2019 Alternatives

I probably shouldn’t post this hear but I’d love to hear opinions or advice. I am over Smartthings. They haven’t done any updates in what seems like 3 years, the app is garbage, Classic and New, and the devices continually disconnect.

Maybe I have something setup wrong but It seems unreliable. I know it isn’t the same but I have considered NEST because I know Google will at least update things. anyone have experience with NEST?

Any news on updates to Smartthings? Thoughts?

I recently bought ST thinking it was going to be better then Xiaomi Hub, £60 more too.

Yes it has some more suppourted devices but to be honest I only feel like I ever need Sensors to turn on lights, i’m sure some people have them to to other things because they can but is it really needed?

starting to feel like just using xiaomi hub and xiaomi sensors/light, and have my plugs on seperate app is fine?

Do I really need to spend £60 more so I can have my sensors turn on a plug? not really I use plugs on schedules or ask google to turn it on, I don’t see practical reasons needing it to work on a button/sensor

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Ummm; Are you talking about Samsung SmartThings?

The platform, API, and “New” SmartApps have been undergoing continuous development over the past 3 years, with significant acceleration over the past 1 year.

  • More device types are compatible than ever before, thanks partially due to the new “C2C Schema API Connector” (Cloud-to-Cloud), which allows vendors of WiFi/IP internet connected devices to much more quickly and consistently integrate them with SmartThings.

  • Automations and Scenes in the New SmartThings App have evolved to have functionality that exceeds what Routines and Scenes were capable of the in the SmartThings Classic App.

  • The new API provides far more efficient access for 3rd Party developers to interact with the SmartThings Cloud (and customer’s Locations and Devices).

  • Many more Devices Types are now “local execution eligible” and an official “Rules API” specification has been published. Currently such Rules execute in the SmartThings Cloud, but the API finally sets a standard for these Rules to be pushed for residency and execution in Hubs, as soon as there is the “local execution engine for Rules” is stable.

  • … and much more.

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Where to start with Google Nest? Google announced the end of the Works with Nest this past summer and the migration to Works with Google. What a mess!

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I also have been frustrated with Smartthings, the most recent update. But, you need to know Nest is not a hub. I have been looking at HE, as it seems they have become more stable, but they are a extremely small company. Not sure where I will go, if I leave.

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HE is looking better and better, the the clasic app now broke, and the inability to creat ocfDeviceType:“oic.r.mode”, to suppot a simple alarm intergration (but they have
Tvoc Measurement [Measure total volatile organic compound levels] in a home automation system) i dont know what their stratagy is

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There have been lots of updates to the current platform (the new app itself is only 16 months old). But not to the classic app or the V1 hub, both of which are considered “end of life” tech.

There are also lots of alternatives. :sunglasses: Different things will work for different people, so the trick is to find the one that best meets your own needs.

3 common factors people find desirable are reliability, support of complex rules, and low cost. However, as @HalD sometimes says, it’s usually a limit of two to a customer. :wink:

There’s also the question of devices. Which specific models do you have to have? How much future choice do you want? Many people are ok with knowing they will never have a choice of more than 3 or 4 models in any device class (like motion sensors or door locks) as long as their top requirements are met: others want to be able to choose from dozens even if it means more cost or less reliability.

For myself, after living with home automation for about 2 years I realized I hadn’t put reliability .high enough on my priority list. (I’m quadriparetic.) I wanted a minimum of a 6 month MFOP (maintenance free operating period) and preferably a year. I was willing to pay more and give up a lot of support of rule complexity in order to get it.

So I switched all my critical use cases over to Apple HomeKit, and it’s worked out very well for me. (With increasing use of Amazon Echo thrown in.)

I still use ST for convenience use cases with complex rules, like getting a notification if the guest room window is open, the guest is not home, and rain is expected. It does that better than anything else in the price range except Hubitat. But I no longer use it for lights on at sunset or unlocking the door hands free. My rules are simple, I don’t have a lot of device choices, but it’s a “set and forget” system that works very well for my needs. And everything runs locally except voice control. :clap:t3:

But again, different things will work for different people. You can find other discussion threads with more details:

https://community.smartthings.com/tags/alternative_hub

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I guess I just don’t use all the fancy features or coding/whatnot to benefit. I have a simple system that consists of a few motion sensors and door sensors, arlo cameras, door lock and Phillips hue lights. The motion sensors continually disconnect as do the cameras. It sometimes follows my phone and sometimes doesn’t.

I liked the interface of the new app but it didn’t have simple things like allowing the house to be armed when I leave, hence why I said nothing’s been updated. I mean come on, haven’t they had the classic app and new app for like 2 to 3 years? Still no word on migration.

Just kind of frustrated.

The ability to arm and disarm SmartThings Home Monitor was added in the app update a few weeks ago :slight_smile:

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Using your phone location?

