Let's talk about Dashboards

New Thread to avoid a hijack

Continuing the discussion from SmartTiles announcement:

I agree. But there will still be instances where viewing and not controlling via a dashboard would be useful. I use a dashboard to view my battery levels, power usage, cameras, and gain instant insights at a glance. I don’t always have my phone, and even when I have my phone it’s cumbersome to go to each device to check its battery level. I don’t think the app needs to be molded to fit that scenario, I would rather have a purpose built web dashboard that shows me such information. I am as interested in analytics as I am automation.

What are your thoughts or examples of how you use a dashboard?


I use Florianz HAD for my wall mounted tablets running off a raspberry pi internally. I used to use Smart Tiles on an old phone I leave in the guest bedroom for a guest to be able to control the things in that room/area of the house.

I am also getting grovestreams setup to track some of the sensors for the analytics side. I would love to see a robust native rules engine built.

Our household has 3 people who live here, multiple people who work here (health aides: typically 6 different ones each month, but can be more), plus family and friends.

We find voice or dashboard the best solution for people who don’t live here. (Even if presence sensors were reliable, which they aren’t for us, we can’t predict who will be here, as the care agency sometimes sends substitutes.) intuitive, simple, doesn’t require repeating instructions.

The dashboard is also really useful for telling at a glance if the front gate or the guestroom window has been left open.


Replying the discussion here. [quote=“ChuckV, post:67, topic:19545, full:true”]
Home automation, where “Things should auto magically actuate based on sensors without human intervention” is an amazing goal. However, I doubt that I will live long enough to have the necessary chip installed in my brain to allow for this. Maybe I’m the oddball out, but at least for now how does ST know that I am entering my studio to: 1) Read, 2) listen to music, 3) compose, 4) rehearse or 5) work on the computer? (each of those tasks has different settings for lights, fans, heat etc). Similarly, when I go into the yard/pool area at night is it to: grill some steaks, swim, let the dog out, look at the night sky or chase the coyotes away from the trash? (again each task involves different lights at different levels). SmartTiles allows me to do those things very simply, with one button touch from my iphone, the desktop in the studio, my laptop or the tablets mounted by the back door and by the pool. Yes, I can fire off the same things from within the mobile SmartThings App, but I can’t do that from desktop, laptop or tablets. I don’t see that ST automation is anywhere close to being able to distinguish what I am going to do in these and many other situations. Until it does, the simple intuitive interface of SmartTiles is what works for me.

A few of your scenario can be approached differently without needing any dashboards.

  1. reading in studio. You can easily switch on your reading lamp and that would be an indicator that you’re reading, and everything else chains after it, e.g turn on fan or whatever you want to automate thereafter. Similarly, you can create a “mode” and flip to that mode through the SmartThings App.
  2. listening to music, you can combine audio sensor like UBI and if there’s power running on your music player to indicate you’re listening to music.
  3. compose, similar to reading, trigger your mode or trigger something that can indicate you want that mode.
  4. rehearse, similar to listening to music without power running on the music indicator.
  5. using computer, your computer needs power, right ? use that as sensor?
  6. grilling some steak, your grill will emit heat, right? use temperature sensor?
  7. swim, use “mode”
  8. let the dog out, put a presence sensor on your dog

There’s unlimited imaginative ways to achieve sensing them. What I’m saying is, SmartThings offers more than just being a remote control.

[quote=“ChuckV, post:67, topic:19545, full:true”]
Yes, I can fire off the same things from within the mobile SmartThings App, but I can’t do that from desktop, laptop or tablets. [/quote]
Most of the examples I gave you above I think is better, firing them off without the need of desktop, laptops tablets or smartphone.

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Almost all of your examples require entering a dark area and physically doing something before SmartThings can figure out what you’re trying to do and so turn on the lighting scene you want. Theory and practice again. (You’re not going to start the grill in the dark, for example.)

As for presence sensor on the dog–that device doesn’t work that way. It’s not a doorway threshhold sensor. Dog in the yard vs dog in the house isn’t a measurable change at most people’s suburban houses if you’re relying on the ST presence sensor.

