Logitech Harmony Adds Even More Smart Home Integration

If you’re an AV aficionado, enthusiast, geek, or however you think of yourself, Logitech’s Harmony is most likely the first—and maybe only—name that comes to mind when you hear the term “universal remote control.” Although none of the company’s remote controls are perfect (the perfect universal remote control only exists in that magical fantasy world inhabited by unicorns and hard drives that never crash), Harmony’s remotes have been good enough to pretty much crush the competition in the $30 to $350 range. Despite their king-of-the-hill position, Logitech nearly sold off the Harmony division in 2013. It’s a good thing they didn’t, because since then the company has embraced home automation in many of its universal remote controls—and recently Harmony has turned that embrace into a giant bear hug.

Originally, Harmony had three universal remote controls with limited home automation capabilities: the Harmony Ultimate Home, the Harmony Home Control, and the Harmony Home Hub. The Home Hub, a small device that included IR emitters plus Bluetooth and IP connectivity, was at the heart of all three products. As with its other universal remote controls, the built-in IR gave the devices compatibility with nearly all the remote controls in Harmony’s database of over 270,000 components. Bluetooth provided the ability to control devices like the Sony PlayStation 3 and 4. IP connectivity is how the Harmony remotes communicated with various home automation systems and smart devices, such as Philips Hue lights, SmartThings Hubs, Nest thermostats, and Sonos speaker systems. Additional compatibilities were added over time, including integration with IFTTT, Nest Protect smoke/CO alarms, and Rheem EcoNet water heating systems. Then, Harmony released a firmware update that—for no charge—gave the same home automation capabilities to owners of Harmony Smart Control and Harmony Smart Keyboard.

Last week, Harmony announced four more home automation integrations. The first is the $250 August Smart Lock. What makes this integration so exciting is that the August Smart Lock isn’t the typical smart lock that totally replaces your existing door lock. The August Smart Lock only replaces what’s on the inside of your door, so the same key unlocks the deadbolt from the outside as if nothing has changed. This might not be a big deal for the typical homeowner, but it’s huge for renters because the landlord and maintenance people can access the property exactly as they always have. The renter, on the other hand, gets all the benefits of a smart lock—and can simply remove the August mechanism and take it to the next apartment.

Harmony was one of the first Works With Nest partners and had Nest Thermostat integration early on. But Nest isn’t the only smart thermostat nor is it necessarily the best for everyone. Harmony’s Hub-based universal remote control systems now work with the ecobee3 HomeKit-enabled smart thermostat. Much like the Nest thermostat, the ecobee3 builds a profile of your usage habits and home/away patterns to create a heating/cooling schedule that provides the most comfort for the least amount of money. Unlike the Nest, however, which only monitors the room the thermostat is mounted in for temperature and motion, the ecobee3 comes with an additional remote sensor that monitors temperature and motion—and you can add two additional sensors if your house could benefit from them.

Harmony’s new integration with Insteon hubs is a major deal because there are so many Insteon-compatible devices you can buy, including smart LED bulbs, wireless sensors, wall switches, lamp dimmers, fan controllers, thermostats, wall keypads, door locks, and Wi-Fi cameras.

Finally there’s the integration with LIFX’s Wi-Fi-enabled LED smart lights, which joins Harmony’s other dedicated lighting control system options: Philips Hue and Lutron Caseta. Lutron Caseta, by the way, also includes control of wireless window shades.

Rather quietly, Harmony has been creating a home automation leviathan by not only directly controlling smart devices (like the August Smart Lock and the ecobee3 thermostat) but by also integrating other companies’ smart home hubs (like SmartThings, Lutron Caseta, and Insteon) into the Harmony ecosystem. I think that type of inclusiveness makes Logitech’s Harmony Hub-based control systems one of the first places you should start if you’re thinking about putting together a smart home.

And you get an awesome universal remote control in the bargain.