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Can I Use Alexa Instead of the Hive Hub?

No one likes a lot of clutter – unless of course, you’re one of those hoarder folks. But in general, most people don’t like clutter or extra, unnecessary stuff. This includes extra tech. We all want our smart homes to be streamlined, well-oiled machines as it were, and don’t want to deal with things that we deem unnecessary.

When Amazon decided to introduce support for Zigbee – the communication protocol that Hive smart devices use, this caught the attention of many Hive users. With many already using Alexa via the Amazon Echo in their homes, a new possibility for streamlining home automation seemed to be possible. Many Hive users soon sought to forego the use of the Hive hub and just use an Amazon Echo. But is this even possible?

What Is Hive?

Hive is a UK-based smart home tech company with a great selection of smart home products designed to enhance your everyday living.

Their extensive line of products includes devices such as security cameras, a variety of sensors, and smart plugs.

The Hive smart plug
The Hive smart plug

They even have an award-winning thermostat. In fact, this thermostat has been a game-changer for a lot of homes in the UK. Via professional installation, it can be wired directly into your home’s existing heating system. Once installed, users can remotely control the temperature of their home – and it has proven to be quite convenient!

A Hive smart thermostat showing the actual and target temperatures
A Hive smart thermostat showing the actual and target temperatures

In addition, Hive also produces smart lighting and has even partnered up with Philips Hue to offer even more options when it comes to smart home lighting. They’ve also included an option in the Hive app where you can connect your Philips Hue lights, giving you the ability to control these lights right from your Hive dashboard. Hive even offers exclusive bundles that help you save money by combining the two. 

A Philips Hue full RGB White and Color Ambiance bulb
A Philips Hue full RGB White and Color Ambiance bulb

Hive devices use Zigbee to communicate wirelessly with each other. The Hive Hub is used to ‘translate’ Zigbee to Wi-Fi, which allows the Hive devices to communicate with and be controlled by the Hive app, as well as any smart home hub it may be connected to.

What Is Zigbee?

Zigbee is one of many wireless communication protocols that different smart home devices use to communicate with each other, as well as their respective apps. 

Unlike Wi-Fi, Zigbee is a wireless mesh network. While Wi-Fi has just one central connection point from which it broadcasts a wireless 2.4 GHz (and sometimes a 5 GHz signal as well), wireless mesh networks, like Zigbee, have many.

Wireless mesh networks connect devices via nodes. Each node, or, smart device on the network, acts as a point of connection. In case one device fails to respond, the next picks up the slack. 

Think, for example, if you have, say, a system of smart lights. In a traditional Wi-Fi scenario, all the lights connect to one central point of connection, and each bulb, no matter where its placed, relies on that point of connection to send and receive data. Enter the mesh network.

Thread or ZigBee network mesh
Thread or ZigBee network mesh

With a mesh network, each bulb connects to the next, in a sense extending the range of operability, without the need for extra hardware such as a Wi-Fi extender. 

This sort of communication network improves speed, reliability, and promotes smooth operation of your devices. It also offers much better range than most Wi-Fi devices.

In addition to Hive, companies such as Philips Hue, Innr, and GE Link also use Zigbee protocol for their devices.

Amazon Echo Devices That Contain a Built-In Hub

With the increase of smart home operators using Zigbee-enabled devices such as Hive and Philips Hue, Amazon took it upon themselves to make operation of such devices just that much easier.  

When it came to newer versions of the Amazon Echo, they included built-in Zigbee hubs. These allow communication with Zigbee devices, effectively bridging the gap between Zigbee and Wi-Fi, so that all of your home smart home devices can work together in harmony.

These Zigbee hubs are available in Echo devices such as:

  • Echo Plus (2nd generation and newer)
  • Echo Show 10
  • Full-size 4th generation Echo
  • Echo Studio
  • Full-size Echo Show

These hubs help eliminate the need for extra hardware such as Zigbee hubs and bridges by allowing Zigbee lights, switches, and many other devices to connect directly to your Amazon Echo. 

But does this work with all Zigbee devices? What about Hive?

Do I need a Hive Hub if I have an Echo?

The Hive Hub
The Hive Hub

When Hive users found out Amazon included Zigbee hubs in their newer Echo devices, questions arose. They were eager to know if they were among the lot that could forego the Hive hub and just use their Amazon Echo. The appeal of just one hub to control everything was strong. Unfortunately, they’d soon find out, this wasn’t a possibility.

While there are other Zigbee devices, such as Philips Hue that can go without the Hue Bridge, as long as their Echo is Zigbee-enabled – that’s not the case with Hive.

Hive even states quite plainly on their site (the UK version), that: ‘with the Hive hub, you can connect to Amazon Echo devices’. You really can’t get much clearer than that.

Now, there are some people who decided to give it a go and try using their Hive devices with only their Zigbee-enabled Amazon Echo Plus, and not the Hive hub. The results were less than ideal. Users found a significant decline in functionality as they could only perform basic functions, and only when they were home. This further proved Hive’s point – you need the Hive hub.

Will this change in the future as Amazon continues to improve on their technology, as well as with the emergence of smart home eco systems such as Matter? Perhaps. An integration of these systems may actually be possible in the future. But for now? Yeah, you’re gonna need that Hive hub.

How Hive and Alexa work together 

Even though you can’t use your Amazon Echo as a hub for Hive devices, it doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. Using your Hive devices with Alexa can help you add them to existing routines you’ve created, as well as create new ones.

Routines can even be created that use devices from different manufacturers in order to create seamless routines that help your smart home run smoothly.

For example, when one of your Hive motion sensors picks up on motion in say, the hallway of your home at night, it can trigger Philips Hue lights to turn on and give a nice, dimly lit pathway – perhaps to the kitchen for a late-night snack.

It even works for home security. Perhaps a prowler trips a motion sensor, this can in turn trigger lights and activate cameras to help catch the thieves red-handed – or perhaps get the authorities there before anything does happen.

Bottom line, when you connect Hive to Alexa, the possibilities are endless! A bigger world of smart home automation opens up as you gain the ability to combine various smart home devices to help your smart home run even more efficiently.

Which smart hubs can you scrap if you have an Echo?

A recently installed Philips Hue v2 bridge which is setup in my loft.
My Philips Hue v2 Bridge in my loft (I already have a home network in my loft).

While Amazon Echo’s built-in Zigbee hub may not work as a replacement for the Hive hub, there are other manufacturers with Zigbee devices who make an exception.

One such company, is Philips Hue. They allow you to do without the Hue Bridge if your Echo has a Zigbee hub. However, this does comes with slight limitations in terms of customization of light schemes. If that’s not a big deal to you though, the Echo does just fine, and eliminates you having to purchase the extra hardware.

Another device you can use with the Echo Plus, are GE Link bulbs. GE Link bulbs run on Zigbee, so they typically require a hub, namely the Wink hub, when connecting to Wi-Fi devices. However, with the Echo’s built-in Zigbee hub, you can connect them directly to the Echo Plus, and control them from there. 

In addition to Wi-Fi smart devices, there are many other devices that use Zigbee that can be used with the Echo Plus. Hive is actually an exception to the rule, as many other Zigbee devices are able to use the Echo Plus as a hub. 

Hive Hub Still Needed

While it may be nice to be able to forego the extra hardware, it isn’t possible this time. Hive’s technology requires you to have your devices connected to the Hive hub before you can really do anything with them. The only exception to this rule being the thermostat, if used in conjunction with your existing heating system.

Will this change in the future? Perhaps – only time will tell. In the meantime, if you’re using Hive in your home, don’t forget the hub.

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