Why get a smart home hub? It makes your automation and orchestration chores easier.
If you are ready to smartly automate your home you can try it the hard way, buying Internet of Things (IoT) ready devices, connecting to your WiFi, logging onto each to configure and manually changing as you decide what you like. Or you can automate and orchestrate with a smart home hub.
Smart hubs come with a variety of features and functions, and as you can imagine there is not a consensus in the market about what the term means at all. For our purposes, we define a smart home hub as a means to centralize the control of your home based IoT devices.
These devices can include your computers and set top boxes, but those are generally managed well by your traditional WiFi router. What you need a smart hub for is the many smart lights, digital cameras (including security cameras),security sensors, digital locks, thermostats, your roomba, garage door opener, and a huge number of other automated devices.
So, think of your smart hub as a central nervous system for your IoT devices. It allows you to better connect, control and automate.
To really empower your home you will want it to have a brain too, so we recommend you get a device you can connect to a powerful cloud capability like Amazon Alexa. Most new smart home hubs available will come with that capability.
We have tested many hubs and have two to recommend. For a hub focused on automation and orchestration features, we recommend the Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub. For a hub focused on ease of use and cloud enabled automation, we recommend the Amazon Echo Plus Hub. Both can connect to Alexa of course, but the smoothest and easiest connection there is with the Echo.
Both of those will help you control the proliferation of smart home devices. But the Samsung SmartThings hub will help you set up logic with robust rules that automate the triggering of devices. After you plug the device into your network you are going to launch an app on your smartphone that lets you securely control it from anywhere. That app will help your smart hub find and automatically configure all IoT devices it can reach.
Our recommendation: It is easy enough to check out both the Samsung SmartThings Hub and the Amazon Echo Plus. Both are very reasonably priced. Pick one and go for it. But to start your planning, consider the Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub if you are planning to use more complex logic in your automation, and lean towards the Amazon Echo Plus Hub if you want tighter integration with the power of Amazon Alexa.