FAQ: Confused by "Regular" Hub and "ADT" SmartThings Hub. Need clarification (2019)

First off please forgive my what might seem to you to be dumb questions. I got good with Iris, and… well… here I am!

I am confused by the 2 different “smartthings” platforms. And I am not seeing, perhaps somehow my fault for not looking in the right place, but I am not seeing any matrix of freatures and benefits of each.

Coming from Iris, why should I pick either the ADT, or the Regular smartthings? Which one?

I want a system I can set up and run self monitored, like I was doing with Iris while I am working to get my system up to where I want it, If a sensor gets tripped, the sirens get set off, the smart sockets turn on lamps, and alerts and phone calls go to my phone where I can chose what to do.

I don’t necessarily need phone calls, I need obvious, unignorable notifications if a security event gets triggered.

Once I have my system up to where I want it, with smart switches, controlling fans, certain outlets, and every light that is visible from the outside of the house, I will want to add professional monitoring.

My hub will be powered by a 1500va UPS shared with a secondary WiFi router set up as a WiFi AP.

Will the regular smartthings be what I want, or do I need to go with the ADT? Where is the data on the features so I can make my choice?

The primary difference is that the ADT runs locally and has cellular backup, but can only trigger security events using the dual branded ADT/SmartThings sensors. The other ST hubs can do what you’re looking for, but only if the cloud is available. If you have an internet outage or the ST cloud is down (which does happen), then there’s no way to receive alerts, arm/disarm the system, etc. If you want professional monitoring, the ADT obviously uses ADT for that, and the option for the other hubs is Scout. The ADT hub also has a keypad, entry/exit delays, and other features commonly found with security systems. The other hubs can achieve some of those same things, but require somewhat complicated workarounds for some of them, like the entry/exit delays.

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For professional monitoring, you will need the ADT hub, so there isn’t a choice given your requirements. The sensors that contribute to the “alarm” portion must be the ADT sensors, and are purportedly more reliable as they use non-HA device frequencies. For “no-alarm” things, you can use compatible Zigbee and Zwave devices.

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First, let’s note that all of the hub models, including the ADT model, have exactly the same basic home automation capabilities. There are a few differences, like not all the devices work with the V1 hub, the V2 hub has some local video features which were dropped for the later models, the V3 hub can connect by Wi-Fi as well as Internet and also supports the zigbee 3.0 standard , etc. but as far as the basic sensor gets tripped, light comes on, they’re all the same.

What the ADT model adds are some very significant security features which are not available on any other SmartThings hub models.

At the present time, the only smartthings hub model which is really appropriate for security is the ADT model. That’s why all of the links on the smartthings website which take you to security will take you to that model.

There are a couple of basic reasons for that.

1) More reliable sensors. The ADT/Smartthings dual logo Sensors use a completely different network protocol than any of the others that work with SmartThings. It’s not zwave, it’s not zigbee. It’s a point to point Topology instead of mesh. It should definitely result in fewer false alarms and potentially fewer missed alerts.

2) The ability to arm/disarm even if the Internet or the smart things cloud are not available. If you have your system in “armed” status, All of the other hub models store that information in the cloud. So if the Internet goes out before you get home, unless you are using the ADT model, you will have no way at all to disarm the system and keep your sirens, etc, From going off when you go in the house. Lots of threads in the forum about how annoying this can be.

Since the mobile app won’t work either if you can’t reach the smartthings cloud (Communications go from your phone to the cloud to the hub, not from your phone to the hub directly even if they are on the same Wi-Fi), you will have to individually go around the house and take each siren off power.

And your alarm system will continue to re-alert every time you open the door or trigger one of the other sensors. It can be very annoying.

In the same way, if you normally arm your alarm system when you go to bed, and the internet goes out before then, with the non-ADT models you will have no way to arm the system. It will stay disarmed until connection to the smartthings cloud is restored. :disappointed_relieved:

In contrast, the ADT model can be armed or disarmed even when the Internet is out by using either the panel or the key fob.

