Is this the nature of all Home Automation?


#1

Is this the current nature of home automation? Is it the same with Wink, Staples Connect, Vera, Iris, and other hubs? What about paid ones like Nexia, ADT, Verizon, Time Warner?

I have both Zigbee and Z-wave devices throughout my house. I made sure that I had plenty of plug-in repeaters spread out to have a good mesh network. I know that my WiFi is also pretty strong throughout, I live in a single story 1500 square feet home so I don’t have any dead spots and it even works great outside.

It seems like every day there is an issue somewhere that I have to reset, take out the battery, disconnect, re-pair, open the window or door twice, reboot the hub, take out the batteries from the hub and do a cold start, refresh something in the app, update a device type, re-run a smart app, remove a bunch of smartapps, rebuild a bunch of smartapps, restart the schedule, go into the IDE, look at logs, and so on and so forth!

I know that some problems are in the cloud and it just can’t be helped when there are problems there. I can deal with that, most of the time.

Some of the problems are probably user error, Rule Machine is very powerful but you really need to follow the logic all the way through or you have conflicting apps.

I just picked up an Iris motion detector, it works great when it works but so far, I have had to factory reset it almost twice a day. It works for several hours, then simply stops.

I have contact sensors that will sometimes stop working and you have to take the battery out to get them to reconnect again.

I have smart bulbs (GE link with a known firmware problem and no fix?) that will sometimes drop off the network. What, no recall, no exchange for a fixed one?

I have a smoke/CO detector that will test okay but the other day, I had all this smoke from the fireplace and it didn’t go off?

The list goes on but I’ve already written too much…thanks for listening to my rant.
It’s a good thing I actually enjoy home automation but if this is the same with other hubs, it’s going to be years before HA becomes mainstream.


(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #2

Hue’s bridge works flawlessly, both locally and from the cloud. So does my Venstar thermostat. Stuff doesn’t have to be broken just because it is in the HA genre.

I’ve also been using Indigo for over a decade… Rock Solid.


(Brian Diehl) #3

I came to ST from Staples Connect and had 0 issues in the time I was using Staples.
At the same time, I will say my HA setup was very small on Staples compared to where it’s at now. It consisted of a motion sensor, a pair of door sensors, and my Hue setup (which has more than doubled in size since switching to ST).

I have no devices that randomly drop off networks or fail that often. My newest one is the one giving me the most problems (NYCE Hinge) but that’s just a design flaw I think. I fixed it with some Bondic.


(Matt) #4

Why did you switch?


(Brian Diehl) #5

Staples is a dying platform. They weren’t adding features or devices. It was a limited environment with no user customization capabilities.


(Mark) #6

@Jimxenus You might be interested in this topic, as it does a decent job of discussing some of the features and shortcomings of other home automation platforms.

My sense from following the discussion is that ST is better at integrating a wider range of devices with its multiple radios and the open(ish) nature of the platform with the very active community here. At least in theory. The instability most of us are suffering through is probably partly due to that added complexity. Maybe ST is also just doing a bad job of it all. Probably some of both.

Having said all that, I have some of the devices you’ve mentioned failing repeatedly (GE link bulbs, Iris motion sensor), and my experience hasn’t been anything like as bad as what you describe for most of the time I’ve had a ST hub (since last summer).


#7

I read through the ST Alternative thread and even though HA has been around many years now, it’s still in its infancy. I just wonder simply hardware wise, why do things like motion sensors or contacts simply just stop working? Is it poor hardware, poor communication between the device and hub, or problems with the ST cloud? I’m guessing it’s a combination of many factors.


(Brian Diehl) #8

I would say a combination.

There are so many different wireless signals flying around through your place at any given time, and some will interfere with each other.

I know I had to move my USB receiver for my wireless keyboard and mouse from the back of my computer to the front once I put my Abode hub next to it because the signal was failing.

WiFi and Zigbee can have similar effects on each other.

Everyone is trying to do their best to keep costs down and sometimes that can mean producing lesser quality products. I’m not accusing any manufacturer of doing that in this market, but it’s certainly a possibility.

We all know the ST cloud has proven itself to only be reliable at being unreliable.


