I have been spending a huge amount of time on my home automation system since I bought my SmartThings hub a year ago, looking for the best devices/smartapp/configurations, testing solutions, maintaining and everything else that most of us here keep doing as a hobby. I have a developer background but have been doing project management as a living for many years now.
Lastly I have been wondering if that hobby could become a career, a full or maybe part time job as a consultant/reseller/installer/[Fill the gap] guy.
I am sure I am not the 1st one thinking about this so I would love to hear from some experience feedback from this community. We may create a dedicated SmartThings professional channel at some point if that actually become a bigger thing.
Please share your experience with us here, what we can and must not do, your background too as it may help understand the context and tell us if, from your point of view, we can make a living from what is today a time (and money) consuming hobby
Few point from my side. I spent 1 year home before getting back to work.
During that year, I started using and developing ST DTH, some apps, etc…
My view on ST is this:
- reliability of the sensors, disconnections, infrastructure including app/hub and cloud is not at professional level. Strangely, they just signed a partnership with ADT to provide reliable intrusion detection system and guess what… ADT Hub will not use ST things but ADT things. That’s a big evidence no one can rely on ST for safety features and this is even clearly said somewhere in their licensing I read earlier on this forum.
- ST customer support, while quite reactive when you are in the US, via chat is my preferred, doesn’t provide solution easily and you barely end-up with a solution without having to physically interact with your ST setup: removing batteries, resetting things, changing
So now, you are doing this consulting job, you have customers, develop things for them and…
- you spend your time doing the hotline for ST. When you’ll find your code it not faulty, you will either have to find a workaround and as the ST documentation is very poor and you don’t have access to ST Hub software, you will start shortly having things you developed and sold to customer that won’t work anymore.
- Worse, ST can suddenly decide to remove the support of well supported devices, following maybe Samsung guidance (otherwise, why my D-link Cameras are now a Labs category of devices while they used to be in the well supported Camera category?) and here you are back to my point 1
- The difference of treatment by ST between iOS and Android makes developments a pain and you’ll have to consider almost doubling your support effort to be able to address the 2 versions. Example of known differences: iOS allows to display html tiles which Android allows only once, after the first time, you have to clear your app and restart it. Shame on them…
- You advised your customer to buy this devices because you tested them and know they are ok. But now these devices upgrade by themselves thanks to OTA deployed since last year. So sensors that were maybe working fine before suddenly get power consumptions differences, connection troubles etc… How do you plan to cover that? I guess not with the money you’ll get paid and ST will tell your customers that the sensors work for everyone else so the problem is maybe in the code (your code) that the problem is.
So at the end, I don’t believe this is a reasonable product line to have this kind of activity. Maybe I am tooo bitter after more than one year of usage as customer and developer.
Now if you really like their products, you can apply directly to work for ST, they have constant opening on LinkedIn.
Thank you @Philippe_Portes for this detailed feedback.
You’ve summarized here many concerned I had about reliability and sustainability. Now I am wondering if there are other products I should look into for that kind of activity but that may not be the right place to list them
Are you the only one here with that kind of experience ?
Check with @ashutosh1982 … He runs a successful integrator / installer business centered on SmartThings.
I am a technology enthusiast with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. I too found myself looking to turn my Smart Home hobby into a side business while I was between jobs/professional projects.
@Philippe_Portes hits on a lot of the problems of building up a full integrator business based on SmartThings. End users don’t know what is in the pipeline, and things could quickly change on a whim from Samsung / SmartThings. ADT probably restricted security devices on their monitored SmartThings hub because so many devices use cloud-based devices handlers, and SmartThings still doesn’t offer a supported cellular backup connection other than the ADT hub with ADT monitoring.
Then there is also the question of legally conducting your business. You could establish an LLC for your business online, but you may also require a license depending on the services you claim to offer. In NYS, Home Security companies must be licensed, but the line between Smart Home and Home Security can get blurred. There are also legal restrictions in the SmartThings TOS.
I think that there are a few options to address different niche markets.
Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) Smart Home Services with SmartThings- This would be basic work to select and install smart home products, but if you get into post-sale support it could be a world of hurt.
DIFM Smart Home Services with HomeSeer or another platform - I have started to experiment with replacing my SmartThings-based system with a HomeSeer hub. This has a dedicated dealer/integrator program, but it can quickly get more expensive if you were in a habit of buying non-standard devices that relied on internet based integrations.
