Smart Button Achieved! (Sorta...)

I, along with others, have been advocating for sometime that we need a smart button. Something small (key-fobish sided) that when pressed reports back to SmartThings that it’s been pressed so that it can trigger events, programs, mode changes, etc.

Such a thing does exist in a way… there are plenty of Z-wave remotes or panic buttons. These are small and easily portable. But these all operate as secondary controllers rather than Z-wave devices that SmartThings can use.

They also exist in another form: Switches. For example I replaced a “Dead switch” (didn’t turn anything on) with a Jasco 45609 switch that isn’t connected to anything on the load side, just the line and neutral. I can turn in on or off and smartthings see when I do that. I can then use this to initiate programs. But this is far from portable or easy to place anywhere you’d like it.

Well, I decided make something myself. Or rather, modify something. I have a Intermatic screw in light unit. You screw this into an existing light socket, then screw in the light. My original plan was to add a new light to my garage and put this in the light. But plans changed and I didn’t have a real purpose for this anymore. So I took it apart. I think proceeded to wire it up in a switch box to an old cord from some long lost piece of electronics (I tend to never throw things out… to the chagrin of my wife) and mounted the push button on to the back side of a old switch plate.

Put it all together and I have a semi-portable smart button:

Switch Button

switch button

It’s ugly, but it works. Using a bit of command strips I mounted this on the side of my daughter bed. Now she uses it to turn on her night light program that dims her bedroom light and slowly turns it off over a period of time. If she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs her light back on, she can hit the button again it’ll start the program back up.

Theoretically this should work for any switch that uses a neutral. It’s by no means a perfect solution. First it’s expensive (need a switch, a box, switch plate, cord…). Second it’s big… hard to but it sometimes in conspicuous. Third, it isn’t fully portable. Still needs to be plugged. But it’s better than no option, which is where I was previously.

You would think the brain trust at ST would spend a few cycles and actually build what their customer base is asking for (marketing 101).

This is just getting annoying dave. They are working on it, there are multiple threads on here with posts from members on the ST team recording their progress working with various third party controllers and buttons. Once again, they can’t do everything overnight with limited resources.

I know I’m fairly new around here, but I have to agree with @coryds. I’ve been rummaging through as many threads as I can to learn as much as I can, and a great deal of them seem to have a snarky/disgruntled comment on it.

I have definitely found value in some of your posts, dave and I appreciate that, but I think comments like these will only serve to reduce interaction with these forums on ST’s part, not increase it.

I’ve personally been in contact with multiple folks at ST over the past week, through various other channels. While I agree that it feels like there’s been a bit of radio silence on these forums of late from ST, I don’t get the impression that they’re sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

@chrisb I’ve been trying to find this on the forums, but what’s the reason behind secondary controllers not working with the ST hub?

They act as mini secondary Hubs, which SmartThings has problems with currently interacting with. Most are designed to talk directly to the endpoint devices, not the controlling hub…therefore getting apps to work with them is a pain. A clean solution would be something like what Chris made but in a shell like an iris smart button.


I’m not an expert on this, but having talked with ST and done some research, this is my best understanding:

A secondary controller isn’t a “thing” per se. Even though many of them look more like things (in fact some virtually identical to things) if you get into the DNA, so to speak, they are more closely related to hubs than things.

Their purpose is to tell another device or devices to turn on or off. As such they send commands rather than receive them. They also don’t really have a state (ie, on or off) themselves. Secondary controllers are just not designed to communicate to primary controllers (the Hub in SmartThings case) nor are they device to have on or off states like a switch.

I wonder how deep into the Z-Wave protocol we can hack in order to determine if a secondary controller (such as a GE Remote) can send a message that the primary controller (such as the SmartHub) can recognize directly.

The GE Remote secondary which I have, requires every button to be mapped to a single real physical joined Z-Wave device.

Ideally, it could be fooled into being mapped to “virtual switches” in our SmartThings network … right?

Maybe totally impossible in the Z-Wave network protocol, or outside license.

Is that something someone at ST can answer? Maybe @megapixel (Danny Kleinman)?

Maybe it’s still my lack of knowledge on the subject, but Vera works fine with secondary devices like the GE Remote. Was this capability just left out of the ST hub?

That’s an interesting idea CP.

I know that SmartThings is working on a way to let secondary controllers act as a sort of “pass thru” where you pair a switch switch with the controller, and then the controller with the hub. After a bit the switch should show up in your list of things and operate just like a switch paired directly to the hub.

If that switch could be a virtual switch it would all but make the secondary controller into a ‘thing’. The problem, of course, is getting that secondary controller to pair with a “phantom” thing.

So, part two:

I picked up these for pretty cheap on eBay:
Cooper Switch

These are Cooper Aux. switches. They don’t actually connect to a load, they just have line and neutral lines. When pairing with SmartThings they show up as Z-wave Device but they work just fine as on and off switches. And being that they are Cooper, they associate meaning they show up instantly as on or off even if communicating through the mesh network.

Hey Chris…

What about this?? Sounds like you are describing something like this… its a different company’s product but it works on z-wave. I have used some of the other products successfully with Smart Things so I bet it would work.


What did you get to work? I was not able to get any non-ge Iris gasget to pair or work. Even the fob-thingy in your link.


Why not put a ZigBee radio in a key fob with a coin cell battery and a button. Should show pumas a switch in ST and then any of the apps could be paired to trip whatever.

The problem with many “remotes” like that @carlaydelotte is that the are secondary controllers, not true z-wave “things.” What this means is that they are designed to send commands to a specific thing rather than communicate back to the hub (Primary controller) or to receive commands from a primary controller.

You can set them up to pair with a device and control an individual device (or in some cases, a group of devices), but you can’t turn it on/off via the Hub nor can the the Hub always see if it’s turned on or off.


Sometimes there’s limited communication with the Hub in terms of what state the 2nd controller is in, but usually not.

True, but that is because they are simply designed wrong for this application. A wireless remote is obviously possible…heck I rigged one up in a few minutes by simply putting a multi sensor on the side of my night stand…to perform the night function I just “open” it. Now something like that with a button instead of a magnet would be fine.

Yes, absolutely.

It’s not that a push button thing isn’t possible, it’s just that the current “remote” devices are not designed to act like this.

Sometimes it’s a pain not being American. Just found this

smart button

Seems that the Lowes iris system uses “multiple well-proven technologies: Z-wave, ZigBee and WiFi” so I have to wonder if this is what we’ve been looking for. At $20 perhaps one of the Americans should give it a shot? Could be what we’ve been looking for. Wish they were a little more clear as to the how…

edit as links weren’t working…

ah nevermind…ish… looks like the ST gents were talking with them back in Feb. I’m assuming it didn’t work out since it’s Sept. Though I can’t help wondering if that button could be reflashed…

Yep…it’s kinda sad when a button becomes such a big deal haha.