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Make your Smart Home smarter with a truly universal remote control «The Hookup :: Gadget Hacks



Real home automation does not require user interaction. But let's be honest, no system will be 100% autonomous. You always need manual override for situations that programming can not account for. So, what's the best manual override system? I'll tell you right away, it's not about yelling at Alexa or Google.

Take advantage of the UX design, which hides behind the "stupid" home control devices that you've replaced with smart switches and the like. You know, light switches, switches, knobs … those were the interfaces of choice for decades, and that's because they work so well. They just feel natural.

The Harmony Hub is the perfect manual smart home interface. The hub itself is a box that stands on a shelf or table. Why do you need an extra box just for a remote control? Because the Harmony Hub can be connected to almost anything that would not be possible with a battery-powered device.

The Logitech Harmony Hub and the Companion Remote. Image of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

It connects to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and incorporates RF connectivity as well as traditional IR remote control functions. RF (Radio Frequency) is used to connect to an optional remote control. So you do not need a line of sight to control your devices. Above all, Wi-Fi means you can control your smart home products with it.

The Harmony Hub can be used immediately with Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Lutron, Honeywell, Ecobee, Qivicon, August, Insteon, LIFX and Hunter Douglass Smart Home Systems. However, if you have other device brands, you can connect them to the hub using one of these supported systems. Everything you can connect to SmartThings can be controlled via the Harmony Hub, for example.

You can purchase the Harmony Hub if you do not mind using a smartphone app to control your devices, but this is beyond the scope of the purpose. It's better to combine it with the Companion Remote (see picture above) or the Elite Remote, which adds a touch screen to the Companion's basic form factor.

The Logitech Harmony Companion Remote. Image of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

There is an older model called the Harmony Smart Remote Control, which has many of the same features as the Harmony Hub and comes with a companion-style remote control. However, dedicated smart home controls are missing, so you need to add all the smart devices (and their status) to the "activities" of the remote, which can be tricky. Nevertheless, it is much cheaper.

The Companion is my choice among the three. It's a sleek, ergonomic remote with a grippy plastic finish. The keys are tactile and responsive, and all the important keys can be pressed without having to adjust the grip. The icing on the cake is a set of dedicated smart home buttons (the orange ones up). You can press these buttons to turn multiple devices on or off and dim them.

Overall, this is a fantastic product. I sometimes got a little frustrated with the Logitech Harmony mobile app, and it's necessary to set up the remote. Apart from that, I loved this device so much that I bought three devices and placed them in suitable places in my house. It really feels like a smart home if you do not encounter problematic automation just to turn on the light.

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