Home automation services that combine mobile technology with the devices in your house have been exploding in popularity over the past few years. Devices such as Sonos, Nest, and Philips Hue have brought advanced home-automation features down to prices that are accessible by most any home owner. It’s now possible to control your home’s temperature, its lighting, its door locks, and more right from your smartphone.
The only problem is you need a separate app to control each component that you might have installed in your home. Revolv, a startup based out of Colorado, is aiming to solve this problem with its unified home automation hub. The hub, which is shipping today for $299, lets you control a number of popular consumer home-automation products, including Sonos, Philips Hue, Nest, Belkin WeMo, and others right from a single interface.
Revolv uses a hardware hub and iOS app to take the place of many apps
Revolv uses a combination of a hardware hub that connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network and an iOS app that you control it with. The hub itself is a 6-inch diameter, red-and-clear teardrop with a lone LED light in the middle. Despite its basic appearance, the device is packed with wireless technology — Revolv says there are seven radios and ten wireless languages that it supports.
We tested the Revolv system with a Sonos Play:1 and Philips Hue lighting system. Setup was as simple as it gets: everything is controlled from the Revolv app on the iPhone, including getting the hub connected to our Wi-Fi network. Pairing the hub requires you to hold your iPhone over the hub for a few seconds while the camera is pulsed to send your Wi-Fi network information to the hub (Revolv calls this "FlashLink"). It’s one of the simplest methods to get a device connected to a network and worked as advertised in our tests.
Once the hub is connected, the Revolv app will automatically search for supported devices on your network. It was able to find the Sonos and Hue lights automatically within two minutes or so, but you can manually add devices if the automatic search fails. We were able to control the color temperature and intensity of all of the Hue lights on our network, but the controls for Sonos were much more limited — play, pause, forward, reverse, and volume up and down. For any playlist management or to choose the source of your music, you’ll need to head back to the proper Sonos app.
The Revolv app is too simple to get the most out of your devices
Revolv’s app also lets you set up automatic rules for time of day or location — you can have your lights come on and your door’s unlock automatically when you arrive home, for instance. It’s also possible to control the whole system when you are away from home.
The Revolv tries to solve the headache of juggling multiple apps to control all of the home-automation gadgets in your home, but in the process, it’s too simple to get the most out of your investment. You still need the apps for initilal set-up of your devices or to access all of their features. The company says that it plans to issue updates to its app to add more functionality and support more devices — with plans to support hundreds of devices within the next year.
Future updates could make the Revolv live up to its potential
But the biggest threat to Revolv might be the very companies that it supports. If Nest or Sonos or Philips or anyone were to come out with a complete home-automation solution, one that incorporates a variety of components into a single system and is accessible to average users and homeowners, many people would likely go in that direction (Nest seems to be the one most on the path to that goal). However, if you already happen to own a variety of components that don’t talk to each other, the Revolv could be the thing to make your life just a bit easier.