Smart Home Hubs
The best smart home hubs will save you the hassle of monitoring individual smart device applications. How many smart devices do you have? A smart hub will make it easy for you to control each device simultaneously from your smartphone.
To help you decide which smart hub to buy, I have examined every product on the market and created a list of the best five smart home hubs based on features, reliability, applications, and price. I have also analyzed what you should know and think about before making a purchase.
Best Smart Home Hubs - What to Consider
How It Works
Smart home hubs sit in your home and connect to your wireless communication protocol. Your existing smart devices should also be connected to a protocol such as Wifi, Bluetooth, Zigbee or Z-Wave; or plugged into a smart hub. Information for each device is tunneled into the hub via this connection, which allows you to control all devices from one application on your smartphone.
1. Is the smart hub compatible with my existing devices?
Before you buy a smart home hub, you should figure out if it's compatible with the smart devices you already have. There are many different brands of smart devices; each device has one or more protocols in which it can communicate to other smart devices.
Make sure you know which protocols your devices use so you can match them to the smart home hub you purchase. Also, make sure your brand of smart hub will work with your other devices.
2. Which connection protocols do the device support?
There are various different protocols for smart hubs out there. Some connect with your devices wirelessly via WiFi or Bluetooth while others connect via Ethernet cable or other protocols. You'll want to figure out how your best smart home hub connects to your devices before you buy.
- WiFi - According to Scientific American, WiFi uses radio frequencies to send signals, connecting us to the Internet and other devices. It is used to either connect devices to the Internet or create its own network to link compatible devices. WiFi is a great connection protocol with high-bandwidth. Many people already have it at home, which makes smart home transitions easy. Unfortunately, you may experience bandwidth interference if your smart hub and other devices are only supported by WiFi. For example, if you have various devices running on the same WiFi in one home, your speed may start to lag.
- Bluetooth - uses radio waves like WiFi but is considered a different standard of wireless communication, according to Techopedia. For this reason, devices with both Bluetooth and WiFi capability have more bandwidth reliability and experience less interference than those with just Wifi. Bluetooth is best-known for connecting devices within a short-range whereas WiFi is known for connecting devices to the Internet within a larger range.
- Zigbee - is a wireless home automation protocol that lets smart devices communicate via radio frequencies. Its range is typically short, but its signal can jump from device to device to create a larger range. Zigbee is its own protocol, but the company does not make smart home products themselves. As a result, you may experience some interferences with device connections.
- Z-wave - is a protocol whose range can grow depending on how many devices are present. Its signal jumps from device to device to increase its range, similar to Zigbee. Z-wave actually operates on a different, lower radio frequency than Zigbee, Bluetooth or WiFi, though. This means lag time can be less with Z-wave than with the other protocols.
3. How much does it cost?
Statista says the smart home industry is expected to be worth over $32 million in 2021. That's a growth of 21.8 percent from 2017. Statista also says a typical smart home goes for about $350 per home. Obviously, you're going to want to compare smart hub prices before you buy. Some cost less than $100 while some are much more. For example, the Amazon Echo Dot is only $50 while the Google Home is about $130.
"...a smart hub will make it easy for you to navigate numerous smart devices throughout your home."
Best Smart Home Automation Hub Comparison
Smart home automation hubs come with various different amazing capabilities. Here are examples are some options for you to compare.
- Built-in home security systems for seamless home safety integration - You should consider a smart home hub with home security built in if you don't already have one of the best home automation systems or the best smart home locks in place. This type of best smart home hub will upgrade your home's safety and subtract the hassle it takes to switch in and out of applications for each device.
- Smart locks, smart outlets, smart lights, smart thermostats, smart doorbell cameras, and more - A smart hub will allow you to connect with every smart device in your home. Set timers on your thermostat, smart locks, and smart outlets. Control smart lights and all smart devices from one simple application. Many smart hubs are even compatible with motion sensors you can integrate into pretty much any electronic you own. Examine all possible features and compare them to determine which home automation hub will work best for your home.
Best Smart Home Hubs
Amazon Echo Dot Review
- Hands-free voice control with Alexa
- Ample features
- Compatible with various smart devices
- Wifi and limited Bluetooth capabilities
- Not programmed for multiroom streaming
- Application can be difficult
The Amazon Echo Dot is one of the best smart home hubs on the market. It costs a third of the price of the original Echo and now has 3,000 features. Some of these features include Bluetooth or cable stereo connection and third party app. capabilities like Domino's and Uber. You can also control lights, fans, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, alarms and more.
The Echo Dot is affordable at just $49.99. One of its best smart hub features is its hands-free voice control assistant Alexa. You can talk to Alexa to navigate any of the smart devices in your house; she can even hear you from across the room. The Dot has one easy application for setup and settings of smart devices, but you must have an iOS or Android device. It connects to your home WiFi to communicate with your devices and also has Bluetooth speaker capabilities.
