New User with v2, lots of Q's

Hi,

I got my v2 hub yesterday and so far have paired my existing bulbs and the motion sensor with Smartthings. I don’t have many devices, just playing around till I figure out what my goals are for my home. I had used Wink for short time recently when I got my bulbs, but decided to wait for the Smartthings v2 hub after reading up on all of the HA options. Now it’s here!

My first impressions are only so so. I need the community’s help because I am just not getting the philosophy of organization in the app. Wink handles setup and getting basic functionality running a lot better. In the end Wink is not as flexible, but it nails usability and getting automations up and running easily. Sorry in advance if my issues are easy to answer, like I said, I am just not getting it.

What’s the dashboard for? It has one item, the Smart Home Monitor and that’s it. I can’t see how to get anything else on it. It’s the main screen so I presume it’s supposed to be more useful than this. I see screenshots from the old app and it had a lot more available.

Is grouping lights not part of the basic functionality? Browsing the forum makes it seem like this was removed from the new app in favor of Smart Lights, but I don’t want to automate the lights. I want to group bulbs by fixture and control them all with one easily accessible software switch. I must be confused here, please help! Without this basic functionality bulbs are a PITA!

On the Home screen my mode is Away. I don’t see anywhere to change this or even what that setting is based on/used for.

I had trouble controlling a GE dimmer switch until I moved my hub out a bit. I guess it was a reception issue but it is only in the next room with one wall in between (20’ to 25’ away). Is that about the range for Zwave?

I think the main disconnect I have is between SmartApps and Routines. I put an automation into Smart Lighting to turn all my outdoor lighting on at sunset. So far so good. But if I want to turn on those same lights at a different time manually, I have to do all the same setup in a routine instead? That would be OK if I could then run the routine from Smart Lighting, but they can’t leverage each other.

There are a lot of missing options from Smart Lighting. If i turn my lights on at sunset the only option I have to turn them off is sunrise. I had to create a separate Smart Lighting automation to turn them off at a set time.

Bonus question: What are the best smoke detectors to pair with Smartthings?

I have really enjoyed browsing this community for the past month or so and I’m excited to finally be getting my feet wet. Thanks!

I’m tired today, so I will keep this answer short. Hopefully others can add details as needed.

Regarding lights in groups, I agree, I don’t know why that functionality was lost with the new version of the app. We have been told that there will be a new way to group things called “sets” and that is currently an option in the app but doesn’t do anything. So we’ll have to wait to see how that works.

Regarding the smart lights smart app, you can have multiple copies of that. When you go into the marketplace and you choose it one of the options will be to “edit automation name.” It will then be saved under that name.

Where things get very confusing is that if you then go to the things screen and then choose smart apps, you’ll see all the multiples but they don’t have the custom names. So you can’t tell which one is which.

However, if you go into the things screen and choose rooms, and then choose an individual device from there, and then choose the smart apps associated with it, you will see the smart lights Smartapp under its custom name. (In my example I named it “Shelf Lighting.”)

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More on modes:

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Zwave plus range is typically up to 100 feet in the Open air, no obstructions between the sender and the receiver.

However, the signal starts to degrade as it passes through various different materials. Concrete is one of the worst, tinted glass is worse then clear glass, some types of insulation or water pipes degrade the signal, big metal appliances etc.

So it’s not unusual to have signal drop off at 25 feet just depending on what’s in between the two.

The good news is that zwave is a mesh protocol which means that messages will get relayed along the network until they reach the eventual destination. Of course that means there have to be other devices closer in to do the relay, but most plugged in devices will also relay for others. So typically light switches, plug-in modules, plug-in sensors, and wired relays can all help extend the mesh. Zwave can handle up to four hops between sender and destination receiver.

(Zwave Will only repeat for Z wave and Zigbee will only repeat for Zigbee.)

So typically if you have a device of that protocol every 20 to 25 feet you should be fine. A room with a floor to ceiling aquarium, or a very complicated home theater system with a lot of different metal pieces, or a room with concrete walls, or a room with metallic wallpaper might need devices closer together. Sometimes you just have to experiment.

It helps that the same construction materials that affect zwave and Zigbee affect other RF devices, including Wi-Fi. So if you just walk around your house with your mobile phone and look at the number of bars you get when the phone is attached to your Wi-Fi network, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where signals drop off due to local architecture.

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Thanks so much JDRoberts. So they removed the mode changing functionality and we have to put in our own hacks to actually use it. So insane! Haha! I guess this is what happens when I come on board right after a major software revision.

I could edit my Smart Lighting automation when i access it through the thing page, but I still can’t run it from there. It will only run at the time scheduled, right?

It depends on what you chose to trigger it.

For example, you can choose to run it when you flip a switch, or when you press a button on the Minimote. So in those cases you can run it manually whenever you want.

So… You could create a virtual switch first, then set up the smart lights to run when that virtual switch is pressed, and then open the app and press the virtual switch and it will execute. Which, yeah, I know. Ugly… Say no more. This thing has become completely unintuitive to set up, although I think it’s pretty powerful once you do have it set up the way you want.

