New to SmartThings, What Do I Need to Know?

I am new to Home Automation and SmartThings. For the past several days I have been doing a lot of research and asking a lot of questions to people that seem to know. Although I do not know HA, I am a techie so I think I can catch on pretty fast. I am even hoping to be able to do some customization and/or development before its over.

I want to get started and try some HA. I have decided to buy the SmartThings hub any day now. I am going this route so I can get my feet wet with it and see how much I can do with it or use it. If it works out well, I may end up getting something like myServer in the long run. For now, I am going to tryout ST.

I think I know the basics of what the ST hub is meant to do. What I want to learn more about is how ST works more specifically and how to implement things. For example, I hear a lot about this “Core” model and about the user ability to “customize” the use of ST with any devices. What do I need to know?

I have learned the basics of communication methods, like Z-Wave, ZigBee, etc. I am sure I will have lots of questions along the way, but I’d like to hit the ground running. I am hoping to buy the hub tomorrow and hopefully I can find at least 1 device to buy ASAP so I can work with it.

I think my first devices will start with: garage door opener, Door Lock, Light(maybe), proximity/presence sensor. I would also like to ad things like cameras and door sensors later. Like I said, I want to start to get experience and run a couple devices.


( i’ve moved this to projects so you can get answers specific to your own interests and setup. )

CoRE is basically a scripting language for SmartThings. Since you have a technical background, you should find it very interesting: (this is a clickable link)

In addition, you’d probably find the following Welcome FAQ helpful:

The community – created wiki also has quick browse lists of project reports that should give you some ideas. In particular the “get started” list and the “impress your friends” list are fun to look at:

That should cover most of the basics of how the platform works.

As far as specific device classes, you might also take a look at the device class features FAQ:

For someone with your technical background, my only suggestion would be to start with two devices to begin with: one sensor and then probably a light. It could be a smart bulb or a smart switch. Sensor activation is where home automation really adds new functionality over just existing convenience cases. And SmartThings is particularly good at letting you control how you use that sensor information, as you’ll see as you start to look at core.

Alternatively, you can choose a specific problem that you want to solve and just work on that. There are many different ways to begin with home automation.

Anyway, looking at the project reports in the wiki will probably give you the best sense of what projects you might want to tackle first. Have fun! :sunglasses:


Yep, install and get familiar with CoRE, it’s pretty powerful. About 90% of my automations are handled by CoRE since they are too complex for the official smartapps to handle.

The developer is hard at work on the next iteration of core, called webCoRE, which puts all of the piston editing in a web browser instead of through the clunky ST app UI. It’s in Alpha so not everything is working yet but it’s looking pretty awesome. Good things coming on that front :slight_smile:

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Check this Wiki out:

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Thanks for the replies thus far.

So is core installed on the hub or on my phone/tablet? And where do I get it?

What are smart apps?

I just bought the hub but do not have a devices to manage yet. I guess I will start checking it out to get familiar with it.

Answers are in the links above. :wink:

Read the custom code FAQ (linked in the Welcome FAQ and the Core FAQ) to find out all about Smartapps.

CoRE is a smartapp. You can find out how to get it and install it from the CoRE FAQ. Or the wiki. :tada:

There really isn’t much that you can do with the hub if you don’t have any devices. It’s not a CPU that you have access to. When you write custom code, it will run in the SmartThings cloud, not on the hub. The hub is really just the device manager for the local radios, one for Z wave, one for zigbee, and one for the ethernet access to the cloud.

You’d get a lot more out of just reading the developer documentation:

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Thanks. I will take another look.

I just bought it from BestBuy. I have no idea if it is a Gen 1 or Gen 2. From what I have read, I definitely want the Gen 2. How can I tell?

Ok so I think I have GitHub setup and I think I have Core setup. As of now, I have no idea how to validate or use it, but I guess I am getting there. I definitely feel like I am chasing my tail with all the links and pages of docs. Not having a device to manage is not making it easier either. I just want to hit the ground running when my devices come in soon.

Home automation is intended to make your life easier. Not more stressful. You can do as little or as much as you want. But every step should either be aimed at something that will have a practical value, or something which is just fun for you.

Try this. Look at the thread which is the “top 10 Uses for Beginners.” Then pick just one of those things that you would actually like to do in your own house. Just in one room of your own house.

And then plan exactly how you would do it. What devices would you need? Would you just use a routine? The official smartlights feature? Or core?

I think if you focus on a specific project that would have actual value to you everything will flow a lot more easily for you and you’ll feel less stressed.

And there will be plenty of people in the forums who will be glad to help you once you get into specifics if you get stuck. :sunglasses:

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That makes sense to start with a purpose and I think I have something basic to do. I want to get my garage door opener able to be opened, and then add-on switches for my outdoor porch lights to come on. I’d like to have a couple scenarios where something like when its night, the garage door closes and lights come on together.

So I have some basic questions to start.

I understand that SmartApps are something like “tasks/rules” that other users have created to combine “steps” to accomplish something, eg “If…Then…Do This”. Is that correct? If so, what is the management interface to do create your own? Is it only the phone/tablet app? I definitely prefer to do dev work on my tablet/laptop, but is that possible?

So I understand that Core is a SmartApp that provides a more detailed way to produce “automation tasks”. Is that correct? If so, what makes it different than the non-core way of creating them? Also, if I create “something” in Core, what is it called? Is it a SmartApp?

I have heard about some apps, like SmartRules, that are supposed to be good at creating “stuff”. How does that compare to the default method and/or Core?

So if I understand correctly, there are 2 real types of development with ST. There is some kind of “rule/task” dev and the type of dev that allows a new smart device work with the ST hub. Am I correct?

I saw your post that shows as deleted. It was very helpful, thank you. Unfortunately, it says it will be removed within 24 hours.

Yeah, I felt it was better for that kind of basic information to come from the official sources. For one thing, I can’t keep up with all the changes! So I decided it didn’t really belong in an individual post in the forum.

I’m glad you found it helpful. It’s good for right now. It just didn’t feel like information that would last, so I deleted it.

Well, I guess I spoke too soon. It started working now. On the phone app, there is a large icon on the left that looks like status. I was clicking that because it was the only icon with color. When I clicked it, it changes to “closing” for example, but didn’t do anything. That’s why I posted. Now when I click the open or close button on the right, it does work.

Another question…

Until I get more of an “automated” open, how can I easily make this open/close function available to my family? I need them to be able to open the door, at least until I have it automatically open with some kind of sensor or something.

To add on to my question, I see my phone as a device and it picks up when I leave or arrive. How can I add a family members phone to the list? I want it to be able to use my sons phones for arrival, but I do not want them to be able to make changes to anything.

I have read and do see the family setting under my profile but I want to be able to make it easier than opening the app and want to give my son’s read only access. Any ideas?

Any ideas?