The basic configuration for a home automation system is quite simple. You have a bunch of smart devices, ranging from basic smart lights and a home security system to something exotic like a smart fridge or even a smart coffeemaker. Then you control them all using a smart hub to which you attach all these devices. And for many, their best option for a hub is the Wink Connected Home Hub. More than half of the reviews on Amazon gave it a full 5-star rating.
So let’s take a look at some of the specs you can expect from the Wink Hub, so we can see what makes it special:
- Requirements. You’ll need an Android or an Apple smart device to get all the benefits of this hub. And of course, you’ll also need a Wi-Fi network with typical 2.4 GHz routers. It has to run on WPA-PSK, open security, or WEP. It doesn’t run on 5 GHz networks.
- Design measurements. This white colored device measures 8 inches on each side, with a depth of 3 inches.
- Device compatibility. This is one of its strengths as it supports a number of protocols. A protocol is the “language” that devices use to communicate with one another. The Wink Hub supports a number of these protocols, which include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well as ZigBee, Z-Wave, and the Lutron Clear Connect.
For ZigBee it works with light bulbs, light switches, smart outlets, and smart doors and windows. For Z-Wave, compatible smart devices include appliance modules, light dimmers and switches, motion, tilt, door, and window sensors, and door locks.
In most cases, Wink can work well withZ-Wave and ZigBee devices, but that’s not always guaranteed. If you want to be very sure that your device will work with it, you need to check its packaging for the “Wink Compatible – Wink HUB Required” seal. These devices have passed comprehensive tests so they’re confirmed to be fully compatible. In addition, the customer service staff are also trained to offer support and answers regarding the integration of the Wink with any of these approved devices.
- Platform compatibility. This hub can be controlled by Android and iOS smartphones. That also includes Android Wear and Apple Watch, but not tablets yet. You can enjoy lots of versatile “recipes” when you use it with IFTTT, or have it controlled by the Alexa digital assistant in the Amazon Echo. With Alexa you’re still limited to just controlling the lights at first, but Wink is adding more control features in the near future.
Now let’s take a look at how you should use this hub. Here are the steps:
- First you need to download the Wink app, and then you open it, tap “Sign Up” on the screen, and create a Wink account. After you’ve done this you’ll only need to log in with your email address and password. Your Wink account can let you control multiple hubs, but you need to do it one hub at a time.
- Then you need to place your hub at a suitable location. It has a range of up to 30 feet so it has to be within that distance from your Wi-Fi router. But you should be at least 5 feet away and no closer.
- Connecting it to your Wi-Fi is easy enough. You just open the app, and then you tap “Wink HUB” and you follow the instructions you get. Your instructions will depend on the kind of smartphone you use.
- Once you’ve complied with the instructions, you should see a flashing yellow light that means the hub is looking for your wireless network. The flashing will slow down when it has found the network, and then it will get an IP address. You’re done when the Wink app displays “Success” and the light turns solid blue. This step can take about 5 minutes, though, so try to curb your impatience.
- Then you can add your various smart devices. Just tap “Add a Product” and you get your instructions again. For greater ease, you can even use your smartphone to scan the product’s barcode.
- Then you can tap “Name Wink Hub” so you can give it a new name (which will become necessary when you add other Wink hubs to your home. Then tap “get started” or “done” to exit the setup.
Using the Hub
Now that your Wink hub is connected to your Wi-Fi router and you’ve set up your smartphone and Wink account, it’s time to begin using the app to make your life so much easier. Here are some ways which the hub can truly deliver a smart home experience:
- The home automation benefits you get from the hub depend almost entirely on the smart devices you connect to this hub. It works as a way to facilitate the integration process of these devices into an interconnected network. So let’s say you want your smart lights to work together with your smoke detector. When your smoke detector goes off, you can also program it to blink the lights in your room so you’ll know that something’s wrong.
Not every smart device can work with one another, since they may use different protocols. But the Wink hub does offer you a convenient way to make a ZigBee smart device with a Z-Wave gadget.
- You can add just about as many gadgets as you want, although the protocols do offer certain limits. With Z-Wave, you can add up to 230 different products to your home. But as a practical matter you can add Z-Wave and ZigBee gadgets so your total smart devices can be in the hundreds. That should be enough to fully automate your home.
- Another benefit to the Wink Hub is that you can control everything from just a single app. That makes it a much more convenient way to manage your home automation system, rather than controlling each device through their own apps.