3) Notifications. All notifications from the non ADT models, even to your own phone on the same Wi-Fi, Are sent from the smartthings cloud, not directly from the hub. Which means no cloud, no notifications. No Internet, no notifications.

In contrast, the ADT model has its own cellular module so it can communicate directly to the professional monitoring service. (To be honest, I’m just not sure if that function is available if you are self monitoring with that model or not.)

4) Performance in a power outage. Most non-ADT hub models do not have a battery backup. The V2 hub does have that option, but there have been problems with battery leakage over time, so a lot of people don’t use batteries with it anyway.

In contrast, the ADT hub model has a good battery backup.

So even if your power goes out, the ADT model hub can continue to send notifications to the central monitoring station. The other models cannot.

5) Fire Dispatch. The Scout monitoring service can only do “intrusion alerts,” which means they can only call police. They cannot call the fire dispatch directly. This can cause delays because a police car has to come out first. It also means you may not get the same insurance company discount if one is available on your policy.

In contrast, ADT is authorized to report a smoke alarm directly to fire dispatch in most jurisdictions as well as make a general 911 report. That can literally be life-saving.

I’m not 100% sure on the following, but it looks like The unofficial Noonlight option also just makes a general 911 call for you, like someone walking past your house who hears a siren. They do not appear to be authorized to call fire dispatch directly. So that would be the same two-step process: first a police car would come to investigate, then they would call the fire department if appropriate even if it were a smoke alarm which triggered the initial call to the monitoring center.

6) Tamper alert If you are using the professional monitoring service, the ADT model hub has a tamper alert which is treated the same as an intrusion alert. The other model hubs do not have this feature.

7) Visual Interface. The ADT model hub has the status panel design which is very different from any of the other hubs. It’s specifically designed to make it visually obvious to someone, even a child or a guest, how to arm or disarm the system.

You could create something similar for the other models but you would have to Buy an additional device and maybe additional software.

This one may not be as big an issue for many people as the previous features, but it’s just another obvious example of how the ADT model was designed from the beginning to be a security system.

8) The ADT model has a built-in siren. The other hubs do not. Again, you can buy an additional device and add a siren easily to the other hubs, but this one has the advantage of being able to be armed and disarmed even when the power or the Internet are out.

I’m sure there are other security features that the ADT model has that the other ones don’t, these are just the major ones that I think most clearly show the differences between a system which was designed from The beginning to be a security system and a cloud-based system which was not. :sunglasses:

Note also that at the present time all custom code runs in the cloud. That means that all the clever community-created solutions you will see in the forum That people created before the ADT model was released to add more security functions to the other hubs still require that your Internet is working or they won’t work at all. That may be OK with you, but it’s an important fact to be aware of.


Okay I think I have it now. So the ADT hub can be used for “Self Monitoring” until paid services are set up.

Looks like to get my Iris replaced and to continue down the road of security / automation I will need…

ADT Smartthings security starter set. I believe that has a hub, range extender, 2 contact, and 1 motion sensor.
16 ADT Smartthings specific contact sensors for anything I want to trigger the alarm such as exterior doors, windows.

To get my video monitoring back I would need…
Ring Video doorbell 2 already on order.
2 @ Ring spotlight cameras. The shape of the house means I need 2 cameras to monitor approach to the house and driveway separately. Backyard can be monitored by one camera. Haven’t decided if I want a camera on the sides of hte house. I am VERY close to my neighbors houses and I don’t want any issues with the neighbors freaking out about my cameras… There is one window a person could potentially climb through, but they would have to get though some seriously thick rose bushes to get to the window in the first place…

Not sure, would the hub celluar failover work on AT&T or does ADT supply the sim card or how does that work?

