- 1 Why you need a hub
- 2 The app works like a hub
- 3 Things to consider
- 4 Hardware hub
- 5 Final thoughts
The smart hub is central to any smart home. It is the device that connects all your smart-home products together so that you can control everything from one app.
Why you need a hub
Imagine you have tons of smart devices in your home, and they are all different brands, using different wireless protocols: Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Thread. Now imagine every brand provides its own app, and you have to use several apps to control them – it doesn’t sound like this would make your life either easy or “smart”.
To unify all kinds of smart devices or secondary systems, you need a smart hub to connect them via different wireless protocols, then you can use that hub to control every single device and know exactly what is happening in your home. You can even create a scene in which some devices work together.
Some smart speakers can directly connect other devices and work as a hub. For example, Alexa Echo Plus has Zigbee built in and can control Philips Hue without the need for Hue Bridge. But it can only work with Wi-Fi devices or specific protocol devices (depending on what protocol is built in).
The app works like a hub
Hub app + (Bridge + Device)/Wi-Fi device
If you already have some Wi-Fi-enabled devices, you might first consider using a hub-like app as your smart hub. Some apps like Yonomi or stringify can help you control all your smart devices and save you purchasing a hardware Hub.
This sounds wonderful, but is it really practical? , the working principle of the app is to control Wi-Fi devices on a software level (through the device’s own API), but it can only connect to devices via Wi-Fi. Because of that you still need a bridge device to transform other-protocol devices to be Wi-Fi-connectable. To do this, some brands may require security authorization such as an account sign-in or button push.
Things to consider
If the hub-like app does not work for you, you may still look for a hardware hub. To choose a suitable hub you need to keep some things in mind.
Hub + Bridge + Device
Hub + Device
There are two modes to get a hub connected to your smart device. One is by directly connecting the hub to your device, the other way is using a bridge device as middleware to connect hub and device.
The second mode may not get the device working correctly. For example, you can’t have all the features of Philips Hue without Hue Bridge; you still need to own Hue Bridge to access all light bulb features. By using a smart hub instead of the Hue Bridge, you are only able to turn a light on/off and dim it. So, it’s ok if you are only using this mode for a white light but for a color bulb, I would recommend you get the bridge.
Supported wireless protocol
As previously mentioned, to connect diverse smart devices, the hub must support the wireless protocol of the smart device. So the first thing you should check before purchasing your hub is which protocols it needs to support.
If you don’t know where to start, here is an explanation about commonly used wireless protocols.
Even if the device can connect to a hub’s physical layer, that doesn’t mean the hub can control it. So the second thing you should consider is whether the hub can work with your devices. Usually, the hub manufacturer will provide a product list which they support and also the recommended connection modes. If your device is not included then you should ask their support team to confirm compatibility.
The most direct way to control a hub is by using its app, but you can use voice control by connecting the hub to a smart speaker. So, you may need to check what kind of voice assistants the hub supports and how to connect it to a smart speaker.
Some hubs even provide a touch screen, in an old-fashioned way. If you prefer to use a touch screen rather than a mobile app then such options are perfect for you.
The best solution is to get a hardware hub to work on the hardware level, there are many tested smart hubs in the current market.
|SmartThings 3 Gen||Wink Hub 2||Google Home hub||Almond 3||Echo Show||Echo Plus 2 Gen|
|Zigbee||Y||Y||N||ZigBee HA 1.2||Y||Y|
|Wi-Fi||2.4GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz|
|Bluetooth LE||N||Y||Bluetooth 5||N||N||N|
Samsung SmartThings mesh WiFi Router
SmartThings mesh Wi-Fi router is best Hub and Wi-Fi router all in one product. As a Wi-Fi router, its whole-home mesh coverage up to 4,500 sq. ft. (with a 3 pack) A single hub covers up to 1,500 sq. ft, a set of three covers homes up to 4,500 sq. ft. You can add up to 32 hubs if you need additional coverage. As a Home Hub, it still supports ZigBee and Z-Wave protocol like old SmartThings Hub, that can connect your devices without any dead zone, which few Hub can provide.
if you have a large house and common Hub cannot cover all your smart devices, then SmartThings mesh Wi-Fi router is your best choice today.
Samsung SmartThings v3
|Samsung SmartThings Hub 3rd Generation [GP-U999SJVLGDA] Smart Home Automation Hub Home Monitoring...||from $13.62||Buy on Amazon|
Wink Hub 2
Google Home hub
|Securifi Almond - (3 Minute Setup) Touchscreen Wireless Router/Range Extender||$89.99||Buy on Amazon|
Echo Plus 2 Gen
|Echo Plus (2nd Gen) - Premium sound with built-in smart home hub - Charcoal||$149.99||Buy on Amazon|
The smart hub can give you the ability to make all your smart-home devices really work as a unified system. With a hub you can do what you want to do and see what’s happening in your home. You can also create a situation in which devices work together, or use location-trigger or time trigger modes to control devices automatically.
Yet there is no perfect hub, since everyone’s needs are different. You need to consider the compatibility, the ecosystem behind the hub and the smart products you already have. After all, you don’t want to have to replace a whole ecosystem because of a hub.
Remember, all smart hubs above are useless without internet, so if you have a need to work offline with your smart home, then the smart hub isn’t the right choice for you.