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Wink launches a more powerful smart home hub

Wink is launching a second generation of its smart home hub, which it’s simply calling the Wink Hub 2.

The new hub ditches its predecessor’s shiny nondescript-networking-equipment look for a nicer, squared-off matte white body. It still only looks like a router, but that’s basically what it is for smart devices.

Internally, it doesn’t sound like the Wink Hub is changing a lot. Just like the old hub, the new one supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Lutron; this time around, it also supports faster Wi-Fi, has improved Bluetooth control, and includes a radio capable of working with Thread devices, should any Thread-compatible products ever actually be made. There’s also a security chip, to make sure the hub’s software isn’t tampered with.

“Quite a bit more processing power.”

But mainly, the new hub has “8x more RAM” and “quite a bit more processing power,” according to Wink CTO and founder Nathan Smith. That should make it faster at automating your home.

With the Hub 2, Wink is able to shift some processing from its servers down to the hub itself. That means if a bunch of lights are set to activate after you open a door, they should turn on in less time, since the hub will be able to manage some “complex automations” all on its own.

I suspect there won’t be enough here to get existing Wink hub owners to upgrade. Smith suspects a lot of existing owners will, if only because they’re part of the early-adopter crowd.

“We're not trying to force people to upgrade,” Smith says. “The Wink Hub 1 is gonna be still maintained and very useful for a long time to come.”

The Hub 1 will remain on sale for $69. The Hub 2 will sell for $99, beginning sometime in late October.

Wink Hub 2
Wink Hub 2

Wink has had a rocky existence, starting under the failing Quirky only to be spun-off as the broader company hit bankruptcy. It was bought up by Flex, the manufacturing company that worked on Wink’s original hub, and Smith says the transition has gone well.

“I’ve been through quite a few acquisitions and this is one of the — no, the smoothest one I've ever been through,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean Wink is profitable yet, and it’s not clear how dedicated Flex is to seeing the platform through. After all, Flex mostly owns Wink now because Wink owed it millions for making its first hub.

Wink has a compelling pitch

Wink has a compelling pitch — it’s willing to tie together basically any smart device you bring it — but it’s not the only company with that mission. SmartThings is trying to do the same, and it has the backing of Samsung. Meanwhile, Apple is making HomeKit a more prominent part of iOS; it may be far more limited in what it can connect to, but it has the huge advantage of being built in and requiring no new hardware.

The market is still really, really young — “the majority of American households are not using smart technology yet,” Smith points out — but Wink is facing some big names who want in.