Shopping for smart home automation products can feel a bit like having lunch at a buffet. You can be easily overwhelmed by too many options to pick from, feeling unsure about what will taste good together. But unlike a fixed-price all-you-can-eat buffet, these smart home devices can get really expensive, really fast, so choosing the right ones is quite important. In this article we’ve taken on the task of taste-testing all these delicious pieces of technology for you, to provide you a curated review of what works, and what doesn’t. Check out the BEST HOME AUTOMATION PLATFORMS as we compare Apple HomeKit vs Samsung SmartThings, vs Wink Connected Home Hub vs Insteon Hub Pro vs Amazon Echo vs Belkin WeMo, and much, much more!
Educated shoppers will be quick to point out some of these devices aren’t touted as a smart home hub by their manufacturer. And while that is indeed the case, they still have the ability to serve as some sort of central nervous system to your smart home. We suggest building your home automation to work around these critical devices, platforms, or networks as the best way to ensure smooth future scalability. Our testing includes hardware as well as software, and touches down on how to make them all work together not just now, but also as you move into adding more devices down the road.
Check out the opening segment of my recent blog post about smart lighting options where I talk about future proofing your home. That post also includes some great thoughts about Apple’s HomeKit integration, as well as some background on Works with Nest (Nest Weave) protocols, and others. Elsewhere on my site you can find older articles comparing smart home hubs, such as this fairly old one, or this slightly more recent entry. However, since the landscape of home automation is ever-changing, it is once again time to provide a more up-to-date review of product options as we head into the 2015 holiday shopping season.
As my family, friends, and I found out while testing, some of these devices you’ll fall in love with instantly, and some will leave a bit of a bad taste in your mouth. We also found that some platforms have a broad spectrum of integration with other devices, where some felt very closed-off feeling. All of this may change in the future, so you’ll want to stay tuned to this blog, and the manufacturer’s web site, as things unfold and enhancements are made.
While you read this post please keep in mind that your specific needs and desires might vary from ours, making your choices and opinions differ as well. With this in mind we’ve done our best to list each platform below separately, breaking down the strong points and weaknesses of each, giving you raw data plus some of our opinion. We have tried to provide a snapshot to help you make an educated purchase, but some of the sections get more verbose because of all the wonderful things these devices/platforms can do!
This review also focuses on home automation, and making things “smarter” at your dwelling. Another aspect is home safety & security, which is a subject we plan to dig into deeper after the New Year. Stay tuned for a comparison in Q1 2016, where we look more closely at security specifically.
There is no clear winning platform here, but there are definitely a few that stand out from the rest. Which one are you going to choose, and why? Let us know! We’d love to hear your feedback.
Jump to a specific section:
- Apple HomeKit
- Belkin WeMo
- Samsung SmartThings Hub
- Wink Connected Home Hub
- Amazon Echo
Editor’s Note: When I started assembling this blog post I realized that a LOT of my friends and family members ask me “what is Apple HomeKit” — or “why do I need a smart hub” — and I wanted to tackle those questions at the same time that I reviewed and compared this hardware. I’ve structured this blog post to be both a comparison, but also a bit of a smart-home education piece. For those of you who already possess this knowledge, I apologize that you have to weed through the background. But hopefully we’ll also capture some newcomers, who will benefit from this added enlightenment. Enjoy!
Understanding Apple HomeKit
If you’ve researched home automation in the last year you’ve probably heard of Apple HomeKit. But what is it, exactly? Unlike most of the other platforms listed here, Apple is not offering a physical central hub device that you need to run out and buy. Instead what you’re buying into is an eco-system being built around your existing Apple products (iOS). Here Apple is creating ways in which devices will communicate with each other, and HomeKit is the thread that will tie all of these devices together.
Competitors to HomeKit typically require a hub, though a few options we’ve tested here are software-only. These hubs that do exist usually comes in the form of a small box, which inside of it exist a myriad of different radios, transmitting on specific frequencies, and using various protocols. Chances are you’ve heard of at least some of these “protocols” before. They include but are not limited to: Zigbee, Z-wave, Bluetooth, WiFi, and many others. Using a conventional smart home hub you can aggregate various devices to work together. However, Apple felt there were just too many chefs spoiling the soup, and created their own criteria for how home automation should work together.
In their attempts to create a consolidated communication standard, Apple is requiring HomeKit devices work exclusively on either Bluetooth or Wifi, ditching the other protocols many competitor’s hubs utilize. They also have very demanding encryption requirements to provide for a secure environment, and specific hardware (“chipset”) requirements to achieve their certification. Additionally, HomeKit is designed with most of your communication transmitting locally to the specific devices in question when you are at home. This differs from the other hubs on the market where in most cases commands typically will pass through their cloud first, and then go down to you home hub, and then finally out to the specific devices. This also means if their cloud goes down, so does your ability to control or access your devices, which is not the case with HomeKit.
Sidebar: There is a HomeKit “Cloud” that Apple is offering, but during our testing we didn’t come across any devices using this. In these instances WiFi devices could avoid your phone needing to be present, as we’ll talk about later.
When we talk about HomeKit, we’re actually talking about how Apple has created standards for communication in your home with a goal to unify your devices, using the phone you already have in your pocket, and the LAN connection that already exists in your home. So unlike the other examples, you have no need for any physical central “brain” type box that you have to connect at home. But don’t be fooled, there is still a central point to the system, and that is your phone. In truth then you can consider this: your iOS device becomes the central hub for HomeKit. (And as we said in the sidebar above, the cloud has potential to also become a central point, if develops choose to embrace it).
Your iCloud account already saves things like your contacts, your saved Pages documents, or other data. The same thing occurs with iCloud and your Apple iOS device you are using, maintaining a database locally which holds all your HomeKit data. As you change this data it synchronizes to iCloud, so that at any given moment all your devices have the same HomeKit data as each other. Think of this the same way you think of how Dropbox works, or even iTunes Match for Music. Except in this case instead of data files, or music, it is your home’s smart device data that is in-sync with the cloud. By using your iCloud account on other devices, such as your iPad or that second iPhone you own, you’ll see the same HomeKit data, and have the same ability to control the same devices.
Sidebar: Note that you also need to have iCloud Keychain on for sake of sharing some of the secure hand-shakes that exist between these devices. Essentially, as you add HomeKit devices to your home, you are creating a “relationship” with that device. And the details of that relationship sync across iCloud to all of your iOS devices, seamlessly.
