Apple’s new HomeKit developer’s environment
encourages device makers to connect to iOS for
controlling smart home gadgets. That concept
pushes, front and center, the smart home hub,
which on a consumer level, enables separate
smart devices to be integrated into one mobile
device interface. It took a New York Times
review last month to spark my interest in two of
these hubs: SmartThings and Revolv.
While the Apple HomeKit (covered in in
this issue by Gordon van Zuiden and
by Michael Heiss on our website) could be more
than a year away from reality, several smart
home hubs are available now.
the full Times review, these hubs get devices like light bulbs,
speakers, and smart locks to talk to each other.
The Times reviewer, Molly Wood, found that
both the SmartThings and Revolv hubs were
easy to set up to connect a “small set of smart
devices” together, as long as she “kept things
simple.” The challenge, apparently, is the lack of
a single wireless standard across all devices. Both
Rovolv and SmartThings can speak to most of
these standards, but nothing is guaranteed.
For review purposes, Wood connected the
Revolv to a Sonos speaker system, and three
Philips Hue light bulbs, but found that the app
was limited in its ability to fully control music.
Revolv did, however, allow her to set up actions
based on her phone’s GPS, so it could turn off
the lights when leaving home or back on when
coming home. You can also set up actions by
time or have one device control another (such
as through a motion sensor). Wood reported
that geo-sensing worked well, sending her a
text when she left her house, confirming that
everything was turned off.
The free SmartThings app performed
similarly for the reviewer but also came with a
starter kit option for setting up an automated
home; most of these kits are based on security
and monitoring. The one Wood tried was the
$300 Know and Control Your Home Kit, which
included the main hub, as well as two sensors
that can tell when a door or cabinet is opened
and also sense vibration and temperature; two
sensors that broadcast their location, so you can
track keys, children, or dog walkers; a motion
sensor; and a smart power outlet.
Wood’s overall experience with the hubs was
positive, though she acknowledged “random
errors and mysterious failures” in the systems.
Just like how many of you got started in this
business, there always will be DIYers out there
that will love the experimentation that comes
from these sorts of “over-the-counter” options,
while others will prefer to spend their money to
hire an expert to create a more robust solution.
To remain an expert, you will need to know how
to position what you do against these quickly
evolving entry-level options. Be smart, and get
to know the strengths and weaknesses of these