I recently got a Samsung SmartThings hub + 4 Samsung MultiPurpose sensors + 1 water leak sensor + use my 5 Arlo cameras as motion sensors + 2 Ecobee 3 Lite thermostats + use my 2 Samsung galaxy S8 phones as presence sensors + 2 Google Home mini’s + I just ordered 4 Phillips Hue lights. So, I feel very invested and did all of this because of the promise of the smart home.
My first surprise was that you couldn’t check 2+ conditions (like if both phones are present and there hasn’t been motion in 10 minutes and…then…). But I found out about WebCore and set it up and wrote some scripts for it. Fine. Very odd that it’s not integrated, but fine.
But now I’m realizing that my sensors are often out of date. A door is reported closed when opened. It’s listed as inactive. Refresh button does nothing at all. I got one that hasn’t updated in weeks to fix itself by pulling the battery. Another though frequently works, but is currently 6 hours out of date. I’m sure it’ll update within a few hours, but in the meantime it’ll screw up my scripts and is completely useless. I’d say maybe it was just signal strength, but then I saw that my phone was listed as not being present, as I’m actively using it only 10’ from my router and 10’ from my ST hub and while connected to wifi. This caused a routine to fire that lowered the heat in my house. With the current cold streak that we’re having, that’s a real issue when you have 3 kids under 6.
What gives? If I can’t rely on my sensors being up to date and accurate, this is completely pointless and nothing but a toy. Wish I realized this before I went all in. Does everyone deal with this? Is it a hub issue or an inherent problem with these systems? Are some hubs better than others? Are the sensors themselves just unreliable (but if so how come the phone failed to properly report)?
I see other topics that aren’t too dissimilar, but haven’t found solutions. Any advice you have to give would be appreciated.
Note, some sensors are up to date, while others are not, and also note that my firmware is up to date on my hub.
All systems have pluses and minuses, the trick is to find one that matches your own priorities.
I originally wrote a long post here about reliability issues, but that’s because I was thinking about the system outages this week.
Having read @Matt_Behnken’s post below, I realized I hadn’t really thought about your specific set up, and if all you have is what you described in your first post, you don’t have any zigbee repeaters at all. Which would mean it’s not at all surprising that your sensors are failing.
I wrote a troubleshooting post below Matt’s post below, so I’ll just carry on the conversation from there.
When I originally wrote still applies in general, I just think that in your specific case there may be quite a few things that can be done to improve the reliability of what you’re seeing.
Thanks for the detailed reply! I just don’t know what I can do with it if it doesn’t have pretty decent reliability.
My water leak sensor is useless if I can’t rely on it. I’d need a different solution. If temperature is frequently out of date, what good is it? Knowing it was 71 degrees 6 hours ago is mildly interesting at best. I certainly can’t adjust the thermostat based on that or react on it in any way. If I can’t rely on presence sensors or acceleration/contact sensors then again what purpose do they serve? If I’m automating something, I’m doing it because I want something to happen automatically so I don’t have to even think about it. But if that flakes out…
What a bummer. My smart home has all the parts to automate my heating system, act as a security system, warn me of water leaks, and even turn on my lights based on rule sets…but I’m kind of hearing and reading that I can’t rely on it. What good is a security system you can’t rely on? Better than nothing I suppose, but certainly not the appropriate solution. Same with the rest.
Ok, well thanks a lot for the insights! Truly much appreciated! Not sure what to do at this point. I’m kind of all in and just beyond the return periods.
As far as delays, you do know that there was a major platform outage over the last two or three days, right? So a lot of commands were delayed by 19 minutes or 11 minutes or other random amounts. So this happens to have been a particularly bad week.
As far as what you can do, you’ll have to make those decisions for yourself. It’s likely that all of the devices that you have would work with other hubs, and it’s also likely that the reliability issues are not those devices. So if you’re willing to give up some complexity you could probably get a lot more reliability with the same devices. You might also need to end up using multiple apps to manage everything.
Or you can improve reliability within the SmartThings system itself but again giving up some complexity and putting as much as possible on the official smartlights feature.
