SmartThings has failed me again

I’ve been using ST for a year now. It has critically failed me twice, costing me more than $2,200 in stolen property, and a lot of lost sleep.

The first event I can’t really fault ST. Someone broke into my house, ST notified my phone of motion, but I ignored the notifications. On my way home, I noticed the notifications and dismissed them as lagging notifications from earlier in the day (this was an ongoing issue earlier this year). It was obvious they were legitimate when I arrived.

I shouldn’t have ignored the notifications, but we could do a better job. How can we fix this? ST should have different alert levels on the phone. Someone arriving home should trigger a different alert than motion while the house is away.

Since then, I more than tripled my sensors, added sirens and cameras.

Today I found my garage open and my bikes missing. I had no idea my garage was open, despite using ST to monitor it with a multi-sensor, motion sensor, and a camera. I wasn’t notified my garage door was open. I can’t tell if I left it open, pried it open, or if the perps found some other way to break in (e.g. borrowed and cloned a remote). I can’t tell what happened because there’s an unexplained gap in the device event logs. The logs don’t indicate the garage door opening or closing until this morning when I closed the door (the battery is at 75%).

I have a SmartApp that notifies me if the garage is open for more than 5 minutes. It didn’t fired until I was in the garage talking to the police.

I used to have an app that would notify me every 5-15 minutes if the garage door is open, but after it failed to recognize the garage door as closed one day, despite the app showing a status of closed, I had to uninstall it.

I can’t trust the motion sensors. A wall receiving the sun’s rays, or a hot breeze triggers the motion sensors day and night. My fiance will visit when I’m not here and clear the house, room-by-room, because of a buggy sensor or SmartApp. Or she’ll sit in the car crying because she’s too scared to go in.

Mobile Presence (Android) is unreliable and difficult to configure. This results in an automatic away notifications being unreliable and slow. Do I set off an alarm when there’s motion detected, but no one’s home? No, it’s probably my fiance visiting before I get off work. Inversely, it leaves gaps in coverage by not always recognizing when one of us leaves.

Mobile presence (MPS) is also difficult to set up for second and third hubless locations. My fiance has been experimenting with adding other locations the last few weeks. She’d like to notifying each other when we leave work. She’s somehow managed to configure each of our phones twice as a MPS.

I could automatically “lock down” my house when I’m home after a certain time. But there’s no feedback if something is still open. If I want to check the current status, I’d have to hunt for my phone to check the status (several screens deep), or just set off the siren and deal with a PO fiance. Last I checked the docs, I didn’t see a way to trigger an event based on the mode changing.

I really want to defend my continued use of ST as a security system to my fiance, but she’s pushing for a monitored alarm system. And she’s probably right (but don’t tell her I said that).

Where do we go from here? There are some improvements I’d like to suggest to ST:

  1. Partner and integrate with a monitored alarm company. I don’t want to double-up on my sensors.
  2. Wall panel to change the mode and view the status of the house.
  3. Add a web page I could keep open on a tablet or computer. It should have the current status, summary of my devices, and a live view from my cameras (Foscam).
  4. Presence sensor with buttons to change the modes.
  5. Different alert levels on the phone (ding for notification, klaxxon for alarm, etc).
  6. A more reliable backend network. It shouldn’t show an incorrect state or have missing logs. I’d also appreciate it if the logs could be converted to the local date and time. (It makes it easier when filing police reports.)
  7. Improve the IDE device log UI so we can filter by date and time.
  8. Better motion sensor hardware.
  9. [Better] camera integration including …
  10. Automated PTZ control for cameras. If the garage door opens, the camera should pan to the door. If it closes, it should pan back to it’s previous position.
  11. Glass-break sensors

I totally respect the amount of engineering, infrastructure, and programming powering ST. I know these aren’t all easy problems to fix.

I’d appreciate some ideas from the community for how I can prevent this from happening again.

Sorry to hear about your troubles. In my opinion, you should not rely on SmartThings alone if you want your home secured from break-ins. ST has many features of the burglar alarm system, but it’s more complex than a no-frills, dedicated alarm panel and as such, has many points of failure and therefore less reliable. At the very least, you should know what the risks are if you’re going to use it as a primary alarm system.

However, SmartThings can be used for expanding and self-monitoring a conventional burglar alarm system. You can buy and self-install a DCS or Honewell alarm panel for less than $100 to act as a primary alarm system, essentially protecting your perimeter (doors and windows) and then integrate it with SmartTings to do other fancy stuff like controlling your lights, thermostat, door locks, etc. and also to send you email and push notifications if your burglar alarm gets tripped. This way you don’t need to pay monthly monitoring fee.