I put too much trust in SmartThings and just wanted people to think about things more when dealing with ST and smart tech in general.
Today with the SmartThings issues effecting automations i woke to hundreds of dollars in plant seedlings cooked because the heater off and fan on automations didn’t trigger. Had 40c temps in the room and lucky a fire didnt start, it literally could of burned the place down.
So please think twice about automations involving heating, turning off irons, oil burners, thermostats etc. Would hate to see someones life ruined because a code guy on the other side of the world clicked the wrong button and crippled SmartThings.
ST makes it pretty clear that it’s not to be replied upon for “anything mission critical”.
I use an alternative system now and I’ve had it functioning 24/7 since july.
I left smartthings back then due to a number of issues, one of the largest and most annoying being that an overnight update broke the functionality of my zwave boiler switch. The result of this was the central heating flicked on in the middle of the night (fine, planned), but then was prevented from switching back off again.
We woke up to find the dog sweating at the top of the stairs and the front room like a sauna. In the middle of summer.
We had a baby due to be born (middle of lockdown) and couldn’t be arsed with the constant hassles such as this. And although some may argue that heating isn’t “mission critical”, this was one of the main reasons for me putting time and effort into a smart system.
All in all, at that point I decided it couldn’t be relied upon for anything important, regardless of the definitions of what’s mission-critical and what is not.
I’m very sorry for your experience, I’m sure that was awful.
You acknowledge and agree that you will not connect any physical devices or third party services to the Services (or otherwise use the Services) in a manner that could be dangerous to you or to others, or which could cause damage to or loss of any property (whether real, personal, tangible or intangible). For example, you should never connect heavy machinery, power tools, medical equipment, or other similar devices to the Services.
Speaking just for myself, I don’t connect anything to smartthings that wouldn’t be safe unexpectedly running (or not running) unattended for 24 hours. It’s just not designed to a higher level of reliability than that.
There are many other systems that are more reliable so if reliability is one of your top priorities, you may be best off just looking for a different platform. SmartThings’ primary Competitive advantage is in having a nice app and being extremely versatile in what you can do with it. So if you go for something with more reliability, you may have a smaller choice of devices or have to settle for less complex rules. Or, of course, pay a lot more to get a system with both reliability and support of complexity.
You can find many discussions in the forum going back years about issues with SmartThings’ reliability. It’s always frustrating, but it’s unfortunately not unexpected.
((someone removed this text from my profile))
It should be “A WARNING not to rely on cloud services”. This isn’t SmartThings specific – if you can’t control the update/deployment/operation of something, you should be very aware when you depend upon it continuing to function.
There are lots of cloud services that are pretty reliable. My own requirement, as I’ve mentioned, is an MFOP (maintenance free operating period) Of six months or more. I haven’t had any problem getting that with Alexa, Homekit, Or Hue. And lots of others.
That doesn’t take away from your main point, which is that you should know where your vulnerabilities are and assess them against the specific needs of each use case. Netflix is reliable enough for most of my entertainment needs, but I do recognize that I have less control over it than I have over a DVD collection. On the other hand, I can use Netflix just with voice, which is not true for the DVD collection, so I’m willing to trade off the loss of control for the greater convenience.
So my main point would be that yes, I think the cloud is the main source of the unreliability in smartthings, but it’s definitely not the only source. (Unexpected and undocumented changes in local DTHs, for example, don’t have anything to do with the cloud.) And there are other cloud-based systems which are far more reliable than smartthings has been. Even other low cost home automation system clouds.
So the cloud issue itself is one thing. SmartThings’ implementation of it is yet another.
For me, it’s just convenience and I’ve made sure that I can control “things” manually if needed. I have tons of automations but I know better to “rely” on any of them. If the cloud goes down then I just wait for it to come back up. If the internet is down, I have Hubitat for things that I really want to work locally but even with that, there’s issues.
Anything critical, such as HVAC, security, etc. can be controlled with ST but has a main app and/or manual control and can/must work without needing ST.
