Alternative to Smartthings that doesn't need Internet? (Wife is temporarily confined to bed)

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(Bruce) #1

OK. I love Smartthings, I have supported Smartthings, but I am PEEVED beyond belief right now. The infernal switch to the Samsung account screwed things up right when I needed Things to work the most.

My wife is having some issues and has become bedridden, hopefully temporarily. Being able to control Smartthings thru the app and by Alexa has been a great help the past week for both of us. It’s allowed me to continue to go to work and allowed her to turn things on and off remotely.

However, I got the message to switch to the Samsung signon yesterday and thought I’d do it since it has to be done and it was supposed to just take a minute.

Well, for some reason, things didn’t work this morning when she tried to turn out some lights and the app asked for the new password which didn’t work either. Long story short, I had to leave work, drive 30 miles, figure out what was going on and fix it, then drive 30 miles back to work.

She’s never been enthused about my home automation efforts till the past week or so but I just got the chewing out of my life, my boss is mad and the wife has told me she doesn’t care what I do but get rid of smartthings and find an alternative. Add to the fact that our internet was out for part of the weekend and so Smartthings didn’t work then either…

Anyone got any thoughts? I’d like to find something stand-alone that doesn’t depend on the internet for simple actions such as turning lights/switches on or off.

Sorry for the venting but I’m already stressed beyond belief and this just put me over the edge.


Jumping away from Smartthings
Smartthings during emergencies
(Dan) #2

Hubitat Elevation offers one of the easiest transitions for existing ST users. It is a relatively new platform, however it has a very strong development/engineering team behind it. Depending on your current devices and needs, it may be a good fit if Hubitat currently supports your devices/integrations.

If you can explain your system and requirements, I can let you know how good of a fit Hubitat might be for you. If desired, you can Private Message (PM) me.


(Bruce) #3

Thanks! I’ll take a look; it may be a day or two - we have two doctor appointments today.

My setup isn’t complicated; it’s mostly Smartthings switches and outlets with a couple of temperature sensors thrown in for good measure.

My biggest wants are for an easy to use app, the ability to just simply turn devices on and off via an app when my internet connection is down but my wifi is up, Alexa integration (voice control), and a few simple schedules and notifications when an open/close sensor or motion sensor is activated.


(IG) #4

agree, after spontaneous reset which leaded me to rebuild everything, new problem from last week with zwave module failure, absolutely useless samsung support and warranty policy to get approved, send unit to them and than wait until samsung will check and send new one, leaving customer without access for smart system for week or two, I’m also thinking to another system, which will support zwave and zigbee…
It does look that samsung doesn’t value customers.


#5

I am Quadriparetic, and as much as I love the flexibility and power of the SmartThings platform, I eventually had to face the fact that I require much more reliability, at least for the critical use cases, than it can currently provide. :disappointed_relieved:

Once I moved reliability to the top of my priority list, things got a lot simpler for me. I stopped trying to look for a system that was comparable to smartthings, and I just looked for something that would reliably turn the lights on and off every day. I don’t expect it to be perfect, but I do expect an MFOP (maintenance free operating period) of at least six months and preferably 12.

I think the hubitat offering is very interesting, and as something which runs entirely locally, it is intrinsically more reliable than SmartThings, but right now it’s in a rapid development phase which is similar to an advanced beta. They say as much in their terms of use.

Customer acknowledges that the Hubitat Platform is under continuous development, is not complete or otherwise at the final stage of development and that Hubitat makes no representation that the Hubitat Platform is error or bug free. Customer acknowledges and agrees that the Hubitat Platform may experience unscheduled downtime and agrees that Hubitat shall not be liable for any harm resulting from unscheduled downtime.

Consequently, I could not currently recommend it for someone who is bedridden and is seeking stability as a top priority right now.

Instead, I would suggest one of the following two options, both are pretty low cost, and you can keep the smartthings system you have now can and just add this in for your critical use cases.

  1. if you have an iPhone, Apple’s HomeKit with the Phillips hue bridge for table lamps. If you want light switches, you can add Lutron Caseta switches. I personally also use Amazon Alexa devices as my primary voice control, so I choose devices which work with both Alexa and HomeKit. ( it’s even better if you wear an Apple Watch.)

This has a very simple rules engine when compared to SmartThings, but it’s solid, reliable, and runs everything locally except for the voice component, and you can get to Siri over a cellular connection if need be.

You can also add a fire TV stick which will give you excellent voice control of your Prime Video content on your television (or an Echo Show) when combined with the Alexa device. It doesn’t work with HomeKit, but for most people that won’t matter.

This is the setup I now suggest as a starting point for most people in wheelchairs or who are bedbound. The accessibility options, including for the app, are outstanding, reliability is excellent, and it will cover the basics and a little more

There’s a list in the community – created wiki here of devices that work with both smartthings and HomeKit if you’d like to look at that. There aren’t a lot of them, but there are some.

