Welcome to the Building Your Smart Home series! In this series, I’ll be covering and explaining different groups of smart products you can use to make your home smarter, and also when to purchase them.
The center of every smart home is whatever hub you have. The hub can hold all your smart devices and automation actions, and should be one of the first things you should look at when starting to convert your house to a smart home. I, unfortunately, didn’t do that when I started, and now have a few hubs to cover and control a slew of dissimilar products. When you do start with a hub, you have the choice of building your home around the products that your hub supports.
The hub also allows you to not have to go through many different products — or their apps — to get something working. The hub can activate many different items as a result of actions taking place, which normally you wouldn’t be able to do alone. It allows one product to talk to another easily, and allows one product to affect another. The hub is your smart home’s brain.
There are multiple hubs you can buy, from entry level and easy to control, to more advanced and slightly more complex ones. Some of the most well-known ones include the Logitech Harmony Hub (which I recently reviewed), the Samsung SmartThings Hub, and the Wink Hub — even Google Home and Amazon Echo can be considered hubs, but I’ll talk about those in a later piece. I have the former two, which widens the products and activities I can run in my home.
For most hubs, you connect them to your modem/router and put it in an optimal place for the specific type of hub — my Harmony Hub is below my main TV, while my SmartThings Hub is in my bedroom near most of my other smart devices. Most hubs are small boxes, so it’s pretty easier to put them in a place that isn’t so conspicuous and won’t mess with your homes Feng Shui. The Wink Hub, for example, is advertised as being able to look perfectly normal on a bookshelf.
From there, you go in that specific hub’s app and connect all applicable devices that you can to that hub, and boom! You’re pretty much set to go. The last thing you’ll do is set up recipes and automation. The Hub will either receive the first action and then respond to that with other commands, or you can go in and control individual devices.
Before I end this first part of Building Your Smart Home, I would like to briefly comment on some types of smart hubs out there. The Harmony Hub is perfect for beginning smart home enthusiasts and for those wanting to control their entertainment media center even if their devices aren’t smart. The Wink Hub has a beautiful UI and easy to learn experience, but it doesn’t get as complex as some other hubs can. The SmartThings Hub, on the other hand, is the opposite, which can get advanced in the recipes/automation it can create. However, the UX can be jarring and has a huge learning curve. Hue lights also have a hub, but their hub is just to connect all the lights together; it’s not the hub I was speaking about in this article.
As more hubs become available and as converting to a smart home becomes more attractive and feasible, it’s important to know exactly what to look for before going to shop. So remember, when you buy your first smart devices, look for a hub that can handle everything you’re getting and completes your needs — the brain controls the body.