Extreme Makeover: SmartThings Edition

Please allow me to re-introduce myself. I was a Developer Advocate when I started working at SmartThings two years ago and I used to be a lot more active on the community. Between moving into an apartment to take the job at SmartThings and moving to a more behind the scenes role (Software Engineer), my participation has diminished. Even so, I never stopped advocating for developers inside of SmartThings and I am excited by what the future holds. Onto the project.


I am moving from my apartment and into a house. I will be blogging?posting about the process of starting from scratch building out my SmartThings and home network setup.


One of the main reasons I got into home automation was that my parents were getting older and I started thinking of ways I could automate and simplify things for them so they could continue to live on their own. They had SmartThings and I had SmartThings, but they refused to use smart phones so for them SmartThings was just something mysterious that happened in the background.

We Bought A House

Fast forward two years and my parents have decided to move to California. I certainly could not accommodate them in my two-bedroom apartment, so we bought a house. Moving day was yesterday and I just erased my old config from the apartment and will be starting from scratch building out the SmartThings setup in my new home. I will be posting here with updates each weekend as I add more to the build.

Some stats

  • Six Occupants
  • Two Stories
  • Six Bedrooms
  • Two Kitchens
  • Two Laundries
  • Two Living Rooms
  • Three Bathrooms*
  • Attached Garage
  • Detached Garage/Workshop
  • Three Sliding Doors
  • Two Entry Doors
  • No overhead lighting upstairs bedrooms (All are an outlet controlled by the switch)

Day Zero

If you are interested in seeing what should be a complex SmartThings build out, then follow along. This weekend I will be pulling Cat6 cable to various areas of the house and starting my zwave/zigbee network configuration. I will try and document things as I go and take a few videos where possible. There will be some networking, electrical work, a bit of construction, and a ton of smart home devices as I progress so if you have requests; get them in now.

The Network

Things are a bit messy in the photo, but in the rack now are

Offscreen there is a server that I picked up on a refurb deal that is hosting six VMs at the moment and more on the way.

IBM X3300 M4

There are also 3 Unifi Access Points to be spread throughout the house.

I think that about covers the starting spot.


Glad to see you alive n kicking Jody. The beer still awaits :slight_smile:


You got a link to the blog where you’re going to post all of this stuff? We’re going to be buying a new house some time soon and I’m considering doing something very similar. I’d be interested to follow along.


Congrats, Sounds very exciting! :tada:

I know you’re already aware of this, but for those who aren’t, if you’d like to see other project reports from community members who have tackled big automation projects, look in the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki in the project report section on the “whole house“ list. :sunglasses:

There’s also a list there called “accessibility“ for project reports on home automation specifically being used to support those with various physical challenges, including aging in place.



My very under developed blog is here: http://jodyalbritton.com/

@JDRoberts This house will definitely need to be accessible. We already have a stair lift and most doors are wheelchair ready.

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Are you going to use two sets of wheelchairs, one for upstairs and one for downstairs? Or are the people mobile enough to not need a chair upstairs, maybe just a walker?

I have one friend who lives with her parents in an old New England house. She’s in a power chair most of the time and her bedroom is downstairs, but if she needs to go upstairs, they have a stairlift and then A family member pushes her in a transport chair upstairs. (A transport chair is a lightweight manual chair, but intended to be pushed by a different person, not powered by the person who is sitting in the chair.) There are a lot of variations depending on exactly what the person in the chair needs. :sunglasses:

BTW, here is one of my favorite blogs on universal construction design for a home which will be utilized by both ambulatory people and people who use wheelchairs.


Floors are always a huge issue. Wheelchairs will, over time, damage a lot of flooring, including hardwood floors. Most plush carpet, on the other hand, is too resistive for the chair. At the same time, people who are in wheelchairs who also have upper body issues tend to drop a lot of stuff, and you don’t want a floor where everything shatters as soon as it hits.

At our house we ended up going for the easy choice, decent quality laminate flooring that looks like wood. It’s easy for wheelchair travel while still being very durable (I’ve had mine now for eight years with no issues). And it’s comfortable for the ambulatory people to walk on. But it has a little give so not everything breaks if you drop it.

These days, though, a lot of people are choosing commercial carpet tiles since it’s now available in a much wider range of colors and textures. It holds up well, and if you do find one spot that rubs bare you just replace that one tile.

I’ve actually been looking at this for part of our house recently where we still have some 25-year-old carpet that needs replacing. It’s an area of the house that I don’t go into very often, but I realized recently part of that is because the carpet is hard to travel over.

Most flooring places have sales in the fall because they know a lot of people like to do this kind of home make over before they have guests for the holidays. I’ve been considering the Flor carpet tiles because they seem to be very highly rated both by those looking for wheelchair-friendly flooring and just in the regular home makeover reviews. Also my OT likes it.

They usually run their fall sale in October, and as it happens, they’ve got a 25% off deal right now so I have to make up my mind soon.


And another link on carpet selection for wheelchair users:

I do really like the laminate, but both of my housemates would prefer some kind of carpet for their bedrooms which are the areas I’m thinking about doing right now so this is an option.

Such are the challenges of universal design in the real world! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: We went crazy trying to find the right material for the backyard deck because everything my housemates liked initially the OT said would be too slippery for the wheelchair after a year or two.

Eventually we decided to pay the extra and go for TREX which has a slight texture but no splinters and is mold resistant. It’s only been in for a few months, but it’s worked really well even after it rained. And as it happened, we found a local supply house that had some light gray Trex left over from another order and and offered us a deal if we took all of it and we ended up bringing the price down to our original budget. :tada:


This is very interesting. Most of us think of this HA stuff as a fun hobby or a “nice to have” thing in our homes. When I see things like this and thing about how this stuff can really make a difference in people’s lives it’s inspiring. I’m going to cite this to my wife the next time she’s making fun of me ruining the house.


