My solution for keeping SmartThings and maintaining smart bulb control during outages

smartlighting
outage
alternative_hub

(Bryce) #1

I jumped on the SmartThings bandwagon during the Black Friday sales, upgrading my girlfriend’s home from a Wink v1 and doing a greenfield deployment of ST + smart bulbs for my house. We have a mix of Cree, IKEA, Hue, and Sengled bulbs. We have Alexa devices in every room and I deployed some Xiaomi buttons at my house.

The Xiaomi button handler attached to a virtual toggle button hasn’t been great and the latency is awful. There are the occasional Alexa outages to contend with. And the ST cloud outages have been a giant frustration, especially with this last one dragging out long enough to impact everyone in our households.

I don’t want to leave SmartThings, for the same reasons I chose it in the first place – ease of use, fantastic development environment, and the wonderful community. What I need is a way to maintain local control of our smart bulbs.

What I found was deconz and the RaspBee / ConBee. The latest builds provide a Hue-compatible API. It supports ZLL. It has native support for IKEA’s inexpensive remotes and sensors. Best of all with the IKEA remotes, it programs them such that they can directly control the bulbs without directly pairing them yourself – they keep working with my deconz system powered off, even with my ZHA-only bulbs (tho for ZHA they seem a bit less reliable, experimenting with building a separate ZHA-only network is on my future todo list).

It does have some caveats: The deconz web UI isn’t as slick as others, tho they’re working on a better UI called Phoscon. It doesn’t have much native automation support but that’s really the purpose of keeping SmartThings around. There’s no phone / tablet app but for light control it works with anything that supports the Hue local API. Support for RGB bulbs that don’t use the Hue-style color scheme (ie: Sengled color bulbs) is poor and some things which use the Hue API (including SmartThings) won’t recognize them at all. Ironically, the official Hue iOS app works with my Sengled colors via deconz just fine.

My setup is now ZigBee Devices -> RaspBee / deconz -> ST -> Alexa. My next step will be to link Alexa directly to deconz so that Alexa will keep working in the event of an ST outage, the only gotcha there is that Alexa doesn’t support color with the local Hue API so there’s some configuration headache involved – basically, disable the non-color ST devices in Alexa since she can fully control those without ST, and with the color bulbs doing some name mangling with the duplicated devices so we have normal control of color via ST when everything’s working but can still do on/off when it’s not.

A killer side benefit to this setup: I am now free to play with other Hue-compatible automation controllers without the risk of breaking things. Breakage sucks.

There’s also a somewhat related project called diyHue which provides a more complete Hue emulator that also works with many WiFi bulbs, can make IKEA remotes appear as Hue remotes, and can aggregate additional Hue-compatible hubs. It supports deconz, tho due to deconz now implementing Hue API / SSDP natively it needs to run from a separate IP or have SSDP disabled.

This isn’t a complete solution for keeping every type of home automation device operating when the Cloud / Internet fails, but it will keep the lighting control working and right now that’s the most important factor for keeping my households happy. Well, maybe the Plex server is slightly more important…


#2

Is there a guide?

I am looking for Smartthing alternatives. ST initially worked great when I got it (late 2016) but it has become unacceptable how bad and unreliable it is now.
Essentially, I have to spend 5-8 hours EVERY weekend to reconnect all my devices. WTF?

ST Hub is a piece of #$%^#$%^#% at this point.


No working devices since Friday 3/16 - NO RESPONSE from Support
(Bryce) #4

I think I originally set this up following diyHue’s RaspBee instructions but the deconz people also have a ready-to-go RPi image. There’s not a whole lot to it for this use case. Get it running, pair devices, configure any remotes / sensors, link to SmartThings or some other controller as a Hue hub.


(Robin) #5

If you use smart switches instead of smart bulbs then the wall switches will always work, no matter what happens to the net / cloud… and the other half won’t keep switching the power off to the bulbs lol.

Direct association of remotes is another good trick as is choosing devices that work with ST’s local handlers.

I’m rethinking everything though… My Hubitat Elevation arrived today (well, the import duty bill arrived lol, the hub is sitting in the sorting office round the corner).

I’ll be bench testing Hubitat over the next few weeks… haven’t decided which way to go with my mothers new build yet but 100% local is very appealing… not so much for reliability as I’ve generally managed to avoid most issues with the above reccomendations, but more for the lighting fast response times that local automation promises!

