Running ST locally, DIY control panel, and feasibility

Hi! I’m very new to ST and HA in general, and thought some guidance from the group would be super helpful!

I’m in the process of renovating my house, and would like to add HA capabilities to it. What I’m envisioning is that in each room there would be a [cheap] tablet (read: Amazon Fire, for $35 this Black Friday) acting as a control panel. It would be able to control individual lights, A/C, etc. as well as setting presets for the room.

The reason for having this control panel is so that we don’t have to carry our phones around in the house all the time. I don’t want to use off-the-shelf in-wall switches because they are too expensive. A tablet along with an Arduino/Wi-Fi microcontroller + relays/dimmers would be much cheaper than getting smart switches for all the lights. (Wi-Fi because the chip ESP8266 is the cheapest wireless chip out there.)

To do this, I could imagine two ways of doing it.

  1. Have everything connected directly to ST Hub. The tablet would show up as a “smart device” that I could then write a SmartApp to control other “things.” What I’m not sure about is what would happen if the internet goes out (but local Wi-Fi is still working). From what I’ve read, it seems like things that communicate through Z-Wave or Zigbee would still be fine, but I’m not sure about Wi-Fi devices.

  2. Control the Arduino board using commands from the tablet through Wi-Fi. This tablet then connects to either a ST Hub or my local server. This way, if the internet (or ST Hub) goes out, I could still control stuff in the room through the control panel.

At this point, I’m not even sure I need ST Hub if I go the second route.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

Smartthings is not really the right controller for the kind of set up you describe. It is not possible to connect custom code or devices directly via Lan, so when the Internet goes out, you no longer have tablet access to the hub. It is certainly possible to do this, staples connect does, but it’s not the way the smartthings architecture works.

Similarly your Arduino concept just isn’t the way the smartthings architecture functions.

Smartthings keeps your account information in its cloud. While a few things are allowed to run locally if your Internet connection is out, this is pretty much limited to local lighting automations. Using the official SmartThings “smart lights” process. You can’t run your own code locally. All custom code at present has to run in the cloud.

There are other home automation controllers which may require Internet access to set up your account, but which you do allow you to run locally and which also allow lan connection directly to the hub. They all have various pluses and minuses, but I would think it would make sense to look at those for the kind of set up that you considering.

Depending on how technical you are, and it sounds like you’re very technical, you could look at open H-A-B and Homeseer. Vera is another possibility. None of those offer much Zigbee support, though, except for Philips Hues, although some the other users are adding the harmony hub and new extender so that they can include zigbee sensors. It’s not a full ZHA implementation, though.

The simplest, most plug-and-play option which gives you local processing is the Staples connect hub, but it does not allow for any custom code at all. And only supports a few devices. So it’s sort of a different category yet again. However, it does run reliably without requiring the Internet to be up, so it might fit some use cases.

SmartThings has said they intend to allow more custom local processing in the future, but no announce timelines. And they do not support UDP or UPNP connections to the hub at all. They pretty much assume all third-party connections will be through cloud to cloud Web services.

Many SmartThings customers do use wall mount tablet controllers, but they are all browser-based and go via the Internet.

I will add some links to other topics in the forums but it just doesn’t sound like a match for what you are looking for.

Developers topic on local processing:

Developer discussion of LAN connections:

Arduino project thread. This will give you an idea of how people do use Arduinos with SmartThings

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Thanks a lot @JDRoberts for the helpful info! I suspect as much from reading the forum.

I’ve done some electronic projects… Network stuff is pretty much new to me though, so I’m afraid I don’t know what UDP or UPNP is… yet. I’ll keep reading :smile:

In your opinion, then, do you think it’s a good plan to start off with a tablet-controlled lighting system (and what-nots)? This will at least allow me to control stuff within a given room. I guess I could do some hard-coding automation into the tablet app as well. After that I could look into solutions for the “hub” that could remotely control my tablets, since they all should at least allow for LAN communication… Maybe OpenHAB or perhaps in a few months ST will allow for local processing?

Thanks again!

Also check out Amazon echo and hue hub/bulbs for potential options.
These could be used with or without SmartThings.

If you are using a ST hub, the SmartTiles.clic is a nice GUI interface to run on a tablet.

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If this is the functionality / feature that is driving your choice of system, SmartThings is not a bad choice when used with

SmartTiles currently doesn’t “save presets”, but that type of feature is on the long term radar.

I think it’s perfectly acceptable to depend on internet for fancy tablet control as long as you have wall switches for backups.

I find there is very little need for real arduino work unless you want to have fun, or are inventing/reinventing stuff. There are plenty of devices/custom device types to keep you busy and poor for a long time.

My few cents.

Smarttiles is a great dashboard, but it itself doesn’t actually control anything. It just sends the request to the smartthings cloud. So it will not provide a control function if the Internet is down, which was the pre-requisite in the OP’s first post.

Yeah I just think that it doesn’t make sense that we have to settle for that when everything could have been done locally with minimal processing power. Just got my ESP8266 today and will try playing around with it :smile:

Having said that, if anybody’s interested in a mint condition Hub v2, please let me know. $75 plus shipping.

There are business, practical and technical reasons SmartThings started with and continues to use a cloud-centric architecture.

Quite a lot of the vast range of stuff that SmartThings can integrate with, would be very difficult to implement, manage, and/or keep affordable without this design.

That said, SmartThings should (is?) realistically determine how much stability could be optimized if an appropriately powered and utilized local processing hub was made integral to the platform. Hub V2 added local processing abilities, but with significant memory restrictions and other shortcuts in order to rush to market at a bargain price-point. When the Hub V2 was announced and first described, we had much more optimism of its capabilities.

I would have to respectfully disagree with this statement.

Local control came first in home automation. Homeseer, Vera, Harmony, Staples Connect, even the brand new Abode (which has the same Zigbee and Zwave controllers that SmartThings has) require Internet to set up an account, but after that run locally just fine.

smartThings chose cloud-based processing for their own reasons, but it wasn’t mandated by the devices they integrate with.

Well… I did say there are multiple reasons for their architecture choice.

We live in a very cloud-based world. One example, though perhaps not 100% relevant, is Nest. Except for the recent integration of a limited set of “Nest Weave” compatible devices, the entire “Works with Nest” platform is based on a cloud-API, not local connectivity.

Allowing access from cloud services to a local hub is not without challenging implications.

Regardless, minimizing the cost of hardware is more than sufficient reason for SmartThings to have chosen a cloud-centric architecture. I seriously expected Hub V2 to be priced as high as $299. The $99 price point decision has affected its resources and functionality (we’ve been told that “local” Devices and SmartApps will always be constrained to a subset due to low RAM in the hub), and perhaps marketing is taking precedence over engineering.

just sayin’… :wink:

@JDRoberts, do you know if I could create a custom device with Staples Connect, say if I create one with ESP8266 (similar to ST’s LAN device)? I can’t seem to find the info on that.

Thanks a lot!