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Testing the Internet of Things: Can smart devices be united into an integrated whole?

Robert L. Mitchell | Sept. 18, 2014
I have had a smart thermostat and Wi-Fi security cameras in my home for about a year. While using these (and researching my article The Internet of Things at home: Why we should pay attention), I started to wonder if the task of managing smart devices could quickly get out of hand.

I have had a smart thermostat and Wi-Fi security cameras in my home for about a year. While using these (and researching my article The Internet of Things at home: Why we should pay attention), I started to wonder if the task of managing smart devices could quickly get out of hand.

Each device you buy, from the Nest thermostat to your smart crockpot, comes with its own app that lets you configure and program it, set up alerts and remotely monitor and control the device. As you go beyond two or three smart things, however, app clutter can take hold. There are simply too many apps, with too many alerts, to manage everything separately. What's more, each of these devices exists in its own silo, completely unaware of other smart devices in the home.

That's where a universal smart home integration and automation system like Revolv comes in. Revolv's eponymously named product, which is priced at $299, includes a hub that can communicate with smart devices that speak Wi-Fi, Insteon or Z-wave, and a mobile app that you can program to automate how you use the smart devices in your home and how they interact with one other.

There's a key benefit to managing everything from a single control point: You can program groups of smart devices to operate together in response to an event, such as the time of day, your departure from or arrival home or when you unlock the front door. For example, when you approach your home, the porch and hall lights turn on, motion sensors turn off, the garage door opens, the smart lock prompts you to remotely unlock the door with a single press and your favorite music is already playing as you walk in the door.

To find out whether Revolv could really simplify the process of living with smart devices, I decided to try it out myself.

Which products does Revolv support?

The Revolv hub's radios can support seven different smart-device communication protocols, although Revolv has turned on just three: Insteon, Z-wave and Wi-Fi. Four others — Zigbee and three inactive radios, which Revolv declined to name — are there to future-proof the product; the company says it can automatically activate those on users' hubs by way of online updates.

Revolv has a list of about 75 products it can manage, organized into categories, such as smart locks, motion sensors and thermostats. Only a few devices are supported in each category, and several other categories aren't yet supported at all, including security cameras, fitness bands and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check the compatibility list before you buy.

 

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