As for communicating with those devices, again they start off being either Bluetooth, or Ethernet/WiFi. For HomeKit devices that work strictly on Bluetooth you’ll need to be nearby to them physically, roughly 40-feet or less due to the limitations of Bluetooth. For those that work on WiFi, you simply need to be connected to your local network to reach them. And in the case of all of these HomeKit devices, if you want to control them when you’re not home using your voice (Apple’s Siri), you can do so by means of an Apple TV that is placed in your home to communicate on your behalf. This allows you to ask Siri if your left the door locked at home, even when you’re not physically there to communicate. In those instances your request goes to Apple’s cloud, beams down to your Apple TV at home, and it is the Apple TV that interfaces with your HomeKit devices.
However, it is worth noting that during our testing we never did manage to get our 3rd generation Apple TV to function properly for remote HomeKit use. We found this was the case in many other reviews/blog sites we came across, too. During our testing we purchased our new 4th generation ATV, and immediately after setting it up found that our remote access issues were resolved. So if you want remote access to your HomeKit devices, an Apple TV 4 has proven the most reliable option. Also remember to keep in mind that the physical distance between your Apple TV and these Bluetooth devices is still limited to the range of the Bluetooth frequency.
It is important to note that you only need the Apple TV if you want REMOTE Siri access (voice control). Most of the time we found we used Siri and our voice when we we’re AT HOME on our local network. In those cases you can always use Siri to control your HomeKit devices without the need for the ATV. Additionally, if the only remote access you want is the ability to open up the app that controls that device, you won’t need the Apple TV, either. For example, my Ecobee3 thermostat was still able to be controlled remotely in their iOS app, even without the Apple TV.
Hence the only reason you will actually need the Apple TV is if you want to use Siri (voice control) when you’re not home to control those devices. Don’t rush out to get an Apple TV for your HomeKit if you don’t plan to use your voice to control these devices when you’re not home. We rarely turned on/off the lights remotely with voice, but we did occasionally enjoy being able to use Siri remotely to set our thermostat.
Examples of Bluetooth-only HomeKit device include the Elgato Eve Door & Window, and the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt system. These devices use Bluetooth exclusively, so even when you’re at home it requires your phone to connect to them within a 40-50 feet range. If you want them to work remotely, make sure you have that Apple TV we talked about, and that black box must also within roughly 40 feet of the Bluetooth devices.
Beyond those Bluetooth based devices, many HomeKit devices are using WiFi to reach your home network, such as the Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat. When you control these devices locally (at home) your phone uses the local area network. This gives you a bit more flexibility as to where in your house you need to be to control them, and they worked more reliability too.
Finally, there are HomeKit devices which work to bridge hardware that is neither Bluetooth, nor WiFi, such as those protocols I talked about before. Prime examples of these are the Philips Hue lighting system, and the Insteon Hub Pro. In both cases you start with a main hub, which plugs into your network with an Ethernet cable. In the case of the Hue hub, it communicates with bulbs using Zigbee. As for the Insteon system, they use their own proprietary frequency for communication. And in both cases their hubs both work with your phone via WiFi, thanks to the box you get with it that bridges the gap via your local network.
When you buy a device with the Works with Apple HomeKit sticker on the outside, it comes with both the hardware and software baked right in that Apple has authorized to allow the device to communicate on the secure HomeKit platform. To see what devices have been certified thus far from Apple click here. If you’re wondering what setting up a HomeKit device looks like, check out this article which talks about getting started.
Bottom line is this: if you buy a device that says it “Works with Apple HomeKit” you’ll be able to control it using Siri (voice) when you’re at home. If you want to control it remotely, you’ll need an Apple TV. And in all the cases we tested, there is usually a companion app that works too (locally, and sometimes remotely, depending on the specific device).
Now that you have a basic understanding of HomeKit, let’s test some devices.
Picking the Apple HomeKit Devices
For our review purposes we’ve acquired more than 80% of the items that were offered at the time of this blog post. There are other items we know of coming up around the corner, so expect us to have follow-up articles as needed. We think competition is good, so we’re excited to see options such as the multiple smart outlets, and multiple door locks, all with HomeKit compatibility.
Right now we are testing typically just one “type” of product, to see how the platform works, more than the products themselves. In the coming months we may compare one HomeKit device against another, but in this review our focus is more on the platform, than the specific device.
In total our test includes a plethora of HomeKit compatible tech, including:
- Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge – Lighting control for in-wall and plug-in dimmers
- ecobee3 Thermostat – HVAC control of the home heating and cooling systems
- Philips Hue Starter Kit – Color light bulbs using their new 800 lumen hardware
- Insteon Hub Pro 2243-222 – For comparison purposes to the Lutron & Hue
- Elgato Eve Room – Records ambient air & humidity data, and watches for VOCs
- Elgato Eve Door & Window – Keep tabs on doors or windows as they open/close
- Elgato Eve Weather – Observe outdoor temperature, humidity, and pressure
- Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolts – Smart dead bolts that can lock/unlock your door
- iHome Control Smart Plug – Smart outlet switching, similar to Lutron/Insteon
Testing of all the above items were conducted on the same network, at my home, except for the Insteon hardware. For purposes of comparison I setup the Insteon Hub Pro at my office and tested it, along with their bulbs and switches, at that location.
You may also care to know that the HomeKit testing that was done at my home was done along side various non-HomeKit devices. These include units such as a Nest Protect, two Nest Cam cameras, and a Rachio IRO Smart Irrigation Controller. Because the Nest hardware doesn’t yet have HomeKit compatibility, they aren’t included in this section of testing- but will be reconsidered in the future if they add HomeKit support. And you will see later how they do integrate with other platforms that we tested.
It is interesting to note that most of the HomeKit hardware we tested is very singular in purpose, be it a door lock device, or a thermostat. Even the Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge focuses on simply lighting, and window blinds. But there is one device that has the potential to handle more than just one task, which is why I wanted to test it at my second location (office). That device is the Insteon Hub Pro, which is a HomeKit bridge connecting via Ethernet cable, and then communicating with proprietary Insteon devices on their own radio frequency.
