Nov 30 AT 10:27 PM Brooks Barnard 0 Comments

Wink home automation via your Android device: Wink Hub and app reivew

Wink Hub (1)

If I could, I would control every piece of my home from my phone. But I’m too poor to make that happen right now. What I was able to afford was putting a Wink Hub/GE Link Light Bulb starter kit on my Christmas wish list last year and I was lucky enough that my wish came true. Christmas shopping is in full swing and if you’re anything like me (I assume you are if you’re reading this) you’ve been seriously considering home automation and connected devices. There are so many ways to automate and connect the home such as lighting, door locks, garage doors, security, appliances, HVAC, etc. My goal is to share with you some of the things that I have done with my home and how I control it with my Android phone. Hopefully you get some ideas on how you can make your home awesome and you friends can share your fantastic connected/automation ideas with me.

Some of these connected devices were purchased with my own money, some I was given for Christmas, and some were provided by Wink for review. I have been using the Wink Hub with various connected devices and the Wink App on various Android phones for almost a year now. I’ve been using the Wink App with my Nexus 6 and a Samsung Galaxy S6. I will share the length of time I’ve been using each device when it is reviewed.

Wink Hub

The Wink Hub alone doesn’t do much for you, but it’s the brains of the operation. The Hub supports many different protocols such as Bluetooth, Z-Wave®, ZigBee®, Wi-Fi®, and Lutron® Clear Connect®. So if you check out Wink.com, you’ll find a host of different products that you can buy into to make your home smart that will all connect through the Hub. There are sensors, security, lights, switches, deadbolts, thermostats and more. All these items will connect into the Wink Hub which you can control and automate from one central location on your phone.

Setup in my opinion was not a piece of cake. But I think if you are fully aware of what you’re getting into you can be prepared for the situation and it shouldn’t cause you too much trouble. The Wink Hub requires a Wi-Fi network with 2.4 GHz routers running on WPA-PSK, WEP, or open security. It does not currently support 5 GHz networks. So, you may need to check your wireless router and see what options you have. To use the Wink Hub, you may need to get a dual band router or go and buy a cheap router just to support this system. I have a dual band Netgear N600 router that I set up the 2.4 GHz band to specifically handle the Wink Hub and it has worked great. One other issue I ran into was putting my Wink Hub too close to my wireless router. The answers I got from looking into support from my connectivity issues early on were that the Wink Hub being too close to the wireless routers can create interference. Since I moved the Wink hub away from the router it has worked beautifully since.

Alone, the Wink Hub will set you back $89. For some reason, the price for the Wink Hub has gone up over the past year. I’m not sure if this is because Wink initially wanted to incentivize us to purchase their system or if there have been upgrades, but I believe when I was originally in the market for one they were $50 and now their $89. But there are some starter kits and ways to get some dollars knocked off that price.  On Wink.com, there’s a starter kit that comes with the Wink Hub and two Cree Connected Bulbs for $97 for a savings of $20 if you were to buy them all separately. There’s also a Security and Monitoring Kit that comes with two door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a plug-in appliance module and the Wink Hub for $147 and saves you almost $50. Both of these kits are great ways to start connecting and automating your home.

I searched Home Depot’s website and found you can find the Wink Hub there for $50 and there are loads of other bundles. I’ll be reviewing pieces of these different kits over the following weeks. If you’re patient you may think about waiting for holiday deals. My guess is they’ll come around but I have no insider information to offer on that.

The Wink App

There are a lot of things that impresses me about the Wink app. In general, it’s the software hub for your connected devices/home automation. It is constantly getting updated to support new connected devices and features. I’ve had the GoControl Essential Security Kit for months and only since a recent update to the Wink app around a month ago do I feel like the connected security devices were actually convenient to use. But now they are convenient to use, and my wife and I absolutely love the Connected Security devices. Here are the different features of the app:

Accessing Your Connected Devices

Within the home screen of the Wink app is where you access the different categories of your connected devices such as Lights + Power, Sensors, Thermostats, and your Wink Hub. If you click on the different categories, one can then access and use the different connected devices. For example, if we click on Lights + Power, we then have access to all of our connected lights where we can toggle them or change the brightness. You can then access the individual connected device settings to change its name, icon, or access product support. Keep in mind, these devices can be accessed anywhere you have a data connection. You can do it while you’re on your home Wi-Fi, or you can do it while you’re thousands of miles away on vacation. You can turn off your lights or unlock your door for a friend from where ever you are.

