Home Security/Automation System Advice

Hi All,

I recently purchased a new home and would like to setup a home security system and get it setup for future automation projects. I’ve been doing a lot of research and I’ve come up with a few different options as described below. I’m fairly tech savvy and have a programming background, so I don’t mind a bit of work to get something idea for my situation. Cost is a primary driver as well as future proofing. I’m hoping you can steer me in the right direction.

As mentioned above, my first priority is to get a reliable home security system. Local monitoring is my first priority, but I may want to get it monitored in the future. I’m also very interested in home automation so would prefer to be able to utilize my equipment for that purpose also. To that end, smartthings caught my attention. I can see a few different options.

Option 1: Purchase a separate home security system such as SimpliSafe or ideally Abode. Longer term I would most likely want to purchase a SmartThings hub to do some future home automation projects. Biggest downside I see here is the higher cost of purchasing essentially 2 systems and it may require redundant sensors in some instances (2 sensors for doors to work with smart things and abode)

Option 2: Use Smartthings as my home security and automation system. If I went this route, I’d be using a combination of different devices to achieve my goals. On the security side, I see the options below for hardware.

  • NodeMCU ESP8266 - I currently have hardwired door sensors and motion sensors from a DSC security system. In doing some research, it sounds like I could utilize the NodeMCU ESP8266 board to hook up my existing hardwired door sensors.
  • Aeon labs recessed door sensors to replace the existing hardwired ones. This would obviously be a more expensive option.
  • Blink or Arlo monitor sensor cameras throughout the house. Ideally Blink due to the lower cost
  • Smart Things motion sensors or something similar for areas where video isn’t needed
  • Other items such as key fobs, keypads, etc.

Longer term I would like to setup scenarios where the system turns on and off (arms) automatically and can control other lights/etc as part of this. Still dreaming up everything I want to do, but I thought a security system was an immediate need and would be a good way to get started.

Interested to hear everyone’s thoughts around what the best option is. Feel free to bash any of my preconceived ideas above if they are unrealistic or just downright stupid.

Using ST by itself, is not recommended as the reliability is questionable.

There are bridge devices that bridge alarm panels with SmartThings. My system consist of DSC Alarm System that is integrated into SmartThings via a EVL-4 by Envisilink.

There is a custom App for the integration here in the Community.

The best thing is the Alarm System is totally separate from SmartThings in terms of monitoring but can also be monitored via SmartThings and the Envisilink Servers.

There are other systems that can be integrated into SmartThings but you will have to way the price options. I like the fact that all of my sensors are hardwired and instant and even if the SmartThings servers go down, my Alarm System still works. I can also use all 28 sensors in SmartThings for Home Automation purposes.

I also have the a 5 camera Blink system. This is again, separate from the Alarm System but using ST, all of it is inter grated.


It really depends on how comfortable you are with the SmartThings eco-systems downfalls. Sensors dying when they say they have plenty of battery, cloud outages, buggy updates, etc. If you are the type that wants to set-and-forget, i wouldn’t use SmartThings for security. Myself, i’m willing to do this, so I use SmartThings combined with Blue Iris and wifi cameras.

1 Like

You can’t go wrong with this option.


That’s 2 for envisilink. I’ll have to investigate that.

That’s what I’ve been hearing, I just don’t have the context to understand how frequent the issues are. I don’t mind a bit of work, but it should be reliable.

It isn’t reliable, and it is plenty of work. I would not use it for security at all. If you are comfortable w/ being secure “most” of the time, then you could use it but i wouldn’t recommend it.

I use it as a way to make me feel comfortable that most things are ok at home, but I use it with Wifi Cameras and Blue Iris as well, so when i do get a false positive I can check the cameras and feel better about it.


If you want context…

Programmers tend to think in terms of the total number of transactions completed.

However, consumer products, including residential security systems, are usually evaluated on the basis of “maintenance free operating period.” So let’s say you have a thermostat which completes about 150 internal transactions per day. If it was wrong once a day, a programmer might think that was 99.3% uptime. But from a consumer product standpoint, it’s zero reliability, because it fails every single day.

My own minimum requirement for an inexpensive intrusion alert security system is six months MFOP. That’s not great, but it would be good enough if I liked everything else about the system and the price was right. It would also not be good enough for a fire detection system, because I expect much higher reliability from those.

Anyway, since November 2015, I have yet to go 10 days without SmartThings requiring some kind of hands on maintenance. It might just be popping the battery in a sensor; it might just be opening the app, navigating to a rule, and resaving it; it might just be something that was glitchy for a few hours. But it’s nowhere close to my six-month minimum.

You should also be aware that as a cloud-based system SmartThings can and does push out updates which you can neither refuse nor delay, and these can take your system off-line for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. I do count these against MFOP because while we sometimes, but not always, get a couple days advance notice, it’s nothing like scheduled maintenance where you know at the time of purchase how often the system will be unavailable. And quite often when the system does come back online various individual devices are either temporarily unavailable or need to be physically reset.

