07 Nov A Quick Look At Smart Hubs For Your Home
It is becoming a huge battle among tech companies over who will dominate the Home Voice Control Hub market. We have written before about what options are available and how well they integrate into a modern home / smart home environment. You also know we are not crazy about the term smart home, but that is another topic! When we refer to a Hub, we are talking about a voice controlled appliance in your home like the Amazon Echo, Google OnHub, or the Wink, among others. Here, we focus mainly on the Hubs that are geared to doing an excellent job at controlling your entertainment needs as well as lighting….we are after all a Custom Audio / Video integrator.
It seems each week the major players are releasing an updated version, a smaller version, or new options to compete in the marketplace. Today, I want to share a few links to reviews and articles that we have come across that will help shed light on these devices and different perspectives on the use of a Hub. A common question we get about Hubs is, “Why do I need one?”, and “What do they do?”. Of course, you don’t need one or any of this stuff….it’s all about convenience. What do they do? Well that is not a simple question to answer, they do a lot and each one is suited towards a certain segment of the market.
Earlier this year, The Wire Cutter came up with the notion that the Samsung SmartThings Hub was a real winner. I guess if your only concern is turning your lights on and off, this could be true. We have found the Samsung to be very limiting and not great at communicating with a vast amount of devices. You can read the review on their blog here: The Wire Cutter Best Hubs. As a footnote, this is probably one of the best review site on the internet, by far the most in depth process when they do their testing.
If you are looking for a Hub with a smaller form factor or do not need it to also be a Bluetooth speaker, the Amazon Echo Dot 2 is a good option. The Echo is making inroads into working with Sonos, Lutron Motorized Shades, and few other unique devices not normally associated with the market. Mashable has a nice update on the Echo Dot 2. Beware, Mashable is an aggregator site that tries to send you to other affiliate website, but they do a good job at reviewing products.
Over on Cnet, they just looked at Google’s OnHub. We think ultimately Google will be the company to beat, but right now they have a lot of ground to make up. One area this is apparent is the lack of ability in creating individual settings / accounts for family members. This has always been a challenge for all companies that sell subscription services to households. Just look at how difficult Rhapsody family accounts turned out to use or the nightmare of having multiple Kindles on the same Amazon Prime account. Cnet gave OnHub good marks for built in assistant and some of the freebies that come from buying into the Google ecosystem. Check out the OnHub review here: Cnet OnHub Results.
A trending failure that is about to happen is the whole Wink system. It tries to do to much at a price point that can’t support app development or additional product licensing. Our biggest gripe is how difficult it is for a non-tech person to differentiate what Wink components are needed for their home. Will this unit control Lutron, wait do I need another box, or how do I pair devices are all common frustrations with this one. However, it may have it’s place in the marketplace as a d.i.y option or as a cheap alternative to the big guys. TechCrunch gave it a favorable review, but I think they were short sighted. You can see what they had to say here: TechCrunch Wink Smart Hub thoughts.
Finally, if you would like a general overview of all things Smart Hub and general home technology head on over to The Verge. It is one of our favorite tech blogs and does not kill you with advertising or internet spam. Their Tech Blog cover lots of new and trending products. It is one of the site that we visit at least once a week to see what’s on the horizon and to stay ahead of the curve.
Doing research on the internet is tough, but great sites like Cnet have these nifty review videos so you can get a size comparison and a closer look. Here is a quick hands on look from their recent OnHub first look: