The latest in integrated home technology, smart home systems are used to make various aspects of a home automatic, or “smart”. The number of things in a home that can be made smart is continuously growing. Today, users can control different features using their smartphone or voice, including lights, security, sprinkler systems, thermostats, and many more. Although smart home technologies originally came out in pieces, hubs can now be used to integrate technologies into a single system. The hubs and smart devices utilize different “languages” to communicate; the two most common are the ZigBee and Z-Wave. The more languages a smart hub understands, the more devices it will be compatible with.
The Best Smart Home Systems
The most important consideration consumers need to take is to find a system that has a well-functioning hub that allows users to control all aspects of the system. Without a hub, users will have numerous smart devices, but no way for the pieces of the system to function with one another. The best systems today include Samsung SmartThings, Amazon Alexa, and Wink Hub 2. Many smart home devices work with any platform, however some do not, so it makes sense to check which devices are compatible with a platform before choosing the appropriate hub.
The Samsung SmartThings system is largely considered the smoothest, easiest to use hub. Users can purchase the hub by itself or add in different features like a smart switch or motion detector to increase its functionality. The hub comes with an easy to use app and website, which lets users manually control different smart devices. The hub also allows automatic control of different features like setting off an alarm if a motion detector goes off in the middle of the night, or turning on lights at certain times. Although the SmartThings hub does not come with a voice assistant itself, consumers with an Amazon Echo device can control devices through the hub using Alexa.
Wink Hub 2
The Wink Hub 2 is similarly rated to the Samsung SmartThings hub. Many devices work well with both hubs, and the apps are both easy to use. The Wink Hub 2 has added Thread, which will allow the hub to be compatible with smart devices developed in the future. The hub also connects with a home’s smart meter to relay energy usage information and cost to the consumer, which is unique to many smart home systems. One drawback to the Wink Hub 2 is that it cannot rely on backup battery power, whereas the SmartThings hub can.
Amazon Alexa (Echo Plus)
Alexa through various Echo devices can help to control smart devices. However, it wasn’t until the recent release of the Echo Plus that users were able to use Amazon Alexa as a hub to control their smart devices. The device comes with all the usual functionalities of Alexa, like playing music, making phone calls, and can now control smart thermostats and dim lights as well. The Echo Plus does not work with all smart devices and has difficulties communicating with other Alexa-enabled devices in the home, though there are a lot of Alexa Accessories. While the app allows users to manually control some devices, it is not as easy to use as the Samsung SmartThings’ app. Overall, the Echo Plus has been rated as a good smart home hub, but not the best. Users may want to purchase a different smart hub, but utilize Alexa through an Echo device to control smart devices.
Smart Home Systems Cost
The cost of smart home systems can range greatly depending on how many devices a consumer wants to connect into their smart home. Regarding the hubs, the Samsung SmartThings costs $49, the Wink Hub 2 costs about $85, and the Echo Plus costs $150. The Samsung SmartThings will cost more if users add on different functions (like sensors). Devices range greatly in price. The Phillips Hue lightbulbs require an additional hub and costs $70 for the hub plus two bulbs. A Nest Thermostat costs $250, and a smart lock will cost between $130 and $200. Overall, creating a completely automatic smart home can be quite costly, yet consumers can pick and choose on quality and quantity of smart devices.
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