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New smart home hub offers solution for beginners

It’s the latest from smart home company Wink

For smart home beginners (and skeptics who feel that the dream of the intelligent dwelling far outpaces the available software and hardware), a common source of anxiety is the lack of a decent hub—a central command station and simple way to get various products communicating with one another.

Of course, big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google have jumped into the fray, hoping to seize the moment and provide hub-esque products like Amazon’s Echo and its "Alexa" voice-operated interface, Apple’s HomeKit app (new to the recently released iOS 10), or Google Home (also voice-activated).

Wink, the New York City-based smart home company founded in 2014, is also doing its part to solve the question of just how to get all these disparate smart home products talking, and today announced an update to its hub offering. The Wink Hub 2 has a sleeker design, with a thinner profile and a body that ditches early-aughts rounded edges for the sharper lines increasingly more tech is embracing these days. "We really wanted to design something that was beautiful enough to put on a bookshelf or beside your TV," Wink founder Nathan Smith recently explained to Curbed. The new hub also features updated hardware, which the company reports improves the device’s security; the new hardware makes use of cryptographic verification, a specific digital signature that makes it harder for unauthorized users to gain remote access to the hub.

The hub works with several communication "protocols" a.k.a. the languages smart home products speak, which helps the less tech-adept amongst us make the best use of our smart bulbs, outlets, and more, helping take some guess work out of "what works with what," says Smith. For now, there are 31 companies whose products work with Wink, according to the Wink blog.

And, in a move the company hopes will help the masses across the U.S. warm to the idea of a smarter home, Wink has partnered with Walmart to retail the new hub for $99. (Walmart stores will also start stocking Wink Hub-compatible products alongside the hub.) You can also snag the hub on the company’s site, on Amazon, and at Home Depot.