SmartThings in my fridge - do I still need a smart home hub?

SmartThings in my fridge - do I still need a smart home hub?

In mid to late 2020, Samsung made the decision to stop making SmartThings hubs and devices which led to severe angst amongst some of its fan base. Many speculated that this might be the beginning of the end for the storied (in smart home years at least), award-winning system.  Quietly the announcement came that Aeotec, one of the pioneers in the Z-Wave smart home device category, would be taking over as manufacturer of the SmartThings hardware, but it came at a time when the world was just beginning to feel the effects of what we now know is the COVID induced supply chain hangover. Lack of product fueled wild speculation and prices ( we’ve seen the SmartThings V3 hub listed for as much as $549.97!! Don’t buy it, people. You can get the same capable hub from us, the Aeotec Smart Home Hub, for far less, but we digress). 

A little over one year later and skepticism has given way to unabashed optimism for the future of SmartThings, and the concept of the smart home in general.  Why?  Well for starters the SmartThings group of Samsung is now squarely focused on the platform and getting SmartThings into more devices across the home (think appliances, and our favorite, the TV)  For example, the latest generation of Samsung displays not only produce amazing visuals and sound for home entertainment but now your smart home can be fully integrated.  You can control your home with your remote or set up real-time alerts for video feeds.  You can receive a pop-up notification and review the video right on the screen when your Ring video doorbell is triggered or your Aeotec Cam 360 detects sound or motion in the baby room. The same familiar app now appears in displays and appliances throughout the home. As Samantha Fein, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for SmartThings, stated during a CNN interview at CES 2022 “we are on the cusp now of making what used to be the smart home just the de facto way that we all live and play”.

So with all this embedded tech, does it still make sense to have a stand-alone hub?  Our answer is an unquestionable yes, and versatility is the number one reason.  The Aeotec Smart Home Hub, which is the only “Works as a SmartThings Hub” on the market today, incorporates multiple communication radios including Z-Wave and Zigbee, which allows the homeowner to connect 1000’s of devices from hundreds of manufacturers in the most secure and efficient way possible.  For years, Z-Wave and Zigbee have been the wireless communication protocols of choice for serious automation experts and enthusiasts alike. The reasons are numerous and if you are unfamiliar with the technology you can find out just why that is here

Beyond the diversity of products and the built-in security Z-Wave and Zigbee both offer, simplicity is another key attribute.  In years past, adding these devices to your smart home system was a bit challenging, with each manufacturer following slightly different methods of button press sequences for “pairing” the device.  SmartStart for Z-Wave removes the need for manually starting the inclusion process and is available with hubs like Elevation from Hubitat.  You simply scan the QR code on the end device and the device is automatically included when powered on, and repeated at dynamic intervals for as long as the device is not included in your Z-Wave network.  Similarly, the Aeotec “Works With SmartThings” Zigbee devices, such as the Water Leak Sensor and Motion Sensor, are automatically connected to the Aeotec Smart Home Hub with a simple QR scan from the SmartThings app.

Finally, Z-Wave and Zigbee create automation networks that just work.  WiFi devices can be great, and their price point is certainly attractive. However, we see several drawbacks of going “all in” on WiFi:

  1. Security. It is remarkable how many people still do not have basic security enabled on their home networks.  Advanced security is built-in with the latest  Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols. 
  2. Bandwidth.  Computers, mobile devices, streaming services.  What’s already using your home WiFi bandwidth? Adding more devices competes for this network space.  Z-Wave especially operates on a unique frequency that doesn’t compromise your WiFi network.
  3. Deadspots and Interference.  Mesh routing is becoming more popular with WiFi networks, but not universal.  Z-Wave and Zigbee have been doing it for years.  Mesh is best for building connected homes and adding a simple device like the Aeotec Range Extender ensures that even the most far-flung Z-Wave device can stay connected and operational.

Don’t get us wrong.  WiFi is incredibly useful.  It’s the best for streaming video from your cameras, music from your speakers, or control through your favorite voice controller (ahem, Alexa and Google Assistant). But if your goal is a robust smart home experience, incorporating Z-Wave and Zigbee for the majority of your sensors, remotes, and switches is still the way to go, and a smart home hub is the way to do it.

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