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Smart homes are one of the most convenient upgrades you can bring into your life. Not only can you remotely control functions such as lighting and music, but you can also automate routines and issue voice commands. But how do smart homes work? And what role does a smart home hub play?

What is a smart home?

A smart home is a house where internet-connected devices work together to control various functions around the home. Smart home devices include everything from smart light bulbs and smart power outlets to smart appliances and smart central heating systems. These devices are controlled via an app or hub, allowing you to set routines and adjust settings. For example, with smart bulbs, you can often adjust the brightness, change the colour, and switch them on or off from your phone using a compatible app. 

Smart home hubs: the brain of the smart home

A central challenge with smart homes is getting multiple devices to work together and coordinate seamlessly. After all, if you have devices from different brands, you don’t want to open the app for each individually to adjust and control them. That’s where the smart home hub comes in. This hub is the centre of communication for smart home devices and allows you to control multiple devices from one location or programme. 

These hubs can also coordinate different devices to create routines. For example, you can set a bedtime routine where the hub switches off all the lights in your home, closes your blinds and turns off certain power outlets.

Smart home hubs usually come in various forms – from touchscreen devices that look like a large tablet to small, nondescript hubs that resemble a small modem or portable hard drive. 

One of the most popular form factors for smart home hubs lately is the smart speaker. These speakers double as a hub and include voice assistant features in addition to being an audio speaker.

Choosing a smart home hub

The right hub for you will depend on your needs and goals in your smart home. You can start off slow, trying out a specific smart device you like and integrating a hub at a later stage. But a dedicated smart home hub is best if you want to control a relatively large range of devices since the hardware will be able to handle these demands. However, if you have only a few devices and want voice assistant capabilities, a smart speaker may be a better choice. 

You should also look at a hub’s compatibility with other devices and apps. Android-based smart hubs work with a large range of devices and have significant third-party support, allowing you to link devices across different brands. However, Apple’s hubs have less support for third-party technology and therefore limit you more when it comes to controlling different devices. You will be able to check compatibility on the hub product page.

You should also check which services you can use on the hub locally. Functionality sometimes depends on the region — so imported hubs such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo may not have access to all their features when used in South Africa. While most hubs are easy to set up, limited functionality may throw a spanner in the works. 

If you’re unsure about available features or how to set up a hub to access its services, you should talk to the device supplier. Many local resellers and smart home stores will give you a better idea of the services available and how to get the most out of your device. Some stores even offer custom solutions to better suit your needs.

Now you know how to start setting up your smart home – keep an eye out for the rest of our series, which will show you how to set up entertainment and security features for your smart home. Plus, find out more about the V by Vodacom range, including the V-Home Safety Starter Kit.

Header photo by Sebastian Scholz (Nuki) on Unsplash

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