There are more than a dozen smart home hubs on the market. They range from $50 for the Wink home hub sold at Home Depot to the $300 Revolv product. The idea behind each of these boxes is that the many different radio standards available in the smart home market as well as the need for software to make the experience easy for consumers necessitates some type of central box inside the home.
But Ohad Zeira (pictured above), who manages the WeMo ecosystem of connected home devices for [company]Belkin[/company], doesn’t agree. The company, which did end up making a hub product for Staples Connect as part of a holdover deal made when [company]Cisco[/company] owned the Linksys brand, doesn’t plan on making any more hubs. “You need a hub for a unified and interoperable home today, Zeira said. “But consumers don’t want apps or a set of rules and as soon as a standard becomes real the hub will cease to exist.”
He looks at a hub as both a high cost of entry for consumers to add intelligence to their home, and also a potential source of unnecessary complication in the form of setting up the device and then using the software to program their devices. “Hubs are designed for early adopters and the industry is trying to craft this idealized vision, but solutions that appeal to early adopters aren’t the ones that will cross the chasm to the mainstream.”
Belkin is using Wi-Fi for its line of connected outlets, cameras, light bulbs and other devices, and Zeira believes it could even become the most power efficient standard as low-power Wi-Fi (802.11ah) eventually hits the market. Until then, WeMo is pushing interoperability for early adopters through its integration with If This Then That, where people can link their WeMo products to other devices and build complicated programming rules.
Zeira also thinks the intelligence people might need to program their homes should eventually live inside the router (a device Belkin currently sells a lot of given its ownership of the Linksys brand). Belkin is building that intelligence into routers sold to the end-consumer. And while many consumers get a router from their ISP, modem fees and issues with performance drive many consumers to buy their own. According to IDC, around 60 percent of routers shipped in the U.S. are sold through retail channels.
So for the mainstream consumer, the smart home hub features will eventually be folded into a router with companies like Belkin or others providing a curated set of devices that help the consumer make their lives immediately better. More advanced users can tie systems together via [company]IFTTT[/company] or other services. Plus as part of that curation effort, Zeira plans to continue integrating WeMo into consumer products like the connected slow cooker. Belkin signed a deal with Jarden Corp., which owns the CrockPot and Mr. Coffee brands. A connected Mr. Coffee coffee maker is expected soon.
“No one ever says to me, ‘I feel really disconnected from my home,'” Zeira said. “People have jobs to do and they need devices to do it. That’s what we should provide.”