Staples Connect was one of a few new hub-based smart home systems to launch in 2013 and give the whole DIY home automation market a big boost. Now less than a year since the initial launch, the platform is expanding and add more device partners including Jawbone and D-Link. The system is also rolling out into 500 more Staples retail locations.
What may be the most important development is the price cut. The original Linksys-made smart home hub, which had been priced at $79 is now only $49. The similar Revolv hub costs $299 (read our review here) and the SmartThings hub is $99 (read our review here) as is the Iris smart hub (read our review here). Connect also launched a new hub built by D-Link which will sell for $79 and adds a Zigbee wireless radio and Bluetooth LE to the platform (the original Linksys hub includes Z-Wave, Lutron ClearConnect Caseta and Wi-Fi).
The $79 D-Link Staples Connect Hub, now with Zigbee and Bluetooth LE
Now smart home shoppers can either buy the inexpensive Linksys hub with three wireless control protocols, or the more expensive D-Link hub with five wireless protocols. Either product makes Staples Connect about the least expensive smart home starter system on the market.
Adding Zigbee and Bluetooth is a big deal because there are a host of products that now have the potential to be integrated into the Connect platform. This doesn’t mean you can buy any off-the-shelf Zigbee-compatible product and know it will work—Staples Connect still has a vetting program and only recommends products it has approved, but it opens the door for many more devices.
Staples Connect was already compatible with about 150 devices from 35 brands such as Lutron, Philips, Honeywell, Yale, First Alert, Kwikset, Schlage, Leviton, Cooper, GE, and others. Staples says that home safety and monitoring are the most popular product categories, but lighting, shades and thermostat integration is also high on users lists.
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Among the new devices now compatible with the Connect smart hub are Samsung smart TVs and Jawbone wearable technology, including the Jawbone UP24 life tracker.
Adding Samsung TVs is a significant development because it’s the first time a smart TV has been able to be integrated with a DIY home automation hub. With Connect, the Samsung TV acts as an additional interface for the system, allowing users to interact with their connected devices through the TV. For instance, if the user has a security camera in the system, the camera footage can be viewed on the Samsung TV via a Connect app (added through the Samsung smart hub library of apps). If the user wants to turn down lights anywhere in the house, he or she can do that through the TV with the remote rather than hunting for their iPad. Hopefully more TV brands will be added, but starting with Samsung puts the connect system ahead of the others in this market.
With the Jawbone wrist devices, users can create activities based on the status of their Jawbone system. For instance, putting the Jawbone wrist strap into its Sleep mode can also trigger a Connect system to shut off lights or turn down a thermostat.
Jawbone life-tracking wearable wristbands
Finally, Staples has added a smart phone and tablet app for Window 8. Apple iOS and Android devices were already supported.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.