At the center of every smart home is a "hub" that serves to primary purposes:
- It connects to all of the smart devices in your home over a variety of wireless protocols
- It acts as the "brain" that collects feedback from the devices and tells them when to take actions
Without a smart home hub, smart home devices can only provide "islands" of functionality. This can work in very simple scenarios, such as using Hue Lights for added convenience, but any sufficiently evolved smart home will require a hub to deliver the integration that truly begins to make a home smart.
Modern smart home hubs communicate over a number of wireless protocols, including:
Of these protocols, ZWave and ZigBee have the distinct advantage of being "mesh" protocols, meaning your smart home network grows and becomes stronger as you add more smart devices. This makes them ideal for larger installations where the "hub and spoke" style Wifi and Bluetooth protocols often create dead spots the further you get from the hub.
Fortunately, most leading smart home hubs today include multiple radios, making it possible (in theory) to mix and match smart home devices using these various protocols.
NOTE: There are, of course, wired smart home hubs, but these are typically higher-end, expensive systems that must be professionally installed at the time a house is constructed. Examples include Control4, Savant and Crestron. Invisible: Controller is focused on "DIY" or "retro-fit" wireless smart home installations, made possible by the much more reliable and powerful smart home wireless protocols.
Choosing a smart home hub
There are many options today for the smart home buyer when it comes time to buy a smart home hub. Among the options that exist are brands like:
- Wink (by GE)
- SmartThings (by Samsung)
- Iris (by Lowes)
These options provide the smart home operating system on integrated hardware that has the built-in radios for communicating with smart home devices. Some, like Vera, are very customizable and run completely locally within your home (for added security and reliability). Others, like SmartThings, depend on a vendor provided cloud to process smart home commands. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
Meanwhile, for higher-end installations, there are other smart home operating systems available that give you more control over the hardware where they run. These include:
- HomeSeer (Win, Linux)
- Indigo Domotics (Mac)
- openHAB (Win, Linux, Mac)
And finally, solutions from Apple and Google, like Apple's HomeKit or Google's Google Home, facilitate interactions with smart home devices, but they do not attempt to provide the hardware that makes it possible to integrate smart home devices running on these various wireless protocols. They are, in essence, a layer on top of these other smart home hubs.
Supported Hubs in Invisible: Controller
Today, Invisible: Controller supports smart home hubs from Vera running UI7. These include the Vera Edge, Vera Plus and Vera Secure.
Support for HomeSeer systems is also in the works, as is research towards supporting Wink hubs.
Iris and SmartThings do not offer sufficient extensibility or APIs to work with Invisible: Controller at this time.
If you are interested in using Invisible: Controller with a controller other than Vera, please let us know! Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.