The Future of Home Automation?

iotfuture

#1

I don’t see these home automation “smart” devices becoming mainstream any time soon. It sounds like a great idea but the execution is a long way off from being reliable.

I have a very modest system. It consists of the SmartThings Hub, a Philips Hub, an Amazon Dot, a couple of Smart AC outlets, three Philips Smart bulbs, and a Honeywell Lyric thermostat… That’s it, and even these things cannot work reliably for any length of time. I have my two bulbs in the bedroom set by SmartThings to come on when I get home. They do, most of the time. For two days straight, they have not come on at all. I checked the app and the settings are fine. My phone has location services on 24/7. Many times, as I’m watching TV, both my lights will suddenly just turn off. Occasionally, when giving Alexa a voice command to operate the lights, it will tell me that the Philips Hub is not available. Repeating the command usually makes it work.

I have a Kasa Smart AC outlet that I use to operate a bedside fan. I have it switch off at the time I awake. It has worked for weeks, then all of a sudden, it doesn’t turn off. I checked the Kasa app and everything appeared to be in order. I deleted and reinstalled the device and set the schedule again and it works now.

These are the most successful devices I have owned. Others, like some smart bulbs would turn themselves on twice in the wee hours of the morning waking me up. Then they would go from dim to full brightness without warning. Those I returned.

WiFi is just too flaky of a transmission medium for these things and the dependence of outside servers is not desirable for most people. These devices need to be autonomous from any connection from the outside world unless there is a reason someone wants it, like for local temperatures, etc.

I work for a retail custom audio/video store and we were thinking about installing these for customers, but with the issues that exist even in small setups, I can only imagine how many service calls we’d be getting. Not worth it. Home automation has a long way to go before it’s commonplace.


#2

My personal MFOP (maintenance free operating period) for home automation is at least six months, and preferably 12.

For almost two years, I’ve had no trouble getting that from a number of Wi-Fi based systems, including Amazon echo, Logitech Harmony, the Phillips hue bridge, as well as two systems with additional protocols, Lutron Caseta and HomeKit. They’re all reliable, although they have many fewer capabilities than SmartThings. I have no problem recommending any of them to other people.

SmartThings, on the other hand, is a different issue, as many people have discussed in these forums. Over the same period I’ve never had an MFOP of more than 10 days, and right now it’s been a couple of weeks since I could use the app at all. :disappointed_relieved:

But that’s not “home automation.” It’s just a particular platform.


#3

I’m curious, how do people find the reliability of things tied directly to Home or Echo? I have always assumed its pretty rock solid since I wouldn’t have thought either Google or Amazon would go into it with reliability problems, but you know what happens when you assume.


#4

I have the Phillips hue bridge, harmony, The Lutron smart bridge, and a couple of other things tied directly to echo. All have been very reliable and I use them all the time. There have been two days when there was a partial outage on echo in the last 15 months. Both outages lasted less than 3 hours. Otherwise, that’s it, everything worked fine as long as my internet was working.

Because I have to use voice (I am quadriparetic with limited hand control) I have Siri as a back up voice option for most of the same devices since HomeKit will work via cellular if the Internet is not available.


#5

Well, it isn’t or there wouldn’t be thousands of people posting about issues. Like just tonight, I told Alexa to turn on a fan. It didn’t happen. I told “her” to turn off a light, she just replied “Sorry, I’m having trouble with that. Try again later.” They both worked fine when I opened the app on a tablet and did it.

The thing is, I shouldn’t need to be connected to the Internet to make any of these things happen. All the devices are here, in the same room, in fact. They are connected to my local network and WiFi. There is no need for outside servers to be involved in this. This is the main reason this will never go mainstream.


#6

Are you talking about SmartThings, Echo\Home, or both? I can’t speak for Echo/Home as although I have both, it’s all connected through ST. I do agree ST isn’t ready for primetime though as I experience much the same although works pretty reliably most of the time. It would also be nice to have all local processing but I don’t think a solution requiring cloud processing will prevent it from ever being viable for the masses. The longer we go the better and more widespread internet access becomes. I think cloud processing is just becoming a fact of life for many products.


