The Best Smart Home Hub Is Just Less Bad Than Others

Bob_127

Commendable
Nov 28, 2016
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I wouldn't call the Alexa product line a "hub" as much as an interface. Each smart device needs some other device that Alexa can send commands to. As far as I know, Alexa doesn't communicate directly with any smart plug, outlet or thermostat.
 

mprospero

Senior Editor
Oct 4, 2013
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@Bob - Actually, there are a number of devices that Alexa can directly send commands to - if a device can connect via Wi-Fi to your home network, it generally doesn't need any other intermediary.
 

Bob_127

Commendable
Nov 28, 2016
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But that is not a hub. It is still an interface. Sounds like you're talking about devices that don't require a hub.
 

Old_Mustang

Prominent
Jun 29, 2017
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Agree with Bob_127. Alexa, Dot and Google Home are not hubs. They are Virtual Assistants or Smart Speakers. Refer to the recent review from Dealerscope mag.
http://www.dealerscope.com/post/amazon-alexa-vastly-overrated-smart-speaker/#ne=14b1cdaef539c770e3293027e294a4c5utm_source=dealerscope-todayutm_medium=newsletterutm_campaign=2017-06-29&utm_content=amazon+alexa+is+vastly+overrated+as+a+%E2%80%9Csmart%E2%80%9D+speaker-2
IOT Agenda (TechTarget) defines a hub as "…a hardware device that connects the devices on a home automation network and controls communications among them". Neither Google nor Echo have ‘devices’ directly connected to them like the Wink or Smartthings. Nor does either the Google Home or Echo/Dot directly control communications. They are initiating the apps commands indirectly. Example: As stated Wi-Fi devices do not directly connect to either Google Home or Echo/Dot. They actually connect to the user's router which then connects to the Wi-Fi device service provider (cloud) which then connects to Amazon Echo or Google Home platform (cloud) and, provided the service provider has certified their products and app on the Amazon Echo or Google Home platform, will allow the Echo/Dot or Google Home to pass the verbal commands to the service provider which in turn translates the verbal commands to the app commands and send the commands to the router which then sends the commands to the device. None of this action is completed by Echo or Dot or Google home directly. Conversely, Smartthings and Wink have devices connected directly to them and issue commands (from the app) directly to the device. This is what a hub does.
The Echo/Dot and Google Home are simply indirect means for the user to initiate commands rather than using the service provider’s app directly. And, if the internet goes down, Echo/Dot and Google can’t even do that. Whereas SmartThings (V2) can still execute scheduled events and/or automations even if the hub is off line.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Echo and Dots (I have 4). So does my wife. In fact, if I got a divorce, I would get the house but the Echo/Dots would have go with her. Both Google Home and Echo/Dot work well with SmartThings, Wink and other hubs. But they are not hubs.
Greatly appreciate your reviews, but I feel in this case you may be confusing your readers by grouping all these together as ‘hubs’. My 2 cents.
 

bdave

Prominent
Oct 5, 2017
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The Samsung SmartThings Hub #1 Really! 1st off the hub runs in the ST Cloud, Do I really want to put things like my front door lock "In the Cloud"? Then I read after that realization that it's confirmed the software is full of security holes. Now you enter the Lat / Lon Coords. when you setup the hub so the hackers know exactly which house the front door will be unlocked at the push of a button AND possibly with the right sensors attached the hub will know when the house is empty. OK enough of that!
The programming on this hub is supposed to be easy enough for a "homeowner" to program it. Well I've done significant programming in the past and the programming for Smart Apps and Devices is extremely difficult! Written in Groovy, a Java based language that's "Full of beans". I pulled examples out of the documentation (with their convenient copy button) and it didn't function! It just spit out multiline error messages mostly unreadable! One Single error message can be 3 lines with long path statements to the Java code called. You must scan it for one keyword from your code, NOT simple and "Groovy" for a beginner. Just to send an "HTTP get" out you have to choose between two families of commands one limited to inside your LAN and another limited to outside your LAN, totally different commands??? I've used a Vera awhile back and it was a hub that would talk to devices ALL local, actually worked but too basic, and programmed in LUUA. what is available?
 

onlinesportstudio

Prominent
Dec 4, 2017
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I Use AppleTV as A HUB with HOS Smart Home All In One App, This Allow Me To Control All Home Automation Devices From Apple HomeKit, digitalSTROM, BACnet, KNX as Well as MY SONOS Speakers and Philipps Hue using SIRI Remote Control Voice Commands.
 