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Devices_that_Work_with_HomeKit_and_SmartThings

  1. if you use android phones, and you were just looking for super simple but also reliable voice control of lights and television, an Amazon Alexa device with a Phillips hue Bridge and smart bulbs and a fire tv stick is a fast and relatively inexpensive way to get that. You can also set up some time based schedules, although only really simple ones.

Or bundled with the fire TV stick:

This is what I take if I’m going to stay in a hotel or with friends. It’s not in any way comparable, of course, to a smartthings system, but it’s easy and reliable. it’s a good temporary solution as well.

You can add Lutron Caseta light switches and the August 3 pro door lock or a Schlage smart door lock ( with their Wi-Fi adapter) if you want to start getting fancier. That doesn’t give you any more complex rules, it just covers some additional device classes.

(You do not need the “echo plus” Alexa device. Just a regular echo dot will work fine. At the present time the echo plus still has just a very very simple rules engine and doesn’t work with any sensors, so it’s not really adding anything. Maybe in the future.)

The biggest drawback of this second set up as opposed to the HomeKit one is that there really is no rules engine at all except for time based schedules and there are no sensors. And everything depends on the Internet being available. But the first option does require some iOS devices. If you already have those, great, but if you use android, then the second option may be a better fit for you.

Either of these two options can be set up in less than an hour to reliably voice control table lamps in several rooms (By an able-bodied person) and should easily hit the six-month MFOP target.

A note about Logitech Harmony for TV Control

I have and like the Logitech Harmony home hub, and it works fine and can control More devices, but at this point for someone who is starting from scratch and just wants basic voice control of the television, the fire TV stick is less expensive with more voice options. If you already have the Harmony device, or have good hand control and want the universal remote features as well, or want to also control devices like a sound bar or DVD player or a cable set top box, use Harmony instead. :sunglasses:

Back to Home automation

Anyway, those are the two options I’d consider looking at first. Either should work very well for a “temporarily bedbound” situation.

If you really want something much more robust as far as the rules engine, there are some other systems to look at, but they will all cost more, have more complex set ups, and you’re likely to run through at least a Week or so of instability while you get everything working.

Here’s a discussion thread. It’s old, but most of what’s in it still applies. HomeKit has added a lot of device classes since that thread was written, and there are a couple of new systems like hubitat and the Toshiba symbio that might be worth looking at for some people. But it’s a good place to start.


(Dan) #6

Zigbee and Z-Wave switches and outlets are very well supported on Hubitat for the mainstream devices. I am sure there are some oddball devices out there, but I haven’t seen too many requests for more switches and outlets lately.

Hubitat currently does NOT currently have a mobile phone/tablet app. What Hubitat does have is their Dashboard that runs directly on the hub. You create as many dashboards as desired, which are really just web pages, very similar to the old Smart Tiles and newer Action Tiles on ST. Each Hubitat Dashboard has two URL’s, one for remote access (Cloud URL) and one for local access (LAN URL). The local access URL can be used on your local LAN, as long as your phone/tablet/laptop/desktop is also on the local LAN. This works even if your Internet connection is down.

Hubitat has native integrations for Amazon Alexa, Nest Devices, Lutron Smart Bridge Pro (yea Pico Remotes!), Life360 (mobile presence detection), Philips Hue Bridge, Rachio Sprinklers, Sonos Speakers, and IFTTT (enables numerous integrations with currently unsupported devices like Google Home.) There are plenty of community developed integrations as well, such as the Logitech Harmony Hub.

Just be aware that Hubitat is a little more of a DIYr’s platform, versus something like Nest which is designed for the masses (and which carries an associated price tag to go with that level of engineering.) Hubitat is nowhere near as complicated as something like OpenHAB or Home Assistant.

If local control and processing are your top priority, I think Hubitat belongs on your list of contenders. I would avoid Wink and Iris as they are both 100% dependent on the cloud. Apple Homekit is a decent option if you’re in the Apple ecosystem already. If not, you’re going to need to spend quite a bit of money on devices, phones, apple TV, etc…


(Tony Fleisher) #7

@JDRoberts great explanation, but one question:
My understanding is that unlike harmony, the fire tv stick doesn’t provide IR control for tv, cable box, etc.
Did you perhaps mean to reference the (relatively new) fire tv cube?


(jeubanks) #8

Here’s another thread to considering reading as well.

I still hold true that if you want the most robust/reliable system then HomeSeer is the (current) best out there. However it comes at a high cost when compared to other systems. Not only in purchase price but in time to setup. This is not an out of box solution like most “hubs” and requires some serious time and integration.

Runner up is Hubitat with the draw back of it’s youthfulness but it is a good system and getting better every day.

