Home automation plus security is ready for primetime now – – just not at SmartThings’ price point.
Everything for a price
As someone who is quadriparetic, I follow this stuff pretty closely. If you have $50,000-$100,000 to spend, plus an annual maintenance fee, you can get a very nice system that combines security, home theater control, lighting control, HVAC control, etc. from companies like Crestron and control 4.
Or one room–for a price
If you have medical needs like I do, there are good “environmental control systems” that offer voice control of lighting, HVAC, a television, Xbox, A telephone, and a hospital bed for about $15,000 for one room. No remote control on these usually. Some are using pretty old technology. But they work well and are very reliable. You still have to pay for a separate security system, though.
As far as I know, SmartThings doesn’t hold any patents on new technology. What was pioneering about them was their intention to offer the equivalent features of the high-end systems at a price of $250-$500 a room. That was a really remarkable goal. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen short on the reliability piece for now.
Or a great price with excellent reliability–for limited features
There are other relatively inexpensive systems that are doing great as far as reliability, but they have much more limited feature sets. Amazon echo plus harmony plus Phillips hue plus IFTTT gets you a lot of value and stays well within the low-end budget. But it’s still much more limited than smartthings. No door locks, for example. Very limited use of sensors, and the ones that there are, don’t give you notifications. You can start building up from there but things get pretty complicated pretty fast as well as more expensive. And you’re managing multiple apps. And once you throw in a security system like Scout or Simplisafe, you almost double the cost and have yet one more app to manage.
Anyway, I just bring this all up because it’s not actually the technology that’s the issue. It’s delivering the technology at the target cost.
I do think we’re going to see improvements at hitting that target with a reliable system coming pretty soon. SmartThings is “thread-capable,” which opens up a lot of future options. If HomeKit can solve the power management issue for battery-powered sensors, they should have something to offer. Maybe the answer will come in the form of something like Yomomi, A slick rules engine that lets you tie all the various separate systems together. If each of the individual systems is pretty much “set and forget,” then a master app could work. Who knows, maybe Microsoft will score a victory with alljoyn. We’ll just have to see what comes.
Pick a target?
But I do think the very low end of the market, which is where SmartThings is positioned now, is broken into two segments: hobbyists (the kind of people who buy raspberry pi’s), and the plug and play people who buy Phillips Hue lightstrips.
The first group is looking for the absolute least expensive option (they complain about spending $14 for a motion sensor on Alibaba, but are willing to spend two hours every week keeping things running)
and the second group is willing to spend $60 for a lightbulb that turns purple, but only if it costs very little in time.
SmartThings markets to both groups, but I’m just not sure you can hit the target price and keep them both happy.