The hub, the brains, the potential
Researching hubs took the majority of the time before purchasing my first smart device. I was concerned that getting the wrong hub would lead me down a path. Check out the unboxing video by Karl Conrad; he does a good job describing the entire kit.
My main goal was to avoid buying into a closed ecosystem where I’d have to invest in only one companies devices. Naturally found the Samsung SmartThings Hub (2nd Generation), I was tempted to buy the starter kit, but avoided the temptation as I didn’t want all Samsung devices for reasons I’ll describe later.
Here are the reasons why I picked the hub:
- Has an Alexa Skill
- Tons of devices supported with a growing list
- They encourage open development and sharing of code
- Works locally even if the internet goes out
Other hubs to consider:
- Wink Hub – Has Z-Wave and ZigBee support, but they recommend using Wink certified products. Wink Hub 2 is releasing soon, though.
- Iris by Lowe’s – Backed by a major retailer, more locked down
- Vera – Looks promising, but I didn’t find a strong developer story
What have I connected to my hub?
- GE Z-Wave Smart Switches ($34 – $38 per switch)
- Hue Bloom Light ($59.95 per unit)
- Hue Go Light ($50.00 used)
- Sengled LED Light Bulbs ($17.99 per bulb)
- iPhone for presence detection (I already owned one)
- Bose Sound Touch 20 (I already owned one)
What did I learn?
- No need to buy the Samsung Arrival sensor since your phone works as one!
- There are some other uses like finding your keys etc., in general, I had no need
- If you are planning on using smart switches in your house, don’t buy smart bulbs!
- Smart bulbs are great for lamps
- Over time smart bulbs cost more than a smart switch and a dumb bulb
- Adding and organizing devices is easy
- Naming devices is the hardest part
- Grouping devices into rooms is easy
- Adding the SmartThings Skill to Alexa is pretty seamless
The reality of all this technology is that I only configured it once (well truthfully 3 times, more on that later), and I primarily use voice commands with Amazon’s Echo by saying:
- “Alexa turn on the KITCHEN lights.”
- “Alexa turn off ALL lights.”
- “Alexa turn on the HALLWAY lights.”
I find it handy when I have my baby in my arms and carrying groceries having Alexa turn on and off lights is really helpful.
The SmartThings app is handy to be able to turn off lights when you don’t want to speak and wake up the baby too!
I will go more in-depth on the GE Z-Wave switches and all of the fun I’ve had with these in a separate post. But the thing I enjoy about the switches is that they work even if they aren’t smart, and even if they aren’t connected!