There is a nice third-party rules engine for iOS only called smartrules which I like a lot, and works much more like a wink type rule set up. So for an extra $10, you fill a lot of the gaps in SmartThings. That one is intuitive. So at least we know it could be done. They have a free version with only one rule that you can try and see if you like it. I don’t know if there’s been any problems with the V2 hub though.

http://smartrulesapp.com from @obycode

And there’s a much much better dashboard app developed by a community member which is free to try and then you can contribute if you found value in it. Very popular. Again I don’t know if there any V2 problems with it.

http://www.smarttiles.click from @625alex

Those two together give people much more what they expect from a 2015 home automation system. :sunglasses:

Still, I haven’t really finished exploring the new official app, it’s not very accessible.

I know @bravenel ( One of the community’s master coders) really likes the new smartlights solution, so maybe he or other people who do like it can say more. I may just have missed some stuff.

Not really. You can change modes via Routines, and your Routines can trigger based on time of day, sunrise sunset, and presence (among other things.)

So I have a good morning/good night trigger based on sunrise/sunset and presence, Goodbye and I’m Back based on presence, and a couple new routines I’ve added for “Going on Vacation”, Arm/Away, etc.

I haven’t manually changed modes ever with the V2 app/hub.

Also, until they fix lights, you can make a Routine - say “turn on all lights in living room” and put a bunch of lights in there, and turn them all on (or off) when that routine is run.

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I think I am getting their thought process a little more. I want centralized control with some options for automation, but they are prioritizing full automation which is kind of making it a pain to do what I want. With the customization allowed I think I’ll be able to get what I want. I’m going to give SmartTiles a try.

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Wow, I am tired today!

One thing I forgot to mention that SmartThings got very very very very right is their official Amazon echo integration. It works great! Once you use virtual switches it’s extremely powerful.

So from the on the fly control standpoint, if you can use voice and you’re willing to invest in the Echo, smartthings makes echo 100 times better. :sunglasses:

Echo is now the main way we turn lights on and off at our house, and that includes different groups of lights. (Echo allows you to have the same device in many different groups, which is very convenient. So we can have one group for the living room lights, another group for a pathway of lights from The living room to the bedroom, another group for a subset of living room lights to dim when were watching a movie, all that.)

If I thought of smartthings as nothing more than a bridge between echo and The devices around the house that I want to control by voice, it would be worth the $99 to me. (I’m quadriparetic, so voice control is a big deal for me.)

So as always, different people have different needs and preferences and may therefore find different features more or less important.

We use Echo as our remote control mechanism as well. We keep it in the living room and have the microphone in the master bedroom. Between it and SmartTiles we rarely use the app for control.

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I created a virtual switch and use that to trigger a Smart Lights automation to control the outdoor lights now after following some of the rabbit holes pointed out by JDRoberts. It allows me to set the dim level in the automation but I can’t adjust the dim level from that grouping. Part way there at least! They could use a simulated dimmer option in the devices.

@JDRoberts, I agree that the integration of HA with Echo makes Echo infinitely better. I jumped onboard with Echo as a Beta tester for the platform. I had this deep gut feeling that it was going to be a stepping stone for the next level of HA control. I started with the HUE lights and have limited my spending to ONLY devices that were officially compatible among the entire system. I have the HUE bridge as well as Wink Hub, both working in unison with Echo. I like Wink for the reliability of the device. I also agree that it is not very flexible to the user, but with some imagination you can do a lot with it. The reason I’ve jumped on ST is because of the extreme flexibility of the device. It allows me to do anything! And now that it is officially integrated with Echo, I can’t wait for it to show up on my door step! BTW, I live in a 2 story house and have an Echo on each level.

I have a plan for the Echo and I’m not sure if anyone else has tried this yet (my searches haven’t turned up anything). I plan to open Echo and use it as a central processing unit for each level of the house. By this I intend to integrate remote microphones and speakers in each room of the house. I do want these mic/speakers hardwired to echo. Reliability of the system is paramount for this to work.

I will continue to use the HUE bridge, the Wink hub, and now the ST hub in unison with Echo. I believe that each device has it’s unique positives that help to make the overall system more universal and flexible.

But, my ultimate goal is to have be able to walk into any room in the house and be able to control the devices in that room via the centrally placed Echo.

I dream of living in the Enterprise! My wife is ok with this, as long as SkyNet is NOT involved.

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We have two echoes in a one story house and find we get pretty much complete coverage. My housemate does use the remote late at night in his room. Works great for us.

One of the things I especially like is that we have a lot of people coming and going, including friends and family, and healthcare workers (I’m quadriparetic) and it’s so nice not to have to individually validate each person to use the system. :sunglasses: :bulb:. We have a couple of signs on the walls with typical commands, and that’s it. everybody really likes it.

I’ve used a lot of voice technology over the years, including some big medical centers, and the echo just blows me away with its farfield recognition.

There are some people in the community who have talked about adding additional microphones and speakers, but as soon as you do that you’re back to typical Bluetooth quality. Which means you have to be within about 6 feet of the microphone and any background noise, particularly the television, will throw it off completely.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, I just think that part of the echo experience is the amazing quality of the hardware in that specific device. But different people have different standards and preferences and some will find that multiple microphone set ups work really well for them. It’s certainly an interesting time for voice control!

