Smart home technology has grown to the point that there are literally thousands of products that you can pick from when building out your smart home. Nearly everything in your home can be automated somehow, and all of it controlled from your fingertips.
Not everything works with everything, but some solutions can come close depending on the hub that brings everything together. Choosing the hub can be quite important to what you specifically need, as well as your own technical level (savviness). So we have broken things down to 5 of the best hubs available to you.
SmartThings (by Samsung)
The SmartThings hub has to be one of the most recognized solutions out there for those looking for extended configuration of their smart home devices. It offers compatibility for a wide range of devices and their interface is quite user-friendly. You have the ability to set up simple operations, as well as building out various scenes that control how they all interact with each other.
It does depend heavily on the cloud in order to operate, so if their servers go down, so does your access to your hub. However, Samsung is a huge brand with a big budget. So you can expect that they will constantly focus on improving their services to help prevent this from happening.
The hub is also quite affordable, which makes for a huge selling point that works in Samsung’s favor.
Support Alexa makes Vera (and other hubs) a powerful solution, but what if “powerful” is too much for you? What if your tech savviness is still in the beginning stages? Or what if you simply just need simple automation and control of devices throughout your home?
In this scenario, you simply have Amazon Alexa. Alexa acts as its own hub, controlling Alexa-compatible devices on your network. You can actually control a lot of devices using your Alexa speaker, including certain smart bulbs, switches, outlets, TVs, thermostats and more. You just need to look for the Alexa logo on the box of each device. Sometimes the control is direct or sometimes Alexa needs to communicate with the device’s app (meaning multiple apps on your phone), but the process is usually quite painless.
So if simple is what you need, simple is what you will get. Although it can go further with limited scenes and other things you can also create within Alexa. No additional hubs needed or anything. This makes for the *most* user-friendly option out there. Even more so than Google Assistant (which didn’t make this list this time), since it doesn’t have the open support for as many devices as Alexa has.
The Hubitat Hub seeks to provide extended access to as many devices as possible. They have a huge list of brands they support, allowing you to mix and match all sorts of devices, including those from (certain) other hub setups.
It offers support for Z-Wave, Zigbee, Lutron, Iris and more. It supports third-party integration with services like Amazon Alexa and IFTTT (IFTTT is a big one). This is what the Vera is trying to accomplish with their hubs. Hubitat may not have the extensive coding features that Vera does, but they do have the third-party integration that really expands on their capabilities with. So there is a balance there depending on what you personally need from your hub.
They push to bring multiple platforms together to make building out a solution throughout your home an easier process and seem to be building up the hype to back their efforts up with.
The only catch is that it could be considered an intermediate to advanced platform when it comes to setup and configuration. Likened to “Linux” by our team during our testing of the hub due to the fact that you have to build out its functions and capabilities before it does anything (for the most part) and then dive into a configuration that could either be simple or complex depending on how far down the fun rabbit hole you want to go. This makes it more difficult to set up, however, turns it into a powerhouse of options.
This is an option that has been building in momentum. They are a relatively new brand that already has the right idea and have been actively improving on their hub to also do exactly what Hubitat has been trying to achieve. A “one hub to rule them all” kind of approach, with support for multiple platforms and third-party integrations, like Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT.
It doesn’t offer the advanced coding that Vera does, but it might very well be the biggest competitor to Hubitat and other similar solutions. The iota hub is an all-in-one solution with a camera, speaker, motion sensor and support for professionally managed home security services. It comes with a key fob to control the security system side of things with (switching between home and away), as well as a door/window sensor to get started with.
The hub still feels like it is in its beginning stages, and yet they have already come so far with it. We can easily see this turning into something big in the near future.
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The hubs provided by Vera have to be some of the most advanced consumer-friendly hubs available in the market. They offer deep support for devices across multiple platforms, with a focus on Z-Wave (with also support for Bluetooth, Zigbee, and more). You can create scenes, groups, and more, as you would with most hubs. However, you can also dive deep into the configuration using custom Lua code, where you are only limited by your own creativeness (and understanding of Lua code of course).
It also offers support for Amazon Alexa, giving you voice control over certain devices, scenes and more. They are also working at opening their hub up to other services, like IFTTT and Google Assistant, although this hasn’t happened yet.
Of course, when you have something with such an extensive list of features, this also means more things that can go wrong. So using the wrong code (if you choose to use any custom Lua code at all) could cause issues. It is also has a complicated (on the back-end) operating system that is used to run everything. So many things can go wrong, forcing them developers to constantly be tweaking it towards perfection. This is what caused it to fall to the bottom though. It was our second favorite, but it has since been having a short life span with some customers due to internal capacity (space) limitations that can’t handle all of the logging that doesn’t support the USB port, excessive writes to the internal storage causing unneeded wear, and highlighted features that don’t work (ie, Ergy Energy feature). It’s a powerful little hub that chokes far too easily.
Thankfully, they do have decent customer service now and a huge forum community filled with advanced users who are constantly helping each other out, sharing code and ideas, and more. This really helps to build upon the product.
Once they do add the new support for third-party services like IFTTT, it is going to be a pretty powerful hub solution.
So there are a number of options out there, these just being a few. However, based on compatibility and function they are among the top options on the market. It all depends on what you are looking for in your smart home setup. From simplistic to deep customization. These hubs aren’t limited to proprietary technologies and devices like something like Apple’s HomeKit. They are open, flexible and support a wide range of devices, making any smart home, TRULY smart.