Don’t forget about voice control. Work it into your plans as you design your system.

Also, if you’re interested, scene me a pm and we can task about the upcoming EchoSistant and how it can really make things better.

~ Jason


Week 1

The Hub

SmartThings Hub installed. I went with the new ADT Panel. I am doing a complete tear down and restore so the migration is not an issue for me. I like the new install process and getting started stuff we have added. Day to day I don’t interact with a lot of that stuff so it was nice to see that it all worked as intended. I installed 2 smokes and 2 COs on each floor of the house. I installed the new ADT contact sensor on all of entry doors. I have the motion sensor but I have not installed it yet.

I will note that the range of the contact sensors was pretty impressive. I have two in the garage and they quite a distance from the panel and function perfectly.

The Locks

I went with a Schlage Century Deadbolt on the front entry door and the Schlage Century door handle on the garage door. I am investigating z-wave lock options for the three sliding glass doors in the house. If anyone has a recommendation please share.

I went with the linear zwave garage door controller and tilt sensor.


Hue Bridge

I do have a note and wonder if any in the community are seeing this; when I add lights to Alexa I am getting double devices from SmartThings. I have reported this as an issue.

GE in Wall Zwave dimmers

These installed and worked as intended.

Voice Control

We have an Alexa Dot in practically every room an Echo show on each floor. I have an old school Echo in my office. Everyone is also an iphone/ipad user so we have some integration with Siri for hue lights. I plan on doing a home bridge server this week to bring other devices over to homekit for voice control via phone.


I am using a mix of Amcrest and Foscam cameras. Looking for a smart integration with SmartThings. I use a combo of synology’s camera software and Amcrest cloud for recording and remote viewing. Amcrest has a nice integration with the Echo Show.


Since the hue bridge has its own native integration with SmartThings, it has always been true that if you have a Hue bridge and you approve it through The SmartThings app for use by Echo then you will get two versions of each bulb in your echo devices list.

I personally always used the native Hue integration with Echo, it doesn’t change anything you can do between Hue and SmartThings, and you can still combine the Hue device into echo groups with your other smartthings – controlled devices.


Something must have happened (updated) in the last 2 weeks with the “Amazon Alexa” SmartApp (in Automation) because the switch to “Allow access to all devices and Routines” was re-enabled in my case because I also started seeing duplicate devices in Alexa.
I had to turn off the switch in the Alexa SmartApp, re-select the devices that I wanted to sync, and then remove the duplicate devices in the Alexa App.

Note - I’ve noticed this when I enabled the Cortana integration (Microsoft SmartApp) and the default is to enable All Devices.


That’s not good. :disappointed_relieved:

There are several people with kids who intentionally do not enable all their SmartThings devices for use by Alexa because then the kids could use them. If what was essentially a “parental control” was reversed without notice, that could be a real problem.


Week 2

I have continued to add devices over the course of the last week and and a half. I don’t have much of a technical update but I did want to call out a few things that I found annoying in a house with six people.

Multi User support is an after thought across most of the Smart Home ecosystem.

SmartThings does a pretty good job with multi user support and that really is not something you notice until you see it lacking in other apps or integrations.

For example.

Alexa can be trained to understand multiple user’s voices; as long as they are only two prime holding account owners and are can only be added once in 180 days. I think this is a serious omission for these kinds of devices. Multi user support for a voice interactive device should be a prime feature.

We also have multiple harmony hubs and Alexa can only talk to one at a time. Again, multi user support left on the sidelines.

We have six people and six personalties so having different “personas” in the applications is quickly becoming critical.

Rooms, Groups, and Tigers. Oh My.

Every app platform seems to have it’s own concept of a group. Hue, Alexa, SmartThings, iHome, and others all have their own concept of rooms and none are connected or synchronized. I have had to create four or five rooms of the same name in different apps.

What was the living room called again? How do I reference it using voice? How do I control it in the app? What can I can do with the living room?

I have been building an instruction manual in Evernote and it’s getting out of hand.


Agreed with everything except the statement that SmartThings does a pretty good job with multi user support. It has almost no multi user support in the sense that every user is given admin access to everything. And you can’t customize the dashboard or even the notifications. Yes, if you add The third-party action tiles you can solve some of the access issues, but not notifications or access to a limited set of Devices for rule creation. And of course SmartThings can’t handle multiple harmony hubs either.

Multi user support is an area where most low end systems have a lot of work to do yet. And that includes SmartThings. :sunglasses:


@JDRoberts Oh I totally agree. Our multi user support is far from perfect but at least it exists and I know that we are working on improving it. Also, I can complain straight to the source about its shortcomings. On the SmartThings side I am hopeful that we will have more fine grained permissions and per user scenes/controls for access in SmartApps and Routines/Modes.

My goodnight time is not the same as everyone else’s and I think we are working on fixing that.


What you need is EchoSistant. Total room control is what it was designed around. You should try it, I bet you’ll love it!

The newest version has the most complex shortcuts there are, also known as scenes.

You can build scenes specific to the whole house… Or you can build scenes specific to a single room.

Your imagination is the limit… And we won’t even talk about the feedback!


@bamarayne Already trying it out. Alexa also allows you to put an echo device into a Group now so we are testing both.

Awesome! Let me know if you need anything with it, I’m always around!

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You’re going to love version 5… We’ve taken the echo device groups to a whole new level!