Review: Revolv Hub (Part 1)

Aug 1, 2014 by

The task of selecting a home automation system is becoming increasingly complex as the landscape becomes more and more fragmented. Which radio will win out? Which hardware will survive?

Several companies are bringing devices to market in an attempt to minimize or at least mitigate these concerns. Revolv is one such company, offering the Revolv hub—a device intended to unify your control experience across disparate technologies with its support for seven different radios (essentially meaning support for seven, or likely more, RF home control protocols and standards). While not the first to dip into the multi-radio pool, Revolv definitely has the advertising and marketing chops to make a serious run at hub dominance.

I did something a bit out of the ordinary with this review and had my wife do the initial setup. She is the perfect person for this—while technically savvy, she has no experience in home automation.

The Test Bed
The folks at Revolv sent us a box of goodies to make our test as in depth as possible. Our review package included the following items:

I also added a few items of our own into the mix:

  • GE external plugs
  • Kuickset Z-Wave door locks
  • several switches and receptacles

Getting Set Up

With the devices all installed and in place, my wife first installed the apps for each of the individual devices [remember: Hue, Sonos, etc. all have their own individual control app—that’s part of the problem Revolv is trying to address). She then plugged in the Revolv hub and fired up its app.

The Revolv has no-web-based UI, and as such uses an interesting way of joining your home network. The setup process, however, was very easy for her to follow as I watched along. To set up the hub on your network, you must choose the network from your iPhone, then place your phone over the hub. The Revolv app then sends a series of flashes to communicate the required network information to the hub. A light on the hub flashes in response, then becomes steady once it connects.

Once the Revolv joined our network, it automatically began to find our Nest, the Hue bulbs, and the Sonos bridge already installed. Next, I asked her to set up macros to control our pathway lights at sunset. She found Revolv’s macro setup functions to be quite intuitive, and before long she was creating advanced scenes.

    

 

Getting Going

The next statement may make many of you cringe: …And then I had to leave town. Driving to the airport, I was at least a little apprehensive about leaving my wife alone with this new system in place. I, however, had the peace of mind knowing I had installed the Revolv app on my phone to help from afar if necessary.

Thankfully, not only did she not call with any concerns or problems, but she, in fact, called and informed me that “she was in love” with the Revolv. While she was out walking, a friend had called saying they had stopped by our house to return a borrowed kitchen appliance. Without missing a beat, she remotely unlocked the door and continued on with her day. Over the following days, she had set up a macro to lock the doors and lower the temperature at bedtime, and she created a macro to turn off our daughter’s nightlight in the morning.

Looking Closer

With my wife’s truly great experience setting up the Revolv behind us, it was time for me look more in depth at the hardware and software.

Revolv supports a well rounded but relatively small pool of connected home devices right now. I was disappointed to find that many of the devices I had purchased for my home simply were not on their supported list. But I’m likely not their typical customer. This would be less of an issue for consumers who first buy the hub and then add devices. Overall, Revolv supports an excellent, curated list of products. Revolv assures us that as their product matures, they will significantly expand their device offerings.

My only other issue with the solution is one that likely won’t affect the majority of Revolv’s target market: I am a tinkerer, and as such, I prefer a certain level of granular control over my devices. For example, I want to be able to create custom scenes that take into account more levels of sophistication than the Revolv currently allows, such as adjustable ramp rates of lights—how long they take to dim on or off. This is certainly a more advanced feature, and it’s something they could add over time.

Until very recently, their lack of support for Android was a non-starter for some, but Revolv was beta testing their Android app while we were conducting our review, and they’ve since released that app publicly. As of yet, there is no support for Windows Phone.

Summing Up

Before we started, I asked my wife a simple question: What makes sense in a smart home? She responded that, in all honesty, she had no idea. Now, a month in, her response has profoundly changed. She said, “The house should function as a part of me rather than me as a part of it.” From our experience with Revolv, they’ve created a solution that accomplishes just that.

In part 2 of our review, we’ll speak with Mike Soucie, co-founder of Revolv. We will discuss their product’s history, their place in the changing connected home landscape, and the future of Revolv. In the meantime, check out episode 30 of Home: On, where Mike discusses how Revolv helps bridge the technologies in the increasingly fragmented connected home.

You can see a more comprehensive set of app screen captures from our review in our Revolv app gallery page.

If you have any questions for Revolv or questions for us about this review or other tested products, please reach to us in the Comments section or on our Contact Us page.

Richard Green is a home technology enthusiast and contributor to The Digital Media Zone. You can follow Richard on Twitter at @rgreenpc.

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