How to learn the basics of Smartthings? (2020)

A few weeks ago I bought a Smartthings hub v3 and have been tinkering with it every day. I’ve found this whole thing to be almost addictive.

But… I need to learn the basic fundamentals around using Smartthings and how it works
For example- How do I tell if the hub is being used or not with a smart device? Some devices will do basic functions with just wifi and the app. How do I know if the hub is being used with a device to hopefully optimize it
compared to using the app and wifi alone?
Would certain functions using no hub and just app and cloud become local functions if the hub was involved?
Could I tell if a device is running locally and be able to know if that suddenly changed to the cloud because I added something from IFTTT into the mix?

Is there any introductory tutorial available?

Also does Samsung Smartthings have an opinion about its customers building workarounds to make other not supported devices function on smartthings? Because there is financial motivation to for Smartthings and its partners devices to be the ones that we buy. Is that a taboo topic here?

This is my first post…
Go easy on me.

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Many good questions, But as far as this one goes, it’s actually the other way around. One of the ways that smartthings built its reputation was by having community – created device type handlers. which allowed many more devices to be used with the platform. :sunglasses:

The company is in the middle of a major transition (new hub, new app, new cloud platform) and lots of things are changing, but they have published their API so that now anyone can create a cloud to cloud integration and publish it for others to use. So that part of the philosophy is continuing.

It’s obviously not a taboo topic as well since we have two full sections of the forum Here devoted to community-created apps and device type handlers. :wink:

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This question is a little bit confusing as presented so let me see if I can clear something up.

Hub optional devices

Smartthings can be used in a “hub optional” configuration without using a hub. In that case all of the integrations will be cloud to cloud. Since the end devices will need to have some way of communicating with their own cloud, they will be either WiFi or something that has a Wi-Fi bridge, such as Lutron Caseta. So the device communicates to its cloud and then its cloud communicates to the SmartThings cloud. Or the smartthings mobile app will communicate to the SmartThings cloud which will then communicate to the device’s cloud which will then communicate to the device.

OK, those are the hub optional devices.

Hub connected devices

The smartthings hub is essentially a plastic box with several different radios inside. There is a zigbee radio, a Z wave radio, A Bluetooth radio which is not enabled (long story), And then some models there is a Wi-Fi radio. However, it is important to note that the hub will not normally communicate directly with Wi-Fi devices over Wi-Fi. Most will be cloud to cloud. But there are a few, fewer than half a dozen, devices which do have a direct LAN connection, such as the Hue bridge. And in most cases these specific WiFi Devices can be set up to either communicate cloud cloud (typically for the hub optional configuration) or locally. But all the other Wi-Fi devices have to operate cloud to cloud.

Directly connected devices that still have a cloud component

Ok, so zwave and Zigbee devices usually connect directly to the hub, But every device needs a “device type handler” (DTH) which is a bit of code that tells smartthings how to format messages. And all custom code, including custom DTHs, run in the smartthings cloud. It’s just the way the system is designed. So unless the code is created by smartthings itself and distributed to all customers (these are called “stock“ DTHs), The DTH will run in the cloud. So the device can send a message directly to the smartthings hub, but the hub has to pass it up to the smartthings cloud in order to know what to do with it.

Directly connected devices that operate locally

If you do have a device that can use one of the stock DTHs, it is then eligible to run locally.

CHECKING STATUS

Smartthings offers a web interface to your smartthings account. This is called the IDE and let you see some of the details of your account that are not available in the app, including whether a device is scheduled to operate locally or in the ST cloud or via a cloud to cloud integration. Devices using the new platform with a cloud to cloud integration will be marked as “placeholder.“

The smartthings cloud is actually divided into different “shards,“ so always use the universal URL:

https://account.smartthings.com

Some people don’t understand the issue with multiple shards and may give you a URL that has a “graph.api.” in it or One of the other regional URLs, but just use the universal one and it will always take you to the right place for your own account. :sunglasses:

Where Automations Run

At the present time, the only automations which are eligible to run locally are ones created with the official SmartLighting feature and some bits of smartthings home monitor. That’s it. Any automations created with the “add automation” feature or any custom smartapps or any Webcore piston will run in the smartthings cloud. Even the SmartThings mobile app will require access to the cloud just to turn devices on and off.(Again, they didn’t have to do it that way, but they did.)

So basically you as an individual customer don’t get to make the kind of choices you were discussing. Anything you do that’s custom is going to run in the cloud. Most Wi-Fi devices will be using cloud to cloud integrations.

