I don't understand the SmartThings/SmartApps ecosystem -- thoughts and feedback after several weeks

I’m new - I don’t even have the hub yet. But my background is in HA and IT. I have to say, this thread has been enlightening. I’m looking for HA, with WAF - And I understand now that ST isn’t there yet. but I like the way it’s going… Boolean logic will be a must to make this stuff useful in my house while maintaining my marital state.
At the end of the day, I see a lot of innovation (And promises) that will drive me to invest in ST. NOT because I like ST, particularly - There are a great number of things I don’t like (No internet, No ST?!?). But because Z-Wave/ZigBee/fill-in-the-blank - These full mesh, low power networks are going to be key.

The reason for my reply here is that I get concerned (Putting my IT hat on here) when people say that 802.11b/g/n/ac/ad is the next gen for the IoT. It can’t be - There is not enough room in the spectrum on any given channel today to support a great number of devices. I’ll give you an example:
In my neighborhood, there is a great deal of wireless - I can see 23 2.4gHz WLANs from my attic AP, and 4 of them have an RSSI like they are IN my house. Channels are all over the place, with the inevitable prick sitting on channel 4 or 8. This means that the noise floor for MY ap’s in MY house is extremely high. I have a large number of 802.11xyz devices, from Nest, to iThings, to cameras. With 2 AP’s, and an average of 13-15 WiFi devices connected, I am seriously stressing my WiFi environment - Some days, to the point of un-usability. I know the reasons for this, and how to mitigate them. But the average home user never will, and they will only have 1 AP. I can guarantee that a house full of 802.xyz light bulbs, switches, and things, will DESTROY a SoHo wireless router’s ability to serve the assigned spectrum with any reliability. 802.11ac has promise at 5gHz, but we will need radios in every room, and we all get to buy new hardware…
This is an old article, but a fantastic explanation of what happens to a wireless radio when you add more and more clients to it (Can you imagine a house full of light bulbs and switches?!?):
WiFi spectrum and utilization explained:

I want low power mesh networked devices for my house - And a great interface to run them. I hope ST becomes that interface!

1 Like

You don’t need .11AC to utilize 5 GHz band. Dual-band .11N routers are fairly inexpensive and most laptops and tablets made in the last 3 years support 5 GHz. You can free up bandwidth in 2.4 GHz band by moving your most bandwidth-gungry clients to 5 GHz.

1 Like

A little outdated but a good read…

I just bought this system, mostly because of its active community and open platform. I can see it’s not fully mature yet, and I am also running into the same frustrations as the OP, even here, many months later. I’m looking forward to a web interface that will allow rule building, for sure!

I’m also a software developer (it’s curious, but not a complete surprise how many tech-heads are adopting this system, actually), and have found the multiple pages of devices/actions to be a PITA to navigate and configure. All I can think to do at this point is either write down everything I want to do, and then puzzle out doing it, checking them off as I go, OR write a SmartApp to do everything I want (I assume – I haven’t completely investigated this as a solution yet).

Things such as: When Away, if one of (Door 1, 2, Window 1, 2, 3, …) state enters OPEN or Motion state enters MOTION DETECTED, send push notification+activate siren 1 and siren 2(sound 2, volume 3)+photo burst on camera 1+photo burst on camera 2.

As far as I can tell, I have to use SmartApps to do this, come to think of it. I just don’t know if I can do it all at once (as one rule) – I hope so. But this does mean I have to learn Groovy, which isn’t something I was anticipating when I bought the system. I didn’t realize the rules engine was so lacking, to be honest.

2 Likes

If you know Java you are good…
If you know JavaScript, you are good except that you are going to put ; at the end of statements.
In nut shell, you will be fine.

1 Like

Already done that. :smile:

1 Like

I’ve done some rough JS, but no Java work. It’s on my list of things to do with my life. :wink:

Well then! Welcome to my “favorite person” status. It’s not a terribly prestigious title, but it’s not bad! :wink: Thank you!

1 Like

Well, I’ve had my hub and a number of devices for about 3 months (about $1,200 worth). I’m not a programmer, but have always been tech savvy and able to solve many I.T. types of problems on my own (for myself and others). I am struggling with the interface like everyone else. Trying to see what rules I have working and what they all do is no simple task. This thread started almost a year ago. Any progress? My wife has already given up on the system except some simple things I gave her (like mailbox notifications). WAF is at almost zero in my house. It doesn’t seem that it should be so hard to have a more robust and organized list of automation rules to choose from in the Iphone app, and an easy way to view which you are using and which are being triggered.

Also, you need to be a programmer to use this for more than just a few simple automation commands. ST Support, please help the average guy who has invested in this. Is there a new “easy to use rule builder” being built into the ST IOS app soon? And what about something to better organize and find automation rules. I should be able to find the “apps” I need on my iphone without having to copy and paste programming language from my laptop for simple automations. I keep stumbling across solutions to my problems in the community board, but it shouldn’t be so hard.

Sorry if this post sounds negative and I don’t have the solutions to offer. I do love the potential here and I am able to use some of the automation, but we need some better organization and simplification.

2 Likes

Short answer: the UI/UX sucks. They need a rules engine, a scheduler, and an easy way to view both. (Right now I literally have spreadsheets taped to the door to track schedules.)

And then they need an app store so smartapps can be found and creators compensated.

Meanwhile, what they have is a decent multiplatform protocol, an IFTTT channel, a commitment to openness, an excellent vision, outstanding customer support staff, and Samsung backing. Those are not small things.

But it’s still a first generation effort. The second generation has been announced, and hopefully will fix a bunch of the issues you noted.

My own personal guess (purely a guess) is the impending arrival of Apple’s HomeKit with Insteon and some other partners will mean that by Summer 2016 anyone who wants to be a contender in this space will need a solid plug and play offering.

