While we were on vacation our home was burglarized. We did not have an alarm. So I’m looking for a basic wireless system that can grow. I have some ideas about a basic system, and some questions about the security app I’ve seen on this site; Smart Alarm.
Looking for the most cost efficient entry point into the system, and will add on as I can. The basic plan to start:
1 motion sensor. (upgrade to 2-3 later)
1 glass break sensor. (Lowes has one that I’ve seen some people use. I have tons of windows and not many that open. This time the robbers broke a window to get in.)
1 siren (Not sure on which one. Lowes also has one that some people have used? This is to scare away criminals, warn us.)
Later I would add some power and light switches, and entry points, camera, etc… But that basic set up would be well under $300, no monthly fee.
My desire would be to have three modes. Home- no alerts for movement or glass, no siren, sleep- no motion alert, but siren and glass, Away-all alerts and sirens.
Does that require the Smart Alarm app? How hard is it to install/use that app? Is this something installed into the hub, or on my phone? Sorry for the newbie questions. I’ve done some searches, but didn’t find everything i needed, and wasn’t sure if version 1 and 2 hubs are the same… Thanks for your help.
Different people have different requirements for peace of mind. So different solutions will work for them.
My own personal minimum requirements are:
One) that the system work when both power and Internet are down, including sending notifications
Two) that those notifications include going to a professionally monitored call center that is authorized to call both fire and police response in my area
Three) that those notifications go by cellular, not Internet
SmartThings, whether it’s the V1 hub or the V2, does not meet any of these requirements. So I pay a minimal monthly fee, less than 20 bucks, for a separate service to get all of these. I like smart things, and use it for convenience home automation, It just doesn’t happen to meet my needs for a home security system.
Other people just can’t stand to pay a monthly fee, or feel it’s really important to have all their controls combined into one app, so they will make other choices.
SECURITY FEATURES THAT SMARTTHINGS DOESN’T HAVE
With the V2 app (works with either generation hub), SmartThings released a new feature called “smart home monitor” which is intended to work more like a security system.
The problem is, as it currently stands now, it really looks more like a proof of concept then an actual working system. A few of the issues:
A) It doesn’t monitor your doors to see if they’re locked or unlocked. It monitors the doors to see if they’re closed or open, but that’s not the same thing. This seems a strange omission for a security system. I expect they will add it later, and there are some workarounds, but it’s not there now.
B) You can now again add a second user if you have an android or iOS phone, but not a Windows phone. The feature is complex, and not necessarily what you would expect unless you’re just trying to set up two family members with identical permissions. Read the official information carefully to make sure it will meet your needs.
C) there is no delay option for either arming or disarming. Again an odd omission. Most alarm systems let you turn on the armed status, and then give you 30 seconds to get out of the house before the alarms will trigger. Or they give you 30 seconds or so at the Front door to disarm the system before the alarms go off. Smart home monitor does neither. You have to be outside of the detection zone. This will probably change in the future, but again for now it just feels more like a prototype than a working system.
D) the “goodbye” routine is broken. This is another one that used to work. And that they say they’re working on to fix. But right now if you set up the officially provided goodbye routine to change the alarm status automatically when you leave the house, it doesn’t happen. You have to manually remember to change it. (The "I’m home "routine does work.) updated 31 October 2015: some users are reporting this is now fixed, but not all. It looks like this will work if the notification is set for less than 10 minutes but not if it’s set for 10 minutes or more.
E) there is no security keypad on the official “works with SmartThings” device list. They are working on one, but it’s not yet available. Many people like to have a keypad, because it’s easy for children, dog walkers, temporary visitors, etc to use without having to authorize each one with a smartphone app. And of course a wall mounted keypad can’t get lost. There are a couple of key fobs that work, but those don’t solve all the same use cases.
F) deleting a user doesn’t force a log out.. You can delete a secondary user after you have added them. However, this does not force them to logout. Although they will no longer be able to control devices, they will continue to be able to see the status of devices, including presence sensors indicating who is home and away, and lights which might indicate exactly which rooms are occupied, until they themselves logout of the SmartThings mobile app on their own device.
