Hubs. Everyone’s got one, and you’ll need one (or twenty) of these things at some point in your home automation ventures. Why? because apparently it’s expensive to build all the compatibility for the newer automation ecosystems like Nest (Google) and Homekit (Apple) into hardware like lightbulbs, and easier to build it into a separate hub, where all of these emerging standards can more easily (and cheaply) be packaged up.
Unfortunately for you, this means if you want to use Phillips Hue, you need their hub. If you want to use Lutron switches, you need their hub. Oh, you want to use GE Link bulbs? Guess what, no worries, they have a hub.
Fortunately for you though, there is an answer: the Wink hub. But wait, you say, no where on that package does it say “HomeKit Compatible”!? Oh, do not worry, we’ll get there. First, consider that many of the wireless or “connected” devices you come across will adhere to many different standards, and possibly some proprietary. Wink started with the intention of bringing something unique to the home automation space: a single hub with many different radios, Bluetooth, wifi, and protocol compatibility (Zwave, Zigbee, etc). Their goals were lofty, a one stop shop for connecting and accessing all of your home devices, at a reasonable price. The hub is $100 and allows you to seamlessly connect a Lutron switch, EcoSmart bulbs, Belkin Wemo Plug Switches, and the list goes on.
I purchased this hub with the intention of just trying it out and possibly returning it if it didn’t work. Almost right away I ran into a small hiccup: my standard EcoSmart bulbs connected fine, but the Par20 bulbs wouldn’t. Ok, time to give Wink support a try. You can tell a lot about a company by their support. I got through to a human almost right away, within minutes he had walked me through resetting the bulbs (which apparently are paired at the factory and sometimes they forget to un-pair them according to the Wink dude), and I had them successfully paired. Score one for Wink.
My next goal was a little more ambitious. I wanted to connect my Raspberry Pi HomeKit hub to my Wink hub. The idea would be to enable the Wink hub with HomeKit and thus Siri voice control. Guess what? Wink to the rescue again: You can email them a request for access to their Rest API which allows you to prorammatically interface with all of the devices in your account. Within a week they had generated the keys I needed with frequent support updates. Score another one to Wink for being open to the programming and enthusiast community!
With the appropriate API keys in hand, and a handy Wink plugin for the Homebridge project already available, within minutes I had a fully functioning Siri enabled Wink hub with most of my connected devices centralized.
Next up… The How-To for what I’ve described here.