Questions about SmartThings WiFi Mesh System

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)

Wow… That’s a long post.

I know your intention is to make sure we have as much background information as possible, but I, personally, find that it is important to summarize with only 1 or 2 specific questions.

So let me highlight 1 question you asked and answer it, and then you can ask specific follow-up questions. Sound fair.

The answer is no. The SmartThings WiFi Mesh system is not capable of routing ZigBee nor Z-Wave over IP protocol. i.e., not over Ethernet nor WiFi.


Heck, I’ll answer one more of your questions:

Of course they can’t. There is no such thing as a “SmartThings sub-hub”. Only a “SmartThings WiFi sub-hub” and such hardware is not acting as a SmartThings Hub, so SmartThings Support cannot see them. Only the Plume platform can. Furthermore, Plume doesn’t know anything about SmartThings Hub(s).

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What’s the model number of the Wi-Fi mesh hub that you have? It will be on the back of the device. That would simplify the question of what to call it. :wink:

As @tgauchat mentioned, there are very significant differences between the original “Samsung connect home“ WiFi Mesh model (ETWV520 or ETWV530) and the current “Samsung smartthings Wi-Fi with Plume” (ETWV525 or ETWV535) model which uses plume for its network management.

I’m tired today, and I rely on text to speech, and I was unable to follow all of your post. (Headers would help.)

But I think part of your question is answered by the community FAQ:

FAQ: Does the New Samsung WIFI extend the Smartthings network for zwave/zigbee?

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WOW!
Thank you Terry. That explains a lot. But what it doesn’t do is help me solve the problem that Iris had solved by design. If the Smart Things WiFi Mesh system is not capable of routing ZigBee of Z-Wave, how does one connect a device that is on the perimeter of the network? When using Iris, I was able to disconnect and relocate the hub to get it closer to the new device. Without a 50 ft Ethernet cord, that is not possible…Hummmmm Now that I understand what my limitations are, maybe there is a solution other than doing a Factory Reset, which, if you are correct, will not solve anything, and will only frustrate me more
Thanks
Todd

MODEL: ET-WV525. And I am using Plume for network management.

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And thank you Terry. Now that I understand the limitations of the network configurations, I guess I will need to get a 50 foot Ethernet cable for use when trying to reconnect z-wave devices.
Thank you again
Todd

I’m no where as smart as the previous 2 fellows who already posted.

In my own layman terms I think your confused, way I understand it, the WiFi portion and the Zigbee \ Zwave portions don’t work together. Each has its own purpose and reason for being in the hubs.

Sounds like you need to setup devices that act as repeaters to build up a mesh network for whichever protocol your devices use. Repeaters tend to be non battery type devices.

There is many many post and threads on the forum where it’s discussed in detail with recommendations on how to improve it.

If you can’t find what you need or looking for specific help a direct question would help.

Like? What does everyone use to extend their Zigbee network.

You’ll get lots of answers and results from a forum search using things like that.

I know that doesn’t really help, but I found it hard to figure out what your asking for help with.

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Except for Locks, most Z-Wave (and ZigBee) devices do not need to be right next to the Hub, because they can connect via the nearest Z-Wave (or ZigBee) repeater. You need to use the Z-Wave Repair function to optimize your mesh prior to adding more devices. To optimize ZigBee, unplug the Hub for 15 to 30 minutes.

The sub-Hubs will act as both Z-Wave and ZigBee repeaters. So will most line powered outlets and switches, but not lightbulbs (or battery powered sensors).

The SmartThings Hub can also be connected to your LAN via WiFi - but that’s where it gets complicated if your ST Hub also happens to be your “master Hub” that is connected to your ISP / cable modem.

Yeah, they don’t make perimeter maintenance easy. :disappointed_relieved:

For people who don’t have one of the Wi-Fi mesh systems, often the easiest way is just to use a Wi-Fi access point that has an ethernet port in the side and plug the hub into that. No 50 foot cable is needed. But you can’t do that with the Wi-Fi mesh systems, because they are providing the Wi-Fi. :disappointed_relieved:

Smartthings staff have posted many times in this forum that their typical customer has 15 devices or fewer and never uses any custom code. So there are quite a few power users in this forum who have run into “edge cases“ which the system just didn’t handle very well.

If the End device is one that can be moved close to the hub, you could go the “bench pairing“ route, Bring the device to the hub, pair it, put it back in its home location, and then run a Z wave repair. But obviously that’s annoying for devices like hardwired switches.

It’s not a good answer, but at least maybe it will save you some time looking for a better one.

TN - Thank you for the suggestion(s). Yes, I am sure you are correct about their being solutions posted on the net. Unfortunately, I know just enough to search with all of the wrong words and I don’t have the time to read a thousand pages of unrelated comments. I think Terry and JR have hit it on the head. I know enough abut z-wave and Zigbee to understand that the addition of a “repeater” COULD be helpful, but with the number of z-wave devices I have scattered about the property, I can’t possibility imagine where I would put it so that it would benefit anyone. Once upon a time there was a tool that would allow you to actually MAP the relationships of all of your z-wave devices. I have not found that tool to have been ported to the new environments.
Thanks for your suggestions. I think my next step will be to acquire a 50’ Ethernet cable so I can make my SmartThings Hub a bit more portable.