I know that ST gets a lot of flak but the cost I paid for the Hub vs what I’m doing with it is bananas!
All products used for mission critical functions what ever market either have redundancy, alerting for failure or clear direction to not rely on it. nothing it 100% reliable. you always have a redundancy.
People store keys at a friends house just incase thier key snaps or is lost.
You go on holiday you have someone check the house to be sure its not flooded, broken in to or similar.
gas boilers have sensors to confirm its lit, extracting, flowing water, heating the water and if any of them fail it stops.
Car engines have multiple sensors from mechanical to electronic to warn of an issue before it fails and causes catastrophic failure.
Its never one thing that brings down a plane.
So is it user error? in the sense the user is the designer of the monitoring/control setup. yes 100%. it is user setup error not putting in the redundancy for failure.
Simple rule is if failure causes damage, loss of life, cost implications or inconvenience that could lead to injury or similar then build in redundancy. NOTHING is perfect.
As I mentioned before I have an aquarium controller and it runs my entire tank. if it fails my tank fails and loss of life will happen if not reacted to. the product has the option to run redundancy, fall back and alerting under many circumstances but as a user I MUST set them up and enable them. if not then one failure could bring it all down.
Shops that use them often run 2 systems for added redundancy or third party monitors as a backup as its that mission critical to there business.
I will add I see this rant on our aquarium controller forum a lot about how they lost 5k of livestock to the fault of the controller.
I am not sure I have seen in 10 years of seeing these complaints, more than 1 was unavoidable loss due to configuration.
You setup your redundancy to your cost of setup to cost of loss vs likelihood to fail and weigh it up like any business continuity plan or even insurance. you pay for the cover you need.
That said, I don’t expect anything to be perfect. When it comes to low cost residential systems, Including home automation systems, I use a specific measurement: MFOP (maintenance free operating period).
That’s an engineering term which means how long can the typical end user Expect the system to operate reliably without requiring any maintenance.
For example, the typical MFOP for a dishwasher is two years. For the first year, there typically are no problems and no maintenance is required. Somewhere around two years, you might need to clean a filter or even change a hose or a water seal. It’s just The way they are engineered. you could make one that was maintenance free for 10 years, but it would have to cost a lot more.
MY PERSONAL REQUIREMENT
My target MFOP for home automation systems is a minimum six months, and I prefer a year. A year in which I don’t have to do anything with the system, it’s “set and forget.“ It works the way I set it up to work.
Over the last five years I haven’t had any problems achieving that target with multiple home automation systems, including Amazon echo, Philips hue, Apple’s HomeKit, ring security, Logitech Harmony, Lutron Caseta, and Wyze with the included sensor system. But with smartthings I have been lucky to go two weeks, And I have never gone as much as two months.
It’s not the devices themselves: many continue to operate during the same timeframe on another platform. But it’s always something. The cloud, the app, a stock DTH, an integration, the way the rules work… Something fails. Here’s a good recent example from someone else:
My own system is not complex. I have never had more than two dozen devices and I use as little custom code as possible. I don’t use webcore. Smartthings as delivered is just fragile. Versatile, but fragile. And they make a lot of undocumented changes which can be neither deferred nor denied.
THE FIX MAY BE SIMPLE, BUT IF A FIX IS REQUIRED, THAT RESETS MFOP
Sometimes it’s just a matter of opening the app, going to a particular screen, and saving something again. Sometimes it requires logging out and logging in. Sometimes it means rebooting a device. Sometimes it means understanding how one of those undocumented changes works.
My problem is that as someone who is quadriparetic I have to pay another person to do any of these “minor“ fixes. That’s why the MFOP matters so much to me, and why I am willing to pay more for a system with a longer one.
Right now multiple people are reporting that automations that they had set up for months or even more than a year to manage changing the STHM mode have started going into a loop. They didn’t change anything. There were no announced changes. But their security system is disarming and re-arming itself, or the other way around. There’s a workaround, which involves changing to a different DTH, but obviously that blows the MFOP.
