At the heart of every smart home lies an equally smart hub device.
When it comes to building a truly seamless smart home, one of the biggest hurdles can be managing multiple devices, each with their own potentially conflicting protocols, requirements, and individual apps for controlling your tech.
The smart hub acts as the nerve center of the connected home environment, the central point of your automated and intelligent network of devices where it all comes together.
Think of your smart hub as the conductor to the orchestra of the intelligent gadgets, devices, and utilities in your home environments which need to play together in perfect harmony to make your smart home symphone the masterpiece you want it to be.
As the smart home revolution continues to gather pace, the move towards installing a centralized smart hub, directing traffic and making sure things work smoothly is increasing as homeowners realize the benefits of installing a dedicated device for the job.
What is a Smart Hub?
At the simplest level, a smart hub is a piece of hardware which acts as the gateway to which all of the other smart home devices in your network can connect.
When connected to WiFi, the smart hub can be accessed wirelessly, both by devices in the network and also by a control interface such as a smartphone or tablet, wherever you’re hooked up to the internet.
Ultimately, one of the main roles of the smart hub is to make the job of connecting to and controlling your smart home devices simpler.
Often pairing a control interface (usually your smartphone or a tablet) to a hub will allow a direct control of devices around your home meaning for many of your connected items, once the hub is connected and a phone paired, you’re good to go.
That said, there can be significant variations in the range of functionality available when utilizing a smart hub and depending on the make and model chosen, a paired back level of device control can sometimes be the sacrifice for being able to access and control every gadget from a single source.
In many cases however, the benefit of being able to consolidate potentially dozens of apps for separate smart devices down to a single point of control is a huge win and as hubs become increasingly sophisticated, the level of functionality increases.
Once a hub is set up and connected, the possibilities for an automated and truly smart home begin to expand rapidly.
Taking full advantage of IFTTT (If This, Then That) solutions for example becomes a viable option once a smart hub is installed, providing a level of home automation that really does allow the intelligent system to take the thinking out of certain household tasks – for example automatically setting the lights and heating to fire up if the weather begins to change or when you arrive home from work.
Getting Started With Smart Hubs
With different smart devices often doing their own thing around the house as well as at different times throughout the day, the major advantage of installing a smart hub is to unite them all under an integrated umbrella – effectively the command and control center of your interconnected home.
Setting up a smart hub as part of your home system is super-simple, however, there are a couple of considerations to think about when choosing a suitable device.
When it comes to connection types and smart device platforms, it’s important to check that your smart hub will play ball with the particular flavor of your device. Does your device connect with Bluetooth or WiFi? Or perhaps it’s Z-Wave or ZigBee? Whichever format (or a mix of formats) you’re working with the devices in your house, you want to find a smart hub that’s going to be able to communicate.
Given the fact that the hub needs to connect to your other devices wirelessly, the positioning of the unit is likely to be in a relatively open area (to give maximum reception and signal strength). Due to this, depending on your specific setup and home layout, the aesthetic and design qualities of the smart hub you opt for may well come into play when finding the perfect match for your smart home ecosystem.
Getting started with finding the perfect smart hub for your home can feel daunting, but we’ve put together a shortlist of what we reckon are the top smart hubs for connectivity, performance, value, and style.
Don’t let the minimalist (yet in our opinion, very attractive) look of the SmartThings hub fool you, this is one smart hub with a lot of bang for your buck.
What initially started as a Kickstarter campaign was soon taken up by the Korean tech giant and now offers a good range of device connectivity options for those looking to get started with a smart hub.
The SmartThings hub is simple to set-up, has an excellent app for controlling your systems on an iOS or Android system, and supports WiFi, Zwave, and ZigBee.
A good range of device compatibility (including with Sonos, Philips and Honeywell products) alongside IFTTT capability makes the SmartThings hub a solid choice as the center of your smart home ecosystem.Learn More Here
In our opinion, the Wink Connected Home Hub could well be the best smart hub choice of the year with a connectivity and compatibility list as appealing as the price-tag and design.
So to start with, the Wink hub offers serious connectivity options: WiFi, Bluetooth, Lutron, Z-Wave, ClearConnect and ZigBee to get you started.
This smart hub also has a beautifully minimalist look and plays ball with both Android and iOS smartphones meaning that control options should be sorted wherever you fall on the handset spectrum.Learn More About the Wink Connected Home Hub Here
The Insteon Hub offers control over a whole load of connected Insteon devices including a few others like the Nest thermostat.
Insteon’s offering to the smart hub market is optimized to work with Apple devices (including the Apple Watch) so bear this in mind when considering – but if you’re an Apple advocate anyway, this hub could be right up your street.
One particularly neat feature of the Insteon hub is the ability to create ‘scenes’ which allow for the control of multiple devices simultaneously – perfect for helping you wake up in the morning with a combination of automated light and sound.Learn More About the Insteon Central Controller Here
One of the things we particularly appreciate about the smart hub offering from Cozify are the variety of bundle packages that can be purchased for a comprehensive solution tailored to different situations. These are effectively smart device collaborations built around the hub itself, all of which are a good foundation whether you’re just starting out, or expanding your existing smart home ecosystem.
Bundling together the Cozify Hub with various flavors of smart home devices to meet your situation-specific requirements, the packs also offer a financial cost saving on the price of purchasing the components individually.
From the Cozify Starter Pack (which includes 2 smart bulbs, a WeMo smart plug and a Centralite motion sensor) to packs focused on safety and security, there’s a good selection of choice for putting together a set of devices centered around the hub, all of which are ready to go out of the box.
Alternatively of course, you could just go for the hub on its own and build your smart home rig around it yourself. And don’t worry, in this instance, there are a whole lot of devices that Cozify is compatible with.
Offering the ability to communicate with smart home products from brands including Philips Hue, SONOS and Belkin means there’s a good choice of essential compatibility for foundations to any new smart home set-up from lighting through to sound.