Is SmartThings what I'm looking for?


#1

Hi,

I started playing with home automation after buying Hue light bulbs and realizing that wife and daughter wouldn’t use them without physical switches.

Since there were none at the time, I used an Arduino with ethernet shield, a 433 MHz receiver and cheap code learning garage door remotes to turn lights on/off and adjust intensity and color.

I also had a Raspberry Pi and IP cameras laying around, so I also bought some 433 MHz door sensors to trigger a Python script built with Flask to record 30 seconds of video from either the front or back door when they are opened.

The script also sends a notification with Pushover and uploads the video to Google Drive, so it’s good to know when my daughter arrives from school or the cleaning lady arrives and leaves.

I was working lately on presence recognition, by using another Python script to query my router association list for our cell phones connections. Wanted to use that to trigger IP cameras motion sensor recording on when nobody is home.

By the time I also wanted to add a dashboard to monitor and control everything and was adapting Dashing inspired by the work of FloarianZ, but I thought that it would be even better if I could use an already established platform that already had that and could also connect to other devices and which could be extended to use my own creations.

Is SmartThings the solution I’m looking for? Will a DIY kind of person feel constrained by it’s limitations?

Thanks for your opinions.
Gilson


(Scott G) #2

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a DIYer to the extent that you are. I have never used an Arduino or Raspberry PI, and I don’t code for a living or on a regular basis (I can understand and modify basic Java/VBA and now a bit of Groovy).

Based on what you’ve done already without ST, you may not need ST to continue building out your home automation. But if you do want to jump in and from what I’ve researched in the HA space, this would the best fit for you. As you can see with what @florianz and @625alex have done with dashboards, the folks building water valve shutoffs from scratch, and a ton of other unique projects on here.

The best part of ST is how they’ve embraced the community here and let the tinkerers build great things if they’re able. The main limitations are that you’re reliant on the cloud and it still has growing pains from a reliability/performance standpoint.

You would need to use Groovy for coding within ST, but you can take advantage of the API to use whatever you want to interact with ST pretty easily. The app needs work, but it might be good enough for your wife and daughter and if not, the dashboards are great.


(David Creed) #3

Hi Gilson,

I’ll add a few extra points here. It sounds like you are a very experienced DIY person, and you’ve certainly taken on wide range of projects and concepts and utilized them together.

I can guarentee that you would be a welcome addition to the community and would have lots of resources here to help you when you needed it.

The other thing is with the ST platform, you could also integrate some off the shelf solutions that would have the Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF). I have found in my household that it is better if much of my automation and controls just work in the background, and my wife is largely unaware of the complexity.

As long as the lights turn on when the switch is pushed, she’s ok with the system. But she doesn’t need to worry about the alarm system (Smart Alarm), or that the heater in our sons’ room is controlled to maintain the heat level. It just works, and that’s all that matters to her. It’s my job to take care of saving some money and maintaining the security of the house when we are away.

Regards,
David


(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #4

[quote=“oguime, post:1, topic:8545”]Will a DIY kind of person feel constrained by it’s limitations?
[/quote]

Possibly… but I’d be willing to bet you’ll be more frustrated with the reliability and latency that is throughout the platform.


#5

Hi Scott,
The community thing is a big plus on my book. Has SmartThings been responsive to the community though? I’ve seem many complaints about reliability and performance in the forum…

David,
I’m not that experienced, just started playing with HA when I bought a Hue starter kit about 18 months ago. But I’ve been really busy on my free time since then… I agree on the WAF, but I want to expose them to the HA results so that they can also realize why I spent so much time :smile:

Thanks for answering


#7

Hi scottinpollock,

I noticed you’ve been struggling with SmartThings support, with unanswered posts and more generic reliability and performance issues.

Has support gotten worst? If you had to start all over again, would you still choose ST ?


(Scott G) #8

I’ve only been around a little over a month, so my experience is limited. The impression I’ve gotten in that time is that they are overwhelmed in trying to scale the business. They were bought by Samsung, which hopefully gives them resources to help develop those scaling plans and implement them faster; but as of late, they’ve been less responsive IMO. It feels like they have a big announcement coming at CES (hopefully with Hub v2 including less reliance on the cloud) that is drawing their focus.

I have had issues with reliability (light schedules get missed once a week or so) and performance (mostly group on/off commands that miss bulbs). I’m definitely keeping my eyes open as new players enter this space over the next year to see if anyone really gets it right. ST drew me in because I think they have the most promise, and I hope they can deliver on it. I would definitely heed the advice of @scottinpollock as he has been around longer.


(Jason) #9

So this begs the question - if not smartthings, what?


(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #10

There has been a certain level of support that has been (and continues to be) top notch. It was one of the reasons I decided to give SmartThings a try even though I was initially leery of an ‘all cloud based solution’. But when you start asking really technical questions (syntax, how things work), you get a response like “support staff don’t have these answers; post your question in the forums”. But my experience has been that it’s like pulling teeth to get these answers from SmartThings personnel in the forums (especially with regard to hubActions). Very frustrating! And the fairly recent latency issues have me not wanting to spend anymore time in the IDE anyways; lousy docs, and unforthcoming answers means lots of debugging, and the lion-share of my time in the IDE now is WAITING for it to refresh!! What was once much enthusiasm for the platform has diminished significantly.

As far as doing it all over again, this isn’t my first time around the block on this (see below).