Also that leaves my Iris stuff more or less dead in the water. Can I still use say my 2 second generation contact sensors for say monitoring access to the garage from inside the house without triggering an alarm? And same with the second generation motion sensor. For example I am looking for the cat, I would like to know, has my wife been out to the garage I.E. my workshop, and if so, is there still motion in there? (cat moving around the dust collector which seems to be her favorite spot)…

Can I use my Utilitech sirens and the built in sirens on the Ring spotlight cameras using something like ITTT for say if an alarm gets triggered, so I can have a total of 4 LOUD sirens going off, lights coming on, and the flashing red light on the Ring and the Utilitech sirens going off…

The idea is simple. If an alarm is triggered by an intruder, I want so much noise, light, and motion going on that any potential burglar will flee or risk being caught or shot quickly. (Last time my Iris alarm went off, my next door neighbor went to confront whomever with his shotgun…)

I’m not necessarily all that worried about losing MY connection to the cloud per se. My internet has been rock solid for years. Even during Hurricane Harvey flooding I have was up and at full speed without interruption. HOWEVER there are add ons that are must haves for me that it sounds like the regular hub won’t do. Most notably the fire / smoke alarm triggering protection.

Yes, all the hubs can be used without paid monitoring. I don’t know what service the ADT hubs use for cellular, but the sim cards are built in to the hub, and from what I gather it’s activated activated upon paid monitoring activation.

You can still use all of your 2nd gen Iris sensors for anything you want, other than triggering the integrated alarm system. You can still use them for self monitored intrusion/security alerts, they just can’t activate the alarm for the paid ADT monitoring.

Yes, the Utilitech sirens and Ring spotlights can all be used with any of the ST hubs.

Your internet connection isn’t the only weak point in the non-ADT hubs, the SmartThings cloud also needs to be up and operational. And unfortunately, the ST cloud goes down relatively frequently, though usually for very short periods.

And just to clarify, fire and smoke alarms can be used to trigger alarms, notifications, or other events with any ST hub, it’s just that only the ADT hub allows fire/smoke alarms to trigger a call to the monitoring station (who can then call the authorities).

I hope that clarifies things a bit further.

As @JDRoberts mentioned, it’s not clear if the cellular back-up works if you’re using the ADT hub without their paid monitoring, but I suspect not.

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This might also be of interest. It includes information on how often the smartthings cloud is unavailable. ( short answer: typically two or three times a month for less than 15 minutes each time, but can be longer.)

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Ugh. Okay…

So this might sound dumb. Iris did everything I wanted, with relatively affordable hardware, and paid support for $15.00 / month with the cellular backup option. I think it’s $10.00 / month without. Something like that.

I am not going to lie, while I want the best bang for the buck. I am price sensitive. Looking to replace security monitoring, and safety / fire monitoring through ADT is a recurring cost of about $35.00.

With the ring cameras, I can pay $10.00 month for pro monitoring and unilimited Ring camera support / storage.

I am considering all options now, including using Ring for security, and going with Smartthings for home automation. Again not going with lowest possible cost, but highest return on investment…

Understood, but there’s also the fact that Iris went out of business and nobody else wanted to buy it. So they were probably priced too low for their own survival.

Ring’s security system is pretty cool, and it’s getting a lot of very good reviews. I have a friend who’s looking at it now for an apartment.

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Perhaps pricing was an issue, however for what it’s worth, second generation Iris, most notably the smart hub, was a support nightmare. There is, was very little support from Lowes that was any good on understanding the standards of Zwave and Zigbee. Iris, and SmartThings tend toward consumer / non technical users and installers. This undoubtedly lends itself to for example my mistake. Putting the smart hub in the spare bedroom at the back of the house, not having any wired Zigbee repeaters, and wondering why the contact sensor at the front door didn’t work / connect at a distance.

I did try to work with Iris 10upport to solve this problem, and had to go wtih some deep google searching and Toms Hardware Guide to get an understanding of how these technologies work. I then moved the smart hub to the living room, and added a smart outlet in the front of the kitchen less than 20 feet from the garage doors and master bathroom window, thus keeping all of the sensors online, including the garage door sensors, door sensors, and the window sensors including master bath. Now I spent at least 4 hours on the phone with Iris support for my original $109.00 investment. So they were already losing money because they did a poor job in the documentation letting folks know the distnace limits of the battery powered sensors.