Big down side of Hubitat right now is the lack of a mobile app, but we’re told it’s in the works and for me at least, good automation shouldn’t need much manual input anyway.


#6

Please stop doing this in every topic possible. This does not answer the question nor do you know the user’s situation and whether this is an appropriate solution considering the limited device support and control.


(Edward Niedziejko) #7

This is who I replied to. It’s a smartthings alternative. What does it matter to you?


#8

It matters to me because Hubitat is NOT and alternative to ST yet.

What if the user uses HUE? What if the user uses Nest? Or MyQ? Or notifications? What if the user simply uses an app to control HA?

In all these cases, Hubitat simply isn’t the answer right now.

It is completely irresponsible for you to advise someone to switch to Hubitat in instances where you have not even CONSIDERED the ramifications. Not only to the user, but to the reputation of a new platform.

The user was simply asking for a guide to the Rasbee solution. You decided that this was a promotion opportunity. To me, that’s negligent, especially since you have been on Hubitat for less than a month, AND on the ST community for 4 months.

Let’s not even mention that you never bothered to ask the user questions to determine if Hubitat was suitable.

It’s awesome that we’ve found a platform that works for US when ST is down. What’s more important is that we practice discernment when recommending it to other users.

IMHO.


(Bryce) #9

True, but we went all-in on smart bulbs because (1) we didn’t want to fiddle with electrical wiring, (2) with white smart bulbs it worked out much cheaper per switched fixture / outlet, and (3) color bulbs. Since doing it I’ve also come to appreciate the flexibility of bulb-level control – we’ve put more lamps in places we want more / directed light, we can turn off specific bulbs that reflect off the TV screens, etc.

Everything involved in this transition to deconz probably tilts the costs in favor of switches if we were doing a fresh deployment but at this point our 70-ish smart bulbs are a sunk cost and I’m very attached to bulb-level control.

Schedules and motion sensors have cut down this problem for us – more an issue with guests than the other half and kids. Switch blockers are the next upgrade…

And just so it’s clear – this solution for the remotes works with all of our bulbs (mostly Sengled and Hue, a few Cree, and IKEA E12). Deconz pairs to the remote and deconz handles provisioning the bulbs to work with it, no manually pairing the remote to each bulb as with an all-IKEA implementation.

It has never been clear to me if ST has local handlers for any remotes, and aside from the Xiaomi stuff the prices are unattractive. Local device handling is ideal for whatever automation processing that happens on-device but reasonably-priced local control of smart bulbs is a giant gap.


(Robin) #10

Smart dimmer switches also work locally as ‘dumb’ dimmers in the event of net / cloud down time.

But I completely get your preference for bulbs, especially with such a large existing investment!

Direct association for smart bulbs will always be difficult… they would need to be zwave plus and support association which is rare for bulbs (I can’t think of any myself but don’t use bulbs so wouldn’t know).


#11

I am interested in the Raspberry Pi solution.
Does this integrate directly with alexa? Can you tie in with cell phones (android)?

The goal is to get totally rid of SmartThings. It’s a terrible solution that just DOES NOT WORK.
(It used to be great but it has been totally unusable for a couple of months now)


#12

Thank you.
I have started looking into Hubitat.

After the !@$#@#$@#@#$% MESS(!!!) that is SmartThings, I am hesitant to shell out $130+ for something that may or may not work.
(I got SmartThings for $50 and I would say I overpaid by approximately $1000 given the amount of time I have wasted on it)


(Bryce) #13

Yes. Alexa will work with any Hue-compatible hub on the local network. The only gotcha there is that Alexa only supports color commands via skills, and this won’t work with the Hue skill because that goes through the meethue.com cloud – you’d need to front deconz with some hub that has an Alexa skill to support color commands.

Works with the Hue app locally. For remote you can use the Alexa app, or put another hub in place that works with Hue and provides remote access.

Obviously replacing SmartThings isn’t my goal here, but deconz is really only a piece of a solution – it is oriented towards ZigBee lighting-related stuff and there’s not much built-in automation (simple schedules and lighting groups for motion sensors / remotes). It’s like having an actual Hue hub and all-Hue lighting… with a few less features. You’ll need something else to provide all the other stuff that ST can do and for me, I’m sticking with ST for that, at least for the near term.