The short answer for me is Indigo or Universal Devices.

I came to SmartThings from an Insteon/x10 setup using Indigo on a Mac Mini. I wanted to start replacing the powerline stuff with radio based hardware (zwave, zigbee). I liked the fact that SmartThings supported Android (indigo doesn’t), and having WAN access without poking holes in my router was desirable as well. I had been using Indigo for years and it has always been rock solid (except for the powerline devices themselves).

With SmartThings, I now have devices that are rock solid, but the brain end is iffy at best. Bottom line is things are just as unreliable now as they were before, and I have moved much back to the Mac, and wrote an app (HAM Bridge) to trigger it from HTTP requests. This lets me use mobile device software (iRule) that is actually usable. The SmartThings mobile app that was a main interest of SmartThings is a POS.

Also, most of the integrations from SmartThings just feel like hacks (because most of 'em are). I expected them to get better but I have seen nothing in this regard in over 6 months. I no longer use the Hue integration because it is buggy and incomplete, I had to write my own Venstar TStat device type, but honestly, it is much faster/convenient to just open the dedicated apps for these devices to control them, or send a call to HAM Bridge and talk to them using their native APIs.

I am debating getting a Zwave stick for Indigo, or waiting for Universal Devices Zwave option to become a bit more mature. Another thought is to add conditionals and scheduling to HAM Bridge and simply roll my own, or some combination of all of the above.

I gave my brother a Wink system for Xmas. I know it received a lot of bad reviews initially, but I will be paying close attention to his experiences anyway.

I really like SmartThings’ concept. I think it was a great idea. But they can’t make it work for the purpose intended, and I see it getting worse. They need to find the answer soon.


(Geko) #11

It’s curious to compare SmartThings with another Kickstarter-funded project - Pebble. Both were funded around the same time. Yes, Pebble raised more initial capital than SmartThings - $10M vs. $3M (including VC money), but in 2013 both companies got extra VC funding: Pebble got $15M and SmartThings got $12.5M. So in terms of funding they were pretty much on the same scale. Now look at the results:

  1. Pebble delivered an excellent product that sold almost half a billion(!). SmartThings delivered an “okay” product with some features dropped (e.g. Bluetooth) which is still plagued by reliability issues. In terms of sales, SmartThings does not release sales figures, but based on the number of Android app downloads, I’d put it below 100,000.

  2. Pebble mobile app for both Android and iPhone is as slick as it gets. SmartThings mobile app is clanky and slow and awkward to use. The Android app was a total disaster at launch and still lags behind the iOS app.

  3. Pebble has a fantastic, fully functioning app store built right into the mobile app. SmartThings has nothing to brag about. Submitting third-party apps to Pebble app store is a breeze. SmartThings has arcane app approval process that takes forever. I have my app stuck there since August(!)

  4. Pebble has an amazing cloud-based development platform (CloudPebble) and excellent documentation. SmartThings IDE and documentation both suck.

Now, what SmartThings is going to do with $200M they got from Samsung is anyones guess, but I think most of it went to pay off original investors and VCs. Some folks surely made fat returns. But the sad truth is that there was nothing of substance delivered since the acquisition. There’s a slight chance that something big is brewing behind the curtain (in an Apple-escque “one more thing” manner), but I wouldn’t bet my bank on it.


(Dan) #12

I bought the ST system when the Lowes IRIS collapsed about a year ago. I use the ST for the most rudimentary features; motion notices and door movements. It is also configured to turn arm and disarm itself depending on presence fobs and phone (Galaxy S5) location. As you can see, I have made no attempt to cobble any custom features or devices.

I find it meets my needs for faithfully monitoring the property. I also see that using a presence fob and phone location did a better job of disarming the systems upon arrival then using only one or the other.

$200 million is an uncomplimentary purchase price for ST and was the most significant indicator that the company may fall into catch-up mode.

My conclusion is that it works reliably as long as I stay within its devices and apps. Everything I read that is negative seems to have involved some form of customization, programming, or non-ST device.


#13

@danfelix

Can you elaborate on that statement a bit more? All the stores I go to seem to have the Iris stuff moving off the shelves fairly quick, and new Iris supported devices keep showing up, including a new water valve I just saw demo’d.


(Dan) #14

In late 2013, the server support for the system was offline for up to 6 weeks for some users, disabling its phone app reliability. IRIS has a control panel in addition to the hub. I have never been able to successfully use more than one control panel in a two story house. To date, I have not seen it down. Lowe’s never acknowledged it and users began to leave the system. To Lowes credit, they willingly refunded all hardware and subscription purchases from everyone doing so. The system fault was traced to the originator of the system in the UK and the best explanation was that the original system was not ready to scale to the number of users. I happen to agree with that, which is why I am not surprised about the same comments concerning ST.

My guess is that any system that tries to pass all device communications through the Internet will falter. Intra-house device communication should only require the hub, including any custom program. Communication outside the house to a phone would need the Internet. IMHO


#15

@danfelix, thanks for sharing that experience, wow. I am really hoping that ST’s hub v2 will deliver on local processing, and I’m willing to deal with the growing pains (to a point) to see that become successful.


(Eric) #16

Looking at the IDE log for any length of time, it’s clear the traffic can become ridiculous as networks grow. The SmartSense Multi, garage door opening and closing has something like 10 events, not even including temperature. It’s awesome, but redundant. The Aeon Multisensor is even more chatty.