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Techstage Top 5: These are the best smart home control centers from 40 euros Does the perfect control unit exist for the intelligent home? No, but there are solutions that offer clear advantages thanks to numerous radio technologies. 08/16/2022 6:10 p.m. tech stage

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Does the perfect control unit for the intelligent home exist? No, but there are solutions that offer clear advantages thanks to the support of numerous radio technologies.

According to Bitkom, the proportion of smart home users rose from 26 to 41 percent between 2018 and 2021. Smart technology has prevailed, especially for the control of light. But also the regulation of the room temperature with smart thermostats (best list) is becoming more and more popular. With surveillance cameras, motion detectors (guides) , flood sensors and smoke detectors, your own home is also safer. And last but not least, the technology with smart irrigation systems (guide) also opens up the garden area. The control possibilities seem to know no limits. At least in theory. In practice, unfortunately, things look a little different.

The various smart home systems usually cover many application scenarios. With the help of a motion detector, you can switch on the light or the television, for example. More complex automations are also possible, provided the necessary sensors and actuators are supported. But if you want to control a new air purifier (guide) more efficiently with the help of a powerful room air measuring device (guide) like the Air-Q, you will find that there are many devices outside of these systems that cannot be easily integrated. The problem does not only affect exotic application scenarios, but almost all smart devices such as sockets , switches and dimmers ,Lighting , thermostats for radiators and underfloor heating , and surveillance cameras .

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The “Matter” standard, which is expected for autumn 2022, is intended to ensure more compatibility, with the aim of making corresponding devices independent of the manufacturer platform. Whether and especially when the new standard can actually solve the compatibility problem remains to be seen.

Until then, if users want to be as free as possible when choosing smart products, they need a smart home center that is compatible with existing solutions. In addition to WLAN, such a control unit must also support at least the energy-optimized Zigbee and Z-Wave radio technologies developed for the smart home sector . But that alone is not enough, after all, some components also transmit via Bluetooth or in the 433 and 868 MHz bands. And if you want to integrate older infrared devices into your smart home, you should make sure that you have the appropriate support.

Homey Pro: Users control the smart home center via mobile apps or on the desktop. 

The smart home center Homey Pro (test report) comes from the Dutch company Athom. Apart from the little-used Enocean standard, it supports all wireless technologies relevant to the smart home sector, such as WLAN, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth and infrared, and also transmits in the 433 MHz and 868 MHz bands used by older smart homes devices are used. According to the manufacturer, more than 50,000 devices can be connected with each other.

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Managing all the components in a smart home under one interface is not possible with Homey Pro either. But the small sphere with the glowing LED equator comes very close to this dream and offers significantly more than solutions from other manufacturers. If you want, you can even use it to manage KNX-based smart home environments or monitor the production of your photovoltaic system . And Homey Pro can also control the DECT-ULE components connected to a Fritzbox, such as sockets and heating thermostats. The user-friendly interface is not only available in the form of a mobile app, but can also be conveniently accessed from the desktop.

With the services offered, Homey Pro is primarily of interest to users who want to consolidate many apps for controlling smart home components and for whom open source solutions based on Iobroker or Home Assistant are too complex. Thanks to its open architecture with great community support and apps, Homey Pro is a versatile and easy-to-use solution for this target group, with which they are not only dependent on a single manufacturer and possibly expensive solutions when expanding their smart home.

Homey Pro is like a Raspberry with many antennas and an elegant and powerful operating system that offers clear advantages over the competition in terms of setup, maintenance and connection, even if it doesn’t quite come close to the functionality of an open source solution. But this performance has its price: users have to shell out almost 400 euros for Homey Pro (test report) . But they are well put together. With Homey Bridge for 69 euros, Athom also offers a cloud-based solution that incurs monthly costs of 2.99 euros for the full range of services.

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The control unit for Samsung Smartthings comes from Aeotec.

Samsung Smartthings (test report) is one of the most popular smart home platforms in the USA and Great Britain . This is also reflected in the reporting: In its smart home blog The Wirecutter, the New York Times also mentions smart things from Samsung in addition to Amazon Alexa, Apple Home Kit and Google Assistant when it comes to the compatibility of smart home components.

Smartthings is not that popular in this country. After the failed attempt to market the platform together with Vodafone in Germany and monthly subscription costs, Z-Wave Europe is now responsible for selling the smart home center. The distributor for Z-Wave-compatible products belongs to the Hamburg-based Aeotec Group, which is why its name adorns the Smartthings headquarters. Samsung itself is increasingly integrating Smartthings hubs into household appliances, TVs and smart monitors.

The Smartthings center from Aeotec integrates the most important wireless technologies in the smart home sector with WLAN, Zigbee and Z-Wave. Despite some problems with the integration of devices from other manufacturers, the compatibility of the Smartthings platform can be viewed positively. These include a large number of prominent brands from the smart home sector, such as Bose, Danfoss, Fibaro, Home Connect, Honeywell, Ikea (Tradfri), Nanoleaf, Netatmo, Philips Hue, Ring, Somfy, Sonoff, Sonos, Tapo and Tint .

Thanks to its compatibility with products from over 200 manufacturers, Smartthings is a good basis for managing a smart home. Since Samsung is one of the main drivers of the Matter standard, users can assume that the platform will become even more versatile in the future, since the new standard should make it even easier to integrate components from different manufacturers and to execute rules locally. Aeotec charges around 100 euros for the Smartthings hub.

Smart Home By Hornbach: Smart Home center with WLAN, Z-Wave and Zigbee 

Smart Home by Hornbach (test report) supports the wireless protocols WLAN, Z-Wave and Zigbee, but only connects to the Internet via an Ethernet cable to the home router, which limits the choice of installation location. Connected devices can be controlled by voice via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Interested parties can find out exactly which ones are suitable for this from a compatibility list regularly updated by Hornbach. It includes numerous smart home components from different manufacturers.

