Which smart home hub should you buy?
Two of the biggest names in the smart home world are SmartThings and Insteon, all of which offer a consumer-friendly hub that allows users to connect all kinds of smart home devices together and manage them in one place. But which one should you buy? Here are a few things you should know about the two hubs and which will work best for you.
What is the Hubbub About Hubs?
Before we get into the basics, let us explain what the purpose of smarthome hubs is and why you might want one?
Smarthome hubs connect to your router giving it access to your network and the internet) and act as a central device that can connect your various other smarthome devices to similar sensors, smart bulbs, smart sockets, and smart light switches.
Many of these smaller devices communicate using Z-Wave and ZigBee wireless protocols, which is why a dedicated smarthome hub is needed in the first place - your router doesn't support any protocol, so your phone needs to communicate with something that sends Z-Wave or ZigBee signals sends all of your devices.
There are many smart home hubs out there, but SmartThings is one of the most popular, consumer-friendly options that support all types of Z-Wave and ZigBee devices. Insteon works similarly, although it uses its own proprietary protocol - so it will only work with other Insteon devices and X10 products if you have an old X10 system.
You can probably skip Insteon (unless you are using X10)
Let us get the simplest recommendation out of the way: you can probably skip Insteon. The app is not particularly good, the Amazon Echo integration is complicated for some devices and does not support easy-to-use automation services like IFTTT. It also uses a proprietary protocol that only works with devices sold by Insteon (with a few exceptions such as Nest, Logitech, and Sonos). In short, it does not really compete with SmartThings as it is more of a closed home automation system.
There are one or two exceptions to this rule, however. If you have an X10 system in your home, Insteon can work with it and bridge the gap between older, complex smart home setups and a new generation of devices. In this type of setup, it can be powerful - but expensive and complex. Most smart home users will not want the hassle of X10, so Insteon does not really offer many advantages over other options.
If Insteon is the only company that makes the device you want (they're one of the few companies that make smart ceiling fans, for example, and you absolutely must have this device , then maybe it is for you.
User friendly interface
The SmartThings app just is not that engaging. Everything is blocky and not really everything is organized. Overall, it feels like an app that was released to the masses but never updated over the years.
Insteon is similar - its user interface puts your devices on multiple screens so you can create a list of favourites or organize "rooms". But at the end of the day it just feels clunky as your devices are being duplicated on multiple screens that do not make good use of space. These could both be improved.
SmartThings and Insteon have their own line of sensors and devices
SmartThings and Insteon both have their own line of sensors and devices. Insteon's hub works only with its own devices, while SmartThings' hub works with its own and third-party devices.
If you are just starting out, the SmartThings catalogue is a great choice as buyers can find a SmartThings Open / Close sensor and immediately know it will work with their SmartThings hub.
SmartThings has an extensive list of sensors and third-party devices that they support, and Insteon's catalogue is decent (you will not have that many devices of the same type, but they sell many different types of sensors and devices).
The nice thing about SmartThings is that the third-party support is so extensive that you really will not get a situation where a particular ZigBee or Z-Wave device does not work with the hub. Even if a sensor you find does not work with one hub, you can usually find a similar sensor from another brand that works very well.
Plus, you can plug in pretty much any of the great standalone smart home products such as the Nest thermostat, Ecobee3, Philips Hue lights, and more. SmartThings also supports IFTTT, you can set up all kinds of advanced interactions between your devices.
SmartThings focuses on more security
If you need a Smarthing hub that is more focused on home security than home automation, SmartThings is a lot more focused on it than Insteon.
SmartThings puts a lot of focus on Home Security with its Smart Home Monitor feature where you can easily arm and disarm your entire system. SmartThings can even be integrated with Scout, a home security service that can alert you and call the police if an intrusion is detected.
Insteon does not have functions like this but can still be used as a security system. You can still connect alarms and sirens to the Insteon Hub and alert you to movement. However, it is unable to call the police for you. Insteon is mostly focused on home automation, making things more convenient around the house.
If you are looking for a smart, reliable easy to use hub, then SmartThings is the best out of the two devices. It has a lot more functions and is easier to use than Insteon. Maybe things will change in the future and Insteon will be improved.