Routines vs Smart Lighting for lighting automation

I’ve picked up a lot of lights lately and finding myself using the Smart Lighting app because it gives me better control of some actions than Routines. The downside is that unlike routines, there’s no shortcut or easy way to kick off a lighting automation. I’m also finding that I want to tie in some lighting automations when a routine runs because there are other things that I want to do in addition to controlling lights but the lack of an easy way to kick off a lighting automation means I’m duplicating logic between the two.

I’m curious if anyone else has run into this and what kind of creative workaround you’ve figured out for it. (Is it finally time for me to wrap my head around CoRE?)

You can use virtual device to control smart lighting automation but I think it’s time to get dirty with WebCoRE if you want more than just the basic.

Where do Scenes fit in the picture?

Having lots of ways to do stuff is generally good once you figure out how to stay organization and leverage the power of each.

Scenes can be called from Routines, Smart Lighting, and now… Alexa.

But not (yet) from any other SmartApp. That worries me…


To me, the new Scenes is just too generic. You can flip on switches, change color and brightness of bulbs and that’s about it. It’s a great start, but it leverages nothing to go above and beyond like I had mentioned with creating a true scene with Hue or LIFX apps (which also can be run from Alexa)

However, with webCoRE, you can define a scene to have lights flash, randomly change colors, change brightness levels, turn on, turn off, wait 30 minutes, scene ends, revert lights back. With this you can also create a Routine that turns a virtual switch on and those Pistons run when the switch is on, so then you can still add that Routine to Alexa and when she runs the Routine, the Piston executes versus a standard scene being set.

ST Scenes = Static picture
WebCoRE = Motion picture - Moving scenes

My frustration with scenes is they’re one way - easy to turn everything on but you can’t turn a scene off or revert back to previous settings. (Or am I missing something?)

You are not missing a thing.

I’m a little bit confused by this, because as far as I know, smart lighting can be kicked off by most’ve the same triggers as routines.

As you can see, there are lots of different options and settings that offer full customization, including turning lights on, off, or on and set to a specified brightness. Smart Lights automations can also be configured to run when SmartThings detects the following events through connected sensors:
Switch Turned On/Off
Button Pressed/Held

And if worst comes to worst, you can have the smart lighting start when a switch comes on, use a virtual switch, and turn that switch on with the routine. So you should have the exact same controls that you have with the routine in that sense.

We were just talking about this with regard to widgets a day or so ago. :sunglasses:

Only routines have widgets, but there are a lot of ways to tie a routine to other occurrences, including a smart lighting automation, so the end result is the same: you have a widget and it runs your smart lighting Rule. It just uses a routine as a “man in the middle.”

So what exactly were you wanting to use as the trigger for smart lighting?

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You confirmed what I was thinking - that a virtual switch is the best option to hook up a routine with a Smart Lighting automation without going down the WebCoRE route.

It’s funny how intimidating webCoRE looks to people. I’m telling you, when you have a couple of hours one day, just install it. Even if you don’t understand it right away. You can restore sample Pistons from people that have posted and get an idea as to how it all works and how you set them up. Once you get the hang of it, it’s just as easy as setting up a Routine or some Smart Lighting Rule. The power of what you can do,lol, Routines and Smart Lighting don’t compare. I put it off for a long time as well because I was just too busy and thought it was going to be a daunting task to get everything up and running and the learning curve. LOL I am sorry I didn’t cut over to it from day 1 of it’s release. In the end, you will thank yourself. JMO.

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Oh… Please don’t disparage Scenes - they are a fundamental feature of every other HA system that we’ve been waiting for… For 5 years.

They ought to be a fundamental unit of lighting that can be triggered by any SmartApp though. That’s how they move beyond “generic”.

And absolutely Yes - We’ve also been needing a rules engine super badly and wow has WebCoRE filled that need!


Not disparaging. It’s great that they introduced it, but it has miles to go before it’s in my opinion, useful:
* Ability to do more than just turn on, set color, set brightness
* Needs ability to allow scene to turn off without creating an exact opposite scene to do so.
* Allow functions such as Theme (Flashing, Xmas colors)
* Random Colors
* Timer
* Be able to execute based on a trigger just as Routines are
" Be able to be discovered by Alexa/GH so one doesn’t have to create a virtual switch and a routine just to execute it.

Like I said, it’s a great start…

It’s really amazing how many people haven’t installed it out here because either it appears to be a big cumbersome project to undertake or it appears intimidating to people because they think that they have to have some sort of programming background or a degree in rocket science :slight_smile:

And now they have the webCoRE Presence Sensor which is awesome. You have the ability to add multiple places (Locations) and execute Pistons based on arriving and departing any of those locations. They are taking steroids or something over there.


