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Home Tech Upgrades: Creating A Smart Home Framework

Deciding on your hub system is a critical step in building your smart home

Google Nest Hub (image credit: Tom’s Guide)

If you’re like most people these days, you’ve probably installed at least one or two Smart Home devices in your residence. Many of the devices that make up the “internet of things” are simple to set up and use while offering you intriguing conveniences. Such options can be as simple as being able to control lighting, room temperature or home security with a corresponding smart phone app on your phone or tablet. At the other end of the automation spectrum, you’ll find fancy smart TVs and deluxe major appliances including refrigerators, ranges and dishwashers.

Most smart things can be controlled with a single purpose smartphone-based app. This approach to managing smart devices is fine if you only use a couple of Smart Home products. But most folks, once impressed with their first foray into the Smart Home environment, find that they’d like to add more things to the mix. When this is the case, device compatibility becomes a big issue, and that’s where the incorporation of a smart home hub becomes important.

Alexa Dot (image credit: Amazon)

The Foundation of a Smart Home Ecosystem

The smart home hub is at the heart of any smart home ecosystem. These devices and protocols can integrate all your smart devices so that they all can be connected by a single app. At first blush, this can sound complicated and expensive – but that’s not necessarily the case. You might be surprised that you already have one, if not more. Notable among these are devices that use Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. There are many products that use each of these protocols. Most basic of them are the smart speakers which include the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini.

Other voice control hubs that fit the bill are the Sonos One, which features generally better sound quality, and the particularly flexible Aeotec SmartThings Hub. It is compatible with Z-Wave and Zigbee integration protocols and now has Alexa built in as well. For consumers who are sold on the Apple ecosystem there is the Apple HomeKit hub. Its use isn’t limited to Apple devices, but it does integrate remarkably well with them. Essentially, any iPhone, iPad or Apple TV can serve as the hub.

Alexa Show 8 (image credit: Amazon)

Upgrading to a Smart Home Display

Despite the ease of use and versatility of the best voice control hubs, choosing a smart display can further streamline the effectiveness of your smart home. These units are essentially the same as the smart speakers but add the clarity of a touchscreen and an enhanced user interface. They allow you to see much more information than just hearing it and they simplify use by featuring large, clearly labeled touchscreen buttons and controls. Devices in this category include the Amazon Echo Show and Google Nest hub.

Compatibility is Key

The good news is that all these hubs work very well with a huge number of smart home products. The key is to figure out which ones are best with your personal choice of smart devices. Fortunately, manufacturers provide lists of compatible products, often identified with “works with” entries both on device packaging and their web sites. Similarly, controlled devices make a note of which ecosystems they work with. For example, a smart thermostat will generally state clearly which smart home frameworks they work in.

As a practical matter, it’s often easiest to choose which devices you’re most interested in using and then working backwards to determine which hubs support your decision. Your personal needs and desires are the most important factor in determining which products are best for you.

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