Thanks, that’s actually really helpful and definitely makes me feel better. I’d be happy if I could recover by switching hubs but I wasn’t sure if they worked on others. I’ll have to just do some research on capabilities. Would love to stay in the ST community if I can though (not to mention the time investment and cost of hub). Just need to make it work if I do though
As to the outage, I’ve kind of been noticing it over the last few weeks too, but kind of just thought that I needed to invest some time to make it work. Now that I have invested the time, I’m feeling kind of helpless in making it work. I saw one post about someone polling it to keep it updated, but it seemed controversial if that was a good idea.
Again, thank you for the time!
(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy)
“Better than nothing” is actually quite true, as long as the reliability doesn’t fall below a certain threshold that varies by personal & household’s tolerances.
Even the ways to measure “reliability” vary… Should it be average time between any incident? or Amount of effort required for redundancy? or Percentage of inaccuracy of a Temperature Sensor? or Delay of responsiveness of a Contact Sensor? or … or … or …
It’s a fact, though, that based on most measures of reliability, SmartThings is improving on average, with occasional setbacks in one area or another (e.g., perhaps a new App or Firmware Release with a bunch of bugs … hopefully resolved quickly).
Us long-timers (5 years and counting…) are just concerned when new folks get the wrong impression just because they joined at the wrong time: And that goes for both joining in a super stable period, or a period of disasters.
@matt_behnken brings up a good point, which is that since your system it seems has never worked reliably, rather than working well for a while and then just mysteriously changing, there may be quite a few troubleshooting things you can do to improve the reliability.
So the first thing we need to know is the brand and model of the sensors which are acting goofy, as well as the brand and model of any smart bulbs that you have attached directly to the SmartThings hub.
Next, it would probably be a good idea to briefly review best practices for laying out your network backbone. Start with post number 11 in the following thread, read that, then go back up to the top of thread and read the whole thing.
Given the flaky platform problems this week, it would probably be best to put off actual troubleshooting for another couple of days until things settle down, but meanwhile you can do the initial research.
Also, you said you ordered four Hue bulbs: did you also order the hue bridge? If not, you should definitely get one, as otherwise you may actually make your problems worse.
I’ve found the reporting to be almost instant. In fact the power meter reports every tiny fluctuation which seems like overkill at 5 reports per second or something. The temperature monitoring in the smartthings branded contact sensors is quite reliable from my end, it reports every temperature change by at least 1 degree, so if it’s 70 degrees all day I don’t think it will report it unless the hub polls it. Default polling is 5 minutes or something, but really only let’s you know when something is offline. For open and close the reports are also very quick, maybe 1 second or less, every time.
I installed the ST hub in my house about a year ago and over that time I’ve had a few small issues. I installed ST at 2 other locations since and haven’t had any issues really. For instance, I had a ST branded contact sensor that kept going offline, battery removal and replace fixed it for a few days. After finally replacing the fairly new battery, it’s been perfect ever since.
I have a bunch of hardwired zwave and zigbee devices though, which repeat the signal to the battery operated devices that don’t repeat the signals along the mesh.
I agree, if reporting is taking 6 hours it is of zero good for automation. However, that should never be the case. To test move them closer to the hub and see how long it takes to report. If it’s more than a second or two, there’s a problem.
Cell phones used as Presence sensors can be finicky. The system relies on outside factors to function like your cell phones settings. Some have found the Keychain presence sensors to be more reliable. My android phone works great but it says I’m home while still in the neighborhood. I’ve adjusted the GPS location for my home and the circle, and honestly, I just have the automatons for me coming home delayed by a minute.
In our home we have at least 50 automatons through smartthings, harmony, Google homes, chromecasts , samsung connect, webcore, hue, cameras, lights, plugs, switches, speakers, appliances, Xbox ones, servers and sensors. 99. 9% of the time, they work perfectly and very fast. As an example, we use voice commands for the tv, which cannot take more than a second or everybody would roll their eyes. Another example is our staircase lighting at night, nobody would wait for a motion sensor to report and for the hub to turn the lights on very long.
Finally, we use the ST as security alarms in all the locations. They have been great and really added some piece of mind.
I have found the temperatures posted by the ST devices usually fairly accurate. I have set up some custom rules to notify me if certain temperatures get too high or too low based on the temperature settings I chose.
I wanted to add that I partially share your frustration regarding reliability…but what I can also tell you as I recently migrated from Vera and was even moreso frustrated with the that platform. I had been a Vera user since 2012 or so, I think. Without getting into the details regarding that platform, my first month on SmartThings has been awesome!
