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What does "No Hub Required" really mean?

upstatemike

Senior Member
When comparing different home automation protocols these days one of the things you see more and more is that product x, y, or z is better because there is "no hub required". In thinking about why this is a good thing I started comparing the different protocol options to try define just what this really means.
 
My baseline for comparison is the older protocols like Insteon and UPB. These devices maintain information in each and every device that defines its relationship to other devices. Once configured, an Insteon or UPB device needs no hub or controller to tell it that when switch A is turned on then switch B should also turn on at a specific ramp rate to a defined dim level. There might be a hub monitoring the activity and providing extra actions but the basic automation "scene" will activate whether the controller is on line or not.
 
This is in contrast to Lutron, Z-Wave, and Zigbee where the devices know what network they belong to but cannot do anything beyond local load control without a hub/controller/repeater to set the actual scene. If the controller is off line then the scene does not happen. This is where concenrs about local control vs. Internet control become a major concern.
 
The wildcard in the mix seems to be WiFi automation which makes the claim: "no hub required" while being completely unable to operate without a central controller, usually in the form of a phone app. In many ways this is worse than something like a Hue Bridge or Lutron Main Repeater because those technologies are at least built out as dedicated infrastructure while a Wi-Fi phone app could be taken off premise leaving no control options at all. 
 
So the question is: "Are any of the newer protocols really able to operate without a central hub or controller and still  perform moderate automation functions like set a scene, create a virtual 3-way or other group action or respond to a motion sensor? Or will future automation require an app, hub, or controller to be running for even the most basic functionality?  Could you sell your house with a lighting system that won't work without a hub or  Internet connected app running, or would you have to rip it all out?  Are the older protocols more reliable and resilient because they can continue to operate with most of their core features even if no controller is present?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
 

neillt

Active Member
Well Zigbee and Z-Wave both have the notion of a "controller" at the very core of the protocols, so there has to be some device in charge just to run the mesh networks.  That would rule them out.
 
You already mentioned that they, as well as Lutron ClearConnect, need the hubs online.  Along with WiFi, those are the only 4 RF based systems anyone is realistically talking about.
 
Powerline is still UPB and Insteon.  UPB as you said is fantastic in this regard.  Lutron is actually extremely similar, each device carries the actions they are to perform on each dimmer.  But the main repeater is necessary for coordination of the RF network.
 
So I guess that's a lot of words to say... I don't think any of the newer stuff has hub-less or independent use in mind.
 
As for selling a house, that's the buyer's problem.  I sold my last house and left all of the UPB and the OP II panel there.  Don't know, and honestly don't care what they did with it.
 

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
upstatemike said:
When comparing different home automation protocols these days one of the things you see more and more is that product x, y, or z is better because there is "no hub required". In thinking about why this is a good thing I started comparing the different protocol options to try define just what this really means.
 
My baseline for comparison is the older protocols like Insteon and UPB. These devices maintain information in each and every device that defines its relationship to other devices. Once configured, an Insteon or UPB device needs no hub or controller to tell it that when switch A is turned on then switch B should also turn on at a specific ramp rate to a defined dim level. There might be a hub monitoring the activity and providing extra actions but the basic automation "scene" will activate whether the controller is on line or not.
 
This is in contrast to Lutron, Z-Wave, and Zigbee where the devices know what network they belong to but cannot do anything beyond local load control without a hub/controller/repeater to set the actual scene. If the controller is off line then the scene does not happen. This is where concenrs about local control vs. Internet control become a major concern.
 
The wildcard in the mix seems to be WiFi automation which makes the claim: "no hub required" while being completely unable to operate without a central controller, usually in the form of a phone app. In many ways this is worse than something like a Hue Bridge or Lutron Main Repeater because those technologies are at least built out as dedicated infrastructure while a Wi-Fi phone app could be taken off premise leaving no control options at all. 
 
So the question is: "Are any of the newer protocols really able to operate without a central hub or controller and still  perform moderate automation functions like set a scene, create a virtual 3-way or other group action or respond to a motion sensor? Or will future automation require an app, hub, or controller to be running for even the most basic functionality?  Could you sell your house with a lighting system that won't work without a hub or  Internet connected app running, or would you have to rip it all out?  Are the older protocols more reliable and resilient because they can continue to operate with most of their core features even if no controller is present?                                                    
 
A lot of these folks are just newbies who think that Wifi is how everything should connect to an automation system because they have no clue what the real issues are. It's a very good thing that things like Zigbee have their own separate network.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
Usually 'no hub required' actually means 'no bridge required' and them your controller can operate your devices directly without a bridge to convert the protocols.

Insteon can operate one device from another without any hub or automation controller but now we are only talking control and not automation.

When I hear 'no hub required' I think of devices I can access usually on WiFi and not on some weird protocol like zigbee or milights or so many other devices these days.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
LarrylLix said:
Usually 'no hub required' actually means 'no bridge required' and them your controller can operate your devices directly without a bridge to convert the protocols. Insteon can operate one device from another without any hub or automation controller but now we are only talking control and not automation. When I hear 'no hub required' I think of devices I can access usually on WiFi and not on some weird protocol like zigbee or milights or so many other devices these days. Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 
I don't understand what you mean by "operate your device directly." I don't know of any Wi-Fi switch that can directly operate another Wi-Fi switch without an intervening app or controller.
 
