“Comparison is the death of joy”
– Mark Twain
The following table summarizes features of popular smart Home Automation controllers, hubs, gateways, and bridges. This table will continue to receive updates as data becomes available and new products are released.
Apple HomeKit support is not included in the table criteria, as none of these products are MFi certified for HomeKit connectivity and I can find no evidence of the encryption capabilities or a plan or for this to occur anytime soon with any of the devices.
For more detailed analysis of our grades for each of these smart home hubs and controllers, please see our Best of the Home Automation Controllers review. For a review of many of the terms and criteria in this table, reference the Darwin’s Den Home Automation Terms Glossary.
The information in this table is based on my research and testing and any reader feedback. Please let me know of any errors or omissions. Suggestions on additional products or comparison features are always appreciated.
|Insteon / X10|
|Windows Phone App|
|Apple Watch App|
|Mobile Device Alerts|
|SMS Text Alert|
|Amazon Echo Compatible|
|Built-In Display Panel/Control|
|–||–||√ (future)||√||–||–||√ (future)||√||–||–|
|2x USB 3.0||1x USB 2.0||2 (future)||–||1||1||2||1||–||4|
|Free||Free||Free||Free||Free with app purch.||Free||$9.99/mo
|Securifi Almond +||Securifi Almond2015||Samsung SmartThings||Flex Wink||Univ. Dev. ISY994iZ||VeraEdge||Lowes Iris||Staple/DLink Connect||Nexia BR100NX||Home Troller Zee S2|
|√||√||some triggers||lights & switches||√||√||–||√||–||√|
|–||–||√||–||$25 (HA Pro)||√||–||√||√||–|
|–||–||√||√||$$ addition (MobileLinc)||–||–||–||–||–|
|Securifi Almond +||Securifi Almond2015||Samsung SmartThings||Flex Wink||Univ. Dev. ISY994iZ||MiCasa Verde||Lowes Iris||Staple/DLink Connect||Nexia BR100NX||Home Seer Zee S2|
|–||–||via IFTTT||via IFTTT
|–||–||√ 10 hours||–||–||–||√||–||√||–|
1. See the Best of the Home Automation Controllers – Rankings Page for additional details and grading rationale
2. Even if your controller or hub includes a battery backup, you may still want to consider a UPS as part of your system
Home Automation Feature Terms and Glossary
The following Home Automation Glossary describes relevant features when evaluating and comparing smarthome controllers and systems. Several controllers support multiple protocols, decreasing the likelihood that they will soon become a casualty of the Home Automation standards battle.
A proprietary wireless communication specification developed in 2004 for secure low-power and low-latency device communication. The Z-Wave protocol employs a mesh network supporting up to 4 hops, allowing devices to relay communication to each other and extend the range of the network, while minimizing power consumption. Z-Wave networks are limited to a maximum of 232 devices.
Z-Wave devices operate around the 900 MHz frequency range which theoretically allows greater operating range for a given power consumption with unobstructed sensors compared to higher frequency protocols such as Zigbee. In practice however, Zigbee devices can have a greater range in highly obstructed home environments. Z-Wave devices generally have less compatibility issues among various controllers, due to several factors, including Sigma Design’s licensing restrictions.
In February 2016, UL approved the latest Z-Wave mesh protocol for UL 1023 burglar-alarm system compliance. UL 1023 approved products are not expected to be released until fall of 2016, however existing Z-Wave products that employ the newer 500-Series Sigma chipset may be firmware-upgradeable for UL compliance.
An open wireless communication specification standard, established as IEEE 802.15.4 in 2003 for secure low-power and low-latency device communication. As with Z-Wave, the Zigee protocol employs a mesh network, and supports a higher hop limit than Z-Wave, which can greatly extend the range of the network. Zigbee networks can support a much higher number of devices than Z-Wave, with industrial systems sometimes having thousands of connected devices.
Zigbee devices operate in the 2.4 GHz frequency range and theoretically have a shorter operating range for a given power consumption with unobstructed sensors compared to Z-Wave. In practice, however, Zigbee devices can have greater range in highly obstructed home environments. Since the protocol is open, Zigbee device developers do not need to ensure compatibility with other manufacturers products, and Zigbee devices generally have more device compatibility issues than Z-Wave products.
Since Zigbee and WiFi channels both operate in the 2.4 GHz band, Home WiFi routers and Zigbee home automation systems can sometimes interfere with eachother under certain conditions, often with the Zigbee network taking the brunt of the issues.
Bluetooth Low Energy, also called Bluetooth LE, BLE, and Bluetooth Smart, is a proprietary wireless communication specification developed in 2006 for secure low-power and low-latency device communication. Unlike Z-Wave and Zigee protocols, Bluetooth Low Energy devices do not currently support a mesh network topology. Bluetooth range extenders however are available, and Bluetooth mesh capability is currently in development.
Bluetooth Low energy operates at 2.4 GHz frequency range, and due to its very low power consumption, generally has an operating range less than both Zigbee and Z-Wave. Bluetooth LE is incompatible with standard Bluetooth, although integrated circuits supporting both standards are available.
A proprietary communication specification developed in 2005 that supports both secure wireless communication and communication over power lines. As with Z-Wave and Zigee, Insteon employs a mesh network, allowing devices to relay communication to each other and greatly extend the range of the network.
As with Z-Wave, Insteon devices operate at around the 900 MHz frequency range. Insteon is also X10 compatible.
An older device communication protocol developed in the 1970’s that supports communication over power lines as well as wireless communication. X10 devices generally cost less than their modern protocol counterparts.
The X10 protocol is slower, less secure and is generally considered less reliable than newer device protocols.
Many home automation controllers require an internet connection and a cloud service to operate. A controller that supports Local Control allows execution of your sensor rules and manual control of your sensors even if the cloud service or your internet service is unavailable.
The local control user interface can be implemented with a local web browser, mobile or desktop application, or a panel UI device.
Apple HomeKit is a holistic approach to solving the smart home quandry, and includes a device database, hierarchical taxonomy, protocols, strong encryption, and MFi device certification. Currently WiFi or Bluetooth LE is required for HomeKit interoperability, although gateways to other protocols are allowed.
A powerful capability when coupled with a home automation controller that allows you to integrate with the growing number of IFTTT capable devices and systems using straightforward “If This Then That” statements. For example if your controller supports IFTTT (pronounced “ift”), you can integrate an IFTTT weather service to add rules (referred to as “recipes”) that turn off garden watering if it’s raining.
While we highly recommend using controllers that are also capable of operating without an internet connection, cloud based IFTTT capabilities may be able to significantly enhance your system for non-critical, non-safety related operations.
Application Programming Interface / Software Development Kit / Integrated Development Environment. A well-developed API, SDK, or IDE for your controller allows you to fully customize your set-up and develop and integrate with bleeding edge technologies. Typically, this involves a high level programming or scripting language.