Smart home products such as automatic lights and movement sensors often require a hub to operate. These networking devices take many forms and are among the most popular smart home products on their own. Some, like Amazon Echo and Google Home, also serve as wireless speakers. Others, like Apple HomeKit or Samsung SmartThings, run mostly in the background, but are essential nonetheless.
While these big names might be the ones you’re familiar with, they aren’t the only hubs available. Lowes, the big box home improvement chain has one called Iris. There’s also the Wink Connected Home Hub and Harmony Hub. And because one hub per company isn’t enough, you can also find the Samsung Connect Hub.
In this article, you’ll learn more about some of the lesser known smart hubs on the market, including their strengths and weaknesses, giving you all the information you need to pick the best hub for your home.
The All-in-One Solution
The following smart hubs can control a large number of smart devices across multiple categories. For example, these are the type of hubs you’d buy if you want to control your lights alongside a security system, or your front door bell alongside your thermostat.
The Lowes Iris Smart Hub is a customizable smart home system that might remind you of a modern day Swiss Army Knife. Once you own the hub, you can add security, lighting, and automation bundles, plus individual products as your needs change. Along the way, you can control all of your Iris-connected devices through the free Iris app.
To date, there are over 80 Iris-compatible devices, including cameras, sensors, switches, thermostats, and lights. Lowes has developed many of these specifically for use with the Iris system. Others, such as products from Sylvania and Honeywell, are also compatible with other smart hubs or systems.
- A wide range of compatible products
- Prices for each device are reasonable
- Lowes is a big name in home improvement
- Relatively new, a chance it won’t catch on with a wider user base
- The features could be overkill for some folks
- Lowes is a relative newcomer to the smart home hub game
The Wink Connected Home Hub 2, like Iris, allows products that speak the same languages to communicate. In doing so, you can control all of the accessories with the Wink app. Unlike similar products, Wink supports multiple protocols including ZigBee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth LE. It also works with IFTTT, which allows it to support additional products.
Supported products include: door locks, door/window sensors, motion sensors, light bulbs, switches and dimmers, outlets, and more. For compatibility, look for the “Wink Compatible – Wink Hub Required” seal on packaging. Partners include Amazon, Kwikset, Canary, August, and more.
Once owned by Quirky, Wink is now part of i.am from innovator and musician Will.i.am.
- A huge product base because of supported protocols
- Supports a lot of inexpensive products, which is unique in the smart home industry
- Includes support for voice control
- The product has been through three owners in three years
- Some Wink-supported devices have been known NOT to work with the Wink app
Securifi offers Wi-Fi routers and extenders that also act as smart home hubs. These include the company’s newest products, the Almond 3, Almond+, and Almond2015. All three of these support the ZigBee protocol, while the first two also support Z-Wave. The Almond 3 also supports Bluetooth.
Hundreds of smart devices are already compatible with these products, including Nest, Philips Hue, Amazon Echo, and others. Securifi is a great solution if you’re also in the market for a new Wi-Router or need an extender.
- Offers a full range of products across multiple pricing levels
- Includes a digital interface to view settings quickly
- If you are happy with your Wi-Fi system, you likely have no reason to switch
- Can get pricey, as most Wi-Fi systems do
Once you look past its mesh capabilities, the Samsung Connect Home is every bit the same as the Samsung SmartThings Home, except that you don’t have to purchase separate hardware.
- Part of an established company
- Works with a large number of products
- This system is pricey (models generally start around $180)
- Could offer more functionality than you need for your home
These smart hubs primarily focus on providing solutions for one type of smart home products. For example, automated lights or entertainment devices.
The Caséta Smart Bridge from Lutron allows you to control lights, shades, and temperatures in your home with the Lutron app. With the current-generation model, you can connect up to 50 smart devices with on hub. For added flexibility, the Caséta Smart Hub is also compatible with Apple HomeKit and Amazon Echo, which allows you to control lights and shades with either Siri or Alexa.
- Established company
- Tied to Apple HomeKit, ensuring years of compatibility
- Can get pricey once you add multiple devices
Besides the Smart Bridge, Lutron offers a few starter kits. These kits, not surprisingly, focus on smart lighting and include dimmer switches, wall plates, remotes, pedestals, and more.
6. Insteon Hub
With the Insteon Hub, you can connect lights and appliances from your iOS or Android device. By doing so, you can integrate with some of the biggest names in the smart industry including Nest, Amazon, Logitech, and more. With the Insteon+ app, you create schedules and automate devices, build scenes to control multiple devices, and more.
- It’s great to have an Apple HomeKit version available
- Both Android and iOS-compatibility
- The Apple HomeKit version is much more expensive
For those dedicated to Apple products, there’s the Insteon Hub (HomeKit-enabled) edition. Priced around $150 and available exclusively through Smart Home, this hub offers the same features as the regular version plus support for Siri.
It may look best in the living room, but make no mistake, Logitech’s Harmony is much more than a television remote. The Logitech Harmony Hub is compatible with more than 270,000 devices at last count. In just a few minutes, you can use one remote to control up to eight devices, including your TV, cable or satellite box, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, Roku, game console, and more.
Additionally, pre-programmed buttons on the Harmony app can be used to turn down your lights right before the big game or entertainment event.
- Arguably the best entertainment solution available right now
- Logitech is basically the only company offering this kind of smart home solution
- Harmony devices are never cheap
- There’s a definite learning curve
Is There a Right Hub to Buy?
As you can see, smart hubs come in many forms and at different price levels. The best one for you largely depends on your current and future needs. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t always easy to determine.
Your best bet is to purchase a hub that supports more than one wireless protocol. From there, make sure it works with the smart devices you require. Finally, have some fun. A smart home can be a happy home, as long as you take the time to see what’s out there and make informed decisions.