Connecting all your home devices just got easier

Home Depot and Staples launch new connected home hubs

Published: July 03, 2014 02:00 PM

Home Depot and Staples this week muscled their way into the connected home market with announcements of systems that help homeowners monitor everything from window shades to security cameras from one hub. The big retailers are just the latest players to offer consumers centralized control over their homes rather than depending on individual apps that work with just one product.  

Staples’ announcement centered around the expanded availability of the nearly 150 products in its Staples Connect line, which are displayed at in-store kiosks and also sold through About 500 stores out of more than 1,800 will begin carrying the line July 15—up from an initial 32 in last year’s trial program—starting with the stores whose customer base shows the most interest in technology.

To kick off the program, Staples will lower the price of its Linksys-made Staples Connect Hub from $100 to $50. That hub supports the Z-Wave home-networking standard along with Wi-Fi, but a newer hub coming out this fall—made by D-Link, will sell for $80 and adds support for the Zigbee standard and Bluetooth.

Staples says that the average hub owner has seven connected devices, which is growing monthly, and that iPad users comprise the bulk of users who’ve downloaded the free Staples Connect app, available for iPhone and Android. Other players are on-board. The Staples Connect app is available for Microsoft’s Windows 8. Jawbone, a wearable-technology manufacturer, has also announced that its UP24 wristbands will work with Staples Connect. And starting this summer, you’ll be able to control devices through some Samsung Smart TVs.

At Home Depot stores will feature so-called end caps—displays at the edge of aisles—for its Wink line of dozens of connected products beginning Monday. The star of the show, the Wink hub (made by a spin-off from Quirky, an “invention company”) will cost $49. Buy a connected device with it, and the hub price drops to $25; buy two, and the hub costs 99 cents. The app is free.

Depending on what you’d like to automate you might not even need the hub. Every product compatible with the Wink app will display one of two logos on its packaging—one indicating products that need the hub to connect using Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Lutron’s ClearConnect, and another for products that connect to your home network’s existing wireless router.

A product that’s compatible with one retailer’s hub isn’t necessarily limited to that company’s suite. Schlage and Kwikset, whose connected locks we recently tested, will work with either company’s hub. So will lighting devices from Philips and other products from companies such as GE, Honeywell, and Lutron.

Even if you don’t care about automating your lighting, heating and cooling, door locks, or smoke/CO alarms, many other types of products will work with one or both of the newly announced product suites. Chamberlain, for instance, sells the MyQ Garage Universal Garage Door Controller, which works with most existing garage-door openers. And the Rheem EcoNet Wi-Fi module, will let you set water temperatures remotely and notify you if your Rheem water heater is near the end of its life. Both products are part of Home Depot’s line.

To see how some connected products have performed in Consumer Reports tests, read our special report, Run your home from your phone. Also check our Ratings of CO/smoke alarms, door locks, lighbulbs, and thermostats.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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