Athom announced today that its Homey Bridge smart home hub and companion app will finally be available to U.S. customers, starting on January 18. Athom says its smart home system, which is already available in Europe, was designed with consumer privacy top of mind. The $69 device will be offered for sale at Amazon, Best Buy, The Home Depot, and other big-box retailers.
By their very nature, smart home hubs come to know a great deal about your private life: They know your daily routines, when you’re home and when you’re away, the temperatures you’re comfortable with, how much energy you consume, which rooms you occupy the most, and a whole lot more. If that data is harvested, it can be used to build a profile about you and your family, and that profile can be used for advertisements, targeted marketing, and more. You might have already experienced this with Amazon’s Echo smart speaker, Alexa will sometimes suggest products or services related to your inquiries.
While Athom’s Homey hub supports all the infrastructure your smart home might need—Zigbee, Z-Wave Plus, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE, infrared, and a 433MHz radio, all of which can all be controlled through a single app, the manufacturer promises none of your personal data will ever be sold or used for profiling, advertising, or marketing.
The free version of the Homey app, however, allows you to control just five devices. If you want more—as any smart home dweller will—you’ll need to step up to the paid version of the app. Fortunately, that costs only $2.99 a month and it allows to control an unlimited number of smart devices. Athom says Homey is compatible with 50,000 smart devices from more than 1,000 manufacturers.
“Every home is unique; it’s not one-size-fits-all. Most of today’s smart home systems are centered around a single brand, technology or use case,” co-founder and creative director Emile Nijssen said. “As a result, your smart home can become complicated and cluttered quickly with all sorts of different apps.”
An app store within the Homey app allows device manufacturers to add additional functionality and currently counts about 750 different apps. Athom says these apps are automatically added in the background and used to control the device. A quick check of the app store, however, reveals that most of these apps are developed by Athom, not the manufacturer. A hands-on review will reveal how much of a limitation that presents, which we’ll be diving into soon.
Smart devices controlled through the app can use three separate features: Flow, Insight, and Energy. Flow uses IFTTT-like automation to control devices based on preset rules, while Insight provides data on smart device usage within the home. Energy is aimed at both monitoring and adjusting a home’s energy consumption.
The Homey Bridge joins the Homey Pro, a more robust smart home hub with similar privacy features. The Pro adds an integrated speaker and Wi-Fi support to act as a backup when your regular Wi-Fi network is down, but that device remains available only in Europe.
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Hubs and Controllers
Ed is a technology journalist, music nut, and gadget geek who hails from the somewhat small town of Reading, Pennsylvania.