Darlene Storm

SmartThings & Revolv: The best contenders for smart home seamless automation

January 08, 2014 2:07 PM EST

CES 2014 smart home vendors are all shouting “Me, me, me!” That’s code for search no further for home automation products; give me your money. One of the issues about embracing smart home automation is cost, but perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of seamless automation. To see an example of how many hardware-connected devices can remotely control various parts of your home, with various different platforms and protocols, look no further than Amazon’s Home Automation store. Does it really matter how smart the devices are if you need 20 different apps to control 20 smart devices?

The flipside, if you only needed one app to run every smart device in your home, that could talk to all the smart devices, then it could become the most-targeted, low-hanging fruit. Hack it and the attacker would have the keys to our personal kingdoms.

Samsung Smart Home announced at CES 2014At CES 2014, Samsung unveiled its Smart Home platform, which allows users to connect and control all your all Samsung Smart Home devices with one app from your smartphone or Smart TV. The three main features are Device Control, Home View and Smart Customer Service. The company claimed it will “collaborate with third-party partners to make the Smart Home service extendible to their products and services,” but it will doubtfully support its competitors’ products.

LG trotted out HomeChat at CES 2014; NBC explained that it “lets you control all of your LG smart appliances via text. You can even ask your refrigerator questions like, "Do I have any beer?" and get a response — provided you tell the system every time you move beer in and out of the fridge.” But are you loyal to only LG or only one specific other brand, or do you tend to have numerous brand name devices purchased at the best price?

LG HomeChat announced at CES 2014

There are plenty of smartplugs and platforms that promise seamless automation, but some affordable products exists that could help make the internet of things a reality for a lot of people. Staples Connect offers a $99 Hub, which has the “freedom to control all of your favorite home brands;” its various connection kits range in price from $139.99 to $249.99. Another solution, previously known as “Mobiplug” before it became Revolv, has a $299 wireless multi-platform home automation device, which is supposedly “setting the record for smart home device compatibility.”

Revolv Hub

The Revolv Hub, or brain, is a single box that has seven wireless radios speaking 10 different wireless languages – three of the supported protocols are Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and Insteon, but support for ZigBee will be remotely activated in the “near future.” Revolv currently supports Sonos Hi-Fi speakers, Insteon and GE smart lighting and wall switch devices, Honeywell and Trane thermostats, Yale and Kwikset locks, Philips Hue lights, Belkin WeMo, and Leviton. The company plans to add more third-party support each month with a goal of “supporting 95% smart home devices on the market.”

Revolv Hub and app, smart home automation

Additionally, Revolv utilizes GeoSense technology so you can “control your house automatically based on your proximity to or from home, all with your phone never leaving your pocket.” It supposedly takes only 60 seconds to connect Revolv to your wireless home network; smart devices are then added to the app.

Revolv wireless multi-platform home automation device app

How does it work? Here’s the company’s example:

Once all of your devices are added and visible in the Revolv App, they can start interacting with each other based on ‘Actions’ you create. These Actions can range from a “Bedtime” button that locks your doors, turns off the lights and Sonos, and shuts down all of the WeMo outlets, to a “Coming Home” scenario that adjusts your thermostat 5 miles out, and turns on your porch lights, unlocks your front door, and plays your favorite music as you pull into the driveway. 

It will soon also be available via The Home Depot. The purchase price includes a “lifetime subscription” and the hub has “no limit on the amount of devices it can support.” So with all that, it’s little wonder why Revolv promises “smart home awsesomation on your smartphone.”

The one big bummer is that Revolv only works with iOS, although the company said, “Once we’ve perfected Revolv for iPhone, development for Android will begin immediately, with Windows Phone and others to follow.”

SmartThings

However, the $299 SmartThings could be another serious home automation contender as it also can “easily integrate popular third party devices” and offers geofencing/sensing to automatically trigger actions if you are within a specified area. As a bonus, it offers apps for both iOS and Android. The company recently announced the addition of SmartThings Labs to its app. CNET explained:

Tech-savvy users have already had a field day hacking SmartThings, an open platform, in order to incorporate specific devices and accomplish specific functions. SmartThings Labs plans on taking advantage of the most useful hacks, then making them accessible for all users. Big names like Belkin, Sonos, and Philips are the first to get integrated into the SmartThings ecosystem by way of SmartThings Labs, with products like Jawbone and the August smart lock set to join them in the coming months. 

SmartThings Labs app

There are "more than 5,000 developers and device makers" building new smart things that will connect to SmartThings. According to Bloomberg's "Inside the 'Smart Home' of Tomorrow, Available Now," SmartThings is currently "compatible with over 1,000 automation devices."

During the trip to CES 2014, TechCrunch visited the SmartThings house and the video shows off some pretty cool SmartThings home automation.

Do you suppose Black Hat and/or Def Con will include talks this year that focus on hacking the automated house via these wireless multi-platform home automation devices?