Homey brings a veil of privacy to the US smart home market

Take the ability to connect to nearly all smart home devices, mix in some smart rules and sprinkle on a raft of security features and you’ve got a pretty decent idea of what Homey offers. Instead of beaming all your data to whoever your smart home provider is, Homey promises to keep your data safe and out of the grubby paws of advertisers.

The Homey company has been operating in Europe since 2014, and announced its U.S. expansion at CES today. The key issue it solves is that a lot of smart home solutions are very cobbled together, and in the process become huge data collectors that can be used for nefarious purposes. To date, customers have been made to accept that it’s just the cost of having a smart home, but this is where the company believes there is another way: The company claims it doesn’t listen in or sell any customer data, nor that it uses personal information to create user profiles or targeted advertisements.

In addition to blindfolding the smart home providers from each other, the company’s Homey Pro smart home hub brings some fun new features to the mix. If you’ve ever played with If This Then That (IFTTT), you’ve probably come up with some clever automation: Turn on the light when someone rings the doorbell, or turn the volume of the speakers down after 10 p.m., for example. Homey’s app builds a ton of this type of functionality into the core architecture of the apps. The company calls these automations “flows,” and gives a number of examples, including “Always dim lights in the bedroom when the drapes close,” or “Automatically turn the thermostat down, turn off the lights and enable the alarm when I lock the front door.”

Flows can, of course, also be started using voice assistants, including as Google, Alexa and Siri Shortcuts. The company also offers widgets for mobile and Apple Watch.

In addition to voice controls, flows and the other obvious stuff you’d expect, the apps offer tools to analyze energy use in real time, and offers suggestions for how to save additional electricity. It can, for example, compare the energy consumption between a washing machine’s “hot” and “cold” cycles, or give insights into which are your most (and least) energy-efficient rooms.

Homey claims its smart hubs can connect to more than 50,000 smart home devices from more than 1,000 brands, and it offers iOS, Android and web apps to take control of, and configure, the whole experience. The hub itself has connectivity galore, with Zigbee, Z-Wave Plus, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 433MHz radios, plus infrared transmission LEDs to beam commands around the house.

The Homey app can be used to control smart home devices — either via the $69 Homey Bridge or as an app-only solution without the need for Homey hardware. The free version of the Homey app controls up to five devices, while a premium version enables an entire household to connect an unlimited number of smart devices. The premium version of the app would set you back $2.99 per month.

“Every home is unique; it’s not one-size-fits-all. Most of today’s smart home systems are centered around a single brand, technology or use case. For example, Philips Hue is great for lighting, but that’s all it does,” said Emile Nijssen, co-founder and creative director of Athom, makers of Homey. “As a result, your smart home can become complicated and cluttered quickly with all sorts of different apps. Our goal with Homey is to change the status quo and create an open, affordable, user-friendly system that unifies all smart devices and ensures consumer privacy at the same time.”

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