At the moment, due to limitations set forth by Apple, Insteon’s web site shows that it can only control lighting and power/outlet type devices. This limited us to testing their hub with just a few items, such as the INSTEON 2477S SwitchLinc On/Off Switches, some INSTEON 2674-222 PAR38 12LED Smart Bulbs, and some INSTEON 2672-222 A19 LED Smart Bulbs. Sadly we came to find that our office lacks neutral wires, so we had to return the switches and were unable to test those fully.
Down the road we know that Apple will open up more options, and at that time Insteon will be able to integrate with their own garage door openers, door locks, and other hardware. However since the Insteon hub only works with their proprietary hardware, this limits you to what you can add that will work with their hub. Sure, you can use the Insteon app to control any of your HomeKit hardware, but for many people they might be considering Insteon because of all their offerings. So beware, not only are their devices proprietary in connection, many of them won’t work with the HomeKit hub. Worse yet, we found the setup was very flaky and difficult. We’d look at other products primarily if you want HomeKit, and not Insteon.
So obviously there are a lot of cool options that work with HomeKit, and we have our hands on most of them. But as a platform, is it worth considering? How did it perform, and how does it compare to other options on the market today?
HomeKit Testing Results
We wanted this article’s testing to focus more on how HomeKit works as it compares to other platforms. But we know people are going to ask what hardware we liked most, so for sake of appeasing those readers, here is a quick snap-shot, for those of you who already plan to go with a HomeKit system.
Our favorite in-wall light switches and plug-in outlets are the Lutron Caseta kit. We particularly liked the 2-wire (no neutral required) setup, which gave it more versatility than the Insteon hardware. We also had much better luck with reliability turning on and off the Lutron hardware compared to the Insteon stuff. For additional lighting options, if you want colorful light bulbs, right now the only HomeKit option is Philips Hue.
There are a few HomeKit thermostat options announced, and we’re quite smitten with our ecobee3 for the multiple sensors, and great interface. We’re curious about the Honeywell Lyric WiFi Thermostat which is coming soon, and may test that and other HomeKit thermostats that are trickling into the market down the road. For now we’ve tested just the ecobee3, as per my blog post HERE.
Lastly, we’re big fans of the Schlage Sense door locks that we installed, since they have a built-in touch-pad; plus we’re just a huge supporter of the brand. At time of publishing this article the new August Smart Lock with HomeKit Enabled has been announced as coming soon. And they are offering an optional August Smart Keypad plus their new August Doorbell Cam, making that a pretty sweet HomeKit compatible setup! We reckon we’ll have to test that soon! (Check out my quick-look at the Schlage Sense post, too!) Door locks are sure to become a crowded HomeKit segment.
With that out of the way, this is where I’d really love to tell you that HomeKit works perfect, and is the best platform option on the market right now. In truth that may be the case for a select group of readers, but I’ll be the first Apple fan-boy to admit that HomeKit is definitely still a work in progress. Unlike typical Apple products that work perfect right out of the box, there is definitely a general feeling that HomeKit is half-baked, or just not “there” yet — but it is close! One of our testers had a snag setting up their Philips Hue hub, though we’re not sure if that was due to migrating from the old hub or just a single-case incident. Either way 95% or more of our HomeKit setups went smoothly, except for that one Hue setup.
In most cases you set up your devices the same way you would their non-HomeKit counterparts. If you’re familiar with setting up a smart home device, like the Philips Hue Starter Kit for example, this setup is equally as simple. After you go through the iOS app to link your device to your WiFi there is a simple added step of linking the hub to your HomeKit database, by scanning a code, and voila! Other WiFi devices like the ecobee3 thermostat or Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge have similar easy setup.
There was a slight variation in setup for those devices that utilize Bluetooth, such as the Elgato Eve as well as Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolts. These devices have unique apps for their specific HomeKit hardware, too. But overall, setup was equally a breeze for even the most novice of smart home hardware tinkerers, with only the normal headaches one might expect from these types of products. Some devices prompt you during setup for more than others, but all of them did a great job holding your hand, and making sure you were ready to go when the process was over.
Testing HomeKit means using Siri voice to control devices, which is the pinnacle of the whole platform. We have found that when you’re at home on your local WiFi these voice commands tend to work 99% of the time, though we did have the occasional snafu. You need to remember to use the correct wording, in the right order, otherwise Siri will get easily confused. In most cases Siri wouldn’t work if you used the wrong verbiage, but occasionally it resulted in ALL of the lights turning on or off, when we only wanted a specific light, or group of lights.
Once you master the commands, which are relatively natural though certain phrases are missing from her understanding, you should find using voice control a real pleasure with Siri. And the local access using your iPhone and the corresponding app was always solid, especially the WiFi devices. We did note that controlling the Bluetooth devices also work great, though with a greater latency than the WiFi devices, and again those range limitations.
Where things start to fall apart is with remote access to those Bluetooth devices when you’re away from home. In those cases our older Apple TV 3 worked 0% of the time, and our Apple TV 4 works only about 40% of the time for Bluetooth hardware. This pales in comparison to the successful remote access of our WiFi HomeKit devices, which work 95% of the time when we are away from home. Again this reflects our specific findings, but based on Internet forums we frequent, it seems most folks had poor ATV3 results, solid ATV4 results. And regretfully the overall poor remote Bluetooth access seems to mimic others with whom we’ve interacted.
What do we mean by not working remotely? For example, we’d ask Siri on our phone if the Schlage Sense front door was locked, or what temperature my Elgato Eve Room was reading in my living room. Using the same wording that had met with success while at home, Siri would start off saying “Ok, asking around…” only to come back with a “Sorry, I wasn’t able to do that” response. Again this was only the case away from home, and typically the end result on Bluetooth devices. We had great experiences with controlling our Philips Hue and Lutron Caseta systems remotely, since they are WiFi/Ethernet based products. Your results may vary, of course. Just be wary of remote access to Bluetooth devices, even with an Apple TV.
Beyond improvements with how the Apple TV & Bluetooth devices communicate (adding more reliability), another big fault with HomeKit right now lies in the structure of the system. Although developers have the option of propagating commands through Apple’s Cloud, most of them are still relying on your iOS device. In my case that is my iPhone 6S, which as I said prior works a bit like the “central hub” to my HomeKit system. Let me explain further…
Using the Home app that I talked about in this recent blog post, I setup a geofence trigger that would turn on certain lights when I arrive, but only after sunset. It has been working perfectly for me, turning on both Lutron & Hue hardware upon my arrival. However this geofence is specific to my phone, and does nothing to help my wife, whom I’ve shared my HomeKit system with through Apple.
