Last week, Google introduced their next-gen WiFi router designed specifically for the connected home called OnHub.
There has already been a lot of hay being made of Google's foray into home networking with the OnHub, most notably it's price point: $200. And although this price may seem a bit eye-popping compared to other router's on the market, the price does put in the class of Apple's Airport Extreme which also retails for $200. By comparison OnHub, with it's embedded Bluetooth and Zigbee radios in conjunction with its native support for Google Weave, all features that the Airport Extreme lacks, may make this offering and price point set by Google a steal.
Although this has yet to be determined since no one has really gotten their hands on one yet to see how it really performs. At this point all that we have are pictures and promises to go on. And every picture tells a story.
One of the primary things we noticed in the product images is the lack of ports found on the OnHub. The lack of ports tells us something very important about the OnHub, and a bit troubling in our opinion.
Integrating IoT into the home can be a complicated matter, especially when you are introducing it via router/hub as google has done here. The lack of ports on the device tells us that somewhere there is going to have to be switch involved to support all of the non-wireless devices in the home that do not have wireless capabilities. And there still are plenty of important devices that rely on wired connections. With this being the case and despite Google’s admirable attempt to make the OnHub as attractive as possible so that it doesn’t interfere too greatly with the aesthetic of your home, we believe the OnHub is going to have to be relegated to the panel, or where ever the switch is located. Or where ever the switch will need to be located to support the devices that are not wireless if you so choose to go with the OnHub.
And that is really not all that big of a deal… except for the fact that typically where ever the panel is located usually is the worst place to propagate wireless connectivity throughout your home. So another question we have with the OnHub are where are the expanders to boost the signal? The Airport Extreme has its Airport Expresses to address this issue. Why has google overlooked this seemingly oblivious problem?
Well probably because you cant really expand Bluetooth and Zigbee radios all that easily for $200. But then again, we don’t know and maybe you can
OnHub goes toe to toe with everything it nearest rival the Airport Extreme provides, as well as takes a step further with the forward introduction of Bluetooth and Zigbee radios and Weave support. But it will have to be installed at the switch to support all of the other devices on your network that need wired support. Installing at the switch could limit the wireless range of all radios.
It is worth watching what Google does here with the OnHub; however, it is important to wait and see how the router/hub really performs in the real world. And as of writing this post, no one knows. Google has side-stepped a pretty obvious limitation with the router/hub, and if not addressed properly this could be another Google product that vanishes as fast as it magically appeared.