G) the concept of master account and sub-accounts gives access to an entire location at a time. Basically once someone has access to the account for a location, they have access to all account features at that location. This can be particularly problematic for landlords, but can also be an issue with parents and teens, etc.
H) there is no purpose-built glass break monitor device that currently works with smartthings. As you mentioned, Iris does have one. So do a number of other security systems. Smartthings does not yet.
I) Video clips are stored in the cloud, but not downloadable. this mean you would have to give someone access to your account to view a clip. There’s no way to download it and then forward it to the police department or an insurance company. SmartThings says they’re working on expanding these features. Again, it just looks like a proof of concept beginning, not really comparable to the competition.
J) No integration with a security camera’s built in motion sensor for most models, even the officially-supported Samsung these days many security cameras have their own built-in motion sensors. Some security systems, although not all, allow you to trigger other events like a light or a siren from the camera’s motion sensor going off. As of this writing, the SmartThings smart home monitor could start the camera (if it was one of the few approved models) if a separate motion sensor on your network went off, but it did not have access to the motion sensor events built into the camera itself.
K) Most notifications work, but some are broken. in general, SmartThings has very good notification options, allowing you to use push notifications, text notifications, or via IFTTT, email notifications. SmartThings also has an excellent choice of sensors, not just the usual open/close sensors and motion sensors, but also moisture sensors, light sensors, and tilt sensors. (But, as mentioned above, no glass break sensors at the present time.)
However, with the new V2 app released in September 2015, custom Smart Home Monitor notifications that use a time setting may not work. Support has been able to replicate this, but not fixed it yet. As an example, I have an alert if a linen closet is left open for more than two minutes because there are toxic substances there. It just never sends. I could get an alert if I just wanted to know if it was open, but not if it was left open for a specific time period.
L) SmartThings will occasionally push out updates without notice that will take your system offline for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, typically in the middle of the night. Sometimes these will require a manual reboot of your hub afterwards.
Even if you do get pre-notification of one of the system updates, there’s no way to postpone it. This is not typical of security systems. It could also be awkward if you are using the system as a security monitor for someplace other than your primary residence and physical reset of the hub or devices is required after the update to bring everything back online.
So while there definitely are people using SmartThings as a very cheap security system, and it may be better than having nothing, check each feature that is important to you very carefully, and make no assumptions about what it offers.
In particular, you might want to compare it to some of the other DIY security Systems in the low cost range that have primarily security features rather than home automation. This would include Scout, simplisafe, FrontPoint, Abode, etc. Some of these have options where you don’t have contracts, but you can just pay to turn on professional monitoring for a month, or even a week if you’re going to be out of town and monitor it yourself the rest of the time . Those are interesting plans.
Again, though, make no assumptions about what features the system actually has. Some of those that do have “professional monitoring” can only call the Police Department, not fire. Since my own primary concern is fire safety, that made a big difference to me.
People who do use SmartThings as a home security system typically do use the community created “smart alarm” smartapp rather than the officially provided smart home monitor" smartapp. Smart alarm includes delays, zone monitoring, lock monitoring, and some other features missing from the official smart home monitor smartapp.
All of the above was as of October 10, 2015. I’m sure SmartThings will be adding more features to smart home monitor over time. As I said, right now it feels mostly like a proof of concept to me. Each individual screen looks fine, but when you try to walk through the details of an actual use case, you may find quite a few things missing.
JMO, others may find that smart home monitor is exactly what they need. Everybody’s priorities and preferences are different.
More information on the community-created SmartAlarm smartapp
( The following is a clickable link. You will find most of the people who use smart alarm in that topic.)
Using Custom Code
Community-created code actually doesn’t run on the hub or on your phone. Instead, you copy and paste it into your account in the SmartThings “cloud” where it runs on servers that your hub will access over the Internet. It’s not that difficult, and one of the absolute best things about smart things is the helpfulness of the forum community. There will be lots of people to help you if you get stuck anywhere.
I’m a snowbird, Maine & Florida. Last December we came home for Christmas to discover that we had been broken into. I set off on the same search you are now beginning.
For my FL home I bought a Piper, single box solution. It has a HiDef camera, siren, motion detector, microphone and speaker, temp and humidity sensor and it’s a zwave controller. I added to that an Ecolink door sensor and a couple of Honeywell plugin switches. Total cost $290.