(Did you know the echo includes sound canceling technology, so that when it’s playing music or giving a weather report, it doesn’t hear what it’s playing? Which is the reason why it can hear you give the next command in an ordinary tone of voice and you don’t have to shout over your own music. Very cool.)

The reduced bluetooth quality is a major concern. Amazon really did make a high quality product with Echo.

An idea has been bouncing around in my head this morning…

I saw a modification of the remote that a person to use the remote, without pressing the button, to talk Echo. This allows for hands free voice control from another room using the remote. My idea would consist of building this device but incorporate bluetooth into it (maybe an old cell phone) so that I can wear an ear peace anywhere in the house and just talk through it. As long as my BT stays connected to the device then it should work.

I don’t think I would have sound feedback from Echo through the BT, but I could talk to her from anywhere in the house.

It would kind of be like the commincators that are on the Star Trek uniform, but worn on the ear.

I don’t think it would be that difficult to incorporate a BT device into the system.

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So just to confirm. I can’t currently share my account so my wife can operate our home on her phone? Seriously???

On the plus side I coded a SmartApp today which monitors the switch on my espresso machine and lets me know when it’s preheated by sending me a notification and/or SMS after its on X amount of time. I put it on a schedule with Smart Lighting for now, but I might eventually roll it all into an espresso machine manager.

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Tell me that you have asked Alexa about SkyNet :smiley:

The ONLY reason we got ST V2 was because of the integration with Echo. Sorry had ( have) 3 Wink hubs and links and setting them up again just for Echo integration was NOT worth putting up with all the unreliability issues of the Wink system. I agree app a nicer/easier UI than ST but after 18 months still far from ready for prime time.
We got our first Echo in Dec 14 and out 2nd in March. Like you we have 1 Echo on each side of our house and the voice remotes in the bedrooms. Not sure I would invest the current $179 each ( $219 with remote) in them, but if I did I still think they are worth it.

That was the first thing I asked her… My wife was not amused with her answer. I got the first echo at 99.00 with the remote, the second one was 179.00 but still worth it.

I do not have a lot of things in my system, yet. All light bulbs, one switch, and one for sensor. It’s a small system but it is stable.

I do not like the delay from the wink hub, the hue hub is instant.

The only problem ice run into lately is the robot for the sensor. When the door opens there is sometimes up to a10 second delay before the foyer lights come on. And then it’s a 50/50 chance of them turning off.

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Yup the 30 second ( on a good day) response with the Wink ( when it was even online) for the lights to turn on when we unlock the door was a major deciding factor in its retirement . A+ is all local , so it was instantaneous .
The reason I went with ST V2 was the advertised local control, which turned out to not be true. I was leery about going back to cloud , but so far the response times have been equal ( < 1sec) using Echo and ST than they were even using the local touchscreen on the A+ . So everybody is happy .

I haven’t received my ST V2 yet, but I’ve been charged and I’m waiting on it. I also haven’t used the V1 hub, so I’m really hoping for a much better experience.

I have heard that you do have local processing if all of your devices are on the approved list. So, for some things like my front door sensor and foyer lights, our the stair lights and motion sensors, I’ll spend the money and go with the approved list devices. That lack of delay really makes or breaks the system.

When there is a delay it raises doubt if it is going to work. I want my smart things to work right, the first time, every time.

This is why I am expanding my system slowly. I want quality and reliability.

All your devices and all the code that runs them. Right now that is limited to a single SmartApp, the lighting wizard which is called “smart lights.”

There are a couple of dozen other approved smartapps in the marketplace, but they will not run locally as of yet. We’ve been told more will be approved, but no specific timeline.

SmartThings is a highly versatile, highly powerful, very open system. It is not, however, the most reliable in this market niche. In fact the versatility is what makes it less reliable, there are just a lot more potential points of failure.

Different systems have different pros and cons, and different priorities. Staples connect has as its target market small businesses. For that reason, from the beginning it has made reliability its top priority, and it has largely succeed at it.

However, it got that reliability by choosing not to implement any features that might endanger it. It doesn’t have Geopresence, it doesn’t have an IFTTT channel, it doesn’t allow user programming, and it has a very limited set of devices. If you read their forums you find that almost all the complaints are about specific devices not being available for the system, and the slow rate of innovation. But they don’t typically get complaints about things that worked on Monday no longer working on Tuesday.

Smartthings on the other hand is a hotbed of innovation. Every month, there are exciting new devices available, often because of community innovation. The Official integration with echo was great. But the integration with the $15 securifi keyfob was also great, very popular and done unofficially by community members.

I like SmartThings a lot. I use it every day, all the time. But I only use it for convenience use cases where I have a Plan B available for when SmartThings isn’t working. Because it’s also true that every month something that worked the month before stops working, at least for a little while.

So I think it’s a good system, but I also think you need to know what you’re getting when you make that choice. Great vision, great staff, great community. Reliability would not, however, be one of my top five reasons for choosing SmartThings.

FWIW

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