- The hub runs on a cloud, which requires you to have a running Wi-Fi Internet connection to enable the automation. Let’s say you try to activate the door lock with your smartphone. What that means is that your smartphone connects to your Wink account in the cloud, which then transmits the information back to your smart door lock through the Wi-Fi connection.
The benefit of this is that you don’t have to be home to monitor and control all your devices. You can be on a winter skiing trip in the Swiss Alps and you can control your Wink automation hub in Nebraska as long as you have Wi-Fi Internet access for your phone.
The main problem, on the other hand, is that it is limited by its Wi-Fi dependency. If your Internet is down then your smart devices will no longer work through your app.
Still, Wink does offer some relief with local control for light switches. A recent status update for the hub now allows your smartphone to communicate with your hub, and then the hub also communicates directly with the light switches. As soon as you get back your Internet connection, the Wink server in the cloud gets a status update and you’re able to again control your lights even when you’re not home.
According to Wink, local control may soon become available for other types of smart devices in the network, although there’s no offered timeline to fulfill this promise.
- You can have your smart devices work together with Robots. All you need to do is to make a few taps in your Wink app, and you can have your smart devices work together based on what a smart device is doing or on your location. So the lights and the speakers can turn on when you enter a room. Your hub can use various methods to keep track of where you are. It can use cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS means to know that you’ve entered a room.
- You can also create Shortcuts so that multiple smart devices can be controlled with a single tap on your smartphone screen. So a single tap can turn off all your lights or you can manually turn on all the lights upstairs with a single shortcut. You can even create shortcuts to control many devices when you’re watching a movie or when you fall asleep.
- If you want to start slow with Wink while enjoying having many different smart devices working together, you can also use the recommended Wink kits. The Wink Security and Monitoring kit includes a hub along with the GoControl Essential Home Security Suite and the Leviton DZC Plug-In Appliance Module that gives you remote and programming control of “dumb” devices. With the Comfort and Convenience kit, you get the hub, the GoControl Garage Door Controller, the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat, and the Connected Cree LED light bulb.
These kits don’t just guarantee that these devices will work seamlessly with one another. It also promises you substantial savings from the regular retail prices of the device.
Pros and Cons
So now let’s point out the various reasons why you may want to go with the Wink Hub.
- The main reason is its price. Its official retail price at the Wink website is $89, but you can get it on Amazon for a lot less. Even if you buy direct from the manufacturer, it’s still very cheap considering that other hubs can cost up to 3 times more.
- It supports a wide range of smart gadgets. It can control numerous types of Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, and there’s also the Lutron Clear Connect option. That means you’re not limited to a handful of companies.
- It’s also very easy to use, and the app seems designed to make sure that users won’t have any trouble with it. There are no complicated procedures to learn, and you’ll get clear instructions for everything you wish to do.
- The hub’s range depends on the protocol used, but what’s great about Z-Wave and ZigBee devices is that they offer mesh networking. Not every smart device needs to be within range of the Wink hub, because the smart devices can also work as a relay device transmitting the hub’s instructions to other smart devices in the Wink home network.
- It even looks good, which is not as unimportant as you might think. Some of the hubs can look a bit too industrial, and that can spoil many types of interior room design.
- When you pair it with the Amazon Echo and its Alexa voice control, it improve your home automation experience. Granted, that’s because of Alexa. But it’s the Wink gives you the hundreds of different devices you can tell Alexa to control.
Is it perfect? Not quite. There’s no support for iOS and Android tablets just yet, and Blackberry and Windows phones are out of luck. There’s also no Wink control for your computer or through mobile web access.
It can also be a bit buggy when you try to add products, so you’ll need some patience. What’s more, in some cases you can even lose some features of the smart gadget when you use them through the Wink app.
The Philips Hue official app lets you set alarms and timers, use geofencing (GPS and RFID to determine your location), or create scenes which are specific lighting arrangements for events like parties, movie-watching, dates, or sleeping time. With the Wink app, you’re limited to just turning lights on or off, dimming them, and changing their colors.
Wink offers a very affordable hub that enables you to use it for a wide range of smart devices. When you also consider how easy it is to use, it’s a great option especially when you stick to certified Wink-compatible smart devices. And when you get one of the kits, you can make sure you have a home automation system without compatibility and usage issues.