Monday, March 19, 2018

Wink - The Heart of My Smart Home - Review


1st Gen Wink Hub
Easy to setup
Connects to many devices
Works with Alexa
Easy to create schedules
Local control
No monthly fee

No Ethernet port
No Battery backup

If you're wanting to get started with using smart home products, you're going to need a hub of some sort. Actually I'll backup a bit. You don't need a hub, but I'd recommend it if you want multiple products to work together in one ecosystem.  On top of that, you're a little safer than if said non hub company decided to get out of the smart home business (there were some TP-link lights that were wireless and they no longer work because they stopped supporting them.) That's why I don't recommend going with systems that strictly use WiFi or Bluetooth.  The most popular smart home hubs on the market today are Wink, SmartThings, Vera, Amazon Echo (yes, they have a speaker that has Zigbee support),  Nexia, and Iris. I'm sure there's a few others out there that are more niche.

So what does the Wink hub do you ask? It allows you to connect different products with different protocols, such as Zigbee, Z-wave, Lutron, Bluetooth, and WiFI to the same "network". Some hubs only connect to a few protocols, for example, the Amazon Echo speaker hub will only connect to Zigbee devices. These protocals allows the hub to control all the devices you have.

I bet you're wondering why I chose Wink over the other hubs. As I mentioned in another post, I didn't chose SmartThings because I didn't know if they would be buried when Samsung bought them. I liked the layout of the Wink app with my Android phone, it's a very clean layout. It's also really simple to setup new devices with the app and they keep adding more.

There are several ways to control your devices with Wink. The first is with your smartphone, Android or Apple. You can turn devices, such as lights, on and off. The second is with a schedule, setup a schedule everyday to turn on your garage light at dusk and another to turn it off at midnight everyday. The 3rd way is through what they call robots. Other companies call them recipes, but they're basically the same thing. With robots you can setup devices to do certain things based on events. I have over 100 robots setup for all kinds of different things.  I have one setup to turn the lights on when the motion detector detects motion downstairs after sunset. I have a robot setup to turn a 3rd light on when the living room lights turn on. There's another one that turns the coffee light off after 30 minutes when it's turned on. There's so many different things you can do.

Some devices connect through Wink through their API. Here's a few products that I have that do: Nest thermostat, Nest smoke alarms, Canary camera, Arlo cameras, MyQ garage door opener, Ring camera, and my Amazon Echo. With a some of the products you don't receive all the features through Wink, probably because the products want you to download their own apps. For example, in Nest, to see your thermostat usage history you need the Nest app. To turn the smoke detectors off, if they detect smoke, you need the Nest app. You need the Arlo app to arm the Arlo cameras. The canary camera doesn't show video through the Wink app, it can only arm and disarm. This is OK though, you can still use their features to trigger other events through robots. Even if you have products that won't connect to Wink, you can use other services like IFTTT and Stringify to connect them together.

Just to be clear, having a smart home doesn't go without having any problems. There's network issues every once in a while. You can check Winks api status here.  Since I have a gen 1 hub, if I lose internet connection (which rarely happens), then my robots won't run. If you upgrade to the Gen 2 hub this doesn't happen, the robots can run internally instead of over the cloud. Now these issues aren't limited to just Wink, they can happen with any smart home system. With the history of my setup I can tell you it doesn't happen too often. There may be times that lights disconnect from your hub. Most of the time this is because the light is too far away from the hub. With Z-wave and Zigbee device you have mesh networks (separate mesh networks, Zigbee and Z-wave don't work together). This mean the lights can reach the hub by connecting through each other. For example, my garage light is way to far away to connect to the Wink hub. It goes through several other lights to reach the hub.

I can definitely recommend the Wink hub! I purchased my hub in July 2015 and it's been very reliable. You now have the option to purchase the 2nd gen Wink hub, which offers a few advantages. The second gen hub supports 5 GHz WiFi, Ethernet port, Bluetooth LE, and auto-discovery for setting up new devices. Checkout this blog post for a full list of devices that I have connected to my Wink hub. As I said in my last post, I'll be reviewing some of the smart home products I have purchased.

Devices I Own Connected Through Wink
5 cameras
25 lights (combination of switches and bulbs)
2 fans switches
1 garage door opener
1 thermostat
2 smoke detectors
12 sensors (door, water, and motion)

Links - Official website.
Wink 1st Gen Hub on Amazon - $34.95 at the time of this posting.
Wink 2nd Gen Hub on Amazon - $99 at the time of this posting.
Wink Hub 2

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