One of the most confusing parts of the smart home setup at the moment is the need for a separate smart hub to actually control all of the elements in your smart home in one place.
For many, you may not even realize that the smart speaker (think Amazon Echo or Google Home) isn’t a hub, though it certainly feels like it should be, and with the Amazon Echo Plus it almost is, but even this top-of-the range device still doesn’t contain all of the wireless protocols necessary to communicate with all the devices in your smart home.
A standard smart speaker like the Google Home or the basic Amazon Echo will have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but will lack Z-Wave and Zigbee, two competing low energy wireless connection methods that are hugely popular in the smart home.
One step too many
What this means is that you have to buy a separate hub like the Samsung SmartThings hub, which you then command using your smart speaker. It just feels like an unnecessary layer of complication in an already complicated setup.
What would be ideal is a smart speaker that already has Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even infrared like the Homey hub has, so you didn’t need two separate devices.
While this may sound like asking for the moon on a plate, this is exactly what manufacturer Hogar has managed to do (minus the infrared) with the Milo speaker that it’s showcasing at CES 2018.
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What’s more, it’s only $149 (about £120, AU$200). That’s more than the standard Amazon Echo or Google Home, but the same price as the Echo Plus.
Now, this isn’t us saying that it’s a better speaker. We’ve not had hands-on time with the Milo, and from looking at the specs it’s not quite as impressive as its competition. For example, it only has a three microphone array which is half the amount of the Echo.
But our point is, the first smart speaker that can truly stand as a smart home hub competitor hasn’t come from Amazon or Google. And that’s a little surprising.
It’s possible to speculate that with Amazon backing Zigbee, it means that Z-Wave will end up being the Betamax of the smart home race, but for the time being at least smart speakers need to start providing a real alternative to smart home hubs.
According to Hogar, the Milo smart speaker is going to be available early 2018. We'll be trying it out to let you know if it's worth buying, and keeping an eye on the big names to see whether the next wave of speakers solves the separate hub problem.
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