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So, is it easier to flip a switch from a dashboard than to flipping the real physical switch or alternate ways? Again, there’s motion sensors you can throw into the mix too. Also there’s voice commands. There’s million ways to indicate that you’re going to do something than relying on centralizing all of the switches in a dashboard.

For me? Absolutely. I have an iPad mounted on my wheelchair, I can work it with a knuckle tap or voice for many apps. Wall switches are really difficult for quads. Assuming I can get close to it (not a guarantee), I can’t even lift my arms above my shoulders, so… Tablet FTW every time. (Motion sensors present a different problem because of the dog.)

For ablebodied people, different things come into play. A tablet lets you tap a single “activity” tab (typically a hello home action or a virtual switch) which then fires off a bunch of different things at once. Why? Because that’s what you wanted right then, no other reason. You don’t have to remember exactly which sequence to do when. “Movie time” can include a settings you didn’t even remember you’d done. Same with “Grilling time” or “Coyote alert!” The tab labels are your own cognitive shortcut.

And if you have other people around, that cognitive shortcut is super helpful. A “baby’s nap” tab does everything you want done, including shifting the doorbell to a blinking light, whether it’s the 17 year old sister or the visiting aunt doing the babysitting.

A person less familiar with your house standing and looking at the tablet is way more likely to guess right about which tab to press than someone dealing with multiple devices in multiple rooms.

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And a dashboard is the 1,000,001st way.

In other words, there’s no reason to withhold an interface that some people prefer, just because some other people don’t.

Luxury home automation (Crestron, Control 4, Savant, …) have featured physical button control panels in the past, and then touch-screen panels as that technology became available (way before iPads).

Yes … true automation reduces the need for manual controls, but having the controls available in a fully-customizable manner is a valuable addition to a SmartHome. It’s the manual override. It gives control back to the user when they desire direct control.

And let’s not forget: Dashboards are for OUTPUT even more than input. A well designed dashboard can supply useful information at a glance:

  • “Are all my windows closed?”,
  • “What’s the temperature?”,
  • “Is my child home and when did he arrive?”,
  • … endless questions are easily answered on a dashboard.

Just to be clear, I never did ask to withhold the interface. I’m inviting people to imagine/think differently because ST falls short in this area. Again I pointed out that ST is focused on home automation, not remote controlling.

Back to my point of true automation, if everything is well planned (including planning for unplanned situations), you don’t even need to do this! It’s more like exception handling in programming. The solution doesn’t need to be a dashboard.

That is a scenario that could lead to an infinite stack of turtles. Jokes. I think this needs a little perspective. There is a reason every car has a dashboard. It’s an interface that works. Sure, people have added bells and whistles to it, but the basic idea has been constant; provide information. Even if your self driving car knew when to stop and charge itself, it would still have a charge gauge.

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Full automation is a pipe dream. Or at least 25+ years off. Let me explain.

Today, HA is in a fetal stage. It has no legs, doesn’t know its environment or even who is in the environment.

If you are single, you can automate a lot, until someone else comes over and tries to use the system.

User input has to play a key role for the next 25+ years as 2 generations of digital immigrants are the ones buying and installing HA systems.

Until the digital natives are 3 generations deep, this won’t be a reality.

Automation needs trigger points.

A motion sensor doesn’t know me vs anyone else in my house.

Sure, a presence sensor or my phone might be linked to me, but then ST doesn’t even have users (yet?) based programming.

A standard 4 person household and HA needs UI to check status, trigger basics, run programs, etc. ST gives us a basic Things view, but frankly, any developer who knows HTML can build their own dashboard solution using OAUTH.

SmartTiles was just one of the best, but if you want to build your own, its easy. Well, as long as you know what you are doing…

Why ST hasn’t done a 1st party solution is beyond me (besides not having enough resources) but this is the ONLY platform that gives US, the community, the ability to BUILD whatever WE want.