Last week was disappointing, but with ANY HA product, you will have your bugs. Sometimes, my Hue platform is not working properly for no reason apparent to me. Now that I have lighting split between the two platforms, and my Smartthings Platform is built on my old Vera Z-Wave network, I have direct control all built-in home lighting, even if both platforms are off. Loss of Hue, I loose decorative lighting (lamps and decorative ceiling fixtures). Loss of Smarttthings and I loose integration…or the “Smart” part of the home. But my run of the mill basing lighting, namely recessed lighting, ceiling fans, HVAC, etc. all still work, just not integrated.
What I can advise is the reliability of your network is directly proportional to the number of devices in your mesh network. This is regardless of whether it is SmartThings, Vera, computer software (i.e. Homeseer) or other. This fact is applicable to both Z-wave and Zigbee…BUT the meshes are not compatible. So I have a very robust Z-wave network of example, so I go out of my way to buy anything and everything z-wave as much as I can. Z-wave is great in my house :). My obvious problem is my battery operated sensors are zigbee and I am looking at getting a presence sensor for my wife (she does not want iPhone tracking on)…and this needs zigbee. Now I am looking into getting a few zigbee modules to build up this network now. Unfortunately, Hue zigbee is different and does not contribute.
It is expensive. But this is a hobby first and foremost…until you finally go all in. Your only other option is a professional installation. And even then, the paragraphs above are still applicable.
I will concede, the limitations in basic programming are puzzling and I do miss this feature in Vera…especially the time delay options in routines as well as the exclusive conditions in programming. I have NOT gotten into Webcore or any of the other advanced features yet. I am most focused on building as much of everything as local as I can, then only using Webcore for the things I cannot resolve locally.
I personally have not had any issues with my sensors. My biggest disappointment is the Iris motion sensors are not adjustable nor pet immune. I have a lot of lights coming on for my cat during the day. I am resolving this with the use of modes…again, as much as I can without webcore.
I have not done water leak sensors yet. I want to finish building out the lighting components first.
For HVAC, I use Ecobee. I have a lot of HVAC guys in the family and our core belief is use thermostats for HVAC, not home controllers. The Ecobee system is great, my favorite one so far, by far. The only thing I using Smartthings for manual adjustments to temperature based on unscheduled mode changes. I hope to one day to write my own scripts so I can take advantage of the Ecobee modes instead of numerically assigning set points.
Where I see a better use for ST in the HVAC world is I would like to add smart vents to the system so I can create mini-zones. The Keen system is relatively new and something I am looking at. If this goes down, all dampers fail open and the system still works as of today.
On security, I am still on the fence. My existing hardwired system is great and has never let me down. Having said that, it relies on an old phone line that costs me close to $30/mo and monitoring costs another $20/mo, all so I can save $100/year on insurance. I have looked at ST for security but currently opine that it does not have that maturity yet. I may make the jump near the end of the year. I will ONLY consider methods that make use of my UL hardwired sensors. I do not trust wireless sensors for routines that would notify emergency services. For notifying me, sure, good enough. For dispatching police (or fire), I want to see more reliability. With the old UL hardwired, I trust them. With the newer wireless, I would have to script something that performs cross-zoning of some kind. For example, at least one perimeter AND one interior motion prior to triggering alarm.
On the reliability, last week’s outage was my first experience. I questioned my faith for sure. I did a lot of research and what happened last week was nothing compared to the reliability issues the ST community endured during my Vera days. ST is maturing with time and I do believe it will only continue to improve with time.
And finally, I find the temp reporting on my Iris motion sensors to match dead on with my Ecobee remote sensors. And again, my HVAC uses redundant sensors, not the ST sensors. The IoT needs a lot more maturity before I will trust cross platform integration for day to day operations. However, for integration, this is great stuff.
In the last 6 months or so my Smartthings system has nearly perfect except for one Motion sensor in my living room that no matter where I place it gives me false notifications and intrusion alerts. If I leave it connected to my system, but put it face down on a table, of course it is not giving me motion alerts but neither is it giving false alerts either. If the problem was heat related it would still give me false alerts.
Anyway, Could your current security system update with newer technology and use cellular instead of a phone line that can be easily cut? I am paying $35 per month I believe and that includes the cost of cellular communications. But in thinking about it they would probably make you pay dearly for the new equipment.