Yes, they added A number of significant features in October and November to the new app. In particular, you can now lock and unlock smart locks with an automation, arm/disarm smartthings home monitor with an automation, and you can now navigate the app by voice which was not really possible before. :sunglasses:

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@fireforsin - Like you, I am very unsatisfied with both old and new apps due to a number of reasons I won’t rehash here. However, my device ecosystem has been way more stable than ever before in the last year or maybe more. I believe that to be due to improvements on ST side but also to me eliminating some devices that I’ve suspected many times of being the culprit of my device related issues.

My biggest issue with ST is their reliance on the cloud and therefore the varying lag, or failures, that ensue. As others noted above, many more devices are supported by a DTH that can run locally HOWEVER these DTHs are also very basic (at least for my devices) and generally do not support extended functionality the device offers (ie: parameter configuration). This is a deal breaker for me as I spent more to get those extra features so I am stuck using a “custom DTH” and thus relegated to the cloud. Yuck!

Anyway, back to your specific issue… it is critical you build the backbone of your zigbee and zwave mesh networks properly and using good quality devices. This means that starting from the hub and moving out, you have wired (not battery, or stuff that can be unplugged or switched off) devices for both zigbee and zwave. The devices relay messages back to the hub so the devices need to be distributed around the house in such a way that any zwave device can hop back to the hub with a maximum 4 hops. I would ONLY use Zwave plus devices due to extended reach and faster speed. Placement of the ST hub is critical in some cases (larger homes, lots of RF obstacles, lots of metal, concrete, etc) so it is generally a good idea to place it in the middle of the home if possible. Mine is in the media room on the 2nd floor to a extreme side of the house and sitting on a metal networking rack cabinet… so absolutely NOT ideal but it works perfectly and most zwave devices (between 100 and 150) can talk to the hub directly.

As for Zigbee, the rules apply however zigbee can hop quite a few more times than zwave but the fewer hops needed the faster and more reliable it will be. Zigbee operates at 2.4GHz so it is more susceptible to RF noise (ie Wifi and all the stuff that operates in the 2.4GHz ISM band) and obstacles. Most Zigbee devices I have seen in the USA tend to be battery operated or light bulbs. Battery devices do not relay messages and light bulbs are a poor choice especially if they can be switched off from a wall switch. For my ST hub I rely mostly on hidden ST outlets (latest gen) but this is not ideal as they can be unplugged thus damaging the reliability of your mesh network. For my Hubitat hub I installed 5 Zigbee wall switches in the 3 different attic spaces (3 for lights, 2 for HVAC). I still have very few devices (all Zigbee) on my Hubitat hub but they have worked perfectly to date.

Alternatives?

Everyone appears to be releasing their own ‘smart home hub’ but lots of them focus on their product range and do not integrate well with the rest. ST is likely the best player when it comes to 3rd party device integration even though it is not all roses. It appears that a lot of what was developed for ST can be reused on HE so I would not be surprised if HE’s compatibility list were to get close to ST’s (not sure as I have not researched this yet).

In the past I’ve tried:

VERA - I hated it and abandoned it super fast
Wink - I hated it and abandoned it super fast
Homeseer - I hated it and abandoned it super fast

ST - v1, v2, v3 - after 5 years, even though things got a lot better, I find myself unhappy with unreliability of anything connected to the cloud. Mostly the unreliability is just the varying amount of lag that defeats the purpose of many automations (typical example is light sensor turning on light when I am already half way in the room). Days when most people are at work and I am at home, my automations seem much faster than the evenings when everyone is at home… thank you cloud!

So… jumping to HE is very dangerous (tiny company, short track record, could change things on a whim, my first HE hub died within a few days of purchase, etc) and would require lots of work for which I do not have time. Therefore, my goal is to move critical automations over to HE to take advantage of faster and more reliable local execution. I am trying to integrate it as a ‘back end’ that will do stuff without needing to be exposed to users. All user interfacing will remain with ST. As bad as the apps are (ok, the new app is improving but still sucks when you have more than a couple hundred things in it), they are still better than any alternatives I’ve seen for use on a phone.

My suggestion? ST & HE. There are apps that allow to use them both together but it will NOT be effort free. This is if you love to automate stuff and are not satisfied with basic stuff like a light turning on when you get home.

Unresolved matters in my experiment:

  1. Even with HE I lose some extended features of certain devices
  2. No decent app for phone use
  3. Firmware updates to ST zigbee devices that get moved over
  4. Non official full support for webCore (yeah, I love this and cannot do without!!!)
  5. Surely more, but I have to leave the house… :wink:
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Well I just reinstalled the new app and it does have a bunch more stuff. However, right away it says my hub is offline… which it is not. :man_facepalming:

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@fireforsin, I feel the same way that you do, honestly. I’m so frustrated. I’m one of those people who don’t have a lot of really complex rules and integration and mostly have used ST to tie some of the smart home stuff together and even more for voice control. But that’s what’s so frustrating. I would say that more than 80% of the time, ST fails to when asking the Google assistant to simply turn on an outlet. And the few routines that I’ve created rarely work either (again, we’re not talking complex rules here just a simple voice command to turn off all the lights and the TV/AV equipment. Wicked simple and no if/then rules or sensor input involved. This isn’t including the lagginess or delays that others have mentioned.

