A Hands-On Guide to the Harmony HubBy - 11/09/2017
Logitech’s Harmony product line is big, and it’s been around for some time now. It started as universal remotes for entertainment devices but quickly branched out into the smart home. This guide aims to help you digest the complexity of Harmony with their hub, extender, and multiple remotes as well as share my experience with it.
Hub, Extender, and Remotes
To get started, you can purchase a stand-alone Harmony remote or the Harmony Hub with or without a remote. If you buy the Hub without a remote, you can always add one after the fact.
The stand-alone remotes can only control entertainment devices. The Hub adds the functionality of letting you control some smart home devices using your Android/iOS device or the remote. There’s also the Harmony Home Hub Extender, currently only available in the US, which requires the Harmony Hub and enables it to work with even more smart home devices.
It sounds simple when explained in such a concise manner-remote vs. Hub vs. Extender—but there’s an unfortunate amount of devices that fall into the remote category which makes things a bit messy. Let’s break it down:
|Product Name||Hub Required||Remote and Battery||Smart Home Capable||Number of Controllable Entertainment Devices*||Price|
|Harmony Hub||Harmony Hub Included and Required||No remote||8||$90.00|
|Harmony Home Hub Extender||Harmony Home Hub Extender Included and Required||No remote||N/A||$99.99|
|Harmony Elite||Harmony Hub Included and Required||Remote with touchscreen and buttons (with smart home buttons), Rechargeable Battery||15||$261.21|
|Harmony Companion||Harmony Hub Included and Required||Remote with only buttons (with smart home buttons), Coin Cell Battery||8||$144.00|
|Harmony Smart Control||Harmony Hub Included and Required||Remote with only buttons
(no smart home buttons), Coin Cell Battery
|Harmony 950||Not Included, Not Required||Remote with touchscreen and buttons
(no smart home buttons), Rechargeable Battery
|Harmony Ultimate One||Not Included, Not Required||Remote with touchscreen and buttons
(no smart home buttons), Rechargeable Battery
|Harmony Smart Remote Add-on||Hub Required, But Not Included||Remote with only buttons (no smart home buttons), Coin Cell Battery||Needs Hub||8||$30.00|
|Harmony 650||Not Compatible||Remote with screen (not touch) and buttons (no smart home buttons), AA Batteries||8||$42.00|
*Harmony divides devices into “entertainment” and “smart home.” The limit of 8 or 15 devices only applies to entertainment devices as they are controlled using IR. There’s no limit for smart home devices.
Using Harmony with Third-Party Hubs
Not to further complicate things, but there is yet another option: using Harmony alongside a third-party hub allowing you to view and control your devices from both the Harmony app and your current hub’s app. Harmony works with several hubs including Iris, Nexia, peq, SmartThings, Staples Connect (discontinued), Vera, Wink, Xfinity, and more.
Most of these hubs support both Z-Wave and Zigbee. Z-Wave devices can be controlled by the Harmony Extender and your third-party hub, but you must select one hub to control your Zigbee devices.
Harmony Hub vs. Hub Extender Device Compatibility
You already know that the Harmony Home Hub Extender allows the Home Hub to work with even more devices, but how? The answer lies in communication protocols. Where Harmony Hub is unfortunately limited to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and IR; the Harmony Home Hub Extender enables greater device compatibility through ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Z-Wave Plus.
Harmony Home Hub is focused on entertainment devices. Its compatibility with over 270,000 entertainment devices is probably (as of the time of writing) unbeatable. If you want to dig into the details of entertainment device compatibility, we recommend checking Logitech’s database. The Harmony Home Hub Extender, on the other hand, is focused on smart home control.