TJohn

Estimable
Mar 6, 2015
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Industry run amok. again. all these hardware vendors and hubs and no unifying protocols. App fatigue. You have to have an app for every brand of control. It is insane. I am holding off spending any more until the industry software catches up with the hardware and some standards (remember token ring? Betamax)
 

echoalexatech

Prominent
Feb 5, 2018
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can I connect amazon echo plus with google home speakers, as i think buying separate hub for google home is not what i want
 

Mark_373

Prominent
Jul 6, 2017
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How about reviewing the Logitech Harmony Hub next time? It looks like it does more than some of your other choices and is competitively priced.
 
Dec 11, 2018
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I find it amazing that you recommend the smartthings hub as "best smart home hub". I purchased this device about 3 weeks ago, and it ran fine for about 2 weeks and then I started getting intermittent delays in response to commands (one such delay was over an hour). I've also found the automation features to be lacking or convoluted. I've now started the homework that I should have done originally based on better research. The problem that I'm having is finding meaningful reviews that go beyond what can be found in the vendor's sales literature. In summary I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE SMARTTHINGS HUB !!!
 
Dec 28, 2018
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I installed a ST hub about the time Samsung took over. It is still in use. The house is wired for Z-wave and uses Alexa -- most things work, most of the time. HOWEVER, I never liked the idea of needing the cloud for scenes to work. If you have unstable internet, this setup stinks. I installed Vera for a friend in the country last year. It works OK, but could be better. LUUA is not really intuitive.
My gripe with ST is they changed the set up so that you MUST have a Samsung ID/Account and it seems now you must use a phone app to do the developing. Really? I am older and don't want to, nor will I, use a phone to program scenes. I like my computer with multiple screens.

Now, one of my ST scenes has failed and I need to fix it. But, can't get around the crap. So, it is time to look for a replacement hub environment.
 

Mark_373

Prominent
Jul 6, 2017
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I just installed a Logitech Harmony Hub and Extender. Installation and configuration were great up until I tried to add my Z-wave network. That took a little help from a phone support agent who knew what he was doing. This Hub+Extender setup can now control almost 30 Z-wave devices, a dozen Hue lights, two TVs, an AVR, a STB, a Roku and an Ecobee4. I can use my PC or iPad for configuration, but only the iPad and Alexa for control. It's not perfect, but it deserves a thorough test and review from tom's guide. I can't believe they are ignoring it.
 

mprospero

Senior Editor
Oct 4, 2013
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Actually, the Logitech Harmony remotes are our favorite - they just happen to be on our Best Universal Remotes page. https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-universal-remotes,review-4464.html
 
Jan 23, 2019
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Mouse over the links to any of the "recommended" hubs......high rate affiliate marketing and kick backs from Amazon????? Duh.......

I can walk into Best Buy right now and get it cheaper, that is same day "delivery" without paying $100 for Prime per year....and when I'm ready to throw it against the wall I can drive 5 miles and return it and get an instant refund.....not bother with shipping it back and waiting or getting a "gift card" to apply against another crappy recommendation from Tom's Guide.....not one recommended link took me to a "cheaper" price..just a long bunch of redirects through all their affiliate kickbacks to Amazon. I like Amazon, but I could have started there and looked at reviews as they match what others here leaving comments are saying......
 
May 29, 2019
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The Samsung SmartThings Hub #1 Really! 1st off the hub runs in the ST Cloud, Do I really want to put things like my front door lock "In the Cloud"? Then I read after that realization that it's confirmed the software is full of security holes. Now you enter the Lat / Lon Coords. when you setup the hub so the hackers know exactly which house the front door will be unlocked at the push of a button AND possibly with the right sensors attached the hub will know when the house is empty. OK enough of that!
The programming on this hub is supposed to be easy enough for a "homeowner" to program it. Well I've done significant programming in the past and the programming for Smart Apps and Devices is extremely difficult! Written in Groovy, a Java based language that's "Full of beans". I pulled examples out of the documentation (with their convenient copy button) and it didn't function! It just spit out multiline error messages mostly unreadable! One Single error message can be 3 lines with long path statements to the Java code called. You must scan it for one keyword from your code, NOT simple and "Groovy" for a beginner. Just to send an "HTTP get" out you have to choose between two families of commands one limited to inside your LAN and another limited to outside your LAN, totally different commands??? I've used a Vera awhile back and it was a hub that would talk to devices ALL local, actually worked but too basic, and programmed in LUUA. what is available?
SmartThings has had locally controlled devices for years. Take a look at this list of devices from one of my homes...



Note the execution location column. The majority execute their actions locally. The only ones that don't are ones with custom device handlers, WiFi devices (I have a few old WeMo's), and the Thermostats, which don't need to be constantly connected since they can run themselves once the temperature is set.

SmartThings definitely has its share of problems, but this is not one of them. Motion detectors and lights are very quick to respond and don't need the internet to work. Same with locks.
 

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