I do expect Samsung/Smart Things to be one of those contenders. But they’re not there yet.

We’ll see what happens.

3 Likes

A little birdy just pointed out Simplerulebuilder - now private

Like some others, I am new to smartthings and at the rate I am progressing, will remain lost until some distant time in the future.
I have started coming to grips with how things and apps are managed, but I am now stuck on a big mystery that perhaps the community can help explain…
Yesterday, I reconnected my hub to the network after about 10 days of inactivity. For a brief period of time, the dashboard(s) would show sensor and motion activity that I manually introduced. I was happy. Then the dashboard stopped updating. This remained true for both the ST dashboard and even for the Smart.Tiles dashboard. Over the last 24 hours, I have continued to monitor the event activity on the ST webpage and compare this to the updates sent to both dashboards. Basically, the dashboards do not update in any manner that I can sort out.
For testing, I am using an aeon multi sensor (motion), an aeon door/window sensor (open/close), and a SmartSense Multi sensor (open/close).

I see all events – motion and open/close – logged from my hub to the server, but nothing is typically being sent back from server.

-If I manually trigger a refresh on the Smart.Tiles app, it seems to work properly.

  • In order for motion to show, I have to refresh within about 10 seconds of the event for it to register on Smart.Tile dashboard.
  • The opening of either open/close device will not trigger an automatic update of Smart.tile dashboard – at least, not within a few minutes.
  • The closure of either open/close device will trigger an automatic update of Smart.Tile dashboard after about 10 seconds…

The native ST dashboard seems to work about 1% of the time, or even less. I cannot see a pattern for when it will work. It does not automatically update 10 seconds after closure of a sensor.

Can anyone explain to me what pushes these updates to the dashboard apps? And any reasons I might not be receiving said updates?

I have been reluctant to begin building alerts and actions because I couldn’t see any reliability based on dashboards. However, are the status updates pushed back out of the server separate from event triggers? That is, could I expect reliable alerts and actions even when there is no reliability with dashboard views?

I am becoming immune to embarrassment, so all comments are welcome.

I just checked a door contact sensor and a motion sensor. Both were updated in the Mobile App (Android V1.6.9 Build 1691) within 1 second. The door contact sensor even triggered an IFTTT message within that timeframe.

  • What OS are you on? Are you on wifi? Do you have any other latency issues with non-SmartThings applications?

  • Try installing http://SmartTiles.click which will bypass the Mobile App and use a web browser based interface instead. Technically, this is a slightly longer path for the messages to follow and it has it’s own independent refresh rate (I think), but it is another data point to add to your testing. I got a good quick result (< 2 seconds) from a contact sensor, but had to refresh to get motion activity status.

Actually, I have problems with both ST dashboard and SmartTiles.click.
I believe part of this may be related to Windows Phone app, but I noticed this morning at 5:30 AM that every single status change was updated instantly on the built-in ST dashboard. I came back to it about 2 hours later and sensors would not update their status changes. Rush hour traffic? I will test this scenario again in the wee hours tomorrow morning.
Of course, I can trigger on/off commands with no problems.

Don’t forget a VIBRANT community!

3 Likes

Just tested with my Windows phone… Same ~1 second update time in the SmartThings App.

Do you have a special VIP support email address to contact? My experience with support has been anything but “outstanding”.

I would say one of every five issues I report to support results in a reply that is worth my time and actually informs me. Usually I find myself having to train support staff on how SmartThings works.

There seems to be a significant gap and time lag between what gets reported to support and what the engineers get notified about and fix. I’m pretty sure this is part of the recent problems. There’s a lot of lag of many days in issues getting attention. And I get replies that indicate support staff are supporting PR and marketing events and therefore don’t have time to monitor and handle issues that would have prevented or at least mitigated the platform outages and issues of any given day. It’s part of growing pains of an alpha stage product. You can’t prioritize PR events over a stable product IMHO.

Thanks friends for the link in response to my comment about support issues. They are working on it, which is good to see!

1 Like

Hey @dlee,

Just providing some insight and perspective inside the company:

We are so avoiding that as much as possible, moving forward. At a point, when you have limited resources, there’s only so much we can do. Do we take the engineer who’s stabilizing the platform because of these obligations we have to do, or the support person, who also has a great understanding of the platform. We certainly aren’t sending them to GDC to party at an experiential event; these events are generally industry events that we have to attend.

When you had a team of ~7 support staff, the time/experience does get delayed when we do sacrifice a support staff member for these obligations. We are continuing to grow that portion of the team, (yay! There’s about 3+ new people on the support team, which brings the count to 10) and getting them up to speed as quickly as possible.

Also, just a clarification: Support are not the same people who would can prevent or at least mitigate the platform outages and issues on a given day. Support is customer service, customer facing, and well, Support. Our engineers are the ones involved with that.

Regardless, we’re hiring on all fronts, so PR/Events/Marketing efforts doesn’t affect the rest of the world, because I agree; a stable platform is much more desirable.

:slight_smile: They leave PR events for people like me, who is not involved in support or engineering. Although, I admit, engineers and support staff members sometimes show up to our local events : However, on their “off time”.

3 Likes

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I’m a CTO of a high-performance software company and I echo everything rogersmj says. The mishmash that is the SmartThings app is completely unintuitive and incredibly frustrating in all the ways he discusses, and more. It’s enough to drive me away from the platform altogether (though I admit, I am still here).

Is the API open enough that a third party developer could put a better app together, based on such a rule-builder and simple basic ideas like triggers, events and actions? Maybe even web-based rather than phone-based so you can set up your smart home on a decent size screen?

(Oh, and BTW: the current IFTTT channel doesn’t support Minimote or other button devices, so for me it’s 100% useless. Oh well.)

2 Likes