You may have smart light bulbs, smart thermostats, and connected security cameras, among other devices you need to make your place a smart home.
Each one of these devices have its own remote control or mobile app for you to control it, but having to juggle all of these apps and remotes could be a hassle.
You may think that just labeling all these remote controls is the easiest solution. Well, not really. You can use a smart hub to help you make sense of the connected devices in your home.
One good example of a smart hub is the Logitech Harmony Hub.
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About the Harmony Hub
The Logitech Harmony Hub works like a high tech universal remote that uses your smartphone or tablet to help you control different devices.
Physically, it looks like some sort of hockey puck with a surface similar to a polished stone. On top, you could only see the black plastic construction, but the back has a micro-USB port and a physical button that you use to reset or pair the hub with other devices. The micro-USB port serves as power supply as well as a way to connect the hub to your computer in order to program it. At the front, you can find an LED indicator light that will tell you whether the hub is connected and whether it is currently active. It is 4.16 inches high, 4.88 inches wide, and 1.0 inch thick, making it easy for you to place it wherever you want. It weighs 3.9 oz.
There are also two IR blaster ports at the back, which could come in handy if you do not have a clear line of sight embedded IR emitters. This is particularly useful when you have devices inside cabinets that have doors.
The Logitech Harmony Hub gets commands from your smartphone and then sends these commands via Bluetooth, infrared or Wi-Fi network.
What can you control?
The hub allows you to control different connected devices around your home easily. It even gives you the chance to control different devices from different manufacturers simultaneously. That means that you can hide away eight different remote controls and just use your Logitech Harmony Hub to operate their respective devices. You can easily control light switches, light bulbs, motion sensors, door locks, plugs, and other hubs using only your smartphone.
Logitech Harmony Hub supports more than 270,000 devices manufactured by at least 6,000 brands. These supported devices include:
- Connected light bulbs manufactured by Cree, Everspring, GE Link, Nortek, Osram, and Sylvania.
- Connected locks from Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale.
- Switches from ENERWAVE. Jasco, Nortek, and Quirky.
- Smart plugs from Aeon Labs, Centralite, Intermatic, Jasco, Leviton, and Nortek.
- Sensors from Aeon Labs, Dome, Ecolink, NYCE, Nortek, and Schlage.
- Zigbee and Zwave hubs such as Nexia Home Intelligence Bridge, PeQ, SmartThings Hub, VeraEdge, and Wink Hub.
The hub may also work with other ZigBee and Z-Wave Plus devices. It does not, however, work with most cameras, energy saving devices, sirens, smoke and gas detectors, glass break and sound sensors.
Programming your Logitech Harmony Hub
It is very easy to set up your hub. Once you have the mobile app downloaded, you just launch the app and it will automatically try to discover compatible connected devices. If there are other devices that you want to add, just enter the brands and model numbers for these devices.
The mobile app can walk you through how the Harmony Hub works. If you have a previous Harmony remote, and would like to copy the settings from that remote to your hub, you can.
Harmony Hub will create Activities for each one of your connected devices. An Activity is a set of inputs or commands that you can perform using the hub. For instance, you can set up a “Watch a movie” activity, which will turn on your TV, turn down the lights, and lock the doors with just a press of a button. The mobile app will automatically create these activities for you. However, if you want to add a step, like open the CD tray on your DVD player, you can also use the app to do so.
Just recently, Logitech has announced that its Harmony Hub is fully compatible with Amazon Alexa. That means that you can now use voice commands to launch any Activity. You would need to have Amazon Echo, Dot, or any of the supported devices to use this feature.
Instead of scrambling for your smartphone, you can just say, “Alexa, turn on the TV.”
Other nifty features:
- Controlling by gestures. You can use your mobile device to adjust the volume of your appliances, change the channels on your TV, or fast-forward a movie. You only have to do some gestures on the screen. You can tap your smartphone screen to pause a movie, swipe up to open or close the blinds, or swipe left and hold to lock the doors.
- Channel favorites. The mobile app allows you to store up to 50 channels as favorites.
