There are many different types of smart home hubs available, but what do they do? and do you need them?
Unfortunately the term hub is used in very general fashion and can mean anything from a simple protocol hub e,g Zigbee to Wi-Fi or a complete home automation system e.g Samsung Smartthings.
- Hardware only hubs
- Software only hubs
- Hardware and Software hubs.
Some of these hubs are required by the networking technology you are using or planning to use..e.g Zwave, Zigbee.- See home automation protocols and devices.
Other Hubs are add-ons and are used for making home automation easier.
Others connect networks of different type together e.g Zwave to TCP/IP.
Some Smart Hubs e.g. Samsung Smarthings do all of these .
Smart Hub Features
The main feature you need to look out for are:
- Voice control
- Work with Alexa, Google Home or Apple
- Multiple protocol support-Wi-Fi, Zwave, Zigbee,Wi-Fi etc
- Control via IOS, Android and Windows
- Ability to use IFTTT rules (If This Then That)
- MQTT support
- IP support for connecting the cloud.
Important Things to Consider
- Are my current devices e.g. locks,lights etc supported by the hub?
- Is the Hub open or closed? A closed hub only supports devices designed to work with that hub e.g Apple Homepod.
- Does it require an Internet Connection to work.
- Samsung Smarthings- Home page
- Amazon Alexa –Home Page
- Google Home –Support Home Page
- Apple Homepod –
- Homeassistant –Home Page
- OPenHabb –Home Page
Software Only Hubs
There are several free software only hubs available. These are usually installed on a PC.
These types of hubs are integration hubs which basically make managing a home network using lots of different devices easier.
The most popular ones are:
- Homeassistant – Free Open source written in Python
- OPenHab – Free Open source Java Application
- domoticz -Free Open source C++ Application
Here are two very useful articles comparing these systems:
Common Questions and Answers
Q- Do I Need A Hub?
A- Whether or not you need a hub will depend on the networking technology that you are using or planning to use. Generally if you are using Z-Wave or Zigbee then you will need a hub.
Q- What is the difference between a hub and a gateway?
A- In networking terms a hub connects the devices of the same type together. For example a Wi-Fi hub connects wi-Fi devices together. Whereas a Gateway connects devices of different types together. For example you need a gateway to connect a wi-Fi network to a Z-wave network. However the terms are used very loosely and you often find hubs ( e.g Samsung smartthings hub) are hubs and gateways.
Q- I thought Amazon Echo was a smart speaker not a hub?
A- It is also a integration hub as it allows you control a selection of devices from a single interface.