But perhaps a better example is the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus we have in our master bedroom. Using HomeKit to bridge my various devices together, I was able to create a trigger that when my Lutron master bedroom light is turned on (wall switch), the light strip is set to also turn on to a certain color/brightness. This also works quite nicely (effective over 95% of the time), but only when my iPhone 6S is present. If my iPhone is not local (on the wifi), it will not work. We tested this by placing my phone into LTE mode by turning off WiFi, and observing that the function then fails to work. In other words, my phone had to be on & local, for the Lutron based triggers to work. When away from home, and my wife turns on the bedroom lights, the Hue strip fails to turn on. From what I have been told a firmware update to the Lutron bridge could resolve this, perhaps, though others claim the hardware can’t handle it. Which is it? And can this be fixed by Apple or Lutron in the future?
To take this testing one step further I created some time-based triggers. Again, you use your iOS device to setup the scenes and triggers, which can be done in whatever app you choose. Right now though only the $15 the Home app allows triggers. Elgato claims their Eve app will add this functionality soon, which is great since their app is free. During my testing of time-based triggers I found that they relied on my iPhone, which meant that if they occur when you’re not at home, you’ll need remote access via Apple TV. One suggested work-around I’ve seen people discuss is having an older iPod Touch running iOS 9 somewhere in your house as a central hub, but this adds a hassle and added cost that most users won’t want to deal with.
Even with these faults, there is lots to love about HomeKit, with plenty of features that are better than others on the market today. We loved how, as you build out your home layout, you can define various rooms, and zones, within HomeKit. For me this works great as I have specific rooms such as my Living Room, or Kitchen, that I want to control room-by-room. And in some of those rooms I have multiple devices, not just multiple wall switches/lights but items plugged in, or a temperature sensor in that area. And my home is a split level (actually tri-level), which meant I could designate a group of rooms as being the top, middle, or bottom floor. That made it easy to turn lights or devices on/off with Siri, by specifying that specific floor (“zone”). This is actually a feature I use quite often, as I head downstairs in the morning for example.
Scenes are also nice in HomeKit, as they can collaborate between devices. This means that you can tell Siri “good night” and it will set your ecobee3 thermostat into night mode, turn off your Philips and Lutron lights, close your Lutron shades, and even lock the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolts, all with a single voice command. And with any of the HomeKit compatible apps, you can also call up these scenes on command using your phone, if you aren’t feeling very vocal. You can also setup devices that have a similar purpose as “service groups” so that you can easily tell Siri to turn on all of the “table lamps” regardless of where they are located — if that is something you want.
At the end of the day I really loved the ability to walk into my living room and simply babble into my Apple Watch, which would then turn on the lights to a certain percentage, or set my Hue bulbs to a specific color. Voice control, especially when local, is awesome! And unlike the Amazon Echo we test later, there was a simpler experience adding new devices, putting them into rooms, and then controlling them. Seeing up new Echo devices for voice typically took more steps, more effort.
But there are those aforementioned limitations within HomeKit, which have prompted me to leave the Lutron Caseta hub to maintain its own schedules, and the Philips Hue to have its own, too. I’ve found myself with a bit splintered, fragmented of a home automation layout for now. It really comes down to my iPhone’s presence being the requirement the causes the greatest issues for me. I’d like to use a single app to centrally setup my schedules, and have those work without any iOS device being required to be at home to work.
Perhaps in the future this will work, thanks to Apple’s HomeKit Cloud, and some firmware updates pushed to these various devices. For right now the system works, but it feels like it is still coming into its own, with some power perhaps on-par with what you get in the Wink system, but without as many hardware options.
So why buy into Apple HomeKit? For many, the primary/first reason is if you want Siri voice control, and you’re already an Apple iPhone owner/user. That alone is enough to get many folks interested and on-board, and the best part is that the voice control follows you around the home, or even outside the house. Typical iOS users have their phone on their person all the time, or wear an Apple Watch. This gives you voice control all the time, no matter where you are!
Second reason to consider HomeKit is the belief that it is more secure. Many folks have stated that HomeKit is a more safe & secure option compared to other platforms. Though this is something that could be argued and will truly need to be proven over time, it is a point that Apple is using to sell their platform.
And finally, with Apple being such a huge company, one can assume that there will be an increase in products available for HomeKit, making it a wise platform to choose simply knowing it will continue to grow thanks to the typical “Apple effect” as they say. Right now some big players are on-board, but devices from Nest and other companies are still not, making HomeKit a curiosity for the moment.
But right now HomeKit isn’t the best option for everyone. Plenty of the devices we’ll talk about later can gain voice control using the Amazon Echo. And HomeKit isn’t the right answer for Android or Microsoft phone users. If you like the idea of Apple integration, voice control, and hopeful future growth, HomeKit is worth considering. My personal home is setup for HomeKit, with a few other odd devices around which aren’t.
Be sure to keep reading to see how the competition stacks up!
There exists a free web service called IFTTT (If This Then That). Rather than using a hardware hub they instead offer their cloud services, which can work as your “central hub” to keep your things connected to each other. They even have quick action buttons (they call them DO Buttons) that can make some fun things happen on demand.
We’ll talk about IFTTT throughout this article as a viable way to interconnect things where having a hardware hub at home doesn’t always make as much sense. We like IFTTT, but for most people it can’t be the final end-all answer due to limitations we’ll address in a moment. One great thing about IFTTT is that it works above and beyond whatever home setup you already have. This means you can be a user of the Samsung SmartThings hub, or a Wink Connected Home hub, or even an Apple HomeKit user, and still add IFTTT to your repertoire if you desire.
To get started understanding IFTTT check out their About page. Their IF Recipes are cause-and-effect scenarios for your automation. These are not limited to smart homes, though. Their platform is great for all sorts of automating, whether it be copying the photos you put on Facebook over to a Dropbox folder, or letting you know about new products added to Best Buy’s web site. Those are just a few examples of the power IFTTT contains. As it pertains to this blog post, however, we’ll talk about using IFTTT for home automation.
