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As the internet of things matures, it’s forcing consumers to think about how they want to build their connected home of the future. And frankly, this is a good thing. On Wednesday, SmartThings, the company that makes a hub that speaks multiple radio protocols, is opening an online store where customers can shop, not just for a mess of sensors and the SmartThings hub, but for packages that solve a specific problem.
For example, for $225 you can buy the automated lighting package that contains two Jasco controllable light switches, two Jasco controllable dimmers, and one Jasco plug-and-control power outlet. With the SmartThings hub and selected recipes you have automated lighting for five lights. Other packages include a leak detection kit and one that uses sensors to track when someone is opening your drawers, liquor cabinet or jewelry box.
Of course, if you want to mix things up, the newly opened online shop offers a bunch of individual sensors, from the original sensors that came in the Kickstarter pack, to sensors and devices from third-party vendors such as GE and Jasco. But the key thing with SmartThings to note is that the sensors might be mix and match, but the recipes are already created. Or rather, the framework for these recipes is already created. (SmartThings calls these recipes apps, but that’s confusing since they are controlled from the single SmartThings app.)
So if you want your porch light to turn on when your presence detector comes into range of the SmartThings hub, then you need to find the existing SmartThings recipe that does this, rather than create your own recipe or app. SmartThings plans to build an open ecosystem of supported devices and make money sharing revenue with recipe developers as time goes by and the SmartThings hub is adopted.
However, a company launched earlier this month is taking the same idea of one hub and a single app that controls a variety of connected devices in a different direction. Revolv wants to let people create their own recipes, following a model that is probably more familiar to IFTTT users.
The Revolv hub launched the first week of August, offering support for a variety of connected devices including Sonos, the Hue lights, a few thermostats, the Belkin WeMo and connected Yale locks. For $299 people get the hub and can start controlling their existing connected devices from one place. This gets exciting when you can link your Sonos to your Hue lights.
Mike Soucie, a co-founder and head of sales and marketing with Revolv (the company was formerly called Mobiplug), showed me a demo of the Revolv hub in March and one of the cool features was the ability to think about how you wanted to set something up and then make it happen using the simple interface. If I want my porch light to turn on when I unlock my door, I don’t need to search for a recipe, I just make it up. That’s also how AT&T’s Digital Life interface works, for what it’s worth.
That’s nice when you know what you want to do, since you don’t have to search for a specific recipe that might not be well-labeled. For example, the SmartThings app offers me recipes called “Let There Be Light,” “Light Up the Night,” The Big Switch” and “Turn It on When I’m Home.” They are all variations of different ways to control my lights, but someone who wants to program their porch light to come on when the garage opens may not want to go through them all to find the optimal one for her.
Programming the Revolv hub and app seems easier, although I won’t be able to say for sure until it starts shipping in October. Soucie told me that the first run of 500 Revolv hubs has sold out and they are still getting orders, so it sounds like users might have plenty of choices when it comes to connected home hubs. Of course, there are also more closed ecosystems such as Lowes’ Isis platform of the offerings from ISPs such as AT&T or Comcast’s Xfinity home services.
Another advantage so far to the Revolv platform over SmartThings is that Revolv’s founders designed it to work with existing connected devices in your home. So if you have the Sonos and Hue lights, you can get started playing. With SmartThings, you need to buy the hardware for now (it says it plans to start supporting more existing devices like the Belkin WeMo in the near future).
My recommendation for potential buyers is to think about what you already have and how you want to start building out the recipes to control your home automation. For now, that may influence which platform you buy.