Hubs are dying, tell me it's not so


#1

#2

Predicting the future is hard.


#3

I really like her podcast, but like her co-host Kevin, I disagree.
In mainstream perhaps but Kevin always says, there needs to be one omni-powerful edge device that connects to lesser powered devices.

Based on the user count on this forum (minus however many people who order and don't participate here) plus the amount of people who use OpenHAB and Home Assitant, I think anybody who gets true home automation understands the need for one good hub...


#4

If you listen to this week's episode you will hear Kevin throwing in the towel on hubs. He hedges a bit by calling it the Debatable Death. He even mentions the previous episode where he talked about the hub for lesser powered devices.

He's looked into recent device sales dollars and makes a case for Google, Amazon, and Apple to put the kibosh on hubs. Having spend the past 3 years playing around with Zigbee and Zwave I would have to agree with him.

Average folks are not looking for the hobby I have in home automation. Instead of motion, contact, temperature, sound, and other sensors, you can put a single wifi or ethernet camera in a room and accomplish all of those plus the smarts for recognizing who a person is and telling the difference between motion from a human or a pet pig.

Consider the cost of the 360 Wyze Cam at 30 bucks. They are the company to make all of this happen.

Then take a look at the recently added contact and motion sensors api Amazon added for their connection with Smartthings. You can already use those inputs for creating rules within routines. And Amazon owns Ring and Blink already and the Wyze folks have a good relationship with Amazon as they are former Amazon employees.

Another sign of a less than great outlook for hubs is the number of people buying wifi devices like bulbs and lamp modules. I've got relatives who like items that can be controlled via their phone or with a voice assistant. There is no way they will accept the complications a hub brings but I can send them wifi devices via Amazon and they will plug them in and begin using the Amazon or Google Assistant on their phones.


#5

Hubs are no more dead than smart phones were in the early 2000's. The iPhone of hubs will come along and be usable by everyone and dominate the market. SmartThings, Wink, Iris, Hubitat, OpenHab and all the rest that I don't recall will disappear. I and others have made suggestions that have been met with encouraging noises from this platforms developers. I hope they have a plan to bring out a better UI than this OtherHUB knock-off we hobbyists love to tinker with. When my wife can plug-in a hub and it just works; when defining the homes behavior can be done intuitively without knowing how to script; when devices are all just compatible; that's when todays SmartHubs will die. Until then, GoogleHome, Echo, HomeKit, and even Cortana will continue to provide remote and voice control. I don't want that, I want a SMART HOME that adapts to me and my family. Until then I'll tinker with what we have.

Mike


#6

Average folks think it's cool when they can say "Turn the lights on." Power users don't want to have to say it to begin with. For a "smart home", Google and Alexa are add-ons. They don't do automation, and I suspect it will be a very long time before they ever really attempt it (see addendum). Hubitat is not defined by offering ZigBee or Z-Wave, though they are certainly critical. It's not even the device support or drivers. It's the whole platform of protocols, customizable drivers, rule machines, and app support.

About the most I see Google or Amazon doing in terms of "rules" would be chaining devices together, like a cheap p.o.s. WiFi camera or contct sensor being tied to a light - motion or open = "on". And the average person would probably think that's pretty cool. They can even call their house "smart" for all I care. But Google and Amazon aren't likely to implement the level of flexibility and control that "hubs" can and do provide. They won't do it, because... they're selling to the average person who thinks it neat that you can say "Turn on my lights."

As for Apple... Sure. That's believable. /s

Addendum: Home automation's next revolution will be AI backed by Big Data. For the most part, everyone wants the same things from a smart home. Right now, it's defined by how much money and time we devote to projects. I foresee a point we just tell Google where our sensors and devices are at (and they would already know the layout of the house from WiFi signal strength). From there, it could figure out our schedule and routines, and when combined with hundreds of thousands of other people's profiles, just... do what we want it to do. Occasionally, you tell it when it's messed up like any other automated bug report. When that happens, Hubitat will be out of business. I give it 10 to 15 years.

edit: @Shane_pcs This would not be by "cloud". Our data and profiles would be built and stored in the cloud, but could be compiled to rules that would be downloaded. The rules would be equally simple as any "smart app", if not more so due to being streamlined to us. So, the system would operate locally off the rules, which would be fairly static (but customized to each person). But, it would also allow our profiles to move with us, so if you stopped by my house, my house would (assuming you failed to Opt Out) automatically download, so my house could adjust to your preferred light levels, taste in music, average volume of piss, etc.


