Alternatives to SmartThings for simple actions?


#1

The short version: Is there a local alternative to the SmartThings hub for controlling simple local actions such as turning on multiple switches with a single switch (ie ‘The Big Switch’ or the Enerwave 7 button controller)?

The longer version: One of, if not the, primary reason I installed smart things and a dozen z-wave devices in the first place was to allow me to simplify the switch layout in my 70’s ‘custom’ (ie a little weird) home. The two functions that I use most on ST are an Enerwave 7 button in wall controller to switch on and off several lamps/lights in my living room, and the ‘Big Switch’ app to control two separate light switches from one in a bedroom. Unfortunately after almost a year of trying, smart things is not performing satisfactorily in either of these applications. The Enerwave is not working at all currently (see ZWN-SC7 Enerwave 7 Button Scene Controller) and the big switch has an extremely variable delay and only about a 95% success rate, which makes it hard to trust. I would like to take these two functions (and possibly a couple of motion triggered lights ) and move them to some sort of simple, reliable local control. Can the Enerwave be programmed to directly control the lights in question without the ST hub? Or is there a simple local hub that could perform these actions?

It sounds like the hub v2 may solve my issues, but there is no definite timeline for release, and I am not too keen to invest good money after bad on this problem without knowing that these issues will be addressed with local control. I am also happy to leave ST running to control some less timing critical applications such as my thermostats (although I wish that was reliable!) and porch light.


#2

The enerwave cannot.

There are some switches that can work via direct association. The Cooper Aspire line is popular, as is the Leviton Vizia RF+. However, due to a required patent license, each individual device costs about $25 more than a similar one without the “instant status” feature.

SmartenIT is another option that uses zigbee instead of zwave, and may run a bit cheaper.

The SmartenIT can be made to work with SmartThings eventually by treating it as a contact sensor, but you lose the local association if you do that.

Individual models of the Cooper and Leviton can be made to work with SmartThings, but it can get complicated.

Depending on how much money you want to spend, the Staples Connect hub has a very good reputation for reliability at quite a low price. However, it only works with a few devices. And not every Staples carries them, you may have to order online. Still, if you’re really just looking for a few simple use cases to tide you over until better reliability is available elsewhere, I think it’s definitely worth considering. However, you can’t write your own code the way you can with Smart Things, there’s no IFTTT channel, it doesn’t support most smart bulbs (although they’ve added Hue since I was first looking at them). No voice control other than iVEE, which is one of my personal requirements.

But it does a great job with the few device it does have, including lutron clear channel devices, so it just depends on your use case.

https://staplesconnect.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/200222489-What-devices-do-you-support-

It wasn’t the right choice for me (IFTTT gives me Siri voice control, which I really wanted), and most of the devices they do support are high end, more expensive per device than the competition, but everyone’s needs are different.

p.s. My personal guess (totally a guess) is that in Summer 2016 we’ll see several competitors with mostly reliable, mostly plug and play home automation systems that include some type of voice control. Maybe with a smartwatch thrown into the mix for some solutions. Apple’s HomeKit/Insteon will be one. I expect Samsung/SmartThings to be another. Nest may be a third, it’s hard to tell right now.

I’m waiting until then to make my decision on some big home automation projects, and for now SmartThings is solving a couple of important convenience use cases for me at a very low cost. So it will also depend on your timeline.


(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #3

The only thing I would recommend for Z-Wave is a Mac Mini running Indigo with a Z-wave stick. This setup (at about $300 using a used mini) is more expensive than a hub, but is versatile, scriptable, includes a decent API, and is rock solid.

Universal Devices ISY series is a good standalone, rule based, controller (that is also scriptable), but at this point their Z-wave support is still in fledgling status… and isn’t all that much cheaper than the Indigo setup.


#4

Thanks for the info on this. Trying to navigate which z-wave devices can talk to and control each other is almost impossible. Unfortunately I already have a significant investment in my existing z-wave in wall switches/dimmers all GE and Linear (might work with the Connect?) and GE smart bulbs (wouldn’t work with connect?) which I would like to not have to replace. Any idea on the latency with the connect for the type of actions I am talking about? Is the processing done locally?


#5

Staples Connect is local processing, yes. It will work even if your Internet goes down. One reason Staples went that direction was their small business customers–they want reliability even if it means higher cost and fewer device choices. Again, all depends on your personal priorities. Budget is a big factor for me.

The following device compatibility list is from a retailer who sells zwave devices, so they try to keep up with everything to reduce returns from their customers. But check the hub manufacturers as well for the most up to date list for their system:

http://www.homecontrols.com/Z-WaveCompatible


(Bruce) #6

Some of your latency issues are due to the Z-wave devices you have. If they don’t do instant reporting, which most do not, there will most likely always be variable latency for any app fired by the switch itself, not just for Big Switch. ST has no way to know that these devices have been switched on or off until it polls them. Turning them on or off does not generate any event for ST to act on.

I can’t speak to the behavior of other hubs, but local control does not, in and of itself, address this issue.

If you want quick response from turning on or off a switch, it has to be one that implements instant reporting. One example is the Leviton VRMX1. This dimmer is currently $78 on Amazon, while another Leviton dimmer, the DZMX1 sells for $60. The latter does not implement instant reporting.

If other mechanisms are used to trigger an app that turns on lights, such as motion sensors, contact sensors, or Minimote remotes, the response will be nearly instantaneous. In these cases, there is instantaneous notice from the sensor to ST, and hence nearly instantaneous control of the lights.


#7

Right, the Lutron patent applies only to lighting devices. In fact, only to “in the switchbox” lighting devices. Some manufacturer, I don’t remember who, put an instant update device in the paddle and a judge ruled that wasn’t patent infringement! :smile_cat:


#8

Thanks for the explanation on the latency for the big switch. For this specific usage case a small amount of latency (upto 10 seconds) is OK, and can actually be beneficial. I hit the switch to turn the main bedroom light off (which is immediate) I then have time to get in bed while the second set of lights turns off. The issue is that the second lights sometimes (~5 - 10%) of the time don’t switch off. This means I have to get back out of bed and walk to the far side of the room to switch them off. Same issue with the Enerwave 7 button when it is working. I push a button to do something, then have to wait by the switch for 5 - 10s to see if it will actually work. If I get impatient and push the button again I can end up cuing up both a delayed turn on and a turn off command and end up with lights turning on then off again a few seconds later .

While the latency is a pain, it is the combination of latency and unreliability that is the real killer. I am going to research the staples connect a little more and may try it for these specific actions.


(Bruce) #9

Get yourself a bedside Minimote. Works great, very low failure rate (< 1%).