Without a doubt IFTTT has one of the largest lists of integrations around, as can be seen on their Channels page. Some of our favorites in their Connected Home section include but are not limited to: Amazon Alexa (Echo), ecobee3, LIFX, Lutron Caseta, Nest Protect & Thermostat, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Belkin WeMo, and Wink. Those are just a few of the dozens of integrations they offer!
Although using IFTTT is great for making “magic” happen, one of the biggest pitfalls is the latency. Most of their integrations have a polling frequency that is rather low, and in many cases takes as long as 15 minutes. This makes IFTTT less than ideal for things such as turning off a light when you set your thermostat to away, due to these delays. Still, having the ability to make all your lights turn off and lock the front door when you put your wearable step-tracker into sleep mode, for example, is a way-cool feature even if it might take a few minutes to occur.
Another short coming with IFTTT is that it started off as this if-this-then-that mentality, and revolves around that premise. Sure, they’ve added some DO Recipes to the software, allowing you to simply tap to trigger events, but you’re still limited to really just one layer at a time. For example, you can’t have it only run a trigger during secondary conditions, such as time, location, etc. And again, we’re talking just about triggers-and-events, done for the most part by automation, or button-tapping. If you want to add voice control you can, but we’ll talk more about that in the Amazon Echo section later.
WE wish there was a control of “scenes” (Multiple events from a single trigger). Technically you could create different events that all happen from the same trigger. But doing that can get to be a fairly messy process, because your list of saved recipes will grow exponentially longer. So when you compare IFTTT to a more conventional smart home hub, you’ll quickly see that IFTTT is meant more for those unique, singular activities you want to automate, rather than large groupings.
Another problem we encountered is that triggers and actions are often limited in function, depending on the integration level allowed by the hardware manufacturer. Our first encounter of this was during our recent bulb testing, playing around with some of the cool features in the Philips Hue and IFTTT integration. Lacking there was any way to make the Hue bulbs slowly fade in/out over a set period of time. This came as a contrast to their competitor’s hardware: the LIFX Bulbs. They also integrate with IFTTT, but with their bulbs you have the ability to set a fade in/out duration, allowing for a more subtle appearance of the lights as they come on, or go out. Little details like this make IFTTT a great platform for some devices, but less powerful for others.
Perhaps one of the best examples of an IFTTT integration that was under-powered in one case, and perfect in another case, is when you compare how IFTTT works with the Nest Thermostat in contrast to the ecobee3 Thermostat. When using IFTTT you can set your ecobee3 into ANY of the comfort settings (even custom ones), and even specify how long to hold that command, or set it to cancel when the next scheduled change occurs. In contrast, sadly, the Nest thermostat does NOT allow the user to set the device to be Home or Away via IFTTT. As a matter of fact, the only commands which you can send to your Nest from IFTTT are to set a desired target temperature (or temp range), or set the fan to run for 15 minutes. The ecobee can do more than a half dozen things via IFTTT, including telling it to resume your schedule! Once again, these limitations have more to do with what the device manufacturer is allowing, and less to do with IFTTT themselves.
Still as you are developing out your smart home, you’re going to have needs, and wants. Perhaps you want your thermostat to automatically switch to “Home” when you leave work, to prepare for your return. That works great if you have an ecobee3, but you won’t be able do do that with your Nest. If you want your wearable to become part of your smart home, the Misfit Shine has double and triple tap and options for both with IFTTT. This allows the Shine to operate way beyond what a Fitbit Charge is going to offer. You can find these details on the specific Channel pages on the IFTTT website, so be sure to check that out!
In conclusion, we actually really LOVE what IFTTT can do. During our testing found that both at my house (HomeKit devices) and at Holly’s place (Wink, SmartThings, etc) we both had a bunch of IFTTT recipes we continue to have running. This is the case because we’ve found that no one system is ever really the ultimate winner here, and in that regard IFTTT can help fill in some of those holes.
Thanks to a rather simple user interface, IFTTT is a great way to get started with home automation, especially for new users. It probably can’t do everything you want, but works as a great starting point. Once you own two smart devices in your home, IFTTT is a fun way to make them interface. We imagine most users will consider starting here, and eventually getting a smart hub like Wink or SmartThings.
One of the very first automated devices I added to my personal home was a Belkin WeMo Plug-in Switch (outlet). This was before they even began to offer their newer WeMo Insight Switch which provides more feedback and details on energy consumption. These days the Belkin WeMo lineup has grown quite a bit, and includes everything from their hard-wired (installed in the wall) WeMo Light Switch to control lights, their Belkin NetCam HD+ for video monitoring, smart bulb options such as their WeMo Smart LED Lighting Starter Set, and even a WiFi-Enabled Smart Crock-Pot Slow Cooker!
In my recent blog post about smart light bulbs we put the WeMo light strips and bulbs to the test, and found them a reasonable option for many potential users. If your goal revolves mainly around lighting, using switches and bulbs, then the WeMo lineup is worth keeping on your radar. All of the products they offer are built solid, and thanks to a very nice app interface, are equally easy to use on your smart phone.
WeMo devices rely on WiFi to communicate, so setup involves connecting them to your existing home network. Belkin has developed a cloud service (for free), which then allows you to control those devices using their app even when you’re away from home. Want to check if you remembered to turn off a light? Need to push back the crock-pot to start later because you’re working late? All of these functions work superbly with the Belkin WeMo app. We did find some lag controlling devices at home, which we suspect has to do with the ping-back time from phone, to cloud, back to home. Our only complaint remains the lack of privacy, such that anyone on your home WiFi network has access to those local devices. They need to add some sort of user name & password security layer to their hardware.
What you won’t find in the WeMo app are things like “Scenes” that would allow you to control multiple devices easily, on-demand. You can setup time-based triggers that control many devices, or pick up a WeMo motion sensor to control your devices from there. But if you want to turn on a bunch of lights at once, you’ll want to look to scale-up from there.
One option to “scale up” from your WeMo setup would be working with IFTTT, which I’ll come back to in a few paragraphs. That is a good option, but truly the best option would be to purchase the Samsung SmartThings hub. Sadly we had really bad luck getting WeMo to integrate via the Labs plug-in with the SmartThings hub, which ultimately left us not being huge WeMo fans. Had that worked it would have given the WeMo a huge scale option making it a contender for sure.
