The hub works with many smart home protocols and devices to control a variety of smart locks, lights, and other products. With that $30 price increase comes some new upgrades. In addition to the Bluetooth Low Energy, Kidde, Lutron Clear Connect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and ZigBee support, the new hub has a more powerful Wi-Fi radio and Ethernet port. It also has a Thread radio, so it will one day work with Google-backed protocol.
The hub is also designed to be very user-friendly. Nathan Smith, Wink founder and chief technology officer, told Digital Trends it’s one of the reasons the company wanted to partner with Walmart:He says just about anyone can set it up and get it working, even those who don’t consider themselves gadget-lovers. For one thing, the redesigned app automatically detects the hub when you plug it in. If the hub is having problems connecting a device you’re setting up, it will still be communicating with your phone. “Everyone’s had that experience where they’re setting up one of these products and they’re looking at the little spinner and wondering, will this work, will this not work?” says Smith. Instead of giving you a generic message saying setup failed, the app will let you know exactly what’s wrong and point you to the troubleshooting guide.
For those current Wink users who want to update to the new hub, there’s also a new backup system that allows you to port over all your existing devices and scenes. “It’s a lot easier than walking around your house and trying to find every device you’ve connected,” says Smith.
While the hub itself doesn’t have voice-recognition technology, it does work with Amazon’s Alexa. “In order to get full advantage out of these products and maintaining a connected home, you need sort of a mesh of different types interfaces,” says Smith. “We don’t really think pulling out your phone, unlocking it, and going into an app is always the right way to operate something.” Voice is great for command and control, he says, while wearables are great for seeing status updates, and phones work well for setup and configuration.
In April 2015, Wink replaced affected hubs when an update bricked some devices. Smith says the new hub is better and more secure but admits it may take time to win back trust. “At the end of the day, all you can do is try to move forward after there’s any setback and try to learn from it,” said Smith. “It’s a tricky industr,y the same way it was tricky at the advent of the web. It’s just constant refinement and user research.”