Getting Ahead of the Smart Home Hub

July 3, 2014

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.

According to 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 hubs personally.

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!


Photo GalleriesMore Galleries >
Doug Henderson and Joe Atkins

Doug Henderson (left) president of Bowers & Wilkins Group North America, and Joe Atkins, Bowers & Wilkins global CEO, invited consumer and t...

BMWs, McLarens, and Volvos

Upon arrival, guests experienced Bowers & Wilkins Automotive products in BMW, McLaren, and Volvo cars (the Maserati wasn’t available...

Demo'ing the McLaren

Bowers & Wilkins North America president Doug Henderson show demonstrates how to open the door on the McLaren.

B&W Speakers in the McLaren

Bowers & Wilkins speakers in the McLaren.

B&W Vintage Living Room

Bowers & Wilkins North America president Doug Henderson shows off the company’s vintage living room space, which featured vintage ge...

The B&W LP Collection

Part of the Bowers & Wilkins vintage living room space is this collection of LP covers that represent a seminal album from each of the com...

The B&W Museum

Bowers & Wilkins had to purchase much of the gear in its museum because most discontinued products were not kept over the last 50 years.

The Wisdom of John Bowers

Words to live by from Bowers & Wilkins founder John Bowers

The History of B&W

A timeline of Bowers & Wilkins’ product and company history

Andy Kerr and Martial Rousseau

Senior product manager Andy Kerr and head of research Martial Rousseau from the U.K. Bowers & Wilkins office. They were showing off the ne...

Turbine Head

  The turbine head for the 800 D3 houses the mid-range speakers.

Andy Kerr

Senior product manager Andy Kerr holds up the very heavy solid-body turbine head.

Historical Flagship Products

A look at the company’s flagship products through its 50-year history

The Legendary Diamond Tweeter Dome

To show off the company’s legendary diamond tweeter dome, one was encased in plastic to protect the brittle material. The tweeter domes ...

Demo'ing the 800 D3 Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins’ new demo room showcases its new flagship 800 D2 speakers, which are the outcomes of one of the company’s mos...

800 D3 Close Up

The silver 6-inch FST midrange drive unit of the 800 D3 uses Bower & Wilkins’ new proprietary Continuum woven material. Developed af...

In-wall Demo

Bower & Wilkins’ showcases its in-wall speakers in this space.

The B&W Nautilus

Bower & Wilkins’ legendary Nautilus is 17 years old but just as contemporary now as it was then.

Nautilus Pricing

A wall plaque in the “Nautilus demo room” itemizing the price of the system

Theater Demo

A theater demo showcasing the flexibility of 800 D2 speakers