When you start off with just a few WeMo devices you’ll find you can do quite a bit already, from within their app. You can set lights to automatically turn off after a designated period of time (in case you left it on, or after motion triggers it in the first place). Evening lights coming on/off based at set times (such as sunset) can also work nicely, all setup and controlled from the app. And since this data is stored in the cloud, you don’t need a special hub or have to be at home for these to work. As such I praise the WiFi enabled WeMo devices for all being fairly nice and self-contained, compared to others on the market.
Their home security hardware options are limited, with no door/window sensor, and only one motion sensor option. If you upgrade to the Samsung SmartThings hub you can do a lot more, but as a stand-alone ecosystem, the WeMo offerings are limited in that realm. Primarily I think of WeMo as being a good lighting/switch offering, and to expand, you really need to get a smart-hub. Since the SmartThings hub is the only one it works with, and our testing was negative, it’s hard to recommend the WeMo.
Setting up new WeMo devices tends to be a slow process. In all cases we hit a few snags for all of the various WeMo devices. In most cases there is a firmware upgrade needed, which can take a dozen minutes to complete. But in our lighting blog we talked a bit about the headaches requiring resetting, and it taking over 30 minutes to add bulbs! Once done, setup, and going, the WeMo Light Switch my friend Matt tested has been great for his home. And at Holly’s place we have a slew of WeMo devices (WeMo Smart LED lights and more!), and they work great both stand-alone, and with her SmartThings hub. Generally speaking we like the WeMo app for its simplicity and ease-of-use, even if the setup process is a pain, and the latency can be up to 30-seconds response time.
Later in this article we’ll talk about the Amazon Echo voice assistant and how that works with devices, like the WeMo. We like how you can grow your WeMo home thanks to the IFTTT app we talked about in the prior section. Suddenly your lights become both triggers, and actionable items. Did you set your ecobee3 thermostat to sleep mode? Your lights can start to fade down automatically, using IFTTT. And that WeMo Motion Sensor suddenly works to trigger devices that are outside the WeMo brand, too! Though you do have the latency issues with IFTTT, this does make your lighting, sensors, and other WeMo devices that much smart, and for free, too.
Thanks to an abundance of sizable displays at your local big box stores, Belkin is doing a good job getting into the homes of many. If your home has neutral wires in the wall boxes, the WeMo Light Switch is a good on/off option, but it lacks dimming capabilities. In comparison, the Lutron Caseta hardware includes dimmers, and none of their switches require a neutral wire. Though I’m personally a huge fan of the Lutron hardware, with over 25 switches/outlets in my home, it isn’t for everyone. First off, the Caseta switches are considerably more expensive, and secondly, Lutron has an even more limited set of integrations than Belkin WeMo.
This same trend continues when you look at the WeMo Smart LED Lighting Starter Set. Included in that kit is an affordable set of white-only bulbs. Although they are priced right, many will want to spend extra money for color bulbs, such as the Philips Hue hardware. Again see our recent lighting blog post, but overall we tend to find that the WeMo lineup is good, often not as versatile as others, but remains a great starting point. We like that you can scale it relatively easily, too.
As you shop try to be careful to consider what hardware you might add in the future, since the WeMo devices limit you to IFTTT, or perhaps SmartThings if you have better luck getting it to work than we did. For future growth WeMo is good, but not “great” as tested.
Samsung SmartThings Hub
Let’s say you started your smart home off with a set of TCP light bulbs. Their starter kit came with a hub, which they call a gateway. That gateway uses a wireless communication standard called Zigbee to talk between the bulbs and the hub. Your phone cannot communicate Zigbee, hence the need for the hub in the first place. And that hub plugs into your router (Ethernet) which connects it to the Internet. When you send a command over the Internet using the TCP app, you can turn lights on/off.
SIDEBAR: It is important to note that, regardless of whether you are on your home wifi, or a remote wifi location, or LTE/3G data, in almost all cases you’re still using the TCP cloud in my example above. So when you send a command to turn on/off lights you’re sending that up to the TCP cloud, which uses the Internet to beam that request to your hub/gateway, when then sends the Zigbee signal to the bulbs. All of this creates a delay (“latency”) which is why it may take a few seconds, even when you’re at home, for lights to turn on/off. Some hubs circumvent this by having your commands go more direct when it senses you are at home, but most of them do not do this and hence even the best home automation can have delays using the app. We found these delays with TCP, WeMo, and many other platforms.
One day you decide to expand your home automation hardware. Perhaps you want to add a motion sensor to turn those TCP lights on. Or maybe have the bulbs illuminate when a certain door opens using a door/window open/close sensor. To make this work you’ll need not just the motion sensor itself, but also some sort of central hub to connect them together. This is because the TCP gateway controls your lights exclusively, with no capability to add motion sensors. And so begins the downward spiral that beckons this blog post. Which hub do you get? Will the sensors, bulbs, and other hardware you want connect them all together? What if your home also includes a Belkin WeMo Light Switch?
In this section we’re looking at the Samsung SmartThings hub, which is one of two central hubs we think you should consider. The other is the Wink Connected Home Hub, which we’ll talk about in the next section. We’ve purposely left out other hubs on the market today, such as the Staples Connect, the Iris Smart Hub, and the Logitech Harmony Home. While these are definitely viable options, we feel the SmartThings and Wink offer the best interface, and/or maximum flexibility & customization, when compared with the others. We did some personal testing of the other hubs, but opted to omit them from our suggestions here. What you will find in this blog post then are just the “Best of the best” devices.
Testing of the SmartThings & Wink hubs were performed at Holly’s house, where even prior to this blog post we already had a huge collection of hardware. This includes but is not limited to:
- Samsung SmartThings Hub (the new v2 hub!)
- Ecolink Z-Wave PIR Motion Detector
- Kwikset Z-Wave SmartCode Electronic Deadbolt
- Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell
- TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit
- Philips 456210 Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter A19 Kit
- Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation
- Nest Cam WiFi Security camera
- Belkin WeMo Insight Switch (plus bulbs, light strips)
- GE Link Wireless A19 Smart Connected LED Light Bulbs
- LIFX Color 1000 & LIFX White 800 Bulbs
- SONOS Compact Smart Speaker
- Leviton DZS15-1LZ Decora Z-Wave Light Switch
- Lutron Caseta Wireless Dimmers & Switches
- …and other devices I’ve probably forgotten!