With that stacking up, with tons of frustrated users, I get why Iris failed as a business. It wasn’t so much cost, as it was the technology wasn’t documented well enough in the package to be useful enough to limit their support calls…I’m pretty certain that the phone support folks even if they are getting paid $15.00/hr the cost per employee to Lowes is probably closer to $30.00 / hr. So basically my initial rig was a full loss, and support cost them at least $120.00…

Hopefully other systems can use this sort of feedback and get consumer friendly documentation!

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Okay, so as I dig through the various systems, painfully so, it would appear that in some ways Iris was unique in the feature set they offered.

The closest system, although not quite matching feature for feature is oddly enough the ADT Smartthings setup.

The big failing for the non ADT Smartthings setup is the lack of local processing and utter reliance on the clloud, which to my understanding is the same way that Iris works.

It would appear that the Ring setup is not quite mature yet, and doesn’t do anything beyond basic security, and has much more device limitations. At least at this time.

So it looks like I am going to have to work up the shopping list.

  • SmartThings ADT Home Security Starter Kit. ADT Hub, 2 ADT door / window contact sensors, and a motion sensor.
  • 15 additional ADT door / window contact sensors…
  • Ring video doorbell 2 (being shipped now). My wife insisted on the higher resolution model.
  • 2 @ Ring spotlight cameras.

Now the question is what technology do the ADT sensors use? I am assuing I will need a range extender to get coverage for my futhermost sensors. If it is ZigBee, can I use my Iris 3rd Generation smartplug for this?

What features does self monitoring have with the ADT hub? How will it alert me when an alarm is triggered?

It’s a proprietary protocol, and is neither zigbee nor zwave, and it is not mesh, so there are no extenders that will work with it. It’s a point to point to point topology. But that’s one of the reasons it’s more reliable and has fewer false alarms.

You can ask questions of people who already have the ADT system and are using it in the following discussion thread:

ADT partnership: ST-ADT touchscreen hub and devices (discussion thread)

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As far as the ring spotlight cam, read the following thread, and then ask any follow-up questions about that device in that thread:

Ring Spotlight Camera not discoverable in Smartthings

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I already knew about the spotlight camera battery model. I was fully intending to get / use the wall powered model which is what the works with smartthings list shows.

I might have made a wee mistake though. I already ordered the Video Doorbell 2, which I had thought they listed it as works with smartthings. Actually ALL the systems I am interested in, but now I can’t find it… Just the Ring Video Doorbell, and the Ring Video Doorbell Pro. I am hopeful but not going to hold my breath. My wife insists on the doorbell 2 to get the 1080 image…

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BigHoss - Let us know how your Ring Cams work out. I am looking to migrate to a similar setup with 2 Spotlight cameras. Even though Smarthings say they integrate, I haven’t found much info verifying that they fully integrate & can view live & clips within the app. Most importantly being able to trigger recordings with Smarthings motion & door sensors.


OK I think I understand what I need to do now. It sounds like once I get the ADT smart things set up configured I can add my ring doorbell and the to ring spot light cams. I can add the Utilitech Sirens and I should be able to trigger them with IFTTT With an ADT alarm event.

On the automation front it sounds like Z wave is what I want to go with is there is no way I am ever going to go past the 240 devices and there are no baby monitors or anything like that in Wi-Fi does come to interfere with ZigBee. I do have one zig bee smart plug that I can move into my workshop in simply trigger it from my Alexa app to turn on and off my dust collector.

check this link for integration


The one thing that eliminated the Adt/Smarthings solution was the fact that the hub and keypad are combined in one unit. Thus you can only have ONE keypad. I have three Iris keypads.

I’m no expert in this so take this for what it’s worth which may not be anything but the presence of at least one keypad is very important to me as well. I No on the regular smart things hub you can add a Iris keypads throw some programming mumbo jumbo. It is possible I think to use them on the ADT system as well however I’m sure others will know better than I.

For my application one key pad is really sufficient since the people that will be coming and going will be using the front door or if they are not using the front door that will be my wife or myself and we will have our smartphones with us.

The link above for ADT Tools 2 has details about adding a secondary keypad. The Iris keypad is the one the user tested with. You should be able to intefrate them with minimal problenms. Just remeber they are cloud dependent and not local.

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