I forgot: since you are a professional, there is an installer tool you can buy that will allow you to map Z wave networks. It cost around $150, so I don’t know how that fits your operating budget, but it’s something that you take with you to each client site and then take away again so you only have to buy one of them.

Also, it’s not that you buy one repeater. It’s that most of your mains power zwave and zigbee devices will also act as repeaters for the protocol that they use. So it’s just a matter of laying out the backbone appropriately.

Read post 11 in the following FAQ, then go back up to the top of that thread and read the whole thing. It will answer most of the questions about repeaters.

Terry,
First of all, thank you for your critique. I needed to get it “all” off of my chest and the addition of a highlight to the questions would have bee VERY helpful to any reader. Thank you.

Your remarks bring two questions to mind:

  1. All three of the devices (all with the same model number) have routing capabilities. Why couldn’t they route smartthings (z-wave and Zigbee) messages.
    2, And you second observation leads right back to a question I put directly to the tech I was talking with yesterday about training: Are all the Samsung techs trained alike? And to they have sufficient training. Your remark leads me to be the answer is NO.

On a separate subject, a subject I have been working closely with Plume, the substitution of a new, improved, router for my network (Smarthings live behind my firewall) we discovered that there were undesirable packets trying to travel between the SmartThings hub and Samsung. After many hours of examination of packets, we discovered that the problem was not coming FROM the Smartthings devices in my domain, but from Samsung, trying to reach my Smartthing network. The data has been collected by Plume and is being taken back senior management on both sides.
Thanks again.

Good luck hearing back from Samsung SmartThings on this.

I don’t have experience with Plume’s support, so… who knows.

There is no “simple” protocol for wrapping Z-Wave and ZigBee over IP (WiFi or Ethernet).

A SmartThings Hub is not a Z-Wave/ZigBee “router”. It is a smart device that is securely joined to your Z-Wave and ZigBee devices and runs a operating system to receive and send specific instructions from the SmartThings Cloud via the Cloud API (which does, of course, run over IP - Connected by wired ethernet in Version 1 & 2, or optionally wired or wireless in Version 3.x). The Hub also can run instances of the Smart Lighting SmartApp locally.

Zwave lightbulbs are good zwave repeaters.

Zigbee lightbulbs are more complicated because it depends on the specific brand. For example, the IKEA Tradfri bulbs happen to be good zigbee repeaters on a SmartThings network.

See the FAQ for details:

FAQ: Are Smart Bulbs Repeaters? (Updated Sept 2017: the new answer is yes, but may be inconsistent)

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Originally smartthings was treated as a stand-alone division And had its own tech-support, all of whom had SmartThings systems themselves and who worked closely with SmartThings engineering.

Then in the middle of 2018, they moved all of the SmartThings support over to the regular Samsung corporate support group. Most of whom are people just working off Scripts and who don’t have the SmartThings system. ( for example, one community member called in with a question about a virtual device, and the support person wanted to know where they had bought it. :scream:)

So if you happen to get one of the customer support people left over from the original SmartThings group, they probably have a lot more hands-on knowledge than Samsung corporate staff.

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Thank you for your incite.

Now that I understand what I am dealing with, I will consider my options next time I want to talk to someone who might know more about a problem than me.
Todd

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I spent a lot of time working with Plume and they were equally concerned about the traffic. “Large Pings” and “Pings of Death” do not constitute traffic that I consider safe to enter my LAN, but if I want the benefits of SmartThings, then I am forced to live with the intrusion. I have had two routers hacked and I am doing everything that I can do to insure that it doesn’t happen again. There is SOLID evidence of where the traffic is coming from. There is no evidence why it is necessary (other that the SmartThings hubs go off line when I block Large Pings and Pings of Death.

As for your thoughts about routing of Z-Wave/Zigbee: I understand. It just seems that if all the hardware is present in each of the three “hubs”, repeating messages to expand the Z-wave/Zigbee networks would be no big thing. Oh Well. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t and I will just have to make adjustments to accommodate the lack of forethought by the SmartThings designers who failed to recognize the opportunity.
Todd

In this particular case, it’s not a lack of forethought.

Zwave and zigbee are both independent third-party protocols. They each have their own rules and their own security mechanisms.

The smartthings hub is a certified zwave controller and a certified zigbee coordinator.

If they don’t follow the encryption and security rules required by those independent certifying bodies they will lose their certification.

Copying zwave or zigbee messages over onto Wi-Fi and then transmitting them there would violate the security requirements of those protocols. So it’s just not an option.

There is a zwave over IP method available under the certified protocol, but it’s not a method that smartthings has implemented. (Or hardly anybody else, for that matter.)

All of that is just more detail on what @tgauchat was referring to when he talked about the secure communications between the hub and the end device.

First Rule of Home Automation: The model number matters. In this case, it might save you from having to move the hub at all.

By the way, we haven’t gotten to the point where you mentioned the specific model numbers of the devices you are working with. If they are Z wave plus and your backbone offers a zwave plus route back to the hub, then you should be able to pair them in place without having to move the hub at all as long as there is a zwave plus repeating device in range. :sunglasses:

But that requires that you have set up the backbone as discussed in the wireless range and repeaters FAQ.