The smart home market is currently full of innovative companies, all working to create the best way to make your home more powerful and more efficient, but they don’t always work together well. This leaves you with a number of devices, receivers, and apps that not only take more time to use, but might confuse you into turning on the wrong thing altogether. That’s the problem that Wink set out to solve.
What Is Wink?
Instead of trying to outdo long-established brands at what they do best — like trying to make better light bulbs than Phillips, or better locks than Kwikset — Wink set out to unify them all. You may have heard of the Wink app before (we mentioned it in our review of the Quirky Nimbus smart dashboard), but you might not be aware that it’s changed since its early days.
For example, you can buy the Wink hub, a $50 smart home controller that unifies all of your wireless devices — most of which had no way to communicate with each other before. The hub allows them to “speak the same wireless language,” letting you do some pretty cool things that involve multiple devices (which we’ll get to below). Wink also offers a $300 touchscreen relay controller that replaces a light switch in your home; you can then control all of your connected devices from the single relay point.
What Can I Do With Wink?
When Wink first came out, it only worked with the products produced by Quirky and GE, but the list of compatible devices has expanded to over 60 products made by over 15 different manufacturers, including some of the biggest names like Nest, Philips, Honeywell, GE, and Kwikset. By using the Wink hub to link all of your devices together, you can create sets of actions – a bit like your own private If This Then That system for your home.
One example that Wink gives on its website is having your lights and air conditioning turn on whenever you unlock your front door. In addition to combining these behaviors, you can also set timers for various activities, so the blinds will go up and the kitchen lights will turn on when you get up in the morning.
A lot of the other automation tasks that we’ve discussed in the past, like controlling appliances and smartening your lamps, can be accomplished with Wink and a couple other smart devices. The Wink store includes Philips Hue light bulbs, Schlage and Kwikset smart locks, Quirky and Leviton sockets, Lutron dimmers, the Nest thermostat and smoke alarm, a Quirky + GE air conditioner, Bali motorized blinds, and more.
And with more products being added in the future, you’ll be able to customize your smart home’s capabilities to fit your liking. There are already a few unique items that work with the system, like a propane tank monitor, an irrigation system, water heaters, and even a piggy bank.
Why Choose Wink?
With a lot of other systems out there, what sets Wink apart? You can already use systems like Z-Wave and Zigbee to link a wide range of things in your home, and the proliferation of manufacturers and products makes it seem likely that there will be other systems released in the near future.
The big advantage of Wink is its interoperability. Not only does it work with a wide variety of products, but it also works with multiple different protocols: Z-Wave, Zigbee, wi-fi, and Bluetooth are all supported, which means that many future products will likely work with the system as well. There are other systems that support products made by multiple manufacturers, like SmartThings, but the breadth of available products that work with Wink is quite impressive, and it’s difficult to match the $50 price of the hub.
If you’re a tinkerer and you had no problem following our tutorial on how to automate your home with Arduino and Raspberry Pi, you probably don’t need something like Wink. But if you want to get the most out of your smart home without spending time with a soldering iron or programming an Arduino, the Wink system looks like a great choice.
More Options Is Better for Everyone
In the end, the creation of the Wink system and the support that it’s getting from big smart home product makers is a great thing for the smart home market. While companies will want to create and sell their own all-in-one systems, many of them realize that making their products interoperable with systems like Wink will help them sell more products overall, meaning that it’s going to get easier to piece together a system that works for your home without having to use a multitude of apps and controllers.
If you’re not ready to go for a hub-based system yet, you can always try these six smart home projects you can take on this weekend or these four easy project to kickstart your smart home.
Do you use a central controller for your smart home? Which system is it on? Are you more likely to start creating a smart home now that you can get a hub for $50?