#7

Yeah i'll stick to hubs based on the automation. I already did the whole cloud based thing and it sucked :slight_smile: Walking into a dark room because the internet is out is for the birds.


#8

This is a good insight that I simply disagree with.

It is strange to me that technical people and power users almost always put back into second plan the power of the average Joe. Is in fact the average users that have all the power in deciding what is successful or not, it's upon the power users, technical guys and early adopters to work for the average Joe and bring them what they want.

Success is then measured by whom of those dreamers were able to bring them what they needed, wanted and with beautiful aesthetic and simplicity of operation.

The average Joe doesn't care if it's cloud or local. They want it to work all the time, in any situation, everywhere... Is upon those bringing the technology to figure that out.
This is the reason why big guys haven't embrace it yet. Is not mature enough yet to be brought to the average Joe.

The Hub as we know today will not be dead but will need to evolve greatly to give what average Joe needs.

I really hope that HE can move forward in that direction and be the future.
However will need to just simply work.

The average user today (tomorrow user might be different) will accept to buy a Hub that:

  • You plug to your network and boots up than you download an app and you can configure it with an app. The average user will not accept going through pages and pages of webpages to configure the router.
  • You buy a new piece of equipment for your home you plug it in go to your hub app and add seamless the new equipment.
  • you define your home automation based on pre baked recipes that you can modify.

When you get that simplistic in providing HA the average user will adopt it.

The challenge is for HE( and any other company ) is how to move into that direction fast enough and at the same time provide what early adopters and power users need for them to be kept heavily involved as they are the ones that will look to bring support for new devices and new features as soon they are released by the Mft).

Edit: I also believe that Technology companies (early Startups) are so focused in bringing their idea that is great (they all are) in the hopes that they are bought/invested in (any other company comes to mind?) to bring more money and scale it further. The true is they often loose their vision and mission as they now need to justify/please to shareholders.
The only people that any startup should be worrying about pleasing is their customers.
Hence will be critical that those Technology companies have on their teams someone that can translate the average Joe to the Technical guys and product design teams.

Disclaimer: I have worked for a top 100 Forbes company as an EMEA Director on what we called Professional Services and in parallel I have worked as strategist consultant to early Startups. So being quite familiar with the technology space my opinion can be Bias (and is not in any way related to HE to which I have zero affiliation or knowledge about their operations) please take it as it is just a generalist personal opinion.


#9

Apologies in advance for the wandering of thoughts here. I did my best to group them and I didn't listen to the podcast. I'm basing this solely on the community discussion.

I tend to wonder if the "definition" is undergoing a change. The hub as we (loosely used) know it is changing. Wherein "hubs" like SmartThings, Wink and HE allow direct programmatic access in the device, ApplePods, Echos and others hide that in favor of a more tightly constrained user interface. I don't think that makes them any less of a "hub." So, if we define a hub as something where we can access the programatic code on the device directly, then I might have to consider the lifespan of that with the average "Joe." If we define the hub as a device to manage the intersection of different technologies (not counting new ones we haven't seen yet), then I'd say they were eating the wrong crackers.

It may be that the hubs (e.g. SmartThings, Wink, etc) are slowly dying away. But that statement assumes that the power users were not the initial and/or intended targets. As part of a development plan/cycle, new products may not be initially focused on the masses. It is in a producers better interest financially and QA wise to gain adoption by the power users. Then, when the power users have reached some level of parity, then the product can be focused on the masses.

If I compare home automation to the automative industry, then I have to wonder if things hubs like SmartThings (when things are working correctly), Wink and HE are to become the aftermarket. Parts are not as expensive as the OEM, give better performance and a more customized experience.

I could also go down the road of defining who the average "Joe" is. If I gingerly stretch the "Joe" to a "target market," then things really start to open up. I have a friend who is a journey man electrician who's company works on 20k sqft homes (that's the smallest). He is blown away every time he comes over that I can do the things those multi thousand dollar systems do for less than $2k (although I do have to wonder if the WAF factor is any different in either case :wink: .

So, maybe there are three categories of Joes:

  • People with WAY too much money who don't care to know how things work and want to pay someone to deal with it.

  • People who would pay more than an Echo/Google/Apple device and put more time in to customize the experience (us)

  • The curious who will fill in the bottom with the Echo/Google/Apple/Portal/etc devices just to do a few things.

So, long way around the bend, I don't think "hubs" are dying.


#10

Sadly this is true. But makes sense as the average users outnumber us significantly.

