BEST SMART HUBS

SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, and Iris Compared

For many, the journey to a smarter home security system starts by choosing a hub. And a lot of people ask me what the best hub is, but unfortunately, there’s no certain and straightforward answer to that question. Needs, lifestyle, and preferences not only differ, but will impact what hub is best for your unique situation. With that in mind, I selected 4 of the best hubs available today: SmartThings Hub v2, Wink, Insteon Hub and Hub Pro, and Iris. Note that Wink has a new version of their hub, the Wink Hub 2. But for this article, we will compare the Wink Hub 1.

SmartThings Wink Insteon Hub Insteon Hub Pro Iris
Price $99 $89 $79.99 $129 $59.99
Monthly Fee Optional ($4.99 for 30-day cloud video storage) No No No Optional ($9.99 for premium features)
Z-Wave Yes Yes No No Yes
Zigbee Yes Yes No No Yes
Insteon No No Yes Yes No
Bluetooth Yes (but doesn’t connect yet) Yes No No Yes
Wi-Fi Yes Yes No No Yes
Cloud-to-Cloud Yes No No No No
SmartThings Wink Insteon Hub Insteon Hub Pro Iris
Amazon Echo Yes Yes Yes No No
Nest via IFTTT Yes Yes No No
IFTTT Yes Yes No No No
HomeKit No No No Yes No
Cars BMW EVE Connect for Tesla Model S & X No No No
iOS Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Apple Watch Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Android Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Android Wear No Yes Yes No No
Windows Mobile Yes No Yes No No
Web Interface No No Yes No Yes
SmartThings Wink Insteon Hub Insteon Hub Pro Iris
Professional Monitoring Yes, via Scout Alarms and ADT Canopy (soon) No No No Yes
Camera Support Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Rule-Based Automation Smart Home Monitor Robots No No Magic Rules
Scenes Scenes Shortcuts Insteon Scenes Insteon Scenes Yes
Schedules Yes Yes Basic Scheduling Basic Scheduling Yes
Geo-Fencing Yes Yes No No No
Multi-User Control Yes Yes Yes Yes Premium Plan holders only

Hubs Enhance Home Security

The table says a lot about the hubs, but you also need to know how they perform in a real home environment, mainly, how they enhance home security.

SmartThings

  • SmartThings-branded sensors
  • Smart Home Monitor
  • Widely compatible with other brands
  • Professional Monitoring by Scout Alarms

SmartThings’ sensors help the hub keep your home safe. The easiest way to get started is with the $249 Home Monitoring Kit which includes the hub, 2 open/close sensors, a motion sensor, and a smart outlet. Other sensors, like water and temperature sensors, can be purchased from SmartThings separately. These sensors work together and will alert you if a problem is detected. For instance, the open/close sensors can immediately notify you when a door is opened while you are away. This gives you a chance to check things out, or you can have your system trigger a series of reactions on your behalf. This is part of SmartThings’ Smart Home Monitor. Through Smart Home Monitor, you create a sequence of events that might start with the door opening while you are away. If it is opened, you can have the siren automatically sound or select from other reactions.

Aside from sensors, you can also add advanced security devices to your system, as long as they are compatible. The system works with Samsung SmartCam, Netgear’s Arlo Wire-Free, and certain D-Link Wi-Fi cameras for video monitoring. You can also add smart door locks from Yale, Schlage, or Kwikset.

SmartThings’ biggest advantage over the other hubs is that they offer professional monitoring through Scout Alarms. Scout Alarms is a DIY security company that offers security systems and professional monitoring. Having them monitor your SmartThings system costs $19.99 a month. There are no contracts associated with the service, so you can back out and resume monitoring anytime you want. ADT Canopy, ADT’s DIY home security division, has also announced they will be partnering with SmartThings, and they will offer monitoring for the hub. However, Canopy isn’t here yet, and pricing is still TBD.

Wink

  • Security & Monitoring Kit
  • No professional monitoring
  • Works with the best smart home brands
  • Robots

Wink’s approach is a little different. They offer a number of kits, including the $100 Premium Home Security Suite, which includes 3 door sensors, a motion sensor, and a siren (Wink Hub purchased separately). They offer multiple security related packages beyond Premium Home, but they are all self-monitored. You will be responsible for responding to alerts, monitoring, and securing your home.

