Not long ago, if you wanted to create a smart home—appliances that talk to each other, lights that greet you on arrival, locks that automatically shut out your crazy ex-roommate—it was a wildly expensive job. And if you’re talking about a really high-end home automation system, it still can cost a bundle. The HGTV Smart Home 2014 is a gorgeous example of a home that’s as beautiful as it is brainy— have you entered to win it? You should! But I digress…
For the majority of us who just want some time-saving technology that’ll also impress the neighbors, it can be done for far less these days. The key is to collect a few well-priced smart elements (bulbs, shades, thermostats and more), then automate them with a central hub. Thing is, not every hub handles every smart device, and it’s possible to end up with a giant collection of apps to control all your tech (and at some point, it takes more time to hunt for individual apps than to just switch on a light). With that in mind, there are three smart home hubs I really like, with a great range of compatibility.
Compatible with both iOS and Android, this one has been particularly well reviewed as a best pick for beginners. Fans laud its simple setup, but what really stands out is its proprietary collection of well-priced, compatible smart devices. That means you can get your smart setup started with the essentials—without first shopping around or researching all the brands on the market. SmartThings’ own devices include Presence sensors (basically key tags that work with the system to let you know when kids, pets, or say, spouses come and go); the Multi Sensor, which can tell you when any door or cabinet opens, or alert you to internal temperature changes, and the Motion Sensor, which will text you if it detects movement in your house while you’re away, and can also trigger lights and other smart devices to switch on and off. The $99 hub comes with an Ethernet cable, wall power adapter and USB cord.
Another easy quick-start option, Staples’ hub is $99 and compatible with all the big brands you grew up with (Honeywell, Philips, First Alert, GE and more). Control cameras, the doorbell, security systems and much more. Its easy-to-understand, free app can set up programs to automate your home—like “Rise and Shine” to switch on lights, raise the temperature and open the blinds each morning, or “Leave for the Day” to turn off the lights, lower the shades and lock up when you set out for work.
If you’re drawn to higher-end smart devices like Nest and Sonos, this hub definitely plays well with others—plus it comes in striking red. Control lights, locks, thermostats and switches (though no security cameras yet) for $299 with no monthly fee and free updates for the life of the product. Plus there’s no Ethernet cord required; just plug it in. Setup is exceptionally fast. So far, it’s only for iOS, but Android compatibility is coming soon.
They’re automatic for the people.
Got a hub you love? Tell me in the comments!