The SmartButton... x4

So it’s been brought up a number of times… the idea of a smart button.  For those new the idea it would be just a simple push button that resides on the SmartThings network.  The user could program this button to do many different things… from as simple as turning on/off a light, to as complex as running a routine.  For example, I might put a button by my side door.  When I leave the house I push the button and it turns off an lights that are on, then pauses 5 minutes.  After that it closes any garage doors that are open, locks any doors that are unlocked, and if no presence FOBs are detected, and the date is between October and March it lowers the thermostat a bit to save on heating costs.

The idea of the smartbutton is much like the SmartAlarm clock I proposed in another thread… it’s an easy, zero learning curve way for anyone to interact with the SmartThings network.  I don’t need to pull my smartphone out of my pocket to run a routine.  My kids and wife don’t need to do anything fancy to use the advanced features, just push a button.

Well if this has been discussed before (and SmartThings has indicated they are interested in the idea), why bring it up again?  Well, last night I had one of those little brainstorms.  It struck me that the majority of the cost of a smart button is probably going to be the radio, the circuit board, the battery… the actual button itself is doing to be a relatively small portion of the cost.  Furthermore, I can envision having a number of these buttons around my house… in some cases, like my living room or by my door I’d probably end up with 2 or 3 or even 4, all for different tasks.  So why not have a double or triple or even quadruple button.  One device with multiple buttons.  One radio, one circuit board, 4 buttons.  That would be a lot cheaper than 4 separate devices.

What do you think?

I think this sounds like it could be a cool idea.  However, once you start expanding it (adding more buttons) it sounds more like a remote control.  And if you start expanding the remote control, then you have a control panel for you home automation (a control panel that works with the smartthings hub).  Maybe something to think about down the road?

I think the initial focus should be a concentrated effort on getting more things in place to work with the hub.
From a business perspective I think a little bit of research needs to be done to find out if there would be any profit margin involved with making static buttons.  Basically they would need to find out how many people go around these days without some kind of smart device (phone, iPad, iPod, tablet, etc.) and if those people would be willing to shell out some extra bucks to get the features that you describe above.

And when you talk about a control panel that works with smartthings, you essentially have the InstaCube for a touch/visual control panel, and the Ubi for the verbal/auditory control panel.

Good points… yes.

One thing to consider, however, in favor of the SmartButton (whether it be a single, double, or whatever button) is the versatility.  Granted, it depends significantly on price as you mention Dave.  But consider the easy of use even if you do carry a phone/tablet with you regularly.

For example, my closing up the house routine.  As you are leaving for work.  Maybe you a coffee in your hands, your computer bag too.  You’re phone is in your pocket or belt clip.  Do you want to stop, dig out your phone, slide to unlock, find the app, open it, find and run the routine, then put your phone back away.  Or do you want to press one button that’s stuck to the wall right by your door?

Or something as simple as lights… when I’m home sitting in my chair watching TV, my phone is usually on a desk or counter, not right next to me.  If I want to turn on or off my lights in the den, getting up to grab my phone will actually be slower than just getting up to turn off the physical switch.

I dont think a smartphone is even on the same level as a button. Completely different functions if you ask me. I imagine that most of the time I’m not going to want to use a phone simply because its too time consuming and clumsy to have to find my phone or take it out of my pocket, unlock, and launch an app.

A one click button would be ideal for many different scenarios.

I could also see it being useful as a panic button, there is a mention of a siren in another thread, that would set off an alarma.  Or for elderly that fall down and cant get up.

Something like this:


Or this:

Might do the trick.

I’m not really impressed but how any of those look but there may be other “zwave buttons/controllers” out there that could trigger an event.

A better and much cheaper way would be to trigger the actions with a NFC-tag if you have an NFC-ready phone.

I don’t know that I agree pelmered.  The whole point of the button is to be able to use features of the SmartThings network without having to use your phone or for people who don’t have a phone.

Now, I agree that if you have a NFC phone it would be easier (if you have the phone with you) to just touch a sensor to launch a command.  But again, you have to have your phone with you then vs. just being able to put a button regardless of if you have your phone with you or not.

I’m also not sure if it would really be cheaper.

Chris: Yeah, I agree that it would be better with only a button for pre programmed actions in many cases, especially for people who do not have an NFC-ready phone, of course.
But this sulotion would be much more expansive and/or harder to install. Why? Because you would not need ANY additional hardware except for the NCF-tags which are very cheap(you can get them for $1 each). A button needs hardware to perform the tasks and connect to the internet or at least to the smartthings hub. By using a NFC-tag you already have all the needed hardware in your phone(radio/GSM/3G, WiFi and programmable hardware that can perform tasks). When you scan an NFC-tag then phone can trigger any pre-programmed action in the phone. Another big advantage with the NFC-solution is that you can reprogram them very easily, where is no need to connect it to a computer and flash the firmware(or a lot of effort to make a remotely programmable interface). See this video for an example:

So to compare the costs:

  • A hardware button with a small SoC that can connect to the smarttings hub would probably cost at least $20-30 each for the hardware.
  • An NFC-tag cost about $1-2 each and could be reprogrammed very easily.

Of course, you could always have one central programmable unit and have wires to the buttons to save some on the hardware, but that would make it much harder and more time consuming to install and it would be a much less flexible solution(you can’t move them easily after you have installed them).

Ah… I see where you finding the cost savings.