Three keys make Wink a good choice for home security. First, the hub plays with a ton of other devices. You can add Nest Cam, Kwikset smart door locks, Canary, Ring video doorbell, GoControl sensors, or even a Kidde smoke and CO sensor, just to name a few. It also works with Amazon’s Alexa and IFTTT. Second, it has a feature called Robots. Robots are rules that trigger reactions from certain inputs. For instance, if your Nest Cam detects motion, it can trigger Philips Hue bulbs to flash different colors. Third, it can run scheduled actions locally. For example, you can set your lights to turn on at 6 PM and they will, whether Wink is online or not.

Wink Hub 2 (Compared to Wink Hub 1)

  • Slimmer than the Wink Hub 1 (7.25” x 7.25” x 1.25”)
  • Supports Bluetooth LE
  • Auto-discovery by the Wink App + guided setup = dummyproof setup
  • Run Schedules and Robots Locally
  • Connects via 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi routers
  • Added Ethernet Port

Wink Hub 2 supports the same security features as the Hub 1, but with several upgrades. First, Hub 2 is both sleeker and slimmer. Second, it can support Bluetooth Low Energy devices. Third, it can connect to your 2.4 and 5GHz router or via an Ethernet cable.

But perhaps the best upgrades are increased local memory (512MB) and a better processor, which expands its local processing ability. Aside from being able to run schedules locally, Hub 2 can also trigger Robots offline.

Insteon Hub & Insteon Hub Pro

  • 200 Insteon products to choose from
  • Limited integration with the 3rd-party smart home devices
  • Hub pro doesn’t support cameras, motion sensors, or door/window sensors yet
  • No professional monitoring

Insteon has over 200 different products —including sensors, cameras, and appliance modules—and Insteon hubs can connect to all of them. As with Wink, you will be responsible for self-monitoring your system because Insteon doesn’t offer professional monitoring. But to make your security more robust, you can add as many sensors as you need and receive email and push alerts when something is amiss. If you want, you can also get an Insteon camera to verify if there really is something to worry about.

One thing you may not like about Insteon is that it’s not as open as the competition. It doesn’t connect with common protocols like Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth devices. Insteon Hub only connects with Insteon products, Nest, Logitech, Amazon Echo, Windows’ Cortana, MiLocks, First Alert, and Sonos.

Insteon Hub Pro connects with Insteon products and Apple’s HomeKit. Having limited options is disadvantageous. What if you’re very fond of a camera but it doesn’t work with your hub? You can keep the camera, but that fact that you won’t be able to integrate it with the rest of your system is disappointing.

Let’s say you want to push through with an Insteon hub. Which of the two is better? If you’re an Apple person, and you have an ecosystem of HomeKit products, the Hub Pro is for you. However, take note that Hub Pro cannot connect to Insteon cameras, motion sensors, or door/window sensors yet. If you don’t plan on building a HomeKit system, the Insteon Hub is definitely better for overall home security and value.

Iris Hub

  • Offers professional monitoring
  • $19.99/month for professional monitoring plus access to premium services
  • Iris-branded sensors
  • Connects with other brands

Iris is the only other hub on this list, aside from SmartThings, that offers professional monitoring. Monitoring is provided by UCC, an accredited CSAA Five-Diamond, UL-listed monitoring center. The service doesn’t require a contract, so like SmartThings and Scout, you can back out anytime. Their professional monitoring service incurs a $19.99 monthly fee, but that also covers access to their Home Automation premium service (costs $9.99/month if purchased separately).

The premium service allows you to use multiple accounts and receive notifications on all accounts as well as create custom groupings of lights and switches (e.g. Living Room Lights). It also adds the ability to view an activity log of the past 2 weeks, record videos on-demand or based on events, receive notifications of who comes and goes, create rules for automation, and access all the basic features. The basic features are available to all Iris owners and include the ability to remotely access smart devices (lights, locks, thermostats, etc.), create schedules, stream videos, view activity history logs (past 24 hours only), and check your home’s status. Only one account can be used with Iris if you’re not registered for premium services, and only that account will receive notification alerts.