I left FL in April and the Piper has been running unattended for almost six months. I get a notice every time my lawn guy cuts the grass because of the noise the mowers make. I use the camera to peek in every few days and make sure that everything looks ok.
Over the summer I installed a SmartThings system in my Maine house. I have the Hub, two Ecolink door sensors, three Aeon Multisensors, 8 Phillips Hue lights, a Schlage lock on the front door, a siren and a 2Gig CT100 zwave thermostat.
I also have a pair of DLink IP cameras that are not part of the SmartThings system, that are motion triggered and infrared capable. Next summer I’ll upgrade to the new version two hub and integrate the cameras into the ST system. For $6 I bought some “24 Hour Video Surveillance” stickers for the doors. Maybe they’ll help, maybe not.
I’m not a coder but I feel that the best $8 I’ve spent on this system was for the SmartRules iOS app that lets me create the rules that I want to trigger the system to respond according my needs. I’ll be leaving to return to FL in a few days and I feel that I’ve done what can be done to protect my house and belongings.
I don’t believe that my system will stop the thieves from coming in the door if they really want to. But I’m hoping that I may scare them off before they get to far into the house and if that doesn’t work, I’ll get video so that they can be identified.
And like the Piper setup in FL I’ll be able to monitor what’s happening, keep an eye on things and have the peace of mind of knowing that everything is OK.
The Hue bulbs, the Schlage lock and the thermostat were the most expensive parts of the system. The other items probably cost me less than $350. Add a Hue Starter Kit to that you’ve got a basic security system that will get you started.
I think this is an important point to consider when looking at security. Short of living in a bank vault with 24-hour armed guards, it’s really impossible to make your house COMPLETELY and ABSOLUTELY burglar proof.
We all trade a certain level of freedom and convenience for an acceptable level of risk. I personally do a relatively minimal level of protection… locked windows and doors, motion activated lights at night, and now a Siren hooked up to my ST system. Oh, and my attack dog who will scare of burglars with his violent shaking when scared.
This is enough for me to feel that my house, given my neighborhood and the value of my possessions, is reasonably safe. I personally don’t wish to invest more money and/or inconvenience into further burglar proofing my house.
But as JD nicely put it above: Everyone’s needs and situations are different. It’s all a balancing act for each person/family: How much money/time/inconvenience are you willing to spend for what level of peace of mind you can achieve?
SmartThings is not a REAL security system. But if you’re like me who doesn’t feel like you need a real security system, SmartThings offers a way to get a little bit of a added security for relatively little additional cost. (This assumes you already have ST for home automation reasons.)
After reading that, and talking more with my wife, we will likely look to an alternate, monitored security system. Although I am interested in the home automation aspects of ST.
Regarding houses… if you had asked me before my break in if I ever thought my house would be a target, I would have sworn there was no way. 40+ year old home, aging middle class neighborhood. If I was looking for a house to rob, this wouldn’t be it. But the officer told me that people break into all sorts of homes, from a shack to mansion.
People will et in the house if they really want to. But an alarm might scare them off. A sign in the yard might deter them. The knowledge that their action as been noticed, if only electronically, should at the very least make them spend less time inside the home.
If you are thinking of an alternative, then you might consider to Go Abode I am watching them closely as they start shipping their first systems. This is a security company founded by a former ADT exec. Very promising system…
I am still unsure about their zwave/zigbee integration with 3rd party devices and not much discussion about a rule based engine for HA enthusiasts. I sent them an email this morning to see if they can offer more details at this time.
Yeah, no way to know yet. It could end up being like the harmony hub extender, where you really can’t do much with it except maybe bring in some additional sensors as input. I’m not sure they really know yet, I think right now Abode is just focused on getting the monitoring cycle solid. Which makes sense. We’ll see where it goes.
Funny, but no. Due to my illness I am completely unreliable with reguards to, well, pretty much anything including getting dressed in the morning. (I mean that literally, it’s three in the afternoon, and I haven’t been able to change my shirt yet today. I mean my shirt from yesterday. I’m still trying to get up the energy for that.) but I appreciate the thought.