I need some out-of-the-box thinking; I am hoping that someone out here will have another solution (or at least a suggestion)
First of all, I have been providing technical support to small business for over 15 years. I have provided a lot of “non-standard” solutions to my customers who just can’t afford (time or money) to use “standard” solutions. And most of my customers are happy with my solutions that in many cases are still in use. I have provided solutions ranging from recommending software solutions, to the connection of networks, both wired and wireless, both small and large. I am Microsoft certified, but will be the first to admit that I am not an expert in all things. I can think. I can anticipate problems, and I can ferret out why some things don’t work. But sometimes I need a little help.
Now, for anyone that has built a home automation solution with over 50 connected devices, you will appreciate that you will try almost anything, provided it doesn’t include words like “master reset” or “general reset” or any such “answer”. Frankly I would rather replace 20% of my devices before I have to go through removing and reconnecting them (again).
I have made a number of calls to Samsung concerning a number of issues; most of them have to do with connecting and reconnecting devices; most of them are z-wave. Most of the support people I talk to are either uninformed, poorly trained, or uncertain what product they are supporting.
I migrated from two wi-fi access points (two SSIDs) and one home control node (Iris by Lowe’s) to Samsung SmartThings WI-FI Home (I think that is the correct name). Frankly, at this point, I don’t know what to call it: It came in one box with the name Samsung on the outside and three “hubs”. It was intended to resolve my wi-fi access point problem and provide a new home control node to replace the Iris by Lowe’s solution that was shuttering it’s doors. It was everything I could have wanted. Honestly, it has the potential to be the perfect solution for me. I now have one SSID for my property, one that can be accessed from anywhere in my property. And I thought I had a perfect control node for my “home controls”, one that could make use of the WI-FI mesh network when necessary, or could use the z-wave or Zigbee communication channels when available… Unfortunately, the home control portion of this “upgrade” hasn’t worked out so well.
When I have called for support, I have run into everything from “our support network computers are down” to I can’t find your account. I have been told they can’t get into the “api” system and I have been given instructions for SmartThings Hubs which are not necessarily correct for the Home Control (mesh) Systems - you see, I still can’t seem to find the right name for what I have, to differentiate it from the SmartThings Hubs (which, as best as I can determine, do not operate the same way as the mesh network.) And to top it off, for a system that is focused on the the private sector (the non-corporate entities that work for a living, 5 days a week) they don’t provide support services on Sundays, when virtually all of their customers have time available to resolve problems that cant be solved in a 5 minute call during lunch on Tuesday.
OK, enough bashing: let me get to the the crux of the mater: I need to understand where the two systems are the same and where they are not the same, so that I can stop interrupting the technicians I am talking with, when they seem to be taking me down the wrong path. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain. The one system comes to provide a WIFI “MESH” network in your home or office so that you can use one SSID everywhere on your property. Plume software will confirm that your access points are talking to each other, so that your devices can reach an access point with one SSID from any point in your home or office. This is wonderful, and fairly easy to understand as it is one stepping stone from where we all started when we first connect a computer to a wireless network.
Smart “things” on the other hand tend to rely on either z-wave or Zigbee channels for communications. They also build a “mesh” network to support the devices that are too far away from the primary connection (or “hub”) to intelligence (either a home computer, or an internet connection to the cloud) where they get additional support to know when to turn on or off a device (a light switch, an outlet, or thermostat) This is where things start to get a little blurry. Depending on the day and time I call Samsung SmartThings support, I am never sure if the tech I am talking with understands what I have (even thought they have access to the “api”). For example: one day I am discussing the “repeater” activity of z-wave devices so that those devices that can not talk directly to the primary z-wave hub can still receive direction from the property owner (or the cloud). So I directly ask if the WIFI hubs (the mesh network) also provide the same function for places on my property that might have z-wave connectivity issues to the primary z-wave hub. I have been told both yes, and no. So which is it? Can a command from the cloud reach a z-wave device on my network via the Ethernet connection to the primary hub, travel to a sub-hub, and then connect to the z-wave outlet on the perimeter of my network, or is that same signal forced to go from the hub to a z-wave device (another outlet for example), to a second z-wave device (a sensor device, for example) and then on to the focus of the command: the outlet that I need to turn on or off at given times, regardless of my presence on the property? I appreciate the possibility that either path is possible, but it makes it particularly difficult to trouble shoot a problem when you can’t resolve the communication path. And being told the ONLY solution is to do a master reset, so that everything can reconnect “as it should have originally”, I don’t mind rebuilding the network (and I have a number of times), that is not a panacea either.
So let me extend this problem just a little further: In the days of Lowe’s, one opportunity to reconnect an “offline” device, was to direct the hub to go into “add a device” mode, disconnect the device from it’s Ethernet connection and power source, and then take the hub to the device (a hard wired outlet) and push the 'connect" button on the device until you heard the beep, and then take the hub back to its home, reconnect it to its power and internet connections, and discover that the device you needed to reconnect was again back on the network. That doesn’t work so well with a hub that doesn’t have internal battery support for the travel to the z-wave device that you need to reconnect. Which brings me back to the original question about how the WIFI mesh network interact with the z-wave devices. Since I can’t take the primary hub to the device, perhaps I can take a “sub-hub” to the device. One Samsung Tech tells me that will work. Another tells me no, I need to reset my hubs, all of my hubs, restoring the factory conditions. I would sooner disconnect all of them and put them in the trash before I do that AGAIN. If that is the only solution, then you have a very bad design that did not understand the reality of the real world, particularly for those of us who have over 50 z-wave or Zigbee devices on our network, devices that existed before the age of little scanable ID tags.
And, for those of you who have not had enough of this conversation, let me add more more observation: Yesterday a first level tech took notice that we were unable to see the “sub-hubs” on the list of “devices” on the API. Well, I don’t know if they should, or should not be visible. It has been this way since the Samsung SmartThings Mesh network was installed back in March. I am not sure what I can see from the list of devices either on the phone or the API. It would appear that I can see the primary hub, but names between Plume and SmartThings are not consistent. I can see the primary hub and the sub-hubs in Plume. I can see something that appears to be the primary hub in the SmartThings application (the NEW application), as recently updated) but I have NEVER been able to see anything that appears to be a “sub-hub” Perhaps that is the answer to my previous question about using a sub-hub to connect outlying z-wave devices. If the only way to get them to appear is to do a “factory reset” (and then reconnect all of my z-wave and Zigbee) devices, I guess I need to be looking for a new controller for the z-wave and Zigbee devices)