In addition to providing a monitoring service, Iris uses its connection with sensors and other devices to strengthen your home security. Iris, sold by Lowes, has its own brand of security devices which can connect to the hub. It can also connect with other brands like GE, First Alert, GoControl, Honeywell, Keen, and Kwikset. If partnered with premium services, these devices will be even more efficient at protecting your home. However, that’s Iris’ biggest downfall. It is great if you are a premium user, but if you are using the basic service, you won’t get much.

Winner:

Who’s your winner? For me, SmartThings wins. It has optional professional monitoring, it talks with a wide range of devices, automation features are free, and it makes self-monitoring your home easier through Smart Home Monitor.

My second pick is Iris. Iris is great, so long as you are willing to pay. But without the premium features, self-monitoring is more difficult.

Home Automation Features That Enhance Home Security

Rule-Based Automation

One of the toughest parts of self-monitoring, if you’re going that way, is making sure you can respond to alerts right away. Rule-based automation makes it easier for you. This kind of automation prompts your system to respond to certain events on your behalf. For example, if a door is opened while your system is armed, it can trigger your siren to go off, your lights to flash crazy colors, or your camera to start recording. It’s up to you to be creative.

SmartThings and Wink offer this kind of automation for free while Iris has a rule-based automation feature in their premium plan. You can also achieve rule-based automation by using IFTTT, which broadens your hub’s capability to connect with other devices. IFTTT is an app/smart home service that integrates ‘channels’ (devices) together so you can create rules based on the recipe “if (trigger) then (reaction)”. SmartThings and Wink both have IFTTT channels.

Scenes

Creating custom scenes allows you to combine devices together so you can control them all with one tap on your smartphone. For example, you can create a scene and call it “Breakfast”. You can set it so that when you tap your app, your smart blinds in the room will open, your thermostat will set the temperature to your ideal breakfast temp, and the light in your dining area will turn on, etc, etc. Convenient, right?

While this feature is mostly advertised for its convenience, you can actually use it for security. Take this scenario for example: An intruder is detected entering your home. What would you do first to scare him off? Activate the siren? Turn on lights? Start video recording? What if you could do all those things at once? Much better, isn’t it? You can do all things at once if you have a custom scene ready to trigger. SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, and Iris all support scenes, although scenes are once again only available to Iris users with a Premium Plan.

Geo-Fencing/Geo-Location & Connected Cars

How often do you forget to arm your system before you leave home? If this happens more often than it should, you should consider a hub that includes geo-fencing. A hub with such feature takes into account your phone’s (or your family members’ phones) location, and responds to changes. For example, if you leave your home’s premise, the hub knows that it should arm the security system. When you arrive back home, it knows that it should disarm the system. That way, you can be sure that your system is armed whenever you leave… just don’t leave your phone behind.

Some hubs can also connect to your car and use its location for automation. SmartThings and Wink both have that ability. SmartThings connects with BMW cars that have the ConnectedDrive Service. This integration allows you to access and control your system from your BMW’s in-car display. SmartThings can also pull your BMW’s location to do things like open your garage door when you’re approaching.

Wink connects with Tesla Model S and Model X but through a third-party software known as EVE Connect. This app loads directly to your car’s browser. It can detect when you are leaving, on the way home, or arriving home, and can trigger different smart home actions for each situation.

Winner:

Again, SmartThings wins. It is complete with the essential automation features needed to beef up your home security, and you can access all features for free. Wink, however, is also a strong competitor.

Final Thoughts

SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, or Iris? We have compared their features and declared SmartThings as the overall champion. Does that mean you should run out and buy it? Maybe. While we can say that SmartThings has the most attractive features for home security, only you can tell if it will work for you.

1 reply
  1. richard bitter says:

    I am surprised you would mention IRIS. I just removed my IRIS system because, since the upgrade the system and the service has gotten so bad the system does not work. Sensors dropping out from the hub, etc. The upgrade and lack of support has truly ruined a once great system.

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