CRT Labs has come a long way in a year, and the lab is always excited to look ahead at future technologies and what they’ll mean for the real estate industry. However, it’s also important to look back at some old posts and see how our technology predictions panned out. In this post, I’ll be examining an old Bits & Bytes post about the Wink Hub from June 2014. In that post, Chad took a look at one of the early smart home hubs, the Wink Hub, and mused on the future of the smart home (including a couple guesses about Apple and Google’s smart home offerings).

The Wink Hub in our Chicago lab

The Wink Hub in our Chicago lab

First, let’s take a look at the past two years of smart home development and the Wink Hub itself. In 2014, the Wink Hub was a new device, created in collaboration with corporations like GE and Honeywell, by a startup called Quirky in New York City. The Wink Hub was a huge step forward for smart home technologies – large companies, already with their toes in the IoT waters, were beginning to think about interoperability and the lifespan of their devices. Quirky was a successful incubator that looked at thousands of ideas a month from inventors, carefully curating their offerings and facilitating the research, development, and production of dozens of products. The Wink was their first major foray into the IoT marketplace, a hub that promised the beginning of the easily automated smart home.

Did the Wink live up to that promise? Well, in 2015, Quirky filed for bankruptcy, which for some seemed like it would signal the end for the smart home hub technology. But Flex, a manufacturing company, bought Wink from Quirky, and Wink soldiered on. As of April 2016, Wink has 1.3 million devices on its network, with 20,000 more coming online each week. That bodes well for the technology, and Wink combining multiple standards into their device (in a world that still hasn’t standardized protocols) means that there will likely be an interest, at least in the near future, for people who want to centralize their smart home devices without feeling encumbered by the restrictions of only working within one company’s ecosystem.

We’ve seen a couple hubs come and go (and I’ll talk more about that in upcoming post), but Wink and Samsung’s SmartThings seem to be in it for the long haul. So that leaves us with the question – what about the future of companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google, who have recently extended their offerings to include voice assistants that can act as smart home hubs?

In his post, Chad mused that if these companies getting into the smart home – and smart home hub – game, would that mean that the Wink (and others like it) would become obsolete? I think instead of watching the hubs get pushed out of the market, the Big Three are embracing what hubs bring to the table. Google Home came to market with support for SmartThings; Apple’s HomeKit currently integrates with the Insteon Hub; and Alexa works with not only those hubs, but the Wink as well. Device manufacturers are creating their offerings for all the major hubs, and while there still isn’t a central standard protocol yet, it’s clear that the manufacturers are interested in allowing their devices to be part of these types of networks in order to get their products in the hands of more consumers.

Wink just announced an upgrade for their hub – the Wink Hub 2.0 began shipping late last month. Does this mean the company has legs? I don’t know if we can ever be confident in predictions in such a rapidly changing marketplace, but I do think it’s easy to see that, for now, hubs have a major place in unifying the internet of things and allowing consumers a wider variety of options when it comes to customizing their own smart home.