Insteon can set a scene including ramp rate and dim level for a whole group of devices from one switch or motion sensor without any active logic from a hub or controller. 
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Dean Roddey said:
A lot of these folks are just newbies who think that Wifi is how everything should connect to an automation system because they have no clue what the real issues are. It's a very good thing that things like Zigbee have their own separate network.
 
I can't imagine the kind of enterprise grade networking that you would need to properly scale out a wi-fi automation system with hundreds of lights and sensors and still have it be fast and reliable. It is already challenging enough once you deploy a half dozen networked smart TVs, plus all their Blue-Ray Players use another connection plus a couple of dozen Sonos or similar music players plus at least 2 dozen Echos or Google Homes to give you whole-house voice control plus tablet based controllers and so on. Consumer networking gear can't keep up with current demand as it is.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
upstatemike said:
I don't understand what you mean by "operate your device directly." I don't know of any Wi-Fi switch that can directly operate another Wi-Fi switch without an intervening app or controller.
 
Insteon can set a scene including ramp rate and dim level for a whole group of devices from one switch or motion sensor without any active logic from a hub or controller. 
I guess I confused that a bit. "Operate directly without a hub" meaning directly from the "controller". ISY can operate WiFi/Insteon/Zwave/Zigbee devices directly without any hub. Hue and MiLight devices take a bridge to convert Ethernet to some other protocol.
 
IMHO "Hub" is a very nondescriptive term meaning nothing more than  a "lump". It could be an HA controller, or a bridge between protocols.
 

Dean Roddey

Senior Member
The ISY actually is the hub in that case. It just has the hardware built it (or optionally addable.) That's got its pros and cons. If it's built it, then you are tying the lifetime of the controller to the lifetime of that particular iteration of the communications standard. Z-Wave, for instance, has changed fundamentally a number of times that would have required new hardware. If the extra bits are pluggable, then that's a good compromise I guess.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
In my example ISY is a hub or controller but the point is that it is not a dependency for much of the core functionality. Once the switches are programmed into scenes that can be triggered by Insteon motion sensors or other Insteon switches then the ISY can be removed and things still work. You lose advanced logic like time of day triggers but the core relationships between the devices are managed by the devices themselves. By contrast two Zigbee switches programmed to operate as a virtual three-way would not work if there was no hub or controller online to make it happen.
 

pete_c

Guru
Personally here like the modifications done to WiFi devices using MQTT and removing the dependencies relating to the cloud. 
 
The OS and functions are device web interface controllable.  You can program schedules that will remain functioning on the device with no external transport (WiFi).
 
Most if not all of these devices are based on esp chips with 1Mb or so of programming space.  
 
It is not mainstream though as most vendors selling WiFi devices push the smart phone remote to the vendors cloud (well like Leviton).
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
I also wonder if Ziqbee 3.0 will resolve the Hub dependency for Zigbee? Seems ridiculous that the most mainstream Zigbee hubs from Hue, Senled, etc. max out at 50 devices making them useless for a whole home automation strategy. My Hue test bed is already up to 38 devices which is a fraction of a fraction of the total number I would need to convert to an all Hue lighting strategy. What were they thinking when they came up with that limit?
 
It will also be good to get past the device descriptions that say 'does not work with Wink" or "does not work with Smartthings" because of the different Zigbee profiles involved. A unified protocol at least makes it possible for devices to talk directly to each other and reduce the dependency on particular hubs and gateways for Zigbee to work.
 
I'm also curious if folks will start using Control4 switches with other controllers and hubs since Zigbee 3.0 should make them brand agnostic.
 

pete_c

Guru
WiFi (not MQTT) appears to be headed in that direction with propietary to vendor cloud connectivity, Amazon and Google voice connectivity and most folks do utilize WAP's in a typical home network. 
 
From MQTT wiki
 
  1. - Amazon web services announced Amazon IoT based on MQTT in 2015.
  2. - Microsoft Azure IoT Hub uses MQTT as its main protocol for telemetry messages.
  3. - Opensource software home automation platform Home Assistant is MQTT enabled and offers four options for MQTT brokers.
  4. - The Open Geospatial Consortium SensorThings API standard specification has a MQTT extension in the standard as an additional message protocol binding. It was demonstrated in a US Department of Homeland Security IoT Pilot.
There has always been chit chat about a unified automation protocol from the beginning of home automation.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
If MQTT takes off and becomes the standard for IoT devices does that mean the common consumer /24 network is dead? You will need a lot more than 254 addresses in even an average size house if every switch, light bulb, appliance, media streamer and sensor needs one. Is this the technology that will finally force widespread adoption of IPv6?
 

pete_c

Guru
force widespread adoption of IPv6?
 
It's already here and there and everywhere.
 
Just recently enabled IPv6 on the PFSense firewall (late to the game I suppose).  The PITA pieces are configuring same firewall rules for IPv6 (well they are sort of automagically configured any how).
 
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