Z-Wave Smart Home Blog

A Z-Wave hub, a gateway, a controller - what's the difference?

A Z-Wave hub, a gateway, a controller - what's the difference?

If you've been thinking about adding some smarts to your home, you may have already researched light and dimmers, door locks and thermostats—all of the various bits and pieces that go into creating a connected home experience. But how do you get all of this stuff to talk to each other and create a completely integrated smart home system? Do you need a hub, gateway, or controller?

The simple answer to that question is, "yes." Because these terms all refer to essentially the same thing: a central router-like device that not only communicates with and controls all of your smart devices, but also acts as the point of contact between you and your smart home Think SmartThings or Nexia Home Intelligence. Did you know a hub or gateway can also mean your smart home security panel? Yup – panels from Vivint and ADT Pulse also have the "brains" of a Z-Wave hub baked in. The hub and its corresponding app allow you to manage and monitor it even when you're not home. These devices not only allow you to control all of your devices from one interface (be it your smart home or a dedicated touch screen in the home); they also allow all of your Z-Wave devices to communicate with one another, so you can create automated scenes that give your tech a life of its own, giving you convenience and comfort without lifting a finger.

Just because these terms mean the same thing doesn't mean that all Z-Wave hubs (or controllers or gateways) are the same. And picking between them isn't always easy. It basically boils down to the unique needs of your family, and how much you want to be involved in the creation and setup of your smart home system.

For a more hands-off approach, you may opt for professionally installed security and monitoring systems from companies like Vivint or ADT Pulse, both of which allow you to enhance the security, comfort, and convenience of your home with the simply pairing of Z-Wave devices like doorbell cameras, smart locks, thermostats, and more.

For more dedicated do-it-yourselfers, there a number of standalone hubs, some of which are designed to support a dedicated Z-Wave smart home system, some of which support Z-Wave in addition to myriad other smart home technologies, and others that add Z-Wave capabilities to popular control systems that don't support it by default.

A perfect example of the latter is Logitech's Harmony Home Hub Extender, an add-on device that lets you use your Harmony remote or app to control Z-Wave and other smart home products. What's more, it can also pair with other smart home hubs, like Nexia, SmartThings, Wink, and even ADT Pulse, giving you more ways to interact with your smart home depending on where you are and which control device is closest to hand.

Speaking of which, SmartThings, Wink, and Nexia all support Z-Wave, and each has its own strengths and potential weaknesses if you're planning on creating a diverse home control system.

SmartThings, perhaps the best-known smart home hub on the market, is also arguably one of the most fully featured, given its support for so many different types of devices. It is geared towards DIY consumers, requires a hard-wired Ethernet connection to connect to your home network, and is entirely reliant on the cloud, so if your internet connection goes down, so does your home control system.

Wink, on the other hand, is designed for users looking for a more simple home control solution. It's simple to setup and simple to operate, but is a little limited by the fact that it requires a Wi-Fi connection, and won't let you connect directly to a wired home network.

Unlike Wink and SmartThings, Nexia relies exclusively on Z-Wave technology, which means you'll have fewer worries when it comes to the compatibility and interoperability of your connected smart home devices. The system does have a $9.99/month subscription fee, though, to cover remote access and 250GB of cloud video storage for your connected security cameras.

While you're probably familiar at least in passing with the above brands, there are also a few lesser-known hubs worth considering, depending on the sophistication and ease-of-use you're looking for in a home control system. The MiOS VeraLite, for example, is another control hub very similar to SmartThings in terms of price, but it, like Nexia, relies exclusively on Z-Wave technology. It lacks the monthly subscription fee of Nexia, though, and is targeted more at users looking for a simple, straightforward control solution.

Which is pretty much exactly the opposite of what Homeseer delivers. The strength of the company's HomeTroller Zee S2, HomeTroller-SEL, and flagship HomeTroller S6 home controllers come from their enhanced power, near-infinite potential for customization, and support for virtually every control technology under the sun. Homeseer hubs even go where few DIY home controllers do by allowing you to operate select surround sound home theater receivers via sold-separately plug-ins. Needless to say, though, installing and programming these hubs can get complicated quickly, and they are a good bit more expensive than the typical Z-Wave gateway.