And smartthings has a lot of these kinds of issues. They don’t affect every customer every time, But there are enough of them that very few people can say that their system operated reliably and required no hands-on maintenance for 12 months. The fixes may have been minor, but they were needed.
NO SYSTEM IS PERFECT, BUT THEY AREN’T ALL THE SAME, EITHER
So while it’s true that no system is perfect, and that if a use case is critical you should expect to plan for some kind of redundancy, it’s also true that different systems deliver different levels of reliability as measured by MFOP.
And I think it’s measurably also true that the smartthings MFOP is lower than many competing systems. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t Have some Features that would compare favorably with those same systems, it does. So each person needs to judge for themselves which system is the best match to their own needs and priorities.
My system has worked okay-ish since November but as you write there’s always something needing to be sorted resetting the MFOP…
I can live with it but now the system is completely messed up forcing med to turn of automations that has worked fairly stable for a long time.
And nothing about it on the status page and still no replies from the support.
Very true and my rant was specifically void of the SmartThings issues. I agree it needs to improve and it’s not great. My motion and routines are if it feels like it on the day, hour etc.
The point was about relying on it. Even the washing machine example you provide. If you rely on clean clothes or linens due to medical reasons or for running a business or what ever you would ensure you have a backup. While reliable enough at two years you can’t hope it lasts.
I always admire your persistance with ST knowing your need for it. But I guess you have alternative apps for the key things you need to do.
Yes, I moved all my critical use cases over to HomeKit several years ago. Local (except for voice control), reliable, but doesn’t support rules that are as complex. These days I mostly use SmartThings for devices that don’t have HomeKit support, and only for convenience cases. But it still offers the most versatility, and I don’t mind having multiple systems.
I am very surprised anyone relies on ST for anything important. I kid you not, since the past 2 years, at least twice a week I have to fiddle with something in ST to fix it, adjust it,etc. My wife and kids think I am mad and are half the time they are swearing when the siren goes of at 2am, some random light turns on in the middle of the night after a hub upgrade, duplicate alerts on our phones for a sensor that hasn’t done anything, random lights stop working, etc. I could write an whole essay on this for me ST is just a fun project and something to show my friends when they come over. Luckily most of the devices are cheap as chips, otherwise I would be annoyed!
(UPCOMING SMARTTHINGS LORD and [FIRST RESPONDER])
it been more of a hobby to play with (waste time on) lately. just like JDR, i have ring as a backup.
First up - as per usual, excellent post @JDRoberts.
General response… Although I agree that ‘redundancy’ is a good idea on almost every level (washing machine breaks? Yes, you probably have spare clothing, to use one example), it shouldn’t be…
Frequently used as a standard
… Due to the host system being so utterly shocking, so frequently unreliable, so poorly designed, so fragile, etc. Citing “user error” to someone who for example, may complain that their floodlight stayed on all night and cost a few quid in electricity is a poor state of affairs.
“Well, if they didn’t want to risk wasting money on electricity, perhaps they should have ensured their smartthings automations incorporated a backup plan. Their fault!”
I buy a home automation system, I damn well expect it to be able to do its job. And nobody should be criticised for expecting the same. That’s not to say that if I had life support that I wouldn’t take every care to ensure a variety of backups and failsafes are in play. Just in case.
To automate a frigging light bulb or a switch?! The system should be fit for purpose.
It’s utterly pathetic. The fact that people are defending it? Worse.
Its a fair and valid point that it should be more reliable. and I am investigating alternatives all the time due to my frustrations. but I do not use it to support any vital functions or ones that if it failed would be an issue.
I have 2 other automation products and all are more consistent and reliable than ST. but as @JDRoberts states he keeps coming back to ST as its more capable on complex stuff. I look at Habitat but there are issues. Homebridge or HomeAssistant is an option but lacks some finesse.
I just keep hoping that ST finally move to a model that allows full local processing with cloud assisted processing on complex or external integrations. We will see.
However my point was if it is critical back it up. even if ST was reliable nothing is perfect.