I was thinking the NFC tag would recognize the phone by it, then the tag would send the command to the hub, which would initiate the event.  But you’re saying the opposite.  The phone would recognize the specific tag, then the phone would send the command to the hub or SmartApp which would initiate the event.  Yes, much cheaper that way.

Now, I still submit that the idea of the button is for people who don’t have smartphones (or NFC smartphones), so I still think there is a place for buttons, but I do agree that it would be much more expensive.

Also, I disagree on the easier to reprogram part.  My vision of the SmartButton is that is simple reports back to the SmartApp: “I’ve been pushed!”  The button has no brains beyond that.  It’s up to the user to tell the SmartApp what to do in the event that the button has been pushed.  In this sense it would work very similar to your NFC tag idea.

Not to forget, a simple (cheap) doorbell! (That will send you a text or email when someone is at the door)

I would prefer a button to nfc tag. While nfc would be cheaper it still requires me to grab my phone position it and wait. Plus, my phone does not poll the nfc antennae while it is locked.


Wouldn’t reprogramming be done with the smarthub interface and be independent of what the device is anyway?

I like the idea of a smart button and know there would be a commercial market for it (think staples easy button to control different actuators), but my problem is that it still requires action from the consumer.  In other words, while it may be smarter than your average switch, why have a switch at all? Couldn’t we sense events (like when no one was at home) and have that trigger certain actions? I don’t want to have to tell my appliances when I am leaving, they should know I left.

A true smart thing should be able to automatically sense and act without manual user intervention.

A smart door bell is a cool idea, but again I feel like there are other ways to alert us to a visitor. Pressure sensor under a doormat or a laser beam across a walk way that triggers when someone walks by it…


I like your thinking and I think these things will come if they’re not here already.  But the two things are not mutually exclusive.  For example, on my Android phone I run Llama… it’s pretty much the same thing as Tasker for those familiar with that program.  I have any number of conditionals that fire off events.  When I get to work, it turn on Wifi.  When I’m in a meeting, it automatically silents my phone.  After 11:00pm until 6:00am it silents my phone, and dims the screen to the lowest backlight setting.  While I let the automated processes run my phone for the most part, there are times that I need to manually set some controls.  Perhaps I’m in a meeting that happened last minute and isn’t on my calender.  I have a quick button that will silent my phone.  Maybe I’m working really late and don’t want my phone dimmed or silent after 11:00.  I have a quick button to turn up the brightness and volume.

I envision the same thing in a SmartHome situation.  First of all, I don’t want my dogs tripping the motion sensor and activating lights or heat/air conditioning.  So I would need presence sensors.  But what if I lose or forget my sensor?  I don’t want my SmartHouse to become not only dumb, but unusable because I don’t have my FOB with me.  If I have to get up in the middle of the night to let me dog out, I don’t want my motion to trip lights all over the house.  I just really need one light on… enough to see but not enough to blind my dark-adjusted eyes.   On the other hand, if I get up in the middle of the night because my kid is sick and just threw up all over the place, then I need more lights on.  Until the SmartHub can read my mind or have a vomit detector, SmartButtons will allow me to easily over ride default settings.

Additionally, beyond this, the smart button can do much more than just one thing.  This makes it more than just a “smart” switch.  My example is always turning off all lights in the house, locking the door 10 seconds after I push the button, and verifying that all open/closed sensors are closed and texting me if they aren’t.  Theoretically these could even be conditionally based things.  I might have a button right outside my bedroom that turns off all the lights in the house and verifies open/closed sensors if it’s pushed after 10:00pm.  But if it’s pushed at 6:00-7:00 am, it turns on a few lights, starts the coffee maker, and unlocks my back door so I can easily open it when I let me dog out.

I agree, a physical button is sometimes better (necessary).  It also should be very easy to do.  The smartmodule has several GPIO points on it, so all you have to do is hook up one or more momentary pushbuttons to them and program your system response.

One of the beauties of SmartThings is there is no one way to do things. If you would like to use physical buttons to trigger events go for it! If you would rather have the house sensors trigger events, sweet! If you’d like to use your phone to interact with physical devices, thats cool too! To each his own.

We’ve experimented using NFC tags as well. In it’s simplest form, you would run your phone over the tag, which would initiate the phone to send out a web hook to start a series of actions. This idea is still in the early stages since different phones play differently with NFC tags.

One of our earliest prototypes was a hacked up Staples Easy Button. I ripped out the included board and simply replaced it with an Xbee Series 2 radio. One button was the “Emergency Button” when pushed, people would receive an email notification, text message, gchat, and a phone call via Twilio. At the time, these were all custom coded, but now they are able to be used as a one click SmartApp install. However, it makes sense that not everyone would want to buy an Xbee off the shelf and hack it up themselves, so I found these buttons to check out.


Keychain Button

Single Button

There are plenty of in wall Z-Wave and ZigBee switches and buttons, but I happen to run across this one which has 4 buttons.


Does the products work with the SmartThings hub?

I like the price but not the design of the single button. Wish SmartThings could make something like this, but better looking and to be able to be used as a dimmer as well.


For $8.00, you can get this and just cover all the unused buttons with masking tape :slight_smile: – right?
GE 45600 Z-Wave Basic Handheld Remote


@CosmicPuppy, that won’t work currently - it has to be a ZWave master (ZWave devices can only have one master, and that would be the SmartThings).


Something like this may be a viable option:


Another option would be to install a ZWave wall switch… with SmartThings, you can do more than turn something on or off with it - You can detect a double-tap of on or off and use that to perform different actions.