(Bob Anderson) #9

No.

I have a number of z-wave devices in my home, about a dozen. Once I’ve switched to a new method of controlling/programming them, there are zero problems. None. So it’s not the nature of the devices nor the nature of z-wave signals or controllers. Those are reliable. It’s the stuff in between. Buggy apps and clouds.

(My solution is home-assistant.io running on a linux server. It won’t suit everybody, but it’s an existence proof that home automation can be reliable, and without spending thousands.)


#10

A[quote=“Jimxenus, post:7, topic:43850, full:true”]

I read through the ST Alternative thread and even though HA has been around many years now, it’s still in its infancy. I just wonder simply hardware wise, why do things like motion sensors or contacts simply just stop working? Is it poor hardware, poor communication between the device and hub, or problems with the ST cloud? I’m guessing it’s a combination of many factors.
[/quote]

It’s not the sensors. Essentially the same devices are in use in many midrange security systems, and they work reliably for years. Many are also in use in commercial sensornets with thousands of devices.

As many people have mentioned, indigo is rocksolid with Z wave only devices, including sensors. Staples connect is very stable with its limited set of sensors. Boring, but stable.

But so far, the systems which are very stable in the low and mid range generally use only a few specific device models. You have a choice of maybe a dozen devices. The controller is set up to deal with those and it does it very well.

In addition, I regularly see SmartThings set ups where polling/refresh is upwards of 80% of traffic. That in itself can lead to lost messages in both directions.

SmartThings also has another whole set of issues as has been discussed recently regarding the cloud and database architecture. That’s a different problem altogether. Right now some of my local transactions repeat themselves anywhere from 5 to 25 times. This is something as simple as a light that is supposed to come on at the same time every day. Support says that engineering has identified the problem and they expect to push out a fix in a future firmware update. That kind of thing has nothing to do with the end devices.

As others have said, there are many low-end home automation products which are extremely reliable. I have about seven systems right now, including echo, the Hue bridge, harmony, A sprinkler system, a security system, a medical monitoring system, another home automation hub, another lighting manager, and SmartThings. With the exception of SmartThings, none of these fail more than once a month, and most of them much less than that. My security system, which is really nothing but sensors and cameras and a keypad, has had only two false alarms in about seven years.

SmartThings offers tremendous flexibility and versatility in both devices and SmartApps. It allows you to mix and match protocols in a way that Hardly any other system does. :blush::relieved::upside_down_face:

Most stable systems define 5 to 10 specific use cases and then solve those with a specific and limited set of devices. They keep the specific use cases stable because it’s pretty easy to do regression testing when you know exactly what everything looks like each time. With SmartThings, people are writing their own code and using devices that the company has never even looked at… It’s all very exciting and lots of fun – – but not particularly stable. :rocket:

So it’s up to each of us to define for ourselves what our priorities will be, and how high up on that list stability will fall. And how much flexibility we’re willing to trade off in order to get stability. There’s no one right answer – – different things work for different people.

But it’s not that home automation, even low end home automation, is inherently unstable. And it’s definitely not the end devices. But the tremendous freedom that SmartThings give you in both configuration and code brings in some unavoidable instability.


#11

@JDRoberts

Well, that’s good to know. I was contemplating returning my Iris motion sensor because it wasn’t responding consistently. Funny thing was that I could see the LED flash when it saw motion, SmartThings just didn’t see it until I did a factory reset.

I really do enjoy HA…when it works but my wife laughs at me when I get frustrated continually fixing something. She says that I’m causing my own misery. :cry:


(Bob Anderson) #12

To be fair, I don’t have that particular device, so I can’t vouch for its reliability in particular.

But I have no problems with my Ecolink z-wave motion sensors.


#13

It’s always possible that you got a bad device, but several people have reported issues with zigbee devices in the last week or so so it may also be a platform issue of some kind. It’s hard to tell right now.


#14

I have other Z-wave motion sensors and they work quite well. I also have the v1 SmartThings motion sensor that sometimes loses connection. I’m beginning to wonder if I might be getting some WiFi 2.4ghz interference with the Zigbee radios. I think I will try to relocate my hub to a different area and see if that helps.