If you've started building out a smart home, chances are you're already familiar with app and controller hub fatigue. If your smart lock, your connected LED bulbs, and your smart thermostat all come from different manufacturers, that means each has an app of some kind, and they likely don't talk with one another. Revolv Inc.'s Revolv Smart Home Solution wants to help.
The premise of the Revolv is a decent one. One hub with seven different wireless radios, all tied into a single app. Have a Nest Learning Thermostat, a network of Philips Hue bulbs, and a Yale Smart Lock or two? Revolv lets you control them all from one unified interface.
Any unifying hub must work seamlessly with a broad range of connected devices, but corralling multiple wireless standards and device software quirks into a logical interface for thousands of different products isn't easy. To Revolv's credit, it has met the challenge deftly. Of the 10 or so devices I tried, not one of them failed to work as expected.
At $299, the Revolv is no throwaway purchase. The Securifi Almond+, and the Staples Connect Hub both promise similar capability (with integrated WiFi router in the Almond+) for $99. If price is a concern, wait to see how these products and the inevitable flood of competitors turn out. Among a number of criteria these devices will need to satisfy, easy set-up and interoperability will be key. Revolv already has these nailed, and it's thus recommendable to early adopters with multiple smart devices. Every one else should hang on to see how the market develops.
The Revolv Smart Home Solution won't fit everywhere. It's not that its blank CD spindle-size body is overly large, it's more because of its red base. The smoked-plastic cover helps tone it down some, but the Revolv still looks a bit like a cartoon fire alarm. Even if you don't like its aesthetic, you can applaud the designers for requiring only a single power cable and no hard network connection. Unlike hubs for most standalone smart devices, you don't need to wire it to your existing router or cable modem.
Initial setup is also easy. You plug it in, install the app on your iOS phone (Android version coming in Q1 2014) and follow the in-app setup screens, which mostly involve holding the flash on your iOS device up to the tiny LED on top of the Revolv unit and transmitting your wireless network via Revolv's FlashLink technology. You'll need to be on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network, and situate the Revolv within 65 feet of your router, but those are the only stringent installation requirements.
Once you're on the network, you can go about adding devices via the app.
At the moment, Revolv supports around 50 different smart devices, and only those that use Wi-Fi, the Insteon network, or Z-Wave. Its FAQ details only 26 products as of this writing, but the company tells us it has added, and continues to add, support for more devices regularly. They say it will expand to 200 devices in Q1 2014 with a coming firmware update that will enable the ZigBee radio. In addition to ZigBee support, the company says it will enable the other radios, including various 915MHz and 400MHz bands, as more devices come to market.
Part of the reason for holding off on supporting those additional standards is competitive -- the company says it doesn't want to play its full compatibility hand right now. Another reason more or less boils down to manpower and timing the launch. Revolv Inc. says it wants to precertify every device before the hub will support it to ensure a painless user experience. As a small firm, it can only ensure the experience for so many devices. Fortunately, it's focused on some of the more popular products for launch.
I've already mentioned the Nest thermostat (Nest Protect support pending), Philips' Hue bulbs, and Yale smart locks as options for the Revolv. It will also work with Belkin's WeMo smart power outlets, a variety of GE light dimmers and control kits, as well as thermostats from Trane and Honeywell (not the Honeywell WiFi Smart thermostat, yet). You can use the Revolv to drive a Sonos wireless speaker (the Play:3, Play:5, and PlayBar, specifically). It also controls many, but not all, devices in the Insteon family. Insteon LED light bulbs and a remote control worked as promised, an uncertified moisture detector didn't register.