For the purposes of testing the latest and greatest, we also went ahead and picked up a bunch of new hardware Samsung recently released. The list is below, all which are
z-wave Zigbee devices that are branded by Samsung for their new version hub:
- Samsung SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor
- Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor
- Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor
- Samsung SmartThings Arrival Sensor
- Samsung SmartThings Outlet
For users who are new to home automation the SmartThings hub is going to be a LOT to take in! Right away users will find it the least intuitive of all the devices we have tested in this blog post. Yet it has the most powerful customization options of all, too. This might go hand-in-hand, but it still seems like they could have done a better job making the software a bit easier to understand.
Once you do get a hang of the clunky interface you can do more with SmartThings than just about any of the other devices/platforms here, combined. One of my favorite examples of this would be using a motion sensor to turn on a light. Sure, almost ALL of the platforms we tested here can do that, but in SmartThings it adds the extra layer that you can set how many minutes after the motion stops that the light automatically turns off. This is a feature not found in any other platform we tested, which can be mimicked but never quite replicated by the competitors.
Features like that elevate the SmartThings hub to a level beyond the others, and make for a remarkable piece of software. But we constantly had issues finding the right “SmartApps” to achieve our goals. Like all the apps and devices we tested, you can create simple tasks (routines) that can occur with a touch of a button, or at a set time. You’re able to use triggers such as motion sensors, presence sensors, and much more, too. As a matter of fact, one of the coolest and more powerful features of SmartThings are modes, which allows you to set whether you are home, away, or sleeping. By having these modes you can actually create another tier of automation, so that certain devices react uniquely based on whether or not you’re home versus away, awake versus asleep. Perhaps when asleep you want push notifications of a door opening that, when you’re home/awake doesn’t matter. It is that kind of granular adjustment that makes us love SmartThings. There is a learning curve, and setting it all up can be a painstaking process, but once in place it is quite smooth running.
During our testing & review Holly made a comment that really stuck for me. In the case of the SmartThings system, you really have a “Know & Control” sense of your home. You can easily setup a room to quickly show you if there is motion, for example (see photos in gallery). You really can design each part of your smart home to work for you, and with relatively quick taps of your screen check on, and secure your dwelling.
Though the SmartThings hub isn’t a true home security system, it is really just a small degree away, lacking only third-party monitoring. In the near future we plan to pick up a Scout Alarm Wireless Home Security System and see how that integrates with and/or compares to the the SmartThings. For now we will say that the Samsung system gave us the most sense of security of all the systems we tested, and seems to truly focus on that type of integrations. The other platforms we tested were all solid, but seemed more about making things happen (triggers, schedules, events, automation) and less about alarms, security, and so forth. Of this bunch if you’re trying to build your own home alarm/security system, the SmartThings gets our gold-star, but stay tuned to our blog for more thoughts on that in a few months.
Based on the powerfulness alone we could conclude the SmartThings section by telling you it is better than the Wink hub in the next section. But for a few key reasons it isn’t. For starters, while it has a great, broad spectrum of integrations, it is still lacking ones we think really matter. For example, the amazing Nest Protect smoke detector, the award-winning Nest Cam cameras, and the captivating Nest Learning Thermostat family are excluded. Additionally our test-home has a Ring Video Doorbell, and as you’ll see in the next section, the motion sensor there was useful for Wink robots, and is lacking here from SmartThings. We also had some issues pairing our Kwikset Deadbolt to the new v2 SmartThings hub (it worked fine with our old SmartThings hub), but it linked up immediately, flawlessly, to the Wink hub. These omissions and flaws, plus the overly complex interface, make it not quite as plug-and-play as the others around.
But don’t exclude the Samsung SmartThings hub from your consideration. It is indeed the most powerful one here, and now that it is owned/financially backed by Samsung, it is sure to be around for a while. If you’re a timid new users, the interface will not be your friend. But if you’re the kind of person who enjoys spending a lot of time digging deep, learning, and educating yourself, the by all means, go for it! The SmartThings is the device for the “Advanced” user.
If you’re looking for a quick-and-painless experience, make sure you read the next section. Because the next hub we talk about here is for the general public, and is very fun!
Wink Connected Home Hub
This section will be a bit smaller than the prior. This is due to the fact that the Wink Hub was tested at the same location as the SmartThings hub, so we started off with that same huge list of devices you saw in the prior section. And by now you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of how this all works.
In the case of the Wink Hub we took all those other devices, most of which worked with the Wink, and added:
Last year I tested a bunch of hubs, and back then praised the Wink Hub for the intuitive, attractive interface. Luckily Wink has not made any changes to diminish that, so what remains is one of the prettiest smart home apps we’ve ever seen. For the most part navigating around is pretty straight-forward, though we do wish there was the ability to setup your home by rooms. If you want to jump between dissimilar devices that are in the same physical space, there are a lot of button-presses involved, but at least it all makes sense.
Where Samsung recently acquired SmartThings, a recent sale by Quirky of the Wink company also has changed ownership. Ownership and financial control of Wink Hub now belongs to Flextronics, a huge contract manufacturer and a very large company. At this point nobody knows what this means for the future of Wink, but we hope it brings new integrations, better hardware, and perhaps stronger cloud services to the Wink service.
As noted earlier, there is no way to create scenes in IFTTT, or WeMo. But HomeKit and SmartThings do have this ability, and so does the Wink Hub. These scenes are called “Shortcuts” in the Wink app, and with a single tap you can set the stage for your evening guests, movie night, or any other type of mass-controlled function you want. Additionally, Wink integrates with IFTTT. This means your Wink hub can react to IFTTT triggers, though we found the IFTTT integration most critical when dealing with the Amazon Echo. See the next blog section for details on that.
Although the Wink Hub doesn’t have the granular control for automation that the SmartThings hub does, we did find their “Robots” section extremely easy to use. This is where you can have lights turn on from a motion sensor, or an alert when your front door remains unlocked for more than a few minutes. We liked that the “state” of something could wait to alert you (or trigger) for a certain number of minutes, but missing was the automatic function of turning a light off after the motion went away.
When I asked random family members, and friends, how they would configure their smart home, almost all of them gave me examples that fell within the threshold of what the Wink Hub can already do. One of them gave examples of wanting a camera at their front door, and essentially described having a smart doorbell like the Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell which we had tested. They talked about having the front house lights turn on automatically when the front door camera noticed someone approaching after dark.Sure enough this type of integration works right within the Wink app!