There is also the question of the future of the ST platform as we know it now with the recent announcement from Jim and the new ST integrated cloud…
What are the question(s)? Things were explained quite a bit at SDC in San Francisco.
The SmartThings cloud is being expanded; not shrunk.
As @etbrown mentions, the issue of licenses can get very complicated, and varies from state to state and even city to city.
Many jurisdictions have pretty strict requirements on who can install security equipment. In addition, while most allow a fix-it person to install a light switch, many require an electricians license to install an outlet.
And some, like California, require a contractors license based on the total cost of the job, and it’s actually pretty low – – if the customer will be paying more than $500, then you have to have a contractors license. And, no, you can’t divide the job up into $500 chunks to get around this requirement, like doing one room at a time. They are very specific about that.
Some jurisdictions require a plumbing license to put in a water valve controller, for example. It just varies a lot.
It’s very common in the United States that homeowners are allowed to do almost anything they want for themselves, but is soon as someone else is paying you to do the work, the licensing requirements come into play. So you have to research this area carefully before offering any home automation services.
Thank you everyone for all of this.
Lots of questions that I already had in mind (licence, platform restrictions, legal…) . Many things that must be cleared before doing such move.
I am located in Toronto, Canada, and definitely not sure about all the legal restrictions that will apply here.
What is the best way to start ? Getting a lawyer ? I am scared starting with such kind of expense before even starting anything.
Thank you again for your feedback here. That’s the great power of a community !
You’re right that getting a lawyer is expensive, and that’s usually about step eight of 10 in starting a business.
There are typically three free sources of guidance on starting a business: the national government, the local government, and some sort of Chamber of Commerce type local business organization. Local universities may sometimes have “Starting a business” short courses as well.
In Canada, you can start with the national government:
( in the US, you would typically start with similar resources from the small business administration.)
And check your local resources as well.
But basically you’re going to need to research your idea to see if it’s feasible, which will include researching the licenses you will need. (Information you would normally get free from your local town or city government.)
Then you would create a specific business plan that outlines what structure of your business will be. There are lots of resources for creating this plan, including at the first link I just gave you. This is really the reality check for how you specifically are going to set up and run your business.
After you have your business plan fully detailed, then you will begin to implement that plan, and that’s the phase where you might need a lawyer. But up until then almost all the resources should either be free or very low cost as long as you look around to find them.
There will always be people who are ready to sell you some prepackaged expensive service on setting up a business, but in general that’s not a good idea. Running a business is hard work and involves a lot of details, paperwork, and dealing with the government. Going through the process of researching to feasibility and then drawing up your own business plan Will not only give you practice in doing this kind of effort, it will also let you know for yourself whether all the paperwork involved in running a business would drive you crazy. There are a lot of people who get about halfway through writing a business plan and decide that they rather just be an employee and work for someone else. Better to know that before you get too far down the road.
Your local library should also have lots of books on starting a business in Canada, and that’s a perfectly reasonable place to start your research as well. I wouldn’t buy the books to begin with, but if you find one you particularly like, you may want to buy it so you can refer to it again and again.
Research the idea of the business to see if it would be feasible for anyone
Create your own very detailed business plan following one of the guidelines available specifically for Canada.
If you decide to move forward, implement the plan.
A new biz owner seems.
Yes, and it’s already quite a popular product with forum members. It’s a bit simpler, I think, to sell an add on product for people with an existing system then it is to offer an installation service for brand new users. There’s a lot more handholding with the second group.
While it is still a “challenge” be a small venture that integrates with SmartThings, there’s a spectrum of risk and expectations.
Still, @heythisisnate’s Konnected, and our ActionTiles actually entice non-SmartThings users to get their feet wet. So our reputation (and ability to operate) is on the line if SmartThings doesn’t live up to our customer’s expectations.
A product that integrates with multiple systems has a little more wiggle-room if it turns out that one of the vendors or systems integrated is less than stellar.
You don’t only have to focus specifically on SmartThing’s. Think of the entire product, you got network equipment, surveillance cameras, Audio/Video that you can offer as well.
You could always look into the Smart Home MLM options. I was introduced to a lot of the smart home tech through a company called JAQX. I never hopped on board though, not a fan of MLMs.
The OP is in Canada. Many multilevel marketing schemes of the type allowed in the US are not allowed to operate there. Which is probably a good thing, particularly in this case. The thought of MLM being involved with SmartThings installation is frankly a bit terrifying.