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Which Home Automation Platform Do I Start With?

homeautomationhubs

SmartThings VS Wink VS Vera VS Insteon VS Aeon USB Stick VS Tasker

Below is a comparison of the current major players in the home automation world.  Since this is just getting competitive now the prices are still somewhat high.  Prices will drop with the more entrants into this game.   Ideally you have a box that isn’t dependant on a server but if price is an issue than you can try a different route (such as a USB stick or Tasker). Things to look for:  Open API’s, Apps, Plugins, Z-wave, Wifi, Zigbee, Google Now or HomeKit Integration (iOS), Android Wear and iOS ‘Watch’ apps. Technologies:   Z-wave is the technology you should be looking for as it has the biggest product catalog support and it’s extremely secure.  BLE may be the future but right now the current future isn’t as developed as it should be. Zigbee is great but you are limited in the type of products you can purchase.  WiFi only hubs such as a Tab 3 can be used to control your Philips Hue lights but there are far more Z-wave products to purchase.

Update Oct 18th, 2015:

There has been a lot of changes in the past year and the items below reflect the changes.

SmartThings V1 Or V2

V1: $49 V2: $99

Above is V1 and the price is very low to reflect the older technology inside. It’s a great start if you’re looking for something cheap to get into the smart home technology.

  • Open Platform
  • Samsung purchased in 2014
  • Works with X10, Zwave, BLE (V2 only)
  • No monthy fees
  • Easy visual builder
  • Battery backup V2

Cons

  • Need to open app and ‘clunk’ around to turn things on.
  • Last time I checked they didn’t have a dimmer option.  It was just turning lights on and off

Sample GET/POST/PUT/Delete Request

Version two of the Smartthings hub have added bluetooth, an battery as a backup incase the power goes out, better processor and more RAM.  It improves the speed of actions and provides a more reliable connection to your smart home.    It also supports more video cameras (not just DropCam).
Here is a comparison image between V1 and V2:

Insteon Hub

$99-150

  • SmartLinc has an API
  • Apple, Android
  • Been around for a long time
  • X10 Compatible
  • Can find cheap products on craigslist
  • Not Z-Wave device compatible
  • Not ZigBee device compatible

Why not the new Smart Hub PRO and a HomeKit Solution?

HomeKit isn’t ready yet for home automation; everything on your network has to be HomeKit compatible for Siri to see it.  I wouldn’t recommend it yet and there are far better solutions (see Beecon voice technology) to control your system from your voice.

USB Stick S.S. 2 ($35) or Gen 5 ($49)

$35-50

  • Need a windows PC to host software like InControl
  • Cheap solution to integrate Z-Wave
  • Lots of flexibility
  • Integration with EventGhost
  • Apple and Android Apps you can use

Sample API GET Request for InControl

There is also a Generation 5 device (2015) like the one below


This model allows for all Aeon gen 5 products like their new LED’s. It will hopefully provide a more reliable connection than their Series 2 stick as well.

Tasker with Wifi Solutions

4.99
tasker

  • Too many features to list with a ton of plugins
  • Great app
  • Cheapest Solution
  • Software Based
  • NO Z-wave or Zigbee
  • Easy to learn
  • Tons of tutorials
  • Great for WiFi Only devices
  • Need to be willing to learn
  • The most flexibility
  • Can be integrated with all these other hubs
  • Can use Philips Hue (lights), Lockitron, or any other BLE connected device and skip the Z-Wave system products.

Sample GET request with Tasker

Notes

  • All of these products do pretty much the same thing
  • They mostly all support WiFi, Z-Wave or ZigBee
  • The Wink Connected hub that controls BLE, WiFi, Z-Wave, ZigBee is clearly the one that has the greatest potential.  They just need to improve their firmware to work with all devices.

The Winner

I personally like the Vera solution as it has enough features for the advanced techie but enough tutorials and help to support a mid to moderate newbie. There are a ton of plugins available and can easily integrate with Tasker.  I do like the fact that it has it’s own hardware versus a USB stick as having a server running all the time isn’t very ‘green’.  This is a long race so expect a few new players to enter the game and surprise us.  We will keep you posted.  Let us know what other