The core of the Z-Wave smart home system is a hub (or gateway, or controller) and you need one to bring your connected devices to life. One of the (many) benefits of Z-Wave is CHOICE – with so many brands, there is truly something for everyone.


smart home hub, smart home gateway, smart home controller, MiOS, SmartThings, ADT Pulse, Wink, Vivint, Vera, Homeseer, Nexia Home Intelligence, how-to, DIY, Z-Wave, Home Control, Smart Home

Preparing for Summer Vacation: Keep Your Home Safe While You're Away

Preparing for Summer Vacation: Keep Your Home Safe While You're Away

Are you ready for summer travel season? With Memorial Day on the horizon, and school almost finished for the year, many people already have vacation plans for the summer planned out. But have you thought about accommodations for your home while you’re away? Don’t let the threat of intruders take away from enjoying your time off. Utilize some smart home gear from Z-Wave and make your home look lived in – even if it’s not.

Smart Home Gifts for Every Kind of Dad

Smart Home Gifts for Every Kind of Dad

Chances are the dad in your life has had his share of standard, run of the mill Father’s Day presents like ties, power tools and shaving kits. A poll from Ebates found that electronics are the most wished-for purchase by fathers

GE Z-Wave Plug-in Outdoor Smart Switch

GE Z-Wave - On/Off Switch

Getting started with Echo + smart home

Getting started with Echo + smart home

If you're reading this blog, my bet is that you have both an Amazon Echo product – either an Echo or it's smaller sister, the Echo Dot – and some smart home gear you'd like to connect and control via Alexa. We'll go through the setup

Z-Wave vs. Wi-Fi vs Bluetooth: A Breakdown

Z-Wave vs. Wi-Fi vs Bluetooth: A Breakdown

One of the easiest ways of explaining an unfamiliar technology is to compare it with something people already understand. That's why you might hear things like: "It's like Wi-Fi, but…" or "It's similar to Bluetooth, but…" when talking about Z-Wave

Complete Home Energy Efficiency - Vivint

ADT Makes Your Smart Home a Safe Home

Gifts for Grads

Gifts for Grads

With June right around the corner, college graduation season is finally here. College students dedicate four (or more!) years to all-night studying sessions, test taking, and staying organized so they can walk across that stage and snag their diploma. Sure, you could give students a gift card or some cash but what about a smart home gift that’s as unique as it is practical? As students move onto bigger and better, that often means moving out of shared dorms or apartments and into their own place. Help the student in your life start post-grad living with a breeze with the convenience of Z-Wave smart home gear.

Z-Wave to the Rescue: Prevent Water Damage

Z-Wave to the Rescue: Prevent Water Damage

Whether your winters are frozen over or soggy and gloomy, the end of winter means one thing for most of us: a greater risk of water damage. Whether it's frozen pipes that have burst, or spring rains that bring flooding, or drainage systems that are clogged, water in the home is a real issue in the spring. Either way, early detection can make all the difference.

Week 1: Paul's Smart Home Diary


I've decided to turn that boo into another woo-hoo by seizing the opportunity my new, falling-down, three bedroom house affords me. I want to make my home smart. As smart, efficient and as seamless as possible. And I'll be detailing that process in this weekly smart home diary.

Half of Homeowners Incorporate Smart Home Tech in Renovations, Houzz Survey Finds


The most popular area for new smart systems or devices to appear is home security or safety upgrades, the study found. One-fourth of renovating homeowners install smart products for this area.

6 Back to School Basics for your Smart Home


By adding a few pieces of technology to your home, you can ensure that your children, your house, and your belongings are safe, everyone gets out the door on time, and that after-school chores are handled promptly.

The Best Smart Home Automation Hubs of 2017


Icontrol Networks Piper Nv - this multifaceted device also controls and interacts with various Z-Wave home automation devices, including smart switches and dimmers, door and window sensors, and range extenders.

What's New

The Connected Home: How to Get Started

ABC News

The connected home is no longer the sci-fi dream it once was -- it's now becoming a reality in many homes.

15 Gadgets To Make Your Home Smarter


The Fibaro Smart Z-Wave detects temperature, light, and more. It alerts you on your smart device when it detects activity.

Optimizing The Smart Home For The IoT

Internet of Things Today

As the IoT continues its explosive growth, the role of the home will become increasingly critical. It is time to ensure the security, efficiency and compatibility of the devices that will fuel this growth...

How A Smart Home Can Help Your Back-to-School Routine

Mountain Grove News Journal

So how can a smart home improve your everyday life? For starters, they are surprisingly easy to use, make life more efficient and add a comforting layer of security to your family's home.