|Smart Home Device||Works With Harmony Hub||Works With Home Hub Extender|
|Amazon Alexa (Echo Products)|
|August Smart Lock (Requires Connect)|
|Google Assistant (Google Home Products)|
|Honeywell Thermostat (Wi-Fi Thermostat)|
|Hunter Douglas (PowerView)|
|Insteon (Requires Insteon hub)|
|LIFX bulbs & lights|
|Lutron Caseta Lighting System|
|Lutron Serena Remote Window Shades|
|Philips Hue (Requires Hue Bridge)|
|SmartThings (Requires SmartThings Hub)|
|Cree Connected LED Bulb|
|Everspring AN145 Wireless Module|
|GE Link Connected LED Bulbs|
|Nortek Dimmable LED Lights Bulb|
|Nortek Isolated Contact Fixture Module|
|Nortek Wall Dimmer Switch|
|Nortek Wall Switch|
|Nortek Plug-in Appliance Module|
|Nortek Plug-in Dimmer Module|
|Nortek Door/Window Sensor|
|Nortek PIR Motion Detector|
|Sylvania Ultra IQ BR30 LED|
|Kwikset & Yale Smart Locks (Z-Wave & ZigBee Models)|
|Schlage Camelot Style Keypad & Century Style Touchscreen Smart Locks|
|Schlage RS200HC Home Motion Sensor|
|Aeontec Smart Strip, Door/Window Sensor Gen 5, & Water Sensor|
|Dome On/Off Plug-In Switch, Door/Window Sensor, Motion Sensor, Siren, & Leak Sensor|
|Nexia Home Intelligence Bridge|
|ENERWAVE Wall Touch Dimmer|
|Quirky Tapt Smart Switch|
|Jasco In-wall Dimmer (Z-Wave), Plug-in Smart Switch (Z-Wave, Zigbee), & Wireless Smart Dimmer (Z-Wave, Zigbee)|
|Centralite 3-Series Appliance Module & Lamp Module|
|Intermatic HA02 Wireless Heavy-Duty Appliance Module|
|Leviton DZPA1 Appliance Module|
|Ecolink Door/Window Sensor & Motion Detector With Pet Immunity|
|NYCE Ceiling Motion Sensor, Curtain Motion Sensor, Door/Window Sensor, Tilt Sensor, & Motion Sensor|
Compatibility is not limited to the devices listed in the chart above. Other Z-Wave and Zigbee devices might also work; however, Logitech warns that smoke/CO detectors, cameras, energy management devices, as well as sound and glass break sensors will probably not work with Harmony.
Controlling Smart Home Devices Through Activities and Zones
The key to using Harmony as a smart home tool is the creation of “Activities.” Activities are created during setup, which we’ll get to in a minute.
An Activity organizes your connected devices by type. For example, you might create a “Dinner Time” activity that turns off your TV, turns on your mood lighting, and plays a little Dean Martin via your connected speaker. Logitech also suggests the creation of a “Start Your Day” activity which warms your house, turns on your lights, and brews a cup of coffee. The idea is to create multiple actions using one trigger. In this case, the trigger is the press of a single button which might be located on your remote or found within the mobile app.
The second Harmony feature specific to the Smart Home is the use of multi-zones. Creating zones requires additional steps during installation. According to Logitech,
“If you have a device that offers multi‑zone functionality, you can use your Harmony hub‑based remote to create a multi-room experience. For example, if you’re having a party, you can use your Harmony remote to enable additional zones on your receiver that night and play music throughout your entire house.”
Harmony working with IFTTT, Stringify, and Yonomi
You can expand Harmony’s smart home abilities by integrating it with third-party devices and services.
Note that Harmony Elite, Companion, Smart Remote, and Hub are the only devices compatible with IFTTT, Stringify, and Yonomi.
To get started, download the IFTTT app or log into your account. Next, search for Harmony to activate the Harmony channel. With the channel activated, you can create applets that include your Harmony device.
For example, you can create an applet that turns on your Xbox One (I use NFL Gamepass) Monday and Thursday at 7:00 pm for football night and another that turns on your media center (Wemo smart plug) at 6:45 pm. Of course, there are tons of possibilities via IFTTT.
To get started with Stringify, you’ll once again download the app. With an account in place, tap the plus sign and tap “Add a new thing.” Next, scroll down and tap on the Logitech Harmony “Thing.” Tap connect and you’ll be redirected and asked to log into your Logitech account.
Stringify works similarly to IFTTT in that you can create cause and effect relationships between devices, but Stringify allows for more complex rules. The downside is that it doesn’t work with as many devices as IFTTT. The good news is that IFTTT and Stringify work together.
BONUS: Compare Stringify and IFTTT Here
For example, there isn’t a Belkin Wemo functionality within Stringify, so I created a Stringify flow that triggers at 6:55 PM to activate my IFTTT Applet and turn on my Wemo smart plug, then Stringify will wait 5 minutes before activating my Harmony play Xbox activity.
Yonomi is yet another rule-based option that starts with a mobile app.
After it adds your devices, visit the hamburger menu and tap on “Accounts & Hubs” to add your Logitech account. Again from the hamburger menu, tap the plus sign, and then tap “Create a new Routine.” You can also navigate to the Routine section from the dashboard.
Within Routines, there are three parameters: When, Run These Actions, and But Only If. So, in my case, I have two Routines. One turns on my TV’s Wemo plug at 6:55 PM and the other runs my Harmony “play Xbox” Activity. Each rule runs on Monday and Thursday.