There are sensors for detecting movement, water, smoke, temperature and air quality as well as dimmers, switches and sockets from Abus, Aeotec (see also Smartthings in the test ), Eurotronic, Frient, Fibaro, Gardena, Klikaanklikuit, Ledvance, Popp, Silvercrest (Lidl ), Sensative, Steinel, Technisat and Trust. When it comes to lamps, Hornbach supports solutions from Klikaanklikuit, Paulmann, Tint and Trust as well as its own brand Flair Viyu. Lighting solutions from Philips Hue can be integrated via the Hue Bridge.

However, Hornbach users have to do without the inexpensive alternatives from Ikea, Innr, Ledvance and Nanoleaf (see article: Up to 40% cheaper: Philips Hue alternatives from Ikea, Ledvance, Paulmann, Tint & Co. ) or they – as far as possible – also run over the Hue Bridge. Garden professionals are happy about the support of Gardena irrigation systems and robotic lawnmowers from Gardena and Bosch. Heaters can be controlled by Danfoss and Tado thermostats.

With a price of just under 40 euros, Smart Home by Hornbach is one of the cheapest smart home centers. In return, thanks to compatibility with WLAN, Z-Wave and Zigbee, users receive a powerful smart home center with which they can use numerous components from different manufacturers to set up a smart home and which can also be conveniently controlled from the desktop.

Homee with WLAN and Zigbee cube 

The smart home center Homee (test report) , developed and manufactured by the Berlin-based GmbH of the same name, has a modular structure. The basis is the Brain Cube, which is available in the form of a cube and integrates smart home devices based on WLAN. Additional cubes provide compatibility with Zigbee, Z-Wave and Enocean components. In the complete configuration, Homee thus opens up all relevant radio standards in the smart home area and also offers extensions for proprietary manufacturer technologies such as Hörmann Bisecure, Warema WMS and Becker Centronic Plus.

Using a compatibility list, users can look up which smart home products are compatible with Homee. The provider also provides information about compatible products in the app under Homee-Welt, which users can also purchase immediately if they are interested. They are grouped according to application scenarios and subdivided into energy, garages and gardens, comfort, security and smart life. And if you use a Fritzbox (guide) , you can also use the smart home components (DECT-ULE) connected to it under Homee.

Homee offers at least a good basis with the support of all wireless standards relevant in the smart home. However, the extensive but limited support for smart home components shows that the Berlin developers still have a lot of work to do. Homee costs just under 250 euros in a bundle with WLAN and Zigbee. The Z-Wave extension currently costs 84 euros and the Enocean cube just under 50 euros. The extensions for proprietary manufacturer technologies such as Hörmann Bisecure are significantly more expensive at over 120 euros.

100% self-made and free: This visualization comes from the open source software ioBroker, which runs on a Raspberry. The motion detectors are connected via KNX, the door and window detectors are cheap retrofit wireless sensors from Xiaomi – for just over 6 euros each.

Managing a smart home is also possible with the open source solutions Home Assistant, FHEM, Iobraker, openHAB. They allow components from different manufacturers to be managed, mostly in connection with a Raspberry. With the second most contributors of any Python-based development, Home Assistant is one of the most popular open-source smart home solutions. Onboarding devices is relatively easy, but automations are a bit more complex.

Basically, when using open source solutions, you have to be aware that the configuration is not as easy as with commercial solutions. But you have more control over the devices.

There is no smart home center that supports all smart components for house control. However, this list of the best includes solutions that all follow an open approach and cover as broad a spectrum as possible. In contrast to purely isolated solutions, you are not dependent on expensive components with proprietary technology, but can choose from a wide range of smart products.

Those who shy away from the manual effort of open source solutions , but still want the widest possible support of smart components, is best served by Homey Pro (test report) . The smart home center from the Dutch company Athom can control thousands of devices, which not only come from well-known brands such as Philips Hue, but also include unknown but powerful devices from smaller providers. Central is also interesting for Homekit users, since Homey Pro also makes all managed components available for the Apple solution.

Although Samsung Smartthings (test report) does not support quite as many devices as Homey Pro, it is still a good basis for managing a smart home thanks to its compatibility with products from over 200 manufacturers. With Samsung being one of the main drivers of the Matter standard, users can expect the platform to become even more versatile in the future.

Thanks to the great support, Smart Home by Hornbach (test report) is a recommended smart home center for beginners. Although the solution does not support as many components as Homey Pro or Samsung Smartthings, it is a real bargain at 40 euros. Even if you have to rely on Hornbach’s cloud technology for this.

Homee (test report) offers at least a good basis with the support of all wireless standards relevant in the smart home. Still, the compatibility list isn’t as extensive as Homey Pro or Smartthings. With the latest update, however, the developers promise the integration of components from other manufacturers in the future. That would suit the platform well. Because it offers many advantages in terms of data protection, complex scenarios and the local execution of rules without cloud compulsion

More information on intelligent home control is available in our Smart Home topic . For newcomers to the topic, we recommend our Smart Home guide: Success with little money . Also interesting: Elesion as a cheap smart home alternative from Pearl . If you want to heat smartly, you should read the guide to smart thermostats for underfloor heating and see the top 10 best smart radiator thermostats for 2022 . And how you can reduce the standby consumption of devices is explained in the article WLAN sockets in practice: models, purpose, prices . And in the postBetter air: Smart room air sensors for CO₂, radon, ozone, fine dust & Co , we explain how the room climate can be improved on the basis of smart sensors. Here are more tests from the smart home area.

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