- More peace of mind. You can check the status of your connected devices using the mobile app. That means you can see whether or not you have locked the front door or if you have left the TV on.
Requirements to Use
To use the Logitech Harmony Hub, you should have an iPhone 4S or later models, a third-generation or newer iPad, fifth-generation or newer iPod Touch, and iPad Mini. All of these should be running iOS 8.0 or higher.
For Android users, you should have Android 4.2 smartphones or tablets with Wi-Fi connectivity.
You would also need Bluetooth® Smart Technology, the Harmony App, 802.11g/n Wi-Fi access.
Pros of the Logitech Harmony Hub
- Connects Through WiFi: The Harmony mobile app will still work on older phones, but you will need to download the Harmony to your personal computer or laptop. Connect the hub to your computer and go to the Wi-Fi setup. After connecting to the Wi-Fi, the setup will be continued on the older smartphone or tablet you are using.
- Many Compatible Devices: While the list of compatible devices is dizzying at this point, there are still some connected devices that are not controllable using the Hub. The good news is that Logitech has released an API for third parties to work with, allowing them to come out with their own integrations for the Hub.
- Smart Scheduling Works Well: Moreover, the ability to schedule when to start or end an activity is a great feature. You can set up an activity that turns the lights off at night, while also drawing the blinds closed and locking the doors.
- Integrates with some Big Names: Another valuable feature is the Hub’s integration with other connected devices. For instance, your Harmony Hub can work with the Nest Thermostat. You can download the Nest Protect mobile app and connect it to your Harmony Hub. Then set up Activities that would turn off your TV or lower the volume of your music when smoke or carbon dioxide is detected. This helps ensure that you are alerted instead of distracted when something dangerous happens at home.
What could be better
- Additional Services Cost Money: You can use the Logitech Harmony Hub with other Logitech remotes, so that other family members or members of the household can still use the Hub without you or your smartphone around. The problem is that you would need to pay for these remotes and they are not cheap. You can get the Harmony Companion, which includes the Harmony Hub and a physical remote control for $149.99. Or you can choose from a range of Harmony remote controls that range anywhere from $49.99 to $349.99. If you have young kids or want a simpler way for them to control your smart home devices, you can also get the Logitech Pop Home Switch.
- No Gaming Console Integration: While the infrared sensors work and there is Bluetooth connectivity that could control your Wii or PS3 gaming consoles, the inclusion of RS-232 so that the Hub and your gaming consoles could control each other would have been a nice addition.
- No WiFi Backup: The Hub uses your Wi-Fi network, so there might be times when your Hub would lose connection with the app.
- Some Initial Start Up Learning: The setup process can also prove to be a pain for some people. Luckily, there is a tech support phone number that you can call and you can talk to someone who would be able to walk you through the process of setting up the hub and adding your devices. The good news is that once it is set up, everything works as it should. Still, it does not hurt for Logitech to make the setup process easier.
Alternatives to the Logitech Harmony Hub
Apart from Logitech’s own products, you might also want to consider other smart hubs such as SmartThings Hub and the Wink Connected Home Hub.
The SmartThings Hub sells at a similar price point here and supports IFTTT integration with a vibrant developer community so you could get IFTTT recipes on the fly. However, the SmartThings Hub requires an Ethernet cable plugged into it, which might make it a little less flexible than the Logitech Harmony Hub when it comes to placement.
Meanwhile, the Wink Connected Home Hub has a lower retail price here, which makes it half as expensive as Logitech’s hub. It supports a lot of devices but is known to suffer from bugs. Just connecting to the Wi-Fi network and pairing it with your devices might take you several tries.
The best thing about Logitech Harmony Hub is that you can do away with a number of physical remote controls and certain other devices that are controlled by mobile apps. You do not have to download and use different mobile apps to control all the devices in your home.
It also helps that you are able to control everything with your smartphone even when you are out of the house. This would enable you to check whether you have locked the doors, and to lock them if you find out that you forgot to when you left the house.