Recently, the home Wi-Fi router market has been undergoing some big changes. We have seen the introduction of a new class of home routers based on mesh technology, designed to boost Wi-Fi coverage throughout your whole home and eliminate Wi-Fi dead spots. We have seen some of the most famous tech companies introduce their own routers. And, we have also seen a large number of new router product announcements that claim to give you a router that is smart, and/or designed to be the center of your smart home. In the latter case, there is much room for confusion as a router and smart home technology are very different things. In this article, we are going to explain how you can tell if your router is smart or not.
Wi-Fi Router as the Center of the Smart Home
We couldn’t agree more that the router is the ideal device to be the center of your connected home. Our homes are packed with digital devices, from modems to routers, set top boxes, music centers and smart home hubs. We are suffering device clutter. If it is possible to integrate some of these different devices into one and even better make their functionalities complement each other – for example, using your Wi-Fi presence to make home automation easier – that is extremely valuable. A router provides Wi-Fi; something now absolutely central to our lives. It is the one product everyone has making it the logical choice to be the hub or center of our connected home.
Confusion with Smart Wi-Fi Router Claims
In the recent announcements, the focus has been on adding smart home functionality to the Wi-Fi router. To understand perhaps we need to first look at what smart home devices are. A quick web search will show us smart home means devices like Nest, Wemo, and Philips Hue. It means being able to control devices with your smartphone and automate them so that your lights turn on when you open the door or your coffee starts brewing when your alarm goes off. When you go to any large electronics store these kinds of devices are found in the smart home or connected home section. If this is the case, what role is your router going to play in making your home smarter?
Smart Home Functionality Device Types
Smart devices usually come in two forms: standalone products and smart hubs. In the former case, standalone products, it simply means products designed to principally do one thing: washing machines to toasters to light bulbs, but now made smart. You may already own several of these standalone devices like the Nest thermostat or Philips Hue lights, but there are hundreds. The plan is to make almost every product smart in the next few years; from your blender to your washing machine to your microwave. What makes these devices smart is that you can control them from your phone and automate them based on the time, among other things.
But these devices have a drawback: more often than not from different companies and, as such, they are not connected to each other. If you want them to connect, communicate, enable device-to-device automation, and control all from one app, you need a smart hub. It is the bridge between your devices.
Now, a Wi-Fi router is not going to going to be a standalone product – it doesn’t lock doors or brighten rooms – it is going to be a smart hub. For a hub to do its job it has to have two main things: an ability to connect to all these different smart devices together and a strong automation platform.
The Right Connectivity Protocols
You may think that the router has Wi-Fi, therefore, of course, it can connect up all these smart devices, but the majority of smart home devices don’t use Wi-Fi to connect. Most smart home devices use other connectivity standards like Zigbee, Z-Wave or Low Energy Bluetooth. You have already heard of Bluetooth and you use it in your phone to stream music to your car stereo among others things. In the case, of Zigbee and Z-wave these are new standards designed especially for the smart home. Most smart devices are sensors only needing to send small pieces of data and the key is battery life. Wi-Fi drains battery, is more expensive and not necessary to handle the small amounts of data needed to be sent. The only devices that need Wi-Fi modules are cameras because they need a standard capable of handling streaming HD video.
In other words, if your smart home router doesn’t have both hardware and software support for any of these kinds of connectivity standards – Zigbee, Z-Wave or Bluetooth – it can’t connect up most of your smart products.
Powerful Automation Engine
You might also be thinking, but my camera is Wi-Fi and my Nest is Wi-Fi, so surely I can use it to connect these devices up and automate them? This is not the case without smart hub functionality. A smart hub is able to monitor what each smart device is doing and remember that if A is doing this it needs to quickly tell B to do something else. It is able to understand the different languages of each device and translate. It will provide you with an app that makes it possible for you to see all of your smart devices together and then easily use rules to set up triggers and actions based on those triggers.
Equally as important, it needs to have a very broad ecosystem of partners. At the moment because devices are all from different companies, it is necessary for the hub manufacturer to work with all the device vendors and integrate their products one by one. This is a difficult job but essential if users want to connect up the broadest range of devices.
If a Wi-Fi router wants to be center of the smart home, it needs to support connectivity standards like Zigbee and Z-Wave. It also needs sophisticated functionality to enable all your standalone smart devices to work together, for example, an app with automation and cloud support.
If it doesn’t have these things, it is only making sure your phones, tablets, and notebooks are connected to Wi-Fi and the Internet. In which case, it is only a Wi-Fi router. It may be the greatest router in the world, but it isn’t the center of your smart home. The only way you are going to be able to get it to connect up all your smart devices is with a lot of string or tape.
Learn How You Can Connect to Wi-Fi and Manage All Your Smart Devices with the Almond Series of Wi-Fi Routers with Built-in Smart Hub
Almond 3, smart home Wi-Fi system, is a mesh router and smart hub. It has built-in Zigbee, support for Z-Wave and Bluetooth dongles, and a powerful automation and connectivity platform able to connect to a huge ecosystem of third-party devices including Nest, Philips Hue and Amazon Alexa.
Securifi was the first company to integrate a smart hub into a router with Almond+. It is the first router to support Amazon Alexa enabling voice activation for features like parental controls. Almond 3 is its 2nd generation router and smart hub and the winner of Gartner Cool Vendor Award 2016 and Popular Science “Best of What’s New” 2016. Learn more about the only true smart router at www.securifi.com