Some of the connected devices aren’t super useful to access within the Wink App. This isn’t because the connected devices aren’t useful, but just because there’s no real use in accessing them like sensors for instance. From within the Wink app, sensors tell you when the last time a sensor was activated like a door opening or closing. It’s good information if you need to know, but you probably won’t need to access that information all the time. The good thing is, this connected device home page can be rearranged so your most accessed categories can be front and center. Last, from this Wink connected device home page, you can add new products.

Adding a Product

When you get new connected products, the Wink app walks you through step by step with the installation process.

Here’s a tip: Read and follow the directions.

In short, when you add a device from the long list of possible devices supported by Wink the Hub needs to be put into a pairing mode.  Then, the new device needs to be turned on, plugged in, or a button pressed at specific times to successfully get the device in the Wink system. The Wink app has a great guide for each device complete with pictures to take you through the process. When I first attempted to install my first connected devices, the GE Link bulbs, I thought I was too good for reading directions and struggled to get the light connected. I jumped online and learned how to reset my GE Link bulb (yes I reset a light bulb), and then followed the directions on the Wink app carefully and it worked great.

Shortcuts

If you’re not excited about what Wink offers yet, hold onto your shorts because we’re getting to the really good parts. Shortcuts are key to a great Wink experience. Shortcuts allow you to create one or more tasks with your connected devices with a single button press. Once a shortcut is created, it resides within the shortcuts page of the Wink app. Additionally, shortcuts can be placed directly on your Android home screen, accessed from Google Now or Android Wear, and can even be activated via IFTTT. So for example, you could have a shortcut that turns off all your connected lights and puts your thermostat into away mode just from one click. So you can make sure you’re saving energy while you’re driving away from your house.

One more thing, within the last month of two, Wink added the ability to enable and disable Robots via Shortcuts which really took Robots to the next level in my opinion. I’ll explain why in the next section.

Robots

Enough about connected devices, right?!? How does Wink help us automate? Wink gives us Robots. I also automate with Wink via Tasker and IFTTT, but what Wink provides are Robots. Here is a list of what Robots can be set to detect:

  • Arriving or leaving a location like home
  • Activating/deactivating a connected device
  • Sensors being activated or not being activated for a period of time
  • Temperature/humidity rising/falling beyond a threshold

Then more ifs can be added to the equation such as during specified times and for specified times.

So we’ve specified some ifs, now comes the thens:

  • Send a notification
  • Send an email
  • Activate/deactivate you connected devices
  • Enable/disable other Robots

So there are a lot of neat things one can do with the Wink Robots. As I mentioned in the Shortcuts section, I use a shortcut to enable my different security sensors so I can effectively arm or disarm my home’s security. The security robots will then notify my phone when a sensor detects something. I also use Tasker in addition to robots so I can create tasks with nested ifs and have a little more control with timing, but I’ll get into that with later posts when I review the different connected devices.

Summary

Wink provides a complete central hub to access and automate a host of different connected devices for your home. I would say it is not for someone who isn’t willing to tinker and troubleshoot a bit. You need the right kind of Wi-Fi network and many of the connected devices require reading instructions and installation. But overall Wink provides a great user experience with both hardware and with their app. The app looks great and is mostly very intuitive. I’ve also had great experiences with customer service when I’ve had to use it.

The Wink Hub can be purchased in many different locations including Wink.com, Amazon, and Home Depot for $50 if you prefer brick and mortar. The Wink Hub will set you back $89 and connected devices will cost you money on top of that.

Over the next several weeks, I will be posting reviews of different Wink connected devices I am using around my home and will discuss how I use them with my Android device. So keep an eye out for those. I want you to share your experiences automating your home, what connected devices you have, and how you automate them. Let us know if you have any questions about the Wink Hub, Wink services, or the Wink app and stay tuned for more great connected/automated home content.

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

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