Google Home Review
- Voice activated
- Searches for answers to your questions
- Ample features
- Multi-room Streaming
- Supports only one account
Google Home is right up there with Amazon's Echo Dot. It has Google Assistant voice command and reliable multi-room streaming with Chromecast, unlike the Dot. It will even search for answers to your questions. Google Home can also help you get flight information, set timers and alarms for compatible devices and even change the temperature in your home when you're not there.
One downside to Google Home is that it's fairly new, so it doesn't connect to as many third-party apps. as Amazon's Echo Dot and others. It is also more expensive at $129. Furthermore, Google Home currently does not offer any type of home monitoring kit and will only support one account. This means only one person can control your smart home from a smartphone at a time.
Samsung SmartThings Review
- Connect to Amazon's Alexa for voice control
- Ample features
- Wide product compatibility
- Z-Wave and Zigbee enabled
- Confusing app. layout
- No built-in voice command
Samsung SmartThings is another one of the best smart home hubs. You can buy a home monitoring kit for the Samsung smart hub, which comes with various products to turn your home into a smart home. From there, you can purchase however many compatible products you need.
SmartThings Samsung smart hub is Zigbee and Z-wave enabled, which makes it compatible with hundreds of smart devices for numerous features. Some features include multipurpose motion sensors, light automation, and the ability to program your stereo to play the sound of barking dogs if someone enters unexpectedly.
With the SmartThings hub, you can connect to Amazon's Alexa for the same voice control capabilities. It is a little more expensive than the Echo Dot, but not as much as the Google Home at $98.95 on Amazon. There have been reports of a confusing application layout as well, so check it out before you buy.
Wink Hub 2 Review
- Step by step tutorials for pairing devices
- Supports range of protocols
- Ample features
- Connect's with Amazon's Alexa
- Hard to integrate more than one account
- No built-in voice command
Wink Hub 2 offers step by step tutorials to help you pair any compatible device. It also has an Ethernet port, which its original hub did not have. The best thing about Wink Hub 2 is that it supports the biggest range of protocols I could find. It supports Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wifi with an Ethernet cord, Bluetooth LE and more. This makes protocol compatibility easier than other devices.
Wink Hub 2 is the same price as Samsung SmartThings at about $100. The downside is it doesn't have any built-in voice command. It does, however, work with Amazon's Alexa. Wink Hub 2 has ample features for you to control within its simple, convenient application. Some features include light, power and security control. Take note that it may be hard to integrate multiple users on one account. You'll have to add the other user(s) every time you add a new device.
Logitech Harmony Hub Review
- Auto-scan for devices
- Ample features
- Compatible with more than 270,000 devices
- Supports Bluetooth and Wifi
- Connects with Amazon's Alexa
- App. options are limited
- No built-in voice command
Logitech Harmony Hub is last but not least on the list of best smart home hubs. One of its great features is its ability to auto-scan for devices, making it simple to connect compatible smart devices you already own. The Harmony Hub has various other features as well such as light control, blinds control, lock control and TV control.
Logitech Harmony Hub isn't supported by the widest range of protocols. For example, it doesn't work with devices that have Zigbee or Z-Wave protocols; it is only supported by Bluetooth and Wifi. Its application has also been said to have limited control options for your devices. I would see if you can sample their app. before you buy.
The Harmony Hub costs $99 on Amazon. There is no built-in voice command, but you can integrate Amazon's Alexa. One thing it does better than its competition is compatibility. I have found no other smart hub that is compatible with over 270,000 devices on the market.
Best Smart Home Hub Apps
The best smart hub apps. should be easy to navigate. They should also allow you to do most of the same things you can do with your individual device applications.
One downside to some smart home hub apps. is that they may not be able to do everything your individual device applications can. An iControl State of the Smart Home report stated in 2015 that convenience and ease of use are more important to consumers than technological features.
As a result, smart hubs tend to sacrifice features for convenience. For this reason, it's a good idea to research how your smart hub app works before you buy, especially if you don't want to let go of individual app features.
How I Found The Best Smart Home Hubs
I evaluated every smart hub on the market to determine the best available. Other smart hubs I researched include WeMo, Insteon, VeraLite, OpenHab, and Lutron Smart Bridge. After scrupulous assessment and comparison of prices, features, applications, industry reviews, and statistics for each, I came up with the above list of the best smart home hubs out right now.
With careful consideration, I have also concluded that the Amazon Echo Dot is number one, with Google Home hub and Samsung SmartThings hub following closely. Amazon got into the smart hub game first in 2014 and has been slowly taking over the market. They have actually sold over $5.1 million worth of smart speakers since 2014, according to Geekwire.
The improvements they've made in price and efficiency with their new Echo Dot hub tell me they want their product to be available to an even larger audience. It is extremely affordable, has Alexa built in, and offers an elaborate array of awesome features and external app options for just $50.
Best Smart Home Hubs Recap
Ultimately, a smart hub will make it easy for you to navigate numerous smart devices throughout your home. The best smart home hubs have the most modern features and capabilities, reasonable prices and easy apps. that don't take away too many of your device's application tools.
According to Icontrol, 2015 was the second year in a row consumers said security is one of the biggest reasons to look into home automation. Check out the best home security systems and the best home alarm systems to make sure your home is safe, whether you're there or away.