One of the most visually stunning aspects of the Wink app is the Wink Relay wall switch. It provides you a central command center, avoiding having to reach for your phone. We love how it shows you the weather, recent smart home activity, and other features all within the Android-powered little smart touch-screen display. Our only real complaints were that the device would be a little laggy at times, and that it seemed to need rebooted once a week. If you’re thinking about picking a Wink Relay up, keep that in mind.
Without a doubt our favorite smart home platform in this review is the Wink Hub, thanks to the colorful, intuitive interface. And it has a huge list of integrations including most of our favorite devices (even some we didn’t have a chance to test this time around). Check out their product integration listing HERE.
One of the most amazing pieces of tech released in 2015 is the Amazon Echo. Though voice recognition has been around for a while now, like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, the Amazon Echo brings a unique approach. Rather than baking in these features to your smart phone, this black tower is placed somewhere centrally in your home. This allows anyone in the house to use it anytime they are within ear-shot.
Although having to be local to the device is one short-coming, the fact that the device is powered and always-on makes it far superior in microphone and speaker quality. Hence it also doubles is a great speaker for listening to music. During our testing we’ve found we can be pretty far away from “Alexa” and still get a response. There are differences as to what non-smart-home commands Siri vs Alexa can handle, but again for our testing here, we’re going to focus on the home automation aspects.
We’ve included some photos above of the app, and specifically the Connected Home section. But sadly the Amazon Echo doesn’t lend itself great to photos, and would be better for video. If you are interested in seeing what it can do we’d be happy to create some videos for our readers. Please use the comment section below and let us know what you want to see, and we’ll try to fill those requests immediately.
With the Echo you can control devices a smattering of ways. Our favorite integrations here relate to our two favorite smart-home hubs: both the Wink Hub and SmartThings hub. Once you connect the Echo to your existing Wink or SmartThings, most of your devices are ported over. We did find that the front door z-wave lock was not there, a limitation that Amazon said will be rectified in a future software update. We’ve also noticed that it seems Amazon updates the Echo weekly, and we expect that very soon after publishing this article changes will make some of our data “old news” 🙂
One great example of recent updates is one that just came out days prior to this blog post. Thanks to a new update from Amazon, they’ve updated their IFTTT integration. You can now call up a trigger more easily, and you can name it custom to whatever you desire. With this new update we were able to control door locks, by using a small work-around. We created a scene on the Wink Hub that locks the front door, and turns off various lights around the house. Then using IFTTT and the Amazon Echo, we created a trigger called “nighty night” — so now when we say “Alexa, trigger nighty night” — the event occurs! And it does so quite fast, with very minimal latency since this is a “push” event rather than a pull event on IFTTT.
Even if you don’t have a SmartThings or Wink hub, the Echo is still able to control devices from Belkin’s WeMo lineup directly. We expect other WiFi devices will add direct Echo support in the future, too. We hope LIFX will be one of those companies, since we LOVE our LIFX Color 1000 & LIFX White 800 Bulbs, and would love a direct link from Alexa to those.
From a home automation standpoint, we’d recommend the Wink Hub as your central point, and then the Amazon Echo as the voice component. These two work really great together, since any “Shortcuts” you have created in Wink become accessible in IFTTT. Additionally, you can create groups in the Echo app, by room for example, to make turning lights on or off together more easy. In our testing we would use Echo’s group control to link lights, but then tested using Shortcuts to create “scenes” that we could control. We had the ability to make these shortcuts occur with voice on the Echo, using the Wink app, or walking over to the Wink Relay.
Right now there is no way to directly change temperates on the Nest thermostat with the Echo, but that is another integration/relationship we expect is “coming soon” from Amazon. Adding a new device to your Wink hub does require a refresh on the Echo, and a bit of tinkering to get it integrated. In comparison to HomeKit this made working within the Echo ecosystem a bit more tedious, but the payoff was worth it.
When you’re looking at why you’d add the Echo it really is all about voice control. And for the most part we were able to mimic what HomeKit can do with the Amazon Echo, even if it does take a little bit more effort. For non-Apple users, or people who want the benefits that the Wink or SmartThings offers, the Echo is a great way to blend voice commands with your smart home needs. We found Echo a great, at-home alternative to HomeKit.
Are you thoroughly confused now? If you haven’t walked out of our technology buffet here, and you’re still reading (we hope you are!), let’s take a quick moment to summarize.
Our favorite smart home hub is the Wink Hub, especially when coupled with the Amazon Echo for added voice support. If you’re an Apple user, we do love HomeKit, and would say that you should try to get hardware that also supports HomeKit. Note that there are some cases where you can span two platforms at once. An example of this: the new Philips Hue Starter Kit. With the Hue system you get direct IFTTT integration, and you can connect that to your Wink Hub. But it also comes with HomeKit so you can still control those lights with Siri. Just remember that if you add devices to the Wink hub, those devices won’t be controllable by Siri unless advertised as such by the manufacturer, since the Wink hub itself is not HomeKit.
When it comes to light switches, our favorite bulbs are the Hue bulbs I just mentioned, and the LIFX Color 1000 & LIFX White 800 Bulbs. Our favorite in-wall switches are those pricey-but-powerful Lutron Caseta units, which are also now for sale in-store at most Best Buy locations. The Caseta switches work directly with the Wink hub, and not the SmartThings hub, which is another reason we like the Wink more. And as for smart thermostats, well, go read this post we made not long ago.
Power-users should look to Samsung and their complex SmartThings hub, which can do more than most users really need. Belkin’s WeMo lineup is nice, but doesn’t really win any awards here other than low prices, and limited expansion. Though the fact that the WeMo stuff links direct to Echo makes it a nice option for the “budget” user.
In truth you can’t go wrong with most of the hardware we tested. Some of it works better than others, so shop around for devices you’ll possible buy down the road. It is imperative that you look at what works within the eco-system you choose, so that you don’t paint yourself in a corner. Nothing is worse than having a splintered home, having to use multiple apps, and having difficulty making things work together.
Think of it like planning your meal at that buffet we talked about. Even though you might not want something on your first trip to the buffet counter, there are things you might go back for later. And making sure the hardware you get today is compatible with the hardware you might want tomorrow is going to help you from having an upset stomach down the road! Ciao!