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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.

So how well does it work?

Since I wanted to make sure I gave the hub a thorough trial, Revolv provided me with several smart devices in addition to its $299 hub.

I tested the equipment in two buildings: A rambling New England farmhouse with a Cisco Linksys E4200 Wi-Fi router and marginal cellular service, and a small vacation home with a Cisco Linksys E2500 wireless router and excellent mobile connectivity. The vacation home also included a Honeywell TotalConnect Comfort Wi-Fi Thermostat and two Dropcam Wi-Fi security cameras.

I used the Revolv Android app on a Moto X phone running Android 4.4.4, and the iOS app on an iPhone 4 running iOS 7.1.2.

Interestingly, although Revolv provided these products, installation didn't always go smoothly.

Sonos Play:1 streaming music system speaker ($199) and Bridge ($49)

I was able to set up the Sonos Play:1 and its required bridge quickly and easily; the Sonos app connected to my Pandora account in no time.

Revolv recognized the Sonos automatically, quickly connected with my Pandora streaming music account and let me set the music to pause/play, set the volume and choose a Pandora music channel. But at first it only presented those channels I'd played using the Sonos system since adding it to Revolv. To view and select other Pandora channels, I needed to go into the Sonos app and play those channels I wanted to access before I could see them in the Revolv app.

I also experienced some initial frustration with saving actions involving the Sonos in the Revolv Android app. Every time I saved an action with a setting to play music, for example, the setting didn't save and the action would not respond correctly.

After some fiddling around, I finally realized that, because the setting wasn't visible on the screen without scrolling down, I had missed it. When I didn't pick a channel the app didn't complain, nor did it default to the last channel selected in Pandora — it simply changed the setting back to "Pause." This is a known bug in the Android app, according to Revolv. In the iOS app it will use the default channel setting when the action is saved.

On the whole, the Sonos speaker offered great sound quality. However, when placed in the front bedroom, the speaker was out of range of its bridge (which was located at the rear of the house) and didn't work. In addition, the Sonos speaker would occasionally lose connectivity with the bridge — even when they were both in the same room — and would need to be resynchronized.

Insteon Mini Remote 4 Scene control keypad ($45)

If you want to pause the music when you're using the Sonos, you need to use your phone app, desktop app or the buttons on the speaker. That can be awkward when you have an incoming call, so Revolv recommends using an Insteon RemoteLinc keypad and programming two of the buttons with Revolv to remotely control the Sonos pause and play modes.


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