, the PEQ gained some popularity with early adopters because of its low risk introduction to the whole concept of the smart home. For many though it is far too simple, and actually lacks the firepower to give the true autonomous home user the tools that they’re actually looking for. One to avoid. 5/10.
- iControl Networks Piper – interesting as a smart home security system, less so as a smart home hub. There are better security bundles available too in our opinion, so one to consider and then pass up on pretty quickly. 4/10
- Logitech Harmony – great home cinema solution, far from great smart home automation hub. 3.5/10
- Lutron Smart Bridge – its ‘hub’ aspect is really limited to connecting smart lighting, so its missed the point of the bigger picture which includes security, thermostats, lighting, television, kitchen gadgets and the likes. It has promise though, so could climb our leaderboard if the company pushes on in 2017.