Do I need a Smart Home hub? Question Answered about the Smart Home Hub Benefits. My Answer Is SmartThings!
I was asked a question about whether to go with a Smart Home hub or to not go with a hub. The responses were good, and I gave my input on what I believed. I had one question though, that I really had to give some insight on- because you do not need to stick with one brand (if you get the right hub). Here’s one of the comments from the original question, and here’s my answer:
Smart Home Enthusaist (Question):
“I installed two tplink wall switches that don’t use a hub. I got them because of the low startup cost since you don’t need a hub. Correct me if I am wrong, if you are going to have multiple manufacturers, you will need multiple hubs. It seems to be a waste. They seem to be manufacturer specific.”
The Smart Home Ninja (Answer):
It really depends Sir – in some respects what you are saying is true to an extent.
My philips hue has a bridge (which is a hub basically) and it works with its own hub/bridge, but I can also connect my light bulbs to Logitech Harmony’s “hub extender” which I’ve tried, not a fan. But Philips only makes lighting (similar to how TP-Link has a handful of products but no door locks/garage door, or heating/cooling smart products). However, my philips hue bulbs can also connect them to another zigbee hub- regardless of manufacturer. It actually comes down to the software, R&D – don’t want to get too technical, but really it’s up to the company that produces that hub if they want to support multiple products from different manufacturers (and those manufacturers bunking up with them as well sadly in some cases).
Sadly, It’s also up to the manufacturers working together – which is why being mindful of the manufaturer that produces that hub- to research and make sure they support another variety of brands. That’s why you see that some devices work with a certain hub and also those same devices work with their competitors hubs. If anyone is going to get a hub – they’d want to make sure it was a fairly large brand with the resources to get as many integrations as possible, while making sure it has good reviews, security and such. The technology really is just a dumb little computer board with chips/adapters for the wireless languages that speak different wireless languages (zigbee, z-wave, wifi adapters). Then it comes down to the software… It’s impressive some of these hubs can integrate already with this many other brands/competitors honestly like Smartthings, logitech harmony, wink, vera etc. If you only need a couple of switches to accomodate, then I’d suggest not getting a hub.
However, not all of these proprietary brands can produce an irrigation controller (I don’t think TP link has an irrigation controller yet that I’ve seen at least). However, if you get the smartthings hub – your two switches by TP link will work with it, whereas the Rachio Sprinkler controller will work with it also. However, both of these products are wifi, and dont need a hub. But the hub and the software in it are what really makes the magic happen with all these devices and how they communicate and do things with one another. With that one smartthings hub – If a fire were to go off on the smoke detector (lets say first alert z-wave wireless smoke detector) I then could setup a rule to tell the Keen home smartvents (zigbee wireless electronic vents) to close and suffocate any fire, as well as tell a schlage door lock (also z-wave) to unlock, and a Linear Garage Door opener (zwave as well) to open up at detection of door unlocking in a trigger fasion and lastly tell my rachio sprinkler controller (wifi) to turn on to keep fire from getting to my neighbors faster. This is the beauty of the hub- is it integrates these other brands to work together, rather than having to be a programmer (which I am and believe me, it’s not fun setting up triggers like this without something out of the box) or having to even use the user-friendly app IFTTT to trigger all of these things to work on the software side (even if you were able to manage to get a bunch of wifi devices and avoid a hub).
To go without a hub for a very customizable smart home – is going to be next to impossible if you have more than a handful of devices unless you want to stretch it and really start to experience wifi interference from having all products that are proprietary on the same frequency/channel as your own internet wifi, cordless phones, etc. There’s a lot of reasons to go with a hub, and honestly a lot to go without. But I feel like it’s the integrations that really make the magic come to life. It took me a while to understand this- but I’ll save you the months and months of research it took me to figure this out if ever curious of buying a hub!