I’d prefer Scenes remain pretty simple (though it would be nice if save/restore state would be added…).

They don’t need triggers, cuz the are foundation blocks that can be triggered from a variety of Routines, Smart Lightings, (and please webCoRE and more :pray:!).

BTW: Scenes are now directly detected and usable by Alexa! A lovely gift!


That’s a value add for sure.

But having complete scenes created based on the current state of lights in the Hue and LIFX apps and the additional ability of LIFX having automatic theme and effects based execution of a scene, and being able to execute via Alexa, the Scenes in ST serves me no advantage.

If I needed a scene to exist specifically in ST, I would simply create the Scene with webCoRE. On top of that within webCore and LIFX I can do a lot of the same functions provided in the LIFX app.

It’s a great starting point though and for some, the simplicity is a great thing. But a Scene to me is not limited to a fixed picture. WebCoRE is the best of both worlds because you can create the same functional scenes that you can in the ST app, or take it a step further like me and make that scene more of a movie in that it’s elements can change.

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The concept of scenes has existed in home automation for at least 25 years. There are many systems that use them in exactly the same way as SmartThings has just introduced them, including the two third-party standards that SmartThings are certified to, that is Z wave, and Zigbee.

Lutron has scenes, HomeKit has scenes, Z wave has scenes, Philips Hue has scenes, they all work the same way. A snapshot of a set of states for multiple devices. You set your system to a scene. You don’t actually turn it on or off. Then if you want things to be different, you set them to a different scene. Or you move out of the scene paradigm.

SmartThings can offer a lot of different kinds of functionality, but it shouldn’t start changing the meaning of words which are already used in the industry in a consistent way.




So feel free to create your “animations” or whatever, but let the word “scene” mean what it means in almost every other home automation system. A set of predetermined states for multiple devices which can be activated with a single button press or included in other rules.

JMO. :sunglasses:

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But it’s not exclusively the same meaning in many other companies / systems.

I see it slightly different as to where we are in 2017 versus what a scene represented 25 years ago and moving forward as to what the concept of a scene is today.

To me in today’s world, a scene is represented differently. From SmartThings, it’s a combination of their Routines, Smart Lighting and Scenes functionality wrapped up in one. You could have a still scene set or you could have a moving scene composed of several actions to create that final scene and not just comprised of lights and dimming switches.

Control4 and their representation is more closely aligned to what I envision as a scene:

Alexa also allows for Routines from SmartThings to show up in Scenes?

Here is another:

In this article, a scene is defined as:

Scenes - enable a single button to send different commands to different devices. Making several different things happen at the same time.

Its as though scenes are being restricted to lighting from an ST perspective and I think that is completely incorrect. If I walk into the movie room and I say set the movie scene, and the lights dim, the curtains close, the tv turns on, the blue ray starts playing and the chairs recline, that’s setting an entire scene for that room. Not doing it with what we know inside of SmartThings by running a Routine and then setting a Scene. It’s to me all part of the same mechanism tied together.

I’m not sure I understand why we think that a scene is a still shot of an image and only isolated to light bulbs and switches set to some static values without any moving parts.

Is a scene in a movie one still picture? No, it is comprised of several clips / images that completes the entirety of the scene.

I see the overall standard for “setting the scene” (whether it’s a movie scene, a lighting scene, an Away or Home Scene to consist of the consolidation of what we know in this platform as Routines and Scenes. A Scene isn’t just light bulbs. If I’m setting the scene in the kitchen, that might consist of turning on lights, turning on the coffee maker, the oven on, playing some music, and ya, even raising the level of the dimming automatically over a period of time.

That’s JMHO :sunglasses:

Scenes in home automation definitely don’t have to be restricted to lighting. But otherwise, the control 4 definition is exactly the same:

This allows Control4 to trigger actions from multiple devices simultaneously so homeowners can integrate their cooking and food preparation experience directly into their kitchen scenes. As an example, with Control4’s programmed home automation scenes, the voice command: “Alexa, turn on cooking” powers the lights over the kitchen island, turns on your “Grub Street” podcast on Spotify, and lowers the AC temperature, all while you continue to trim the chicken.

You are triggering preset actions from multiple devices with one button push. that’s it. Or simulating that button push inside of another rule.

It’s not a sequence of changes over time. You’ve picked one podcast, one setting for each light, one setting for the thermostat and put them all together into one scene.

