Home automation is made a zillion times more powerful when the devices are connected to the web. A proper hub or gateway achieves this by routing your device (Zwave/Zigbee/Xbee and so on) traffic to/from the web. So we ask, which home automation hub is the cheapest, easiest to use and most powerful? Here’s our review, which we will keep updated as we learn more.
But first, here’s the desirable features we want in a hub:
- An open API so it isn’t silo (and doesn’t rely on it’s own cheesy software for everything)
- More than one protocol supported
- Under $300 preferred
- Has to be available to buy (Kickstarter is out!)
This one looks soooo cool! It’s $50 brand new and supports Z-Wave, Zigbee and BlueTooth. Amazing! Plus GE just put out those $15 smart bulbs. Plus an open API. Man. Story over, right?
Wrong. So wrong. The Wink hub is absolutely terrible. It doesn’t work. We plugged ours in and connected it to the wifi…after an hour. It still doesn’t know if it wants to be on the internet or not. The app that controls the SmartThings hub can’t give you any consistent information. I feel like it’s possibly tied to the migratory patterns of African Swallows rather than telling you any status information about the Wink.
Then we called tech support. Twice. Each time we got hung up on. +1 for being able to buy it at Home Depot though. Let’s hope they update the firmware and get this thing out of the suck category soon.
Along the way we had a chance to try the $15 GE smart light bulb. Total bust. We can get it connected but can’t ever turn it on or off remotely.
SmartThing Hub – $99
This is a very interesting entry. Along with the ability to talk Z-Wave and Zigbee, it has a REST API abilities. It’s reported to be much more reliable also. Adam M. mentioned the app overwhelmed him when trying even simple changes. That’s fine for us though since we don’t emphasize using a mobile app to control your home. Nebri is about being invisible! Clunky apps are out. Is it really useful to turn your lights off when there is a switch right there?
We already have one. Certain things have been very easy, like connecting to a Nest and controlling it all through a mobile app. The API hasn’t been terribly helpful since we have to create a “SmartApp” which wraps all of our commands to control any SmartThings device. That’s under way now. It just takes away form the gateway qualities of the hub.
Here’s a true gateway, at least by the look of it. On the plus side there are plenty of reviews for it AND an API. It’s also dumb, not trying to run “apps” on it. That’s cool. On the down side it’s only a Z-Wave gateway interface. But at such a low price you can get another gateway for Zigbee and call it a day!
Our is on order. The plan is to hook this up to a Windows PC and run HomeGenie to interface with the USB dongle. HomeGenie provides web API that can communicate to Nebri. PLUS, HomeGenie is cross platform so we can eventually get this puppy going on a Raspberry Pi to keep costs down. I am pumped about this one.
Vera3/Micasaverde/UI7 – $160-$300
Their naming scheme is just as confusing as their product lineup, which is just as confusing as their hub’s capabilities. Let’s not mention their documents. Apparently there are a few different network protocols (link no longer available) for RPC but, that’s just a guess. Is that a Vera doc? It seems be fully hack-able, running Linux. This guy had some luck with it.
Their tech support didn’t answer the phone for me either. Same as wink on that count.
We will be trying this one out, probably. Will report back.
Insteon Modem – $80
This PLM (power link modem) doesn’t meet all of our criteria, but it appears to be what we need. It’s a dumb gateway. The idea is to hook this up to your Raspberry Pi and control the IO that way. This modem sends/receives dual band Insteon.
These give us hope! Their ZBPLM interfaces with Zigbee, Insteon and X10. It’s $120. You can use your own local server or user their Harmony P2 box which brings it to $175. Get this though; they have an open api! We don’t have any experience with Docklight, and don’t understand how that all fits together yet, but this one is pretty high on our list to try soon.
Their Harmony Gateway ($200) seems be a full wifi enabled server with the same capabilities as the ZBPLM. Woh. +1 for an API doc that seems to be useful.
They also have a $50 ZibBee usb dongle and a $70 Insteon/X10 USB dongle.
Like the Vera though, their naming is just terrible, and it’s hard to navigate the website and figure what what you should actually buy. I will gladly forget all this if their products work as expected. It’s a bit unclear which API type works where, but diving in will resolve that issue soon enough.
Fail. Their API is in closed beta (link no longer available).
Lows Iris – $99
Right off the bat they have some great prices in store. You can buy a door contact sensor for $20, a motion sensor for $25, and a few other items below $30. That’s impressive. It operates on Zigbee and Z-wave but most devices use propriatary protocols and can’t be shared with other hobs. That’s not cool. What’s also stinks is the total lack of an API.
Staples Smart Hub Connect – $50
Disqualified! No API and -1 for the name also.
Others that I haven’t gotten to
- https://on.google.com/hub/ (just announced!)