When I listen to the IOT podcast now I think of it as a podcast for the average user. The devices they test and work with they just want to plug in and work. They don't really care about how it works on the back end or the various ways it could really fail.

I think of them as just slightly above average joe's.


#11

From a Sales perspective we define the average Joe as the average customer with a specific Market.

In Home automation for example you would have 3 markets or Channels at basic level:

  • Early adopters, beta testers, and Power Users. This is a nich market. Every company needs to develop this market into maturity before aims to be successful in next Segment. This are the type of customers that will accept complexity and bugs.
  • Initial Mass market users. This is the initial push for the general public. The average user is willing to jump the wagon at a higher price point just to be the first to have the product. Already expects simplicity of use and good customer care.
  • Mass users. The average customer in this segment expects a flawless experience and excellent customer care at a reasonable price point. This is the largest market and where all companies aim to reach.

#12

My interpretation of that is not only a definition of the "Joe" (I suppose we will have to find another term before the PC police come knocking at our doors), but it could also be considered a "roadmap" for product development. With that said, I think the case is still made that the "hub" is and will be very much alive for quite a while.

So would it be a fair statement to say HE, ST, etc would be in the Early adopters group vying for development into the next category, where Apple, Amazon and Google are pushing towards the Initial Mass market?


#13

Spot on IMO. Today's mass market doesn't want true automation, nor are any of today's automation platforms ready for mass market.


#14

Agree 2 both


#15

Yep. And I suspect that they will never. Human beings, adore too much of having control.
I believe they are now starting to get ready to have BASIC automation and simplicity of use. Hence why apps are in vogue and "Hey a boo Boo, turn the lights on" is so appealing today.


#16

I think I might have to take a different view. I think that automation will take hold as it becomes more "automatic" to implement. I'm tending to view home automation in more of a geologic time span (as opposed to the immediate gratification time we are in now). Why would a "normal" person what automation they have to work at?

I personally want a sprinkler controller that I plug in along with a couple of soil sensors, my charge rate for water and the limit of how much I want to spend each month and it does the rest. It can automatically tell how many valves I have, regulate the amount of water by sensors, weather conditions and my water bill, etc. That is automation that is almost here now.

If I remember some of my history correctly, credit cards were not very accepted due to the lack of "control" of money and having to deal with the controls (identity, signature, etc) and the time it took to process the transaction (i.e. from cash register to bank register). Now electronic payment is so easy it's in our phones.

The same with automated cars. Right now there's a lot of resistance due to "control" (and that whole liability of killing someone). However, some of the early adopters are now reading their papers and doing their day jobs while their car is driving them to work (I'll refrain from the comments on safety on that one). Nonetheless, it's creeping in. The idea of a car parallel parking for you is here now and is becoming a huge sales point.

I believe that humans have gradually changed from the hunter-wandering type to a level of laziness that necessitates automation. The more there is, the more that's needed. Just treat it like an addiction and become a cartel. The sky's the limit :wink:

In the end, it's the method of implementation (or seduction) that has to be spot on, but that goes with any product sold to the masses.

And...hubs are not dead.


#17

Correct. You will always need something to control the devices/manage the automations. To me that is the hub. Alexa, apple tv, google home, hubitat, smartthings... even if you have all wifi switches you use your phone to control, the phone is your hub.

I've customized the crap out of my HE and that is why I love it. I guess that is why I'm a power user.


#18

I really don't think this is true (haha, you'd expect that, right?).

Yes, human beings love having control, but they also love being pampered. Most people have never even seen home automation done well, let alone experienced it. Most people don't even know what it means, except for wrong ideas from folks who have used the term inaccurately in their marketing.

In my experience when people see true home automation they love it and want it. Your home just responds to you, without you doing anything other than just being there. There is still control, lots of it. But not having to control everything is nice. In fact, one becomes quite used to it, to the point that when its missing things don't seem right, seem primitive, out of date.

This is a huge marketing challenge, to say the least. But, like most new technologies, this does not mean that the challenge will not be overcome. There was a time when no one wanted a person computer, when no one wanted to be online, when no one wanted a smart phone. Yet, today we see those technologies as compelling, and we can't imagine anymore living without them. Home automation will become something that people can't imagine living without.

We here are all focused as early adopters on designing and implementing home automation. The mass market ultimately doesn't care about this at all. They will want the result, not the process of getting the result. Yet, here we are, all addicted to the process and detail of getting it to work.

People don't like smart phones because of the purchasing and setup experience, at least not most people.


#19

#20

My entite house probably is as big as the lady's closet in the video....still I have 100 devices....