#7

So tonight, shortly after my last post, all Alexa devices show “Offline”, even though they are all online and work fine, I just can’t get Alexa to operate them. I tried disabling them, re-enabling, removing, tried to discover devices, etc. Only the three Hue bulbs were able to be discovered, although I had about 17 before (counting scenes and such). I have no Alexa control over my outlets or thermostat.

Googling this, I find that it is a very common occurrence.This is what I’m talking about.

And as far as ST, it is not very intuitive the way you have to command things with Alexa. For instance, there is a “Goodnight” scene in SmartThings for turning out lights, etc. Using Alexa, you have to say “Alexa, turn on goodnight”. It makes no sense. You should just be able to say “Alexa, goodnight”, but you can’t.


#8

I’m sure it’s a very common occurrence for devices connected through SmartThings. But it’s not a common occurrence for devices connected directly to echo – – you can look at both the Phillips hue discussion board, for example, or the Amazon forums.

Both hue and echo have sold literally millions of devices. If they didn’t have reliability they wouldn’t sell in those numbers.

Precisely because they have sold so many, just googling won’t tell you much as there are bound to be some people who have problems. So once you start selling to millions of customers, a Google search may return quite a few trouble reports.

The Amazon reviews are often interesting because you can see the percentage of people who give five stars versus One star or two stars, for example. Or check the specific message boards.

There is an ongoing issue with Phillips hue if you use GE lightbulbs with them or some other third-party brands. I stick with the $15 Hue Whites for most applications.


(Simon) #9

The future of home automation is that it will get easier, more reliable and one day we will all use it without even thinking about it. Just like we do mobile phones, sat nav, the internet and all the other ‘pointless’ technologies we could never see a use for.

The real question is how long it will take to get there and who will be biggest beneficiaries. Us as consumers or those who harvest our data for commercial gain.

SmartThings may not be 100% reliable, but for me it works well enough given the state of the market.


#10

Only if it changes its current form. It needs to be a system that is every bit as independent as a normal light switch in a home is now. These companies have to get their thumbs out of the pie and just make and sell product.


#11

So when I got home from work today, I opened Alexa and found that nine new devices had been mysteriously added. I did not run any discovery after last night when I tried over a dozen times and it would find only the three Hue bulbs. The three Hue devices that did work now were “Offline” and all the others online. The Hue bulbs were added again under another name, tied to SmartThings, so I removed the offline ones.

This proves the problem was in someone’s server and not my setup because nothing was done here and it wouldn’t just fix itself. This is my point. There is too much reliance on someone else’s systems be working. This is akin to having a neighbor’s light bulbs wired in series with yours and when his bulb burns out, yours stops working too. I maintain a pretty tight network. I don’t want to have to rely on the Internet or another company’s systems to have my lights works. I’m not an electronics or computer newb. I built my own computer in 1978, long before Apple or the IBM PC even existed. I have six computers running 24/7, a Xeon system that serves as a media server, an Apache web server, dedicated game server, VoIP, etc. I built my own firewall/router. I’ve been a custom electronics installer for 35 years. Compared to what I do every day, setting up these home automation things is kid stuff.

Just wanted to show this is not me, but the “smart” devices.


(Derek) #12

So I’m brand new to HA and ST, but I’m beginning to learn that ST may not be a reliable platform. Not to mention other deficiencies like only a community based rules engine and poor GUI. But my problem is trying to find that “ideal” platform that does HA well, reliably, and not a multi-thousand dollar 100% custom installed system. Zipato seems to have a beautiful GUI-based rules engine and management interfaces. But user forums are ripe with Android/iOS app complaints. It just seems to me the HA software-defined aspects are highly immature. Sensors, if you buy quality, seem to be a lot more mature.

I’m still searching for that high quality hub/rules engine that’s backed by a solid company. Hell, I’d pay $500 or more for a hub if it was really solid with good automation engine. Am I missing a product that is just that?


#13

Different things work for different people. :sunglasses:

See the following (this is a clickable link)