Of course, when shopping Harmony devices, there are really two questions to answer. The first is which Harmony device, which we’ve addressed. The second is, “What other options do I have?”
In 2016 there were three true competitors to the Harmony line. Now that the startup behind Ray Super Remote has shut down, there’s just two. That said, neither device is shipping, but both are available for pre-order.
Based on the concerns expressed by Stacey Higginbotham in her IoT Podcast, I’m not confident this first option will remain standing. Neeo’s Kickstarter kicked off in 2015, and it’s still pre-selling. According to pre-sell claims, Neeo has two main components: The Remote and The Brain (aka the hub). The remote has a touch screen and buttons, and they claim that it will know who’s picking it up. They also claim compatibility with over 60,000 smart home and entertainment devices with the promise of adding more devices to the list. What isn’t clear, to me at least, is if you’ll need The Brain for The Remote to work or if the Remote works on its own with The Brain simply adding features. If Neeo succeeds, it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against Harmony.
Second, the Smart Remote by SevenHugs. If you want to see how SevenHugs compares to Harmony, check this out. In short, the two devices share a lot of similarities including the ability to control Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IR, and smart home devices. The San Francisco based startup behind the remote plans to ship to their first backers early 2018.
Installing Your Device
Let’s assume you decide to give Harmony a go. Once you’ve selected your Harmony weapon of choice, you’ll need to walk through the installation process which is done using the Window/Mac App or the Android/iOS App.
The Window/Mac App
I don’t recommend using the Window/Mac app nor this method of setup and configuration. The app is very old school, buggy, and impractical.
Regardless, if you choose to pursue this route, you will download the Harmony app from Logitech’s website and create an account.
(TIP:) The app is so old that I couldn’t log in using my Logitech account so I made a new account using Google.)
Next, you need to connect the Remote (Harmony Elite/950/Ultimate One/650) or the Hub (Harmony Hub/Companion/Smart Control) to your computer via USB.
From there, Logitech uses your computer’s Wi-Fi to connect the remote or hub. If you’re using Ethernet, you will need to provide your Wi-Fi password manually.
Next, you can start adding devices either manually or by scanning your network.
The Android/iOS App
The Android/iOS app setup option is only compatible with Harmony Elite, Companion, Smart Remote, and Hub. But this method is the easiest and most practical.
First, you download the Harmony app from either the Google Play Store or iTunes. Second, plug your Harmony Hub into a power source. Third, turn on all of your entertainment devices to make it easier for the Harmony Hub to find them. Fourth, turn on your phone’s Bluetooth and connect to your wireless network. Fifth, open the Harmony app and press, “Set Up New Hub.”
The Harmony App will guide you through the process of pairing the hub with your Android/iOS device.
To continue, you’ll need to enter your Wi-Fi password and either register or login using your Logitech account. The app will then ask you if you want it to scan your network for compatible devices. If it finds any, you can easily add them. You might need to manually add some device by entering the brand and model number. You might also want to add devices that the Harmony Hub can’t control which is helpful when making activities. For example, let’s assume you have your Nintendo Switch plugged into HDMI port 1 and your Xbox One in HDMI port 2. If you make an Activity for each console, Harmony will automatically change to the correct HDMI port, even if you can only control the Xbox One with your Harmony Hub.
After you’ve added your devices, the app will suggest Activities based on the devices you added. For example, I have a TV, a sound bar, a cable box, and game consoles. So I received a suggestion for the Activity called “Watch TV” which involves most of my devices. Or, as my screenshots show, I could select “Listen to Music” which just involves my sound bar in Bluetooth mode.
The next step in the process is to edit and add more Activities and devices. You could, for example, edit an activity by indicating which button on your remote should trigger said activity.
Right now, Logitech Harmony is the only smart remote on the market. If your sole goal is to create a smart home, you would be better off selecting a dedicated hub like SmartThings or Wink, but if your goal is to tie your smart home to your entertainment devices, Harmony is your best bet.
Of all of the Harmony device, we recommend Logitech Elite. The bundle includes the Elite Remote Control, hub, and app access, offering the best of both worlds and a fairly robust compatibility with smart home devices including popular devices like Philips Hue and voice control via Amazon Alexa.
Initially, our biggest concern in recommending the Harmony Home Hub was Logitech’s track record with hub-like devices. Just recently, they announced their plan to brick all services for the Harmony Link hub, Harmony Hub’s predecessor, as of March 2018. After much backlash, they came through by offering a free upgrade to all Link owners, an act of faith so often ignored by device manufacturers.