Wink turns on local control for connected light switches, bulbs

Some smart homes turn dumb if you lose your Internet connection. This update enables Wink to control devices directly.

Wink hub
Credit: Michael Brown

Wink said Wednesday that it had enabled local control for Wink-compatible lighting controls, addressing an inconvenient quirk common to many smart-home systems.

A lot of connected-home systems—including the Wink hub, without this update—rely on a server in the cloud to do their magic. When you tap a smart switch or turn on a connected light bulb, for instance, a message is sent from your smartphone to your router and out over your broadband connection to a server. That server then sends a message back over the same route to perform the action.

It seems to happen almost instantly, because the amount of data exchanged is extremely small. Should your broadband connection go down, however, cutting you off from the Internet, your smart home instantly reverts to being dumb.The same thing can happen if your connected-home service provider’s servers should go down. 

By adding local control, Wink enables its hub to send commands directly to the device that’s to be controlled. The server in the cloud gets a status update as soon as your Internet service is restored, so you can control things when you’re away from home (the server needs to know the state of all your devices), but you don’t lose control over everything in the meantime.

Wink says the only action its customers need to take to obtain this new feature is to update their Wink’s firmware. A side benefit of the new system could be faster response times, possibly less than a half-second, according to Wink’s announcement.

The company says that it expects to extend local control to other connected-home devices and functions in the future, although it gave no timeline for those updates.

Why this matters: Local control is an underrated feature until you find yourself in a circumstance that makes you wish you had it. Iris by Lowes is one system that doesn't have it; Samsung's SmartThings is one that does. 

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