Smart lights are everywhere and come in all colors and price ranges. You can get the cheapest smart light bulbs for under $10 a piece. For many people, smart lights are often the first touchpoint with the smart home category. For the majority of folks buying a few Philips Hue lights and controlling them via the Hue app is sufficient.
However, if you want to go past smart lights and look at motion sensors, multipurpose sensors, water leak sensors, smart thermostats or security cameras, you’ll quickly find yourself installing 3+ apps on your phone in order to control everything. Even with all the apps installed, you’ll likely have some products which don’t properly integrate.
Why should you care about integrations?
If your devices are not integrated, you won’t be able to have your motion sensor turn on a light and also have the security camera start a recoding. Or , have a water leak sensor trigger a notification to your phone and also play a sounds on all your speakers in your home to notify you.
A smart home hub promises to solve the integration problem and it’s purpose is to provide a single interface for all devices. Many of us already own a hub, such as an Apple TV with HomeKit, Amazon Echo or Google Home device. All of these devices can act as a smart home hub for their ecosystem, with Apple’s Homekit having the smallest ecosystem and most HomeKit-enabled devices come at a premium. The downside of all of the above hubs is that they only work with wifi-enabled devices or need another hub to integrate with non wifi-enabled devices.
Why is being limited to wifi-enabled devices a problem?
It’s not necessarily a problem but it likely will limit your choices, which come at a premium. Most sensors (multipurpose, water leak, smoke detector, …) don’t have wifi capabilities and use a different protocol (Zigbee or Z-Wave). Also, if you want to connect non-wifi devices with a wifi-only hub, you’ll need another hub and another app to manage it.
What other hubs are out there?
There are numerous smart home hubs available on the market and it feels like there are new version coming out ever other month. Some examples are:
Samsung SmartThings Hub
Logitech Harmony Home Hub
Samsung SmartThings Hub is one of the most popular choices due to it’s ease-of-use, price (fairly in-expensive) and wealth of integrations and sensors they sell.
What should I be looking for in a smart hub if I want to go beyond smart lights?
- Does it have integrations for the devices you want to use? (Ring, Ecobee, Nest, …)
- Does it work with my Voice Assistant?
- Do you trust the company with your information? (You may decide to install a smart lock)
- Is the mobile experience easy to use?
- What do others say about the hub? (Reddit)
If you ask me, Samsung SmartThings is the clear winner!
My first smart home hub was a SmartThings Hub. The iOS app works great and they integrate with over 120 different vendors.
On top of this, you can find a lot of used SmartThings hubs on ebay for cheap. And, if you want to stay within the SmartThings brand, you can. find lots of sensors and switches from them.
I personally use their water leak sensor, multipurpose sensor, motion sensor and light bulbs. Additionally, I also use a ton of Zwave and Zigbee devices, plus a few wifi-enabled devices. Overall the Samsung SmartThings hub is a great choice. Btw, it also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Don’t forget to check out my article about Choosing the right Voice Assistant.