The upshot is that once your lighting is on deconz it’s easy to experiment with other controllers, or even multiple controllers at the same time, without disrupting all that stuff. I’m really interested to play with the Mozilla IoT Gateway but it’s early days to consider relying on it.


(Joe) #14

This is coming with the next Release. It will also support groups.
I use hue almost exclusively in my house so what I’ve done is installed a web server and then wrote an app that makes a get call to the webserver to control my lights based on motion or contact sensor. This way all of my custom devices run locally.

SmartThings Doesn’t officially support Nest either, but Hubitat is working on it.

There has been community developed apps in hubitat to receive notifications.
There are also other notification that can be sent via sms in their home monitoring app I believe.

They are working on this also. However as a work around there is a community developed app that creates virtual devices in smartThings for every Device you have in Hubitat. What I’ve done is used that app to sync the devices to smartThings and then I use Action Tiles to control my stuff. Or you can use the SmartThings app.

Someone also ported webCoRE over to hubitat and Harmony integration. Some of these aren’t the prettiest of ports, but I am positive they will get better with time. When I started with ST back in 2014 or some crap (It was like just after they launched.) The apps weren’t nearly as nice as they are now.


#15

That was exactly my point. These are things that are planned, not things that are presently available as platform features or supported integrations.

This would have potentially left the user in a worse situation than he was with ST. Up and down is sometimes better than “we’re working on adding that”.


(Joe) #16

If you insist. However you were asking what if a user wanted to do certain things and I gave you solutions to those certain things.

How is a user any worse off over at hubitat than they are here on SmartThings? The OP developed his own Work around for a problem on SmartThings. In fact he would be better off developing a work around on hubitat because any device would run locally. Right now on smartThings some devices run in the cloud and some don’t. I am guaranteed to have all of my devices running locally on hubitat with a little effort.

Now if you want to argue that not all users a technical enough to use Hubitat right now, you are correct. However, the OP worked around a short coming of smartThings, so telling him about Hubitat is a valid suggestion.


#17

You did not give solutions. You simply confirmed my point that those features were not available in Hubitat at this time, with the exception of community hacks and pushover workarounds for notifications.

This is exactly what part of my post was about, if you would’ve noticed the context.

My post was not even in direct reference to the OP. It was regarding advising what appeared to be a nontechnical user having trouble with ST to actually buy Hubitat without bothering to get more information about their situation.

And again. Hubitat is currently NOT a Smartthings equivalent, no matter how anyone wants to spin it. It simply does not have the same features, levels of integration, support and community backing that Smartthings has. That is not to diminish their brain trust and talent, or that they leveraged as much of ST as they could in building out their platform.


(Joe) #18

Ummmmm… yes I did because I am using these Solutions.

At which point was there a suggestion to a non technical user? Nothing in coolVariable’s comment states that he is non technical.

You’re right. And they don’t want to be. They want to be a great home automation platform.

Not yet, but I see more people joining every day. It also doesn’t have the downtime and problems that smartThings does.

I understand your a fanboy of smartThings, but maybe don’t flag someones post because they gave a suggestion.


#19

I’m not here for forum PVP. Hubitat is in its infancy and a few users are touting it without sufficient experience on the platform. Any recommendations without explaining the obvious caveats is simply irresponsible and not really in the spirit of the ST community.

I will not continue to hijack and detract from this topic by responding, as I believe my points were made.


(Bryce) #20

Here I was, trying to provide a helpful solution to SmartThings users for controlling smart bulbs in the face of ST cloud failures, and the thread gets completely overrun by Hubitat trolls. Not a one of you has said That’s an interesting approach, here’s a way to accomplish that using a Hubitat instead of deconz.


(Edward Niedziejko) #21

I apologize for unintentionally initiating the cluster%^&$ that followed by offering a smartthings alternative to someone who posted in your thread asking about alternatives. I did not intent to derail your thread.

Your approach is creative and a helpful band-aid for the far too frequent downtimes of smartthings.

@MEarly, if you can’t see that your attitudes and attacks on others is the very “forum PVP” you claim you’re not here for, then take a break. You’re taking this, and yourself, far too seriously.