Questions about using ST as a basic security and monitoring system


(Anthony) #1

Hello, and thanks for reading. I’ve been researching ST the last few days as a replacement for my Lowe’s Iris system. Unfortunately, my Iris hub has been able unable to connect for the past 2 weeks, so I am planning on returning it. The Iris tech support isn’t able to provide a time estimate of when they can bring my system back online, and I’ve found their support as a whole to be very lacking. I don’t have a lot of confidence in their product at this time and there is no sense of urgency on their end.

I was considering getting the ST hub, 2 multis, 2 motions and 1 strobe alarm to provide basic security and monitoring for an office that is very near my home. I understand that ST is not a substitute for a proper alarm system, but since I am so close to the office this will provide the necessary peace of mind.

I have a few questions:

Can someone walk me through how I would arm and disarm the system? Let’s say I am leaving for the night and I’ve locked up. Is it as simple as flipping a toggle in the mobile app to a certain mode?

What happens if the internet connection goes down while the system is armed? Will the mobile app let me know that it has lost connectivity with the hub?

Has there been any significant downtime for ST? If so, how does ST handle the situation?


(Im Brian) #2

@helvetica - I use the smartthings presence tags to automatically set my mode to “home” or “away” when my wife and I are gone:

No “arming” - I just leave, after a grace period (enough time to walk the dog or take the trash out), it sets the house to “Away”.

I then have a simple security system turn on when mode is set to “Away”. It listens for contact sensors or motion and text you, turns on a light or turns on an alarm if detected:


(This has a built-in grace period, so as to allow time for the presence tags to be detected, to eliminate “false positives”).

I also have a Foscam 8910w that I use this device handler with support for arming it’s built in motion sensing, which then uploads it’s photos to an offsite FTP (which you’d have to set up):

I use this to arm the Foscam alarm mode, also based on “away” mode:


(I don’t like the camera looking at me, so it faces the wall - but when armed, it rotates to face the door)

I also have this to monitor a safe or secured room - not dependent on mode, but dependent on a person’s presence. If you’re away and there’s motion, knocking, tilt or temperature comes out of a set range, it’ll send you a message:

They’re working on official support to notify you when your hub goes down. I hacked this together in the meantime, which checks a temperature sensor that is expected to report it’s value every 30 minutes or so. I’ve had mixed results with it, so your mileage may vary - but regardless, it is a known issue that they are actively working on: https://github.com/imbrianj/did_my_hub_go_down/blob/master/did_my_hub_go_down.groovy

Long and short of this: you can certainly do a lot with this, but to label it a “security system” would be disingenuous as it can fail - there’s no built in 3G backup if your internet goes down. You (currently) don’t get notified if your hub blows up. There’s nobody monitoring it - and, probably the most important - if Amazon Web Services goes down (which I’ve experienced twice this year), you get no reporting. The two times AWS went down - the first was maybe for an hour or two - the second time was a few minutes. May not sound like a long time, but if you absolutely depend on this for security, that may be unacceptable - only you can decide that.

When AWS does go down, my lightswitches behave as normal, etc - but any “smart apps” you have installed basically cease to function till service is restored. As it happens so infrequently, I can’t tell you if it comes back in the expected state.

I use SmartThings as a convenience tool with security as a bonus add-on. I enjoy being able to monitor my home and tweak these behaviors as I find needed. If the code above is helpful to you, awesome - if not, I’m happy to tweak it to make it more useful for you.

Good luck.


(Im Brian) #3

And by “if Amazon Web Services goes down (which I’ve experienced twice this year), you get no reporting.” I meant all of 2013. If it were twice in 2014, that wouldn’t be very nice.


(Anthony) #4

@ImBrian Thanks for taking the time to help me out. I like that you’re able to write custom rules and it’s awesome to see users like you sharing their solutions. That’s one of the big selling points of ST for me. Just by reading through the forums, I can tell that it’s a legit platform. If I didn’t want to go the presence tag route, would the mobile app have a way to manually “arm” the system?

Also, I appreciate the honesty about labeling it a “security system”. It’s a similar situation to the Lowes Iris system that I currently have with the self monitoring and internet dependency.


(Im Brian) #5

You can use a hardware presence tag (which I prefer):


(they’re also working on a prototype that’s smaller - but unsure how soon it’ll be out)

Alternatively, you can use your phone as a mobile presence tag:
https://support.smartthings.com/entries/21827994-Can-I-use-my-phone-to-determine-my-presence-
(I’ve never used this - I know there are mixed results)

And…if all else fails, you could just open the app and explicitly set your mode to “Away”.


(Ajf) #6

I have my own business which is over an hour from my house, and although my studio has an alarm system, what has really given me a great deal of peace of mind is installing a Dropcam:

There’s nothing like being able to actually see what’s going on when I’m not there. You can set it up to send you an alert if there is sound or movement .

I just started using SmartThings at home and am really liking it. I’m sure it will be of use at your office, I just wanted to mention the Dropcam as something else you may want to add to the mix.


(Anthony) #7

You guys are awesome! I know it’s not as efficient, but I will probably just manually set my mode to “Away” as a routine every night.

Dropcam looks pretty nifty. I think I might get that for my home, so I can monitor it from work!


(Wamble J) #8

You could also get a foscam which ST is working on integrating into their system. Dropcam is probably nicer/higher quality but foscam sells some relatively cheap models.

I do use ST as a basic security/monitoring system. I switched from Lowes Iris and I am happy with it. A few things that aren’t quite the same but there is so much more capability with ST and they are continually working on improving and expanding functionality.


(Anthony) #9

@wamblej Thanks for the foscam tip. I will check that out when it can be integrated.

How long ago did you switch from Iris? It seems like you’re happy with that move.


(Wamble J) #10

I used them both in conjunction for a few weeks before returning Iris last week (which I had for about 2 months). I am happy with the switch. it has been more responsive and more consistent than Iris was. I also really did not want to pay $10/month to Lowes for a few “magic rules” which are built into smart things. Lowes offers very affordable hardware, but I feel that in the long run the z-wave standard equipment from ST will be a better investment. I can’t wait for future improvements and upgrades with smartthings because it does have almost unlimited potential. And as you stated before, the user community projects/developments are a huge plus (as ImBrian demonstrates).


(Dave Blodgett) #11

@imbrian – great little app. Do you know what code bit I’d need to add to turn the siren back off once I change the mode from away to home, and limit the running time of the siren for one minute?


(Dave Blodgett) #12

Actually I just had to delete the app since it was triggering the siren even when I was in home mode. Maybe since it’s a year old (e.g. changes in the firmware impacting the code?)? I’m searching through the community forums for a basic security app (if “away” and “doors open or motion detectors triggered” sound the siren for one minute and turn the lights on…