Perhaps the most overwhelming thing about the smart home revolution that's seemingly under way is the fact that so many of these new gadgets come with their own separate apps and control hubs. If you buy more than one or two, you'll end up needing a whole bookcase to store all of the blinking control centers plugged into your router, not to mention the fact that your various automation rules and schedules will probably be scattered across several different apps and Web sites. Wasn't home automation supposed to make things easier?
It's a reality that's created a bit of a jump ball in home automation: whichever hub can best consolidate all of these smart devices into a single, dependable system -- complete with a killer app -- is going to be in the driver's seat as the connected home goes mainstream. With several multipurpose smart hubs already out there, and even more coming on the horizon, here are the ones we've been keeping tabs on.
Insteon Starter Kit
Insteon is one of the most important names in home automation, and it commands a loyal following of dedicated home automation hobbyists who swear by the level of control and customizability that its systems offer. At $119 -- a cheaper price than the Insteon Hub retails for on its own -- the Best Buy-exclusive Insteon Starter Kit will set you up with an Insteon Hub and two LampLinc dimmer modules. If you're an existing Insteon loyalist looking for a new hub from which to control your home, or if you're looking to start building a new network of Insteon-controlled smart devices, then look no further, because this is the deal for you. If, on the other hand, you're a newbie who's just looking to experiment with home automation, there might be better ways for you to get started. Read our full review of the Insteon Starter Kit.
Plug the iSmartAlarm's "CubeOne" into your router, and you'll be able to manage a DIY home security network directly through your smartphone. Packages start at just $199 and come complete with open/closed sensors for your doors and windows, motion detectors, keychain remotes, panic sirens, and an optional security camera that you can view and control from your phone. You can add additional sensors to your system a la carte style as needed, and no matter how many devices you include, you'll never have to pay a monthly fee. For home automators who just want a simple security solution, iSmartAlarm could be the way to go. Read our full review of the iSmartAlarm.
For a monthly fee of $8.99, the Nexia Bridge and its corresponding app will allow you to automate a wide array of Z-Wave-enabled smart devices, including light dimmers, motion sensors, thermostats, and smart locks, like the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt. The monthly fee may be a little off-putting, but we were impressed with the Nexia Bridge's extensive range and ease of use. Even better, Nexia's app and Web site comprise one of the best-designed and most powerful home automation control centers that we've seen yet. Read our full review of the Nexia Bridge.
Philips Hue Connected Bulb Starter Kit
If you're looking for complete control of your home lighting -- right down to the actual color of the light -- then you'll want to look into what Philips has to offer with its app-driven, color-changing LED lighting system. The starter pack, shown above, costs $199 and will get you going with three Hue bulbs and the all important Hue Bridge. Just screw and plug everything in, download Philips' free smartphone app, and you'll be set to explore which shade of magenta brings out the wallpaper best.
More-practical users will enjoy the ability to create different lighting themes and timed schedules, and the truly tech-savvy will have a blast with the Hue's compatibility with IFTTT, allowing them to tie lighting changes to everything from Twitter mentions to touchdowns by their team of choice. With new smart lighting options like the Friends of Hue LightStrips joining the fun, the potential for building elaborate, futuristic home lighting setups is easy to imagine.
The Revolv Hub
It might look a bit like an upside down Tupperware container, but the Revolv Hub, due on shelves later this fall, is actually a sophisticated piece of equipment that boasts seven wireless radios capable of speaking 10 wireless languages, and counting. So far, this includes Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and Insteon, with Revolv comfortably promising compatibility with "95 percent of commercially available devices" come launch day, as well as the ability to create automatic rules and triggers between devices.
These triggers includes "Geosense Proximity Automation," which basically means that you'll be able to program things like the lights turning off and the door locking to happen automatically when the Revolv senses that you've left for work. What's more, unlike most other hubs, the Revolv doesn't need to be plugged into your router -- just a wall socket will do. With big names like Philips Hue, Yale Smartlocks, and the Belkin WeMo already officially onboard, this is a product that officially has us a bit excited, even in spite of its steep-ish price tag of $299.
Staples Connect Hub
At an attractive price point of just $99, the Staples Connect Hub might be one of the most intriguing smart home control centers yet. Backed by one of the biggest retailers in the world, this little hub already promises compatibility with home automation heavy hitters such as Honeywell, First Alert, Ivee, and Lutron, not to mention the Philips Hue line of connected bulbs and the automatable wall outlets and dimmers that GE has to offer. With Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and ClearConnect built right in, this powerful little gadget wants to be the one hub to rule them all when it launches this November.