GE/Jasco 45631 Keypad/Controller

This is one that we cannot blame the SmartThings architecture for. This has to do with the Z wave standard.

Z wave has a device class called scene controllers, and this is one of them.

These devices intentionally do not tell the Z wave primary controller (in this case, SmartThings) what they are doing. They were designed to be panel controllers that sat on a wall and would directly control a few lamps within one hop of that controller. That’s it. The GE device does not tell the SmartThings hub when a button has been pressed so there’s nothing SmartThings can do about it.

This is a generation three design for zwave, and we’re now in generation five. The devices are still available for sale, but nobody designing new Z wave devices would do it this way. Because now everybody has a smart phone or tablet and wants to see the status of their lights on that connected device. They want the button controllers to talk to the hub so the hub can keep track of everything.

Instead, Starting with generation 4, Z wave introduced “central scene” commands. With these devices, The button controller sends a scene number to the hub and the hub then sends it out to the end devices.

This gives you a ton of advantages over the old-style scene controllers. The hub always knows the status of the individual devices. You can include devices in the scene which are more than one hop away from the button controller. And in the case of SmartThings, which is a multi platform design, you can also include some zigbee devices or Wi-Fi devices in the scene.

So while this particular button controller has a nice look to it, it’s obsolete technology and it doesn’t fit the way we now use home automation. We don’t limit scenes to the lamps in a single room. And SmartThings doesn’t limit them to a single protocol.

The new homeseer switches which allow for double and triple tap on a single switch are using the new central scene commands. In Europe, the DeVolo and Popp scene controllers are using them as well. I’m sure we’ll see more of these on the market in the next year or so.

Meanwhile, there are some alternatives, both battery operated and mains powered. Although it only has four buttons, the Leviton VRCS4 is mains powered and a number of community members are using it. It fits in a single gang box.

The Remotec ZRC90 is battery-operated, also single gang size, available in both the US and Europe Z wave frequencies, and has eight buttons each of which has single tap, double tap, and held for a total of 24 possible scenes.

You can find more information about both of these and other options in the remotes and buttons FAQ:

So to network engineers, asking why SmartThings doesn’t support third generation Z wave scene controllers is kind of like asking why laptops don’t have floppy disk drives. We just don’t do it that way anymore. I know it was cheap and convenient, but technology moves on and now there are other ways of solving the same problem that give you more features.

So on this one, I give SmartThings a pass.