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Friday, February 22, 2019

Google and Amazon Are Killing the Smarthome Hub, and That’s Great

A Wink Hub, A Smartthings Hub, a Google Home Mini, and an Echo Dot

Since the dawn of the smart home, the smart hub has been the brains at the center of the operation. But, thanks to Google and Amazon, hubs are less necessary and may soon become a thing of the past.

Hubs Were the Brains of the Smarthome

For a long time, if you wanted control of all your smarthome devices in one place from one app, a smarthome hub was the way to go. Smarthome hubs did the best job of connecting everything from Wi-Fi outlets to Z-wave smart locks. They introduced routines, automation, and a handy dashboard to control everything in one dedicated place. Devices made by different manufacturers could work in tandem when connected to a hub. You weren’t limited to a single brand, or out of luck if your favorite brand didn’t make a particular type of device.

Smarthome hubs also made Z-wave and Zigbee devices truly smart. Without one, you couldn’t control a smart lock remotely, and managing codes was far more difficult. You could monitor a Z-wave or Zigbee device and managed it locally from a dedicated app from the manufacturer, but you needed a hub to extend capability further.

Hubs Do Have Downsides

Iris by Lowes with No Symbol in front of it

Unfortunately, the smarthome hub business hasn’t been particularly stable. Lowe’s has abandoned its Iris platform entirely, and there are plenty of other hubs you probably shouldn’t use. The two biggest players in the smarthome hub business, Wink and SmartThings, have gone through buyouts that haven’t been a resounding success.

SmartThings currently requires two different apps to get to all its features and knowing which app to use when is often confusing, which defeats the ‘one app to control them all’ line of thinking entirely.

Wink’s history may even be more fraught, Quirky formerly owned the business but went bankrupt and sold Wink to Flex. Flex, in turn, sold Wink to i.am+, which was founded by Will.iam.

Wink hasn’t announced any new third-party product integrations since September 2017, and the last new product Wink announced (Lookout) came in October 2017. To make matters worse, low stock of the hubs is a frequent issue, as seen in multiple Reddit threads.

Google and Amazon Have Negated the Necessity of Hubs

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