Xiaomi is developing a home hub for IoT devices, according to a recent announcement made by the OEM on the Chinese social network Weibo around the time the Xiaomi Mi 9 smartphone was introduced. The device will enter an open beta period on February 28, but the chances of this happening outside of China are very slim at best.
Xiaomi and its numerous sub-brands have launched a wide variety of IoT home devices over the years, and to a degree, it appears that the so-called Xiaomi Smart Home Control Center will act as a hub for various smart home devices, ranging from lights and doorbells to air conditioning units.
The device is equipped with a touchscreen which can display simple information like the time of day, as well as video feeds from security cameras, or music and videos streamed from the Internet, at least for services that will be supported.
So far it appears that the device works mostly with online services from China, with the list of applications excluding services such as YouTube or Play Music. The device will be voice-activated much like Google's Home Hub launched late last year, but it doesn't seem to come with any of the voice assistants which are popular in the Western hemisphere like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
More likely, the Xiaomi Smart Home Control Center will rely on local services as well as Xiaomi's own platform in China, which offers ebooks, music, and videos to its userbase. As far as virtual assistants, voice recognition, and calling capabilities are concerned, Xiaomi previously collaborated with Agora to bring Wi-Fi calling to the Mi AI speaker after its release, so there is a chance that the OEM might turn to a third-party in order to offer a more feature-complete home hub package.
As far as the exterior design is concerned, the home hub appears to have a wide speaker grille at the bottom on the front, rounded display corners, and a hefty display bezel/frame. It doesn't look too spectacular, but arguably neither does the Google Home Hub which is basically a tablet with wide bezels stuck to a base doubling as a speaker.
The Xiaomi Smart Home Control Center will enter a testing period at the end of the month, but it remains unclear for how long the device will remain in the beta stages before it will become available for purchase in China. And it will undoubtedly make its debut in China, but whether or not it will hit the Western hemisphere somewhere along the line is unclear, and rather unlikely.
As for Xiaomi's other product to make an official appearance yesterday, the Xiaomi Mi 9 smartphone is expected to launch in more regions outside of China beginning with March. The flagship has a 6.39-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,340 by 1,080 and relies on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 chipset along with 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of fixed built-in storage. It boasts an in-display fingerprint sensor, while the back panel accommodates three vertically-aligned cameras and a dual-LED flash.