A few of you have asked whether I planned to add a central controller or hub to our Smart Home. The answer? Yes! Today I get started on that process. We've chosen to add a Samsung Smartthings hub, and here I begin by taking a look at what that is, and (as you'll see in the video), the unboxing.
So, why have a central controller? To be honest, I've been asking myself the same question. Many of the Smart Home products I've setup so far have been getting along just fine without one (OK, so in the case of Tado and Hue, there's a hub or internet bridge included, but they're still 'separate'). By 'fine', what I mean is - not only do they work, but they also deliver a degree of automation built in. Plus, I can actually establish some integration through services like IFTTT (see my post 'IFTTT Integration Overview' to learn more).
However, as our Smart Home continues to grow, we'll want to ensure that things work 'together' as much as possible. Whilst services like IFTTT let you do some of that in the cloud, there are some gaps and problems. There have been a few IFTTT applets I've setup where the integrating service is slow to work (Ring triggered applets can take up to an hour). Other Smart Home products aren't officially on IFTTT at all (Sonos).
There are other Smart Home devices for which a central hub is a requirement. If you want to control devices that communicate using Smart Home wireless protocols like Z-Wave or Zigbee, you need some sort of controller.
One of the more well-known controllers is the Smartthings hub, now owned by Samsung. There are others of course, including those from Vera and Fibaro. Also, it's possible to create your own controllers using a PC, a USB adapter, and some software. However, as Smart Home technology matures, I feel it's likely to be the 'hub' route that most people are going to take, if they require in-home kit at all; it might end up all happening in the cloud.
Why Smartthings over Fibaro or Vera? Well, honestly Fibaro seemed like a more pricey route to take, and Vera didn't seem to fair as well as Smartthings in online reviews. The Samsung option seems like a good first step into this, and the price wasn't bad. £89.99 was the price I paid via Amazon.
So, what is the Smartthings hub? Well, essentially it's a small box, that you connect into your home network which can then control a variety of Smart Home devices. These could be networked devices like Philips Hue or Ring, or Z-Wave and Zigbee products. By adding a Smartthings hub to our Smart Home, I'm hoping we'll be opening ourselves up to a whole range of additional products I can look at installing.
With Smartthings, we should also be able to build more sophisticated routines and automations, including things that just aren't possible using IFTTT right now. However, this is something I'll have to get to grips with. Still - using this is all about delivering not just control, but automation too.
Smartthings includes a few Smart Home products of their own, including door sensors, moisture sensors and smart plugs - but the primary goal for me, is to use this to control other Smart Home products and devices.
As you'll see in the video, the box contents is simple enough. You get;
- The Hub itself
- An installation poster
- A set of AA Batteries (presumably for battery-backup)
- A power connector
- A Network cable
Of course, this is yet another box to plug in, and for those keeping track this is now the third 'hub' or 'controller' for our Smart Home. Some might prefer having just one box, and in the fullness of time, it's my hope that the market will mature in that direction, or maybe it will all just be done online. Time will tell.
In the next post and video, I'll actually go through the setup process, and see what that looks like.