Home Automation: 1 Year Later

smartthings-logo-ringA year ago I posted about how my husband and I were going to start automating our home using the SmartThings platform. At that time, we just had two lights automated. We honestly didn’t do much with it most of the year (which is good, since Samsung didn’t provide the best upgrade path when we upgraded to the new hub). But within the last several months I’ve gotten more and more into it. And I feel like I can now give you a fair review of the platform.

Devices

We’ve set up several devices to work with our SmartThings hub, some work better than others.

  • Logitech Harmony – My ridiculous remote control I love to pieces. While it’s compatible with SmartThings it’s lacking some features, such as triggering SmartThings modes from the remote. Admittedly, I haven’t dug into this too much either.
  • GE Light Switches – All of the outdoor flood lights are on these switches, and are triggered to turn on and off at sunset and sunrise. We also have one in our bedroom so I don’t have to get up to turn off the light after reading.
  • GE Link Bulb – I bought this on impulse at Home Depot after I saw it was only $15. I ended up using it on a bookshelf lamp that isn’t on a light switch, and it works beautifully.
  • Nest Thermostat – Not officially supported, but there’s a workaround that a member of the SmartThings community came up with. This also fixed most of my annoyances with the Nest, because I now have much more control. SCREW YOU NEST I DO WHAT I WANT.
  • Kwikset 910 Lock – Most my frustration with this lock were because I bought it used. The one complaint I have that’s not though, is that while it’s listed as “supported” not all the features are. For example, I can’t remotely manage access codes.
  • SmartThings SmartSense Open/Closed Sensor – We have a sliding door that bounces open if you don’t close it gently. So we put a sensor on it. The functionality of this device is incredibly limited out of the box, but using the developer platform I was able to make it do what I needed. More details on this later.
  • SmartThings SmartSense Motion Detector – This came with our hub upgrade, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first. I put it in the mail box so we would know when the mail had come, and if one of us had grabbed it yet. Seeing as how our mail has a 3-hour delivery window this is super helpful.

Usability

I recently wrote about my Nest Thermostat, where I said it was a great device for most people but lacked features and abilities that techies would want. SmartThings is the antithesis of that. The interface tries really hard to be friendly, but it lacks a lot of features and it’s not intuitive. Your devices are pretty limited out of the gate. For example, I could set an alert for if a door was open. Or if that door was closed. But I couldn’t do an alert if the door had been left open. But I was able to go in and easily program an “app” for that alert, especially since someone had already and I just tweaked it to be what I needed. I was able to add my not-technically-supported Nest. This is great for someone like me, who wants fine control. It’s become another hobby for me, I haven’t had this much fun writing code since freshman year. But it’s not something I could recommend to most people.

Once it’s set up though, it works very well. I’ve had a few hiccups, but for the most part it just does it’s thing. It locks the doors, sets the nest, and turns off the lights and TV when I leave. It reverses that when I get home. My outdoor lights come on at sunrise and sunset. Now I know someone is going to say “you could do that with a timer” but these we don’t have to adjust as days get longer and shorter. We didn’t have to do anything when we “fell back.” I don’t have to think about it. Once it’s set, it just works.

Overall

I love our SmartThings, but unless you’re interested in programming it to make it do exactly what you want it’s probably not the right system for you.

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Update 3/17/16: Over the last several months, it seems SmartThings has been buggier than usual. This I do believe is a barrier to entry for some people. The good news is that I’m getting emails about these issues being fixed. And they are getting fixed. I’m hoping these issues are growing pains as SmartThings becomes a more robust system.

2 Responses to “Home Automation: 1 Year Later”
  1. Tommy Day says:
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