I do wish that there was a viable alternative to ST. I’m not at all sure what that would be as the reviews for the better known alternatives (also mentioned in this thread) have not had good reviews. I am also a fairly recent convert from an Android fan (and confirmed Apple avoider) to an iPhone user and I’ve actually come to really like my iPhone and the “ecosystem”. I’ve been “dipping my toe” into HomeKit for the first time the last few weeks and I have to say that it’s impressive. Honestly, I think it’s sometimes faster and more reliable than the native apps. I’ve been quite happy with it. I’m thinking of looking into ways of expanding that and what hubs might be able to help integrate.

Does anyone happen to know if there anything in particular that the latest ST hubs would do over one that’s a couple of years old (but most definitely not the OG V1)? Any new technology included or activated or any more local processing that’s specific to the hub rather than the app itself?

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences and frustrations. It was helpful to find that I’m not the only one feeling frustrated with ST and looking for other options. The failures are so plentiful and so vastly outnumber the successes that I’ve come to stop trying to use it most of the time. I just don’t have the energy to constantly be trying to troubleshoot problems with each vendor/company happy to say it’s not their product but one of the other companies and never being able to actually pinpoint the issue. Please share if you find anything of interest. I’ve love to hear.

You may, or even likely have standalone Google Home/Assistant/Smart Display units around your house but I wanted to share that these definitely have made the iPhone transition easier. When at home, we can still invoke the “hey Google” phrase directly without having to deal with the Siri shortcut, which is helpful. I still do feel a little lost between the two ecosystems dealing with using Google assistant primarily on the iPhone and having things like reminders be a little less simple but I wouldn’t trade it. I got hooked on iOS from the iPad Pro which has replaced my laptop and I wanted to have the same experience on a phone. I’ve really loved it. I may also look into changing up the Siri shortcut to call on the GAssistant. Since anyone can customize the phrasing used, I might be able to come up with something a little shorter than the “Hey Siri, Hey Google” phrase - and maybe a little more comfortable. The one I just mentioned does feel a little silly to say at times. :slight_smile:

Best of luck finding some new option that can replace ST’s functionality. I really hope you find something.

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I don’t have anywhere near the experience of you, still feeling my way around. So, take my comments with that in mind. My one observation is the home automation world is still in its infancy and has years to go before it stabilizes.

Even with a simple system of devices, it is difficult to troubleshoot issues. Is it the device? Hub? Connection? Internet? Cloud? When devices won’t connect or drop it can be really difficult to fault isolate the root cause. More than once, it has been my lack of knowledge about how things work, and I am not a novice to technology.

The standards and interfaces are still relatively new. Some devices I have seen claim integration, but don’t always have it implemented. Device handlers needed to actually work correctly. Google dropping “Works with Nest”, Wink seems to be going under now, and I seem to recall that another hub went down (Vera?). Amazon, Google, and Apple all competing for a piece of the market. Just looking at Amazon, I see many devices that only support Alexa/Google ecosystem or just isolate cloud sites.

I still have a lot to learn, that becomes more apparent each week I work on my system. I started to slow down and learn some more before I move much further (says the guy that ordered 11 window sensors yesterday). It is nice to know that I am not alone in figuring out this Home Automation world of technology. I am learning a lot from discussions like this one on the ST Forum. Thanks!

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I was a network engineer and then became quadriparetic, so over the years I’ve done a lot of research on this stuff.

Home automation has been around for decades and works just fine. (See, for example, control 4.) but it’s professionally installed and expensive.

What’s new in the last seven or eight years is

A) Smart phones, which means apps, which means real-time reporting.

B) DIY for people with no technical background who just want to buy something off of Amazon

C) Systems for people who think $500 for a hub is expensive.

You put those three together and you come up with SmartThings, Wink, etc. And a significant loss of reliability and interoperability compared to the professionally installed whole house systems (Crestron, Control4) , The professionally installed monthly HAaS systems (ADT pulse, Xfinity Home) and the super techie hobbyist systems (Homeseer, Vera). :wink:

People who are willing to pay a lot more can have the reliability they want. People who are willing to pay a little more and not try to do as much can also get good reliability.

So it all comes down to knowing your own priorities and then finding a system that works well for those.

Just sayin’… :wink:

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And Vera is doing just fine, their parent company was bought by a big Italian automation company and folded in with some other offerings.

The other popular hub that was discontinued last year was iris by Lowe’s.

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Thanks for the correction, I remembered there was one but was not sure who :slight_smile:

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You are right, the high end systems are much better. Excellent Point. I was thinking more about the DIY systems.

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