Also note that will some bits of the system do work without Internet, most don’t. Just as an example, if the Internet is not available you will not be able to use the phone app for anything as it requires the Internet to communicate with the hub even if the phone is on your home Wi-Fi. Also, there is literally no way to either arm or disarm the Security features if the SmartThings cloud is not available. So if you have it set it up so that if the Front door is opened a siren goes off even if the SmartThings cloud is not available, you can do that, but you won’t be able to turn off that feature without the cloud.

(BTW, that particular community member has since moved his household’s security functions to a different system.)

I like SmartThings for convenience notifications like knowing that the guestroom window was open when rain is expected and the guest is away, and it does these better than any other system I’ve found at a similar price point. But I use a completely different system for security, one which can operate without the Internet and which has an MFOP of well over six months.

But again, different people have different requirements, and as long as you’re not installing it at a second location it’s easy to test for yourself. Put it in and log all the maintenance requirements for the first three weeks. Then you can decide if it meets your requirements, or return it. Don’t just rely on your memory, though. Actually log every time you have to physically do something to keep the system running.

The stability issues with SmartThings aren’t subtle. You’ll generally know within a few weeks whether it’s something that bothers you or not.

1 Like

Great explanation of the kinds of issues I should expect to see. What did you end up going with for your security solution? Do you need any redundant sensors for certain automations?

My security needs aren’t typical as far as most people in this community. I’m quadriparetic, so fire safety is a huge concern, as well as professional monitoring. I use a fairly standard professional security system with a monthly fee. I like everything about it except the fee, which I consider to be a little too high, but then in 15 years we’ve only had about two false alarms and everything else has worked well, so maybe the price isn’t as unreasonable as I used to think.

You can find lots of discussions in the forums about what systems people are using.

You can use the quick browse list in the community – created wiki, look under project reports, and check out the security list.


1 Like

Today has been a great example of why cloud based service like ST should not be relied upon as a security system. I love ST for the peace of mind it gives me on some things, but I will always have my security system separate. I can live with my automated lighting and such not working properly during an outage, but having door locks randomly lock and unlock or a garage door randomly opening due to an infestation of cloud dragons on their end of things is not something I would ever take a chance with.


Absolutely agree. ST is not currently capable of being a security system with any reliability - or safety for that matter. IMHO, it is foolhardy to rely on ST as a security system. I have always had and will likely always have a separate, monitored security system. I’ve had it for many years and it has been rock solid reliable with NO false alarms - ever.

1 Like

Excellent perspective here.

It would be helpful to know if this was really cloud gremlins randomly flipping switches on random peoples ST hubs, or the unintended consequences of user defined automation that involved these devices. One of the double edged swords of ST is that it’s relatively easy to set up custom automation without a deep understanding of the components involved. (I’m often guilty as charged.) I’m not saying this happened this time, but it’s entirely possible that some folks have set up automation rules that have logic that doesn’t handle cloud instability well. For example, you might have a CoRE piston set up to do something when a status in no longer a certain value and perhaps the outage triggered it, and who knows the logic in some of these smartApps and DTHs that the community has written. (ST wouldn’t be as good without the community development.) I think you have to tread carefully when you start to automate security components, but not necessarily avoid it. I would especially caution against automations that unlock or open doors unless you fully test them under various conditions.

But that said, I would not expect ST to replace the reliability of a dedicated security system any time soon. I think it can compliment it (if you’re careful).

I’m not overly concerned with securty where I live and have started replacing my long dead DSC security system with an ST solution involving an ESP8266 that taps into all my existing sensors, etc. For me it’s just an experiment. For it to be 100% reliable security, I’ll have to focus on keeping the internet connectivity up 100% and work to see if most of the device communication can be done without cloud dependency. (I’ve been told this probably can be done.) For now, I’m most challenged by the ability to use SHM with my system in a way that is practical. As it is now, if the system is armed and someone opens the door from inside…boom…siren. I would like a 30-45 second pre-siren warning to be able to disarm even without a phone app. Even better if people in the house can tell we’re armed before they open the door. I believe all of this is possible in some manner based on discussions in the community. I’ll get it there eventually.

If it hits the SmartThings status page, you can feel confident that it wasn’t just user error. If anything the company tends to underreport platform problems.


There’s no doubt there was a cloud issue. My point is that the impact of the issue could depend on each user’s configuration especially where automation is concerned.

I have a fairly simple system for lighting, water leak notifications, and smoke notifications. My system was almost completely unresponsive.

I’ve been happy with a combination of ST for mainly monitoring and notifications. but I use a hard line security camera separate from ST.

over the last 5 months it’s been pretty good. I will not set up an alarm because there very loud but when my sonos yells “the cops are on there way” I think it sends a good message. plus with door knocker I can log on to my cameras from work the second I get the hit and actually see the sleazy day time door to door knockers…pretty funny when they look up and see two cameras pointed at them, that’s usually when they leave.

combinations are key to my castle security.