Bonus Points

Screenshot - Wink - ScheduleManual control is nice, but I also decided that the lights should be on a schedule. Turn on at sunset, and off at 3AM? Should be easy enough to do, right?

And it is.

Wink offers schedules, and they’re pretty straightforward. Simply add a schedule entry for turning the lights on at sunset, and another for turning them off at 3AM.

Done.

The only catch I found is that the schedules are not in an obvious place. It’s not horrible, but the app could probably do with a good usability overhaul with strict attention paid to the reactions of new users. Fortunately, there are few enough buttons that you can just tap around and quickly find it.

Talking Points

For Christmas this year I received an Amazon Echo, and I thought it would be nice to integrate it with my home automation system. Fortunately, there’s an Alexa skill for the Wink. You simply add the Wink skill, give it your account information, tell Alexa to discover new devices, and you’re done.

And Alexa handles requests surprisingly well.

For example, I can say “Alexa, turn the front lights on”, and it will do it — even though I have no group named “Front Lights”. It’s “Outside Front”, if you’ll recall. Alexa manages to do a fuzzy match, however, and so far has always gotten it right.

Of course, it’s not like she has many to choose from just yet…

It’s just too bad she can’t divine context from which Echo or Dot you’re talking to when dealing with the Wink skill; I’d love to be able to associate my lights with rooms, and have her be able to match up “Turn the lights on” with the group for the particular room I’m in.

Can’t have it all, I suppose…

Losing Points

No system is perfect. As I went through the motions of getting this all set up, I discovered a number of issues that bothered me about my nascent home automation system. Here are some of the more noticeable ones:

  • While Wink has an iPhone app, there is no equivalent designed for the iPad. You’re stuck using the zoomed up phone app. This is annoying, especially when you consider how easy it would likely be to make one available.
  • Older Z-Wave devices don’t report their status when manually switched; the hub has to poll them periodically instead. This is why I can’t recommend the Home Depot switches: they don’t support Instant Status (as the feature is called in Z-Wave land), and that means that my little robot can take ten seconds or so to respond when I turn the front porch light on. It’s annoying. I’ll probably move the front porch switch later and put a different one in that has that feature.
  • Wink natively only supports a limited set of devices. For example, I’m interested in the Sensative Strips door sensors, but Wink doesn’t currently have support for them (and rumor has it they don’t work at all). This will probably be what eventually drives me off the Wink platform, but we’ll see.
  • The robots are very simplistic. It’s unclear whether this will end up being a serious limitation or not.

Luckily, one of my biggest sticking points — the requirement for access to the cloud — has (so far) been largely mitigated in the Wink 2. Unlike the original Wink, robots and schedules run locally on the Wink 2. This means that your automations will continue to work even if your Internet connection goes out.

Overall Impression

So far, I’ve been surprisingly impressed by the Wink. Something like Samsung’s Smart Things platform appears to be much more flexible, but for basic needs the Wink works very well. I’m actually quite curious to see just how long it takes to outgrow this thing.

If you’re looking for a way to automate simple functions in your home, the Wink is a good option. The only potential showstopper is the limited selection of supported devices; Smart Things is a much better choice if you’re using devices the Wink doesn’t support.

The only question mark right now in my system is whether it will support the double- and triple-tap functionality in the HomeSeer smart switches. I’m planning on trying those next, and I can see a lot of uses for that functionality.

Stay tuned!