I, too, would never ever rely on Smartthings as my primary security system, but it is one heck of a compliment to the paid system. I don’t have to buy their specialized equipment, I can customize Smartthings all I want and do an infinite number of things with Smartthings.
I have that one motion sensor too, perhaps they are of the same batch lol.
My alarm controller board is not upgradable. I would have to upgrade the alarm, which I have been quoted at $200 plus parts if I chose to not roll it into a monthly contract. Then, the wireless option is $39/mo instead of $19/mo. So after paying for parts and labor, I save $8/mo. Not worth it so Im still on the old system.
I have tried to talk to them about upgrading the system to a board of my choice and they said no dice. They wanted to know why I would spec my own security system given that they are the biggest local game in town, do thousands of installations and no customer ever requested specific equipment. They already knew the answer, so I told them straight up that I wanted the Z-wave plus connectivity. They replied that they would not give me an unlocked board as that nulls the UL certification and I would have to do my home automation through them.
So, I am looking at other options. The existing system will remain with them…until I find a DIY system that meets my requirements. As far as the UL requirement specifics, I am working with my insurance agent to find out what they are. I do not believe installation is a requirement, just the monitoring.
PIR sensors such as that model are not measuring a change in heat for the “motion detector” part. They are measuring a change in heat that moves across the sensor detection area.
In the winter, a common reason for false alerts for this type of sensor is a gust of warm air from the heating system blowing across the detection field. If you lay the sensor facedown, you can get the same change in heat, but it won’t be moving across the detection field, so it won’t false alert.
That said, over the last 12 months there have been many reports in the forums of false alerts from the current generation of the SmartThings branded motion sensor. It’s not clear why, it may have to do with the power management, which also seems to have some issues. Sometimes just changing to a different brand of battery seems to fix it, which is weird but possible.
Anyway, two years ago I would’ve just pointed people towards the FAQ, and felt pretty confident that they would be able to resolve the false alarm issue with one of the suggestions there.
Now, though, for this specific model there just seems to be a certain number that mysteriously generate false alerts.
@JDRoberts Thanks, This sensor is one of the original devices that came with my kit two years ago. In the past it never gave me any trouble but lately it happens a lot when the system is armed. In the past I would have simply changed batteries, but I have tried that twice now. I will try a different brand and probably replace it with a different brand.
Overall, my system is much more reliable than it was even 6 months ago.
Thanks JD. Your posts throughout this community are some of the MOST helpful. I did cross the FAQ at work. To test the theory, I swapped my living room ‘Motion Sensor A’ with ‘Motion Sensor B’. The false alarms held location and appeared on B instead of A. So I have indirectly confirmed the cat :). She has a specific path she walks from the bedroom to the kitchen and back several times a day. This puts her in range of one and only one motion sensor. She is below the field of the remaining motion sensors. Funny actually - if you need to break into my house, just follow the cat!
Oh, regarding the heat, there is no direct warm draft that directly hits the sensor. It is too far removed from any vents. Rather, I have 4 other sensors that are near and within the direct breeze of 12" square ceiling vents and they do not return the false positives.
Having said that, my motion sensor at the front door is tripped by changes in lighting, including turning my Christmas lights off at midnight. I am currently using the Ring Doorbell here and this problem is well documented.
I still haven’t pulled the trigger on a hub yet, but I keep waiting & then sale prices end… so I need make moves… reading this kinda worries me, but I see a lot of good follow up responses by the veteran users. Community almost makes up for quirks.
“Reliability” means different things to different people. The level of hands on maintenance required for SmartThings, combined with the occasional outages, is still well within tolerance for many people.
Just as one example, whenever smartthings does a maintenance update, which is generally every five or six weeks, They try to let us know a few days in advance. We don’t always get advance notice, but we usually do.
The advance notice is helpful, but individual users cannot refuse or delay the update. They will happen, and when they happen your hub will go off-line.
Sometimes it’s only off-line for a few minutes, sometimes it’s for several hours. After the hub comes back, Some people don’t have to do anything, but quite a few find they may have to reset some sensors or open the app to a specific rule and then save it again, or other small maintenance efforts.