Build, hack, share, improve, break and then repeat… Just as long as we can get ST to stop playing just the role of break :smile:


That should be a t-shirt.


Ah - TOGAF ADM - you should have just said so… :wink:

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I think people got the message…several posts back…I think they’re trying to give you a message.

In a regular, messy, human world, we cannot currently plan for and automate everything that may happen.

Do you really expect me to sit down and identify all those “once a year”, “once every two years”, “once in a lifetime” situations and then set up rules to cater for them? And then explain to everybody who visits my household how things work…and then explain why it doesn’t automatically work the way they want to do something…

Can you hear that sound? That’s the sound of all my time saved by automation disappearing, and then some.

Even if I did something once a week (52 times a year!) it may not be worth automating.

I’m interested in home automation because I want the robots to do work for me, not because I want to become a robot.

I suspect that, like most of the rest of life, there is an 80/20 rule that applies here - there is a percentage of things which you might possibly automate but which just aren’t worth automating because the cost and effort to do so in a useable and reliable fashion far outweigh the benefits of doing so. The same technology which underpins SmartThings to enable automation, however, also enables remote operation, which on its own might be worthwhile.

I think the message people are trying to get through to you is, whilst the answer doesn’t need to be a dashboard, sometimes a dashboard is the quickest, cheapest and easiest solution. Furthermore, just because we use a dashboard for some cases doesn’t mean we don’t use (or aren’t open to) automation of other cases where there is a positive net gain in doing so.


Of course I agree it’s poor use of time if you’re trying to automate something that happens once in a blue moon. However, since it’s once a year thing, why do you need a fancy dashboard while the basic remote functionality in the app does the job?

Here’s an example for what I meant about exception:
If you’re within home boundary, set thermostat to “home”. If you’re detected out of home boundary, set it as “away”. And for the exception, if the system doesn’t know where you are, set it to “home” so you still can enjoy comfortable temperature in case things didn’t work out as planned.
It is as simple as that.

I agree with you that it’s only sometimes.

The more automated, the less you need to interact with the system. The less you need to interact, the less relevant a dashboard will be, since everything is simplified to fewer controls.

Since you’re using car as an example, there’s no steering wheels on googles self driving car. http://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/news/a26070/google-self-driving-car-interior-looks-like-playskool/

But you’re overlooking the realities of human nature. We are not that predictable.

Some evenings a set point 68* is too hot for me, sometimes 72* is too cold. And same with light dimmer levels, sound volume, blind angles, you name it.

So I’m obviously prone to hot flashes and chills. Thank goodness for a convenient Dashboard or few where I can adjust my settings with minimal effort. Or even just see what the temperature is inside and out to help convince me I should be comfortable.

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Meanwhile, in the strange-but-true category, Samsung SDS just this month certified a whole line of new zwave plus home automation devices for the Korean market. Including an IoT hub, a couple of sensors, a door lock, a push button–and a wall mount tablet dashboard.



So we’re now going to descend into reductio ad absurdum?

I install the dashboard once - I use it in manifold cases.

Let me turn the question around…

Why should I deal with a complicated UI on the fancy SmartThings app when the basic interface on the dashboard lets me do something in far less than half the time?

Going back to the cost / benefit tradeoff, the short time it took to install the dashboard has been more than paid-off in the time saved by not having to navigate the SmartThings app’s UI.

Note: I’m not seeking to denigrate the SmartThings app. As has been pointed out previously - it’s built for a different purpose.

So - I’m going to keep using a dashboard, as I suspect many others will. I will also use automation where I see a benefit in doing so.

What I’m not going to do is waste my time attempting to automate everything and I’m not going to waste any more time arguing the point as it seems you’re more interested in having a theoretical argument rather than dealing with messy reality.

It seems we are destined to disagree.


@chuckles , at this point I’m not sure what have I disagreed with you. I did not say that people should not use dashboard. Nor I’ve said that you should automate everything or should waste time trying to do so.

I only merely pointed out that if things are done right, dashboards are going to be less relevant and this can be achieved. NO, I did not say that it can be achieved for everything.