The Matter smart home connectivity standard has huge promise and lots of device makers lined up to engage with a theoretically more open, less server-dependent future. And yet, so far, I haven’t been compelled to write about any individual products launching with Matter support. Most of them are simply familiar products—light bulbs, turning door locks, wall switches—that now can be set up in a different, cross-platform way (however painfully). Most wouldn’t compel anyone who already has a functioning version of them to upgrade or expand their setup.
Here’s the first thing to make me take notice, and it is, of all things, a hub. The SwitchBot Hub 2 ($70, also on Amazon) makes the most sense if you already have some SwitchBot products in your home and might want to take them beyond their default Bluetooth range with Wi-Fi connectivity. But I think it might also appeal to someone looking for an entryway to a small, controlled, and useful smart home.
For one thing, the Hub 2 isn’t just a puck of plastic that does nothing but coordinate traffic for a subset of devices. I have two of those taking up space in my home, from Phillips Hue and Samsung SmartThings. They hang out within Ethernet distance of my router, eating trickle power and generating a little heat pocket on that shelf. They are quiet, mostly useless roommates who will be evicted by some future upgrade.
The Hub 2, by comparison, is something you will want to keep out and visible. It has a built-in thermometer and hygrometer, as well as a light sensor, and can display all these things on its LED screen, which brightens and dims to match the surrounding light. It has two buttons, which you use to trigger either scenes or actions on your other SwitchBot devices. And if you put it within range (15-30 meters) of any infrared devices that you’d typically control with a remote, like air conditioners or televisions, it can learn that remote and let you control that device from your phone.
By itself, a Matter-ready thermo/hygro/light meter that’s also an infrared relay would make for a neat, if limited, gadget. But the Hub 2 being tied to one particular ecosystem isn’t a weakness because that ecosystem is SwitchBot. If you haven’t checked out SwitchBot’s lineup, the Hub 2 is a great excuse to start. You can automate tilt blinds, curtain rods, door locks, and, crucially, most any kind of physical button.
With a Hub in your home, you can automate these physical objects from Google’s Assistant/Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri/HomeKit, and IFTTT, while also tying the Hub 2’s sensors to HVAC, fans, and other systems. If you’re a Home Assistant type, you can go even further and likely use the Hub 2’s buttons and sensors for whatever you can dream up.
Matter compatibility for SwitchBot’s Hub 2 gives it some future-proofing, ensuring it could still be useful even if you switch assistants or lose enthusiasm for SwitchBot’s other products. It’s the first product I’ve seen touting a Matter logo that embraces the unspoken ethos: your devices, your system, your control, now and into the future.
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