If you only choose zwave, zigbee, and one of the few Wi-Fi devices which can use stock DTHs and you only create automations using the official smartlighting feature, those Automations will run locally. Otherwise, there will be a cloud component.

So if I understand your question, just using Ifttt with a particular device will not turn it into a cloud-based device. But that particular automation will obviously be cloud-based.

Whether something is cloud or local is on an automation by automation basis and depends on both the DTHs required and the automation itself.

Oh, and mode changes are always done in the cloud so if you use mode as either a trigger or a target of the automation, that will be cloud-based.

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The last time I was able to look, which is a few updates back, there were some tutorials in the app itself which were pretty good. (Unfortunately, a recent update made the app no longer voice navigable, so I can’t use it anymore. :disappointed_relieved:)

And there’s a community FAQ:

SmartThings Beginner’s Guide (2019)

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I don’t think I had every heard that before. You learn something new every day. :slight_smile:

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Thanks! Your replies have definitely helped me out.

For my first time posting the bigger benefit was changing my cliquey stereotypes associated with software developers & tech folk in communities like this being esoteric closed, private groups with little interest in replying to newbies who haven’t the experiance to give anything in return…lol! (Sound silly when I say it)
Thanks for helping me out. Im now getting a glimpse of just how much value the Smartthings community has to offer.

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This is much more like a Maker community. Lots of very creative people with all different kinds of backgrounds, many self-taught, not everyone interested in the technical details… Plus a significant number of people who just have very specific use cases that they want to solve, sometimes because the family has members with specific physical or cognitive challenges.

So for some people home automation is a hobby, for others it’s a necessity, and we’ve learned how to help each other. Many people are happy to share project reports on what’s worked for them. It’s a really nice group. :sunglasses:

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in the new app, top left menu and then “how to use” covers the basics decently well.

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Ok , can I assume the stock DTH devices include all or most the ST officially supported devices we can add within the app?

Also, if a device (for example) my Zigbee outlet shows local in the IDE…Does using the app to turn it on or off require wifi/ cloud? Or does the app connect to the hub directly with my wifi for this?

If I do have zigbee or z wave devices using the cloud and my wifi, have I essentially added new wifi device strain on my wifi network? Or is it a safe bet using zigbee and z wave devices always avoids wifi bloating even if they do use the cloud?
I purchased zigbee and zwave devices in part to avoid degrading my wifi network and have been wondering if they often can significantly add to the wifi device load?

Thanks again.

Includes the zigbee and zwave devices on the official list, but the app has all of those plus some of the ones where custom DTHs have been provided by the manufacturer.

  1. Also, if a device (for example) my Zigbee outlet shows local in the IDE…Does using the app to turn it on or off require wifi/ cloud? Or does the app connect to the hub directly with my wifi for this?

The app never connects directly to the hub. Ever. The app always connects to the cloud. I thought we had discussed that already.

  1. If I do have zigbee or z wave devices using the cloud and my wifi, have I essentially added new wifi device strain on my wifi network? Or is it a safe bet using zigbee and z wave devices always avoids wifi bloating even if they do use the cloud?
    I purchased zigbee and zwave devices in part to avoid degrading my wifi network and have been wondering if they often can significantly add to the wifi device load?

This question is a little confusing as stated. It is the hub that is connecting to the Internet. Some models use Wi-Fi, some don’t have a WiFi radio and are using ethernet. So even for hubs, the first rule of home automation applies: “the model number matters.”

The hub will communicate with the cloud quite often whether it has any zigbee or Z wave devices connected to it or not. If it’s a hub that is using ethernet, then it’s not adding anything to your Wi-Fi load.

If it’s a hub that is using Wi-Fi, it does probably add to the Wi-Fi traffic , but even in the worst case it would be minuscule compared to anything which handles streaming video or streaming audio. No matter how many Z wave or Zigbee devices you had connected to it.

  1. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “Wi-Fi device load.“ If you mean traffic on the local Wi-Fi network, again, it’s going to be minuscule compared to anything that’s broadband.

If you mean the number of individual devices that your Wi-Fi router can handle, that can indeed become an issue in Home Automation planning, but in the setup you describe you would only have potentially added one Wi-Fi device, The hub. And again, that depends on the specific hub model that you have. :sunglasses:

This helps me a lot. I dont know why but I was hung up around thinking zigbee or z wave using using the cloud would somehow involve using my wifi.
…Gratitude.

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