Logitech invests in the smart home with Harmony remote and hub

Logitech, the company more famous for keyboards and mice, has upgraded its line of universal remotes with a smart home hub, a fancier remote and an app that will make managing the smart home a bit easier. At an event Tuesday night in San Francisco, the company’s CEO introduced the devices as well as a list of partners that includes SmartThings, Philips Hue, Lutron, Honeywell, Nest, August and more that will also work with the Logitech gear.

That’s right, now your hub can be managed by a hub if that’s your thing, because Logitech doesn’t want to own the device, it wants to own the app experience. But to do that, it had to build a software overlay and a controller that would convince people to put it in their homes. So it’s offering a $100 hub that combines IR, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and RF that will let you use the Logitech Harmony app to control gear that uses those protocols. This means if you have a [company]SmartThings[/company], a Peq or a Lutron hub, the Wi-Fi in the Logitech device will let you control the others’ gear from Logitech, which so far seems to have a much nicer interface.

For $149 you get the hub and a basic, button-only remote control that lets you program scenes to specific buttons. And if you are feeling really fancy you can shell out $349 for a hub and a swish remote that includes a 2.5-inch touch screen that mimics the phone’s interface. In December, Logitech will also release an extender hub that will add more radios including Z-Wave and ZigBee to the existing hub via a USB port. Older Logitech remotes won’t work with the hub, although there will be an opportunity to trade in your older remotes at Best Buy for a discount on the new system, said a Logitech spokeswoman.

With the Logitech Harmony Home Control system your hub can now control other hubs.

With the Logitech Harmony Home Control system your hub can now control other hubs.

If you are like me and are thinking, “Enough with the hubs already,” I feel your pain. And yet, the Logitech’s familiarity with existing audiovisual gear and the broad partnerships it has lined up with both older and new smart home providers is compelling. The focus was more on the experiences you could build and program in the remote. I liked that the entry point seemed to be the set scenes with the ability to flip to control the individual connected items. It also offered a decent amount of deeper functionality on the devices as well.

As for scenes, there was the ubiquitous wake-up setting that involved a light gradually brightening, a coffee pot automatically turning on along with some lights and the television. I’m not sure how to program the scenes yet (they are shipping me a device to play with), but a product manager who showed off the system said that the company had put a lot of effort into helping customers figure out what might make good scenes or programs to set up. And triggering those scenes could involve a person hitting a button, triggering a sensor or even just a daily schedule.

Logitech’s CEO Bracken P. Darrell (pictured above), said that the Harmony remote will work with 270,000 devices already in Logitech’s database, and it had plenty of partners at the event. Startups like [company]August[/company] locks, [company]Zuli[/company] and the Peq hub from SmartHome Ventures were on display, as well as gear from [company]Sonos[/company], [company]Lutron[/company], [company]Schlage[/company] and [company]Yale[/company] locks. It’s a pretty rich and compelling line-up, especially if you already have some connected devices in your home.

The event made me realize two things. One, if [company]Logitech[/company], the company that has offered several generations of universal remotes, can’t control the smart home without a hub, then we’re stuck with them for a while yet. And two, given the prevalence of startups among the partners, there’s still plenty of room in this market to build a successful connected device that can compete in the big leagues.