I have no experience with Apple HomeKit as I don’t use any iOS devices. I have heard good things and @JDRoberts uses/recommends it and that’s good enough for me.

If you’re considering Vera…don’t, just don’t. If you still think of it then go spend some good time on the Vera forums first.


#9

No, I meant the fire TV stick, but I also meant it only as voice control for television content provided through the fire TV stick. Not all the other devices, since, as you point out, it doesn’t have IR. But then it also lists at $39 instead of $112. :wink:

I no longer have a cable box on the main tv: I use PlayStation Vue Through the fire TV stick for live television, and Netflix is also available through fire TV now.

But the fire TV Cube could certainly be considered as an alternative to the Logitech Harmony Hub. Different things work for different people. :sunglasses:


(Bob Kerr) #10

If that’s the case, then there is no reason for your lights not to work when your internet was out. I am using Smart Lighting, first, for this very reason. WAF is important and cannot have my basic lights fail to come on and off when internet is down, so I use the local processing of SmartThings v2 hub. Are you using the v1 hub or v2?


#11

I do, but with the understanding that it’s going to seem like a very very simple system when compared to smartthings Or Homeseer or hubitat or even Abode.

The rules engine is reliable but very limited. There are only a few devices available in each device class. Customization is limited.

The advantage to HomeKit is it’s easy to set up, easy to use, runs locally except for voice, and is very reliable. And the accessibility options for the app are great. It’s plug-and-play, very polished, with outstanding customer support. But the if/then options and the device selection are very limited.

So I don’t recommend it for power users, but I do recommend it for someone who just needs simple automation of a few basic device classes.


(Dan) #12

This is a very good point, and should be noted that this holds true whether you choose to use Siri, Alexa, or Google for voice control. All of these solutions rely on the Internet to be up and running in order to process your voice requests.


#13

Siri doesn’t need the Internet, though, which is another homekit advantage. It will automatically run over cellular on an Apple Watch or iPhone if your local Internet is out.

I use Amazon Alexa as my primary voice control, but I have Siri as a voice backup since reliability so important to me. :sunglasses: I’ve had Alexa running for two years now, with only two outages in that time, but both times I was able to use Siri on my Apple Watch instead.


(jeubanks) #14

Yes for using Google Home or for Amazon Alexa. There are local options for voice control as well.

HomeSeer has built-in native voice control for devices and events as well as integration with Google and Alexa.

VoxCommando
https://voxcommando.com/home/

Is another system that integrates with a lot of systems to provide local voice control as well.


(Dan) #15

Interesting JD… So help me understand something… If your internet is down at home, but your phone/watch are still connected to home WiFi (which is essential for controlling the HomeKit devices, right?), will your Siri requests actually make it via the cell network to Apple’s servers, and have the response take the correct actions over WiFi? It seems like it should be possible technically… I am just wondering if anyone has tested this specific scenario to see if Apple actually implemented it this way. I know there is a “Wi-Fi Assist” setting on my iPhone to have it use cellular is WiFi connectivity is poor - just not sure how it would behave if you have a very strong WiFi signal, but no internet connection.


#16

Yes, it works and I have used it when the Internet was out. I’m not sure of the exact pathways being used.


(jeubanks) #17

Now that is nice…


#19

OK, here’s the pathway.

Your watch/phone are connected to your local WiFi as is the iPad That you used to set up automations.

Your watch/Phone have cellular access.

If you make a HomeKit request using Siri, Siri will use the cellular access to process that request, it comes back as the device code, the device code gets passed over your local Wi-Fi to the device, and the magic happens. So you don’t need the Internet the way you do for Alexa. But you do need access to the Apple servers over cellular or you can’t process the voice request.

There are a few systems which do voice processing locally, there are even some 25-year-old home automation systems which use Dragon dictate.

But most “voice assistants“ that operate on mobile phones do have a cloud component these days.


(Dan) #20

Yes, that makes sense. Thanks. My guess is that the Wi-Fi Assist setting I mentioned earlier has to be enabled in iOS, in order for the Siri request to be allowed to use the cellular data network. By default, when connected to WiFi, I would expect all traffic to use WiFi to save cellular data usage (except cellular voice calls and SMS text messages). Only if WiFi assist is enabled will the phone try to use the cellular data network while the device is connected to the home WiFi during an internet outage. I could be wrong, as this is purely speculation on my part, but it makes sense. I may unplug my cable modem tonight in order to run a quick test to see how Siri behaves at home as a function of the Wi-Fi Assist setting.


(Bruce) #21

I have the original hub… so does the V2 hub handle things better? That might be my solution right there. I don’t have to have voice control when my internet is down but if my wife can turn lights on/off, etc with the app connected to my wifi network, that’d be Good Enough.