If your concern is just that the smartthings scenes are at present limited to too few device classes, then that’s reasonable concern, but your definition still fits the industry definition. Although many companies do talk about “lighting scenes“ nothing in zwave or Lutron Limit it that way. In fact, Lutron has been using the example of window coverings and lighting combined into a scene for at least 15 years. :sunglasses:

But it’s all about a single set of states that occur simultaneously from a single trigger. That’s just what the definition of “scene” is.

If you want to talk about an automation that works differently, In particular your “movie” concept where there are multiple state changes over time, then you just need to pick a different word for it.

Now I definitely agree that given the state of today’s technology, the method for creating a scene can be vastly improved over the old color picker concept. :city_sunrise: Philips Has been experimenting with this a lot, including with the concept of choosing a photograph and then having the lighting adapt to that color palette. And scene capture (Taking the current states of selected devices and saving them as a scene) Is very useful in the systems that offer it.

And you are certainly right that the original smart things routines did function as scenes for some purposes. It’s just that was always frustrating lighting was treated as a group rather than allowing for individual device settings. :disappointed_relieved:


I think it all comes down to verbiage and context for all of it. And I think we see some of this the same way, I just think we view it from slightly different angles. :smiley:

If you create a Routine without any sort of triggers to execute it? And you simply press the button to run that Routine whether from inside of ST or as a widget on your device. What is it? It’s a Scene. It opens the garage door, unlocks these locks, turn these lights on, starts the music player. It’s completed.

Now if you add a trigger let’s say based on motion. You are setting a scene based on an action. The only things that a Routine doesn’t allow you to do is set the brightness levels and the color.

That’s why to me the Scenes as they are right now are a complete waste of space, because simply adding brightness controls and color to what we know as the existing Routines and then they could have just renamed Routines to Scenes. Would have been so much easier. Then they could remap functionality in there for let’s say I want to create a local scene. It then lists only my devices with DTHs that are local and the entire Scene / Routine is run locally, so now we can throw Smart Lighting out the window.

Agreed, routines really are a variant of scenes. I’m pretty sure, although I’m not certain, that the only reason they broke scenes out now was because of the local processing issue.

Because to be honest people have been having this exact same conversation for literally years, like the following thread from 2014:


Ya I know I’m not reinventing the wheel by bringing it up. It’s just so strange as to the direction that is taken sometimes. Instead of starting over with Scenes from the ground up, go back to the Routines and revamp it correctly to choose whether you are creating a Lighting Scene, a multi device type routine, a selection for local processing only that will only display local devices you have so they can execute locally, add in brightness and color control for each light selected. Then people could have their Family Tab back :rofl:

I know I’m preaching to the choir over this, but it just baffles me sometimes. Like the whole Presence problem that goes back to 2013. I would think from at least a community perspective, 90% or more people have a necessity to use this functionality for some sort of everyday home automation, and yet some of the enhancements (all enhancements are welcomed), just seem so prioritized in the wrong order. I understand from a consumer standpoint, adding in favorites on the dashboard is a great selling point, but if you are going to do that, then revamp the whole entire UI across the board so that it is useful to the entire customer base. You know what I mean. They have come a long way in the short time I have been around, but it just seems like they need a different group of folks on the inside with different visions for success in the future. :grinning:

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Unlike Routines, Scenes are reusable. That makes them a valuable distinct new addition.

  • A Routine can call any Scene; therefore, if you have various “reasons” (triggers) for activating a set of Things, then you don’t need to manually replicate that definition from one Routine to another. Just make it a Scene first, then use that Scene in one or many Routines.

  • Similarly, Smart Lighting can activate any Scene. Now “on motion, light up the entire living room”, can be programmed as “on motion, activate the Bright Living Room Scene”.

Of course… SmartThings could have just enhanced Routines to add the same functionality of Scenes (including reusability… i.e., a Routine should be able to call another Routine…); but for both internal and external reasons, I understand the reason for the “fresh” implementation. Except I don’t understand why arbitrary SmartApps can’t Activate a Scene (whereas they can Run a Routine).

Alternatively, SmartThings could “deprecate” the scene-like (and Smart Lighting-like) functionality out of Routines; thus clearly delineating the concepts. Routines would be used only to for triggers of a sequence of events… or eliminated entirely in favor a Rules Engine :wink:.

And yes… I’m 80% sure that SmartThings is working on a Rules Engine and description language. There was evidence presented at SDC 2017. The demo was of rules created by natural language: e.g., “When everyone is home and it is after sunset and there is motion in the hallway, turn on the hallway lights and turn them off 2 minutes after motion stops”. That is a slight exaggeration of the demo … but I believe that is someone’s goal.

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