Lots of people do all of this without even thinking about it. I can’t tell you the number of people who will say that they haven’t had any outages, when I know there have been two or three scheduled updates during the same time periods That they’re discussing. So they definitely did have outages, they were just probably just short and not particularly inconvenient.
There are also problems that will only affect a particular device and if you don’t have that device, you won’t notice. For example, right now there’s a problem with minimotes, which are one of the most popular handheld remotes used with smartthings.
They stopped working with the official device type handler a few days ago. That’s a major inconvenience for some people, but not even noticed by others.
Because I’m quadriparetic, I have to pay someone else to do pretty much any maintenance on the system, including just opening the app and closing it again or popping the batteries on a sensor. I’m home almost all the time, and I use my home automation system a lot. So I’m likely to notice pretty much any outage, and even most of the minor glitches if I have the devices that are affected. I definitely notice the planned outages for maintenance because I only have one aide Who can do techie stuff, and he only comes on Tuesdays. So I dread it every time I get a notice about a planned outage that will fall on a Friday or even Monday.
My own definition
My own requirement for reliability for this kind of household system is simple. I want a maintenance free operating period (MFOP) of at least six months. And preferably 12. That’s the same thing I would expect for a dishwasher. I don’t expect anything to be perfect, and I don’t expect it to last forever, but I also don’t expect to be having outages or doing maintenance, however minor, every week.
I do get that MFOP from a number of home automation products, including the Phillips hue bridge, the Logitech Harmony hub, Amazon echo, and LuTRON Caseta.
But since November 2015, my MFOP for smartthings has never been more than 10 days.
Again, some of the glitches have been minor, and for someone without my physical challenges the fixes might’ve been super simple. But it’s a pretty high maintenance system and it’s definitely not “set and forget.”
There’s a reason the new ADT/smartthings security panel Uses an entirely different architecture, even a different radio frequency, for the part of the system that will actually notify the ADT monitoring center. And that issue is reliability.
You can see what the outages and glitches have been in the past by looking at both the official status page and the “first bug reports” in the community – created wiki.
Note that neither of those include the planned maintenance outages. And many issues never make it to the official status page. For example, the current issue with minimotes is not posted there, nor is an issue with Samsung televisions, even though engineering is working on both of those. Usually the only things that make it to the status page are architecture issues that will affect most customers and have a severe impact.
The first bug reports page is more complete as far as known problems:
You can see the planned outages, as well as discussion about what happened when they were applied, in the announcements section of this forum.
There were 7 planned outages for 2017, but some of those ended up requiring two or three outages each As various problems were discovered and then fixes had to be sent out. So anyone who has the V2 hub had at least 9 outages last year, even if they don’t remember all of them or if some of them only lasted a few minutes.
And so far, every time there has been an update, some small but significant percentage of users have had some problems afterwards, which is just something you have to be prepared for in case you’re one of the unlucky ones.
People with the older hub, the V1, didn’t have as many maintenance updates in 2017, but of course that model is no longer sold.
My usual suggestion to people considering the system is just to buy it from someplace with a 30 day return period, Immediately set up one simple use case in an area where you will notice problems but it won’t be critical if there are any, like an extra table lamp with a motion sensor near the front entry, And then see how it goes. And to be honest with yourself if the level of failure/maintenance required meets your own needs.
Oh, and if you intend to use a siren with your system, make sure you get a siren for your initial test as well unless you have little kids. Set it up exactly the way you intend to use it long term. But you will want to be aware of how many false alarms you get while you are still in the returns period.
The issues with smartthings are not subtle. Most people will be able to tell in a few weeks whether it is going to meet their own expectations for reliability. So it’s easy to judge for yourself.
Great response… fair assessment of the reality of it all. Right now with Amazon $155 for Hub, (1) Smart plug (2) door sensors (1) motion. That’s like $15 a sensor if you take the reg price $90 hub out of the total.
That’s a pretty low entry price to test things out on, especially door locking routines, which is currently on my radar for purchase, Lowe’s has a sale on those… they have great return policy, I’ll check to see what amazon return policies are… but that def makes sense.
Afterthought: Another reason for my delay in buying the Hub is trying to decide between ADT ST & replacing all my existing hardwired sensors (expensive way to jump into HA), or just keeping my current alarm system ($50 monthly), & getting a STv2 for automations, while having the option of ‘later on’ using Konnect w/ scout for a $30 monthly savings.