To buy, or not to buy?


(KG) #1

I am a potential customer looking into different combination home automation/security systems, and my research led me here. I read about the system issues that have been occurring lately (what timing, right?) and read the interesting discussion on what this community thought on the different alternatives.

My question is, after all the struggles lately with reliability, is this community still happy with its purchase(s), or is everyone feeling some buyer’s remorse?

Also, what is the community’s experience on percentage of uptime vs. errors? Are we talking the system working correctly 75% of the time? 90%? 99?

I plan to research all the different communities. It will be interesting to see what shakes out.


(Rick S) #2

OK, I’ll start

Installed Dec 2015, 1 for sure issue last weekend during daylight saving change where my hub didn’t update, a ticket to ST fixed the issue within 24 hours. The other issue was a routine that I think failed to fire correctly, however my daughter was here and may have changed some lights, she said no but I can’t be sure

I have a relatively very small system compared to many (13 devices) but 0ther than that, 99.9 reliable

Where I think it gets less reliable is when multiple systems and technologies are mixed and when the routines get very complex.

If you want a security system, this might not be it, if you are looking to make your home more convenient, this this might be just the system

I’m a very happy customer

Rick


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #3

Not sure 99.9% is the most accurate guess, but, yes … ST is more reliable (except for some major events like this past week…) than it seems.

Some actual stats collected over a month:


#4

I’ve been a customer since December 2013, and while ST has had their ups and downs (feels like more downs lately), I have no buyer’s remorse - I wouldn’t have 250+ devices if I did :wink:

I have yet to see anything comparable to ST - varying devices, varying apps, developer capabilities, community, and potential in my opinion. All of that has gotten ST to where they are at today, and while the growing pains are evident, it will get better.

Knowing how passionate our community is, I’m sure others will chime in…


(Rick S) #5

For ME, it has been 99.9, not speaking for anyone else

I am very happy

Rick


#6

I don’t have buyer’s remorse, but I did have to move most things off of SmartThings last November (after a year with the system), because it just wasn’t reliable enough for my needs.

But everybody’s needs are different. I myself am quadriparetic, use a wheelchair and have limited hand function. So even for “simple” issues that just require replacing the batteries in a device or opening the mobile app and saving something again, I have to pay someone else to do it. That makes me very aware of what issues there are.

I have a number of different home automation systems in place, including echo, harmony, Phillips hue bridge, Homekit, A sprinkler system, a separate security system, and a medical monitoring system.

When SmartThings works, it is my absolute favorite home automation system, but since last October I have yet to go more than 10 days without at least one impactful SmartThings issue. Again, I recognize that for many people the fix for those issues is minor. But for me, not so much.

I like being able to use zigbee sensors, I like what SmartThings offers in terms of triggers and notifications, so I continue to use it for some non-critical monitoring, like an alert If the guestroom window was left open and rain is expected. And I continue to hope that the reliability will improve.

There are multiple ways to measure reliability if you measure in terms of a percentage of transactions completed, SmartThings is probably in the 95% range, although the recent outage undoubtedly reduced that.

However, if you measure it as a percentage of days without any problems, I think it’s much closer to 80%.

In contrast, my echo, harmony, and Phillips bridge have all had no more than one day’s outage over six months. My security system has had only two false alarms over about 10 years. My medical monitoring system has never failed in 12 years.

So it all comes down to your own personal needs and preferences. SmartThings is very flexible and versatile. But it’s been over a year since the company said they were going to put reliability first and it seems quite clear that they don’t put reliability first. They put adding new features first. Obviously, that’s their choice, but it’s just something to be aware of.

Personally, I am hoping that when they do release the smart TV version that it will have a more limited feature set but will be much more reliable. We’ll just have to wait to see.


(Nathan Davis) #7

Despite this hiccup I’ve loved it. Worth the investment, imo.


(Bob Anderson) #8

Maybe buy if you are expecting a hobbyist/maker/tinkerer’s toy for which days or weeks of instability are no sweat off your back.

Don’t if you are expecting something mainstream consumer ready that has the reliability associated with typical products in that space.


(Joel W) #9

I am using SmartThings since Oct 2014, and mostly had WeMo problems, but now they are working as they should 99% of the time. I added redundancy to the rules so they go on when they should within five minutes, Example my front lights go on at sunset, but I have a second rule to turn them on five minutes past sunset. I also have off rules a few minutes apart which has made WeMo function much more reliable. I also made sure I had a strong WiFi signal at all corners of the house, so I could remove my second router that extended the network. For some strange reason WeMo has a problem with an extended system. The device would be on one router one morning and by afternoon the other router which is farther away. once I removed the second router WeMo function wa excellent. With the last update to the system WeMo was also improved. My other devices involving my alarm are all run local on the V2 hub except the Leak detector since that isn’t a ST device… Something I haven’t really got a hand on as some non ST devices run local like my Aeorn Generation 5 siren. But my Everspring flood detector run non local. My keypad also runs not local so that is a problem I deal with. During this outage my Smart Alarm has functioned without a hitch, so I have no idea why I haven’t had as much problems as others. My IOS ST app doesn’t update status of the WeMo devices when they should, but the light still goes on or off when they should but status isn’t shown unless I go into the app ad turn off a light that is already off. That is only during this problem. There are a few problem regarding devices reporting power usage such as my HEM V1 and my Power outlet not showing wattage and the HEM V1 not showing full labels for tiles in ST. Example it says reset instead reset watts and on the outlet it should show power in the green box but it shows no power unless I hit recently then I can see the power there. I hope these problems are resolved soon as I need to add another Flood detector and another siren. And then finally a camera. My z-wave devices are all working and so are my zigbee devices. So all in all I am running but feeling a little insecure. If I was asked would I go with ST again it would be yes as it is the most customizable thing out there. I am hoping things remain free unless I chose to have alarm monitoring and Camera storage. That is what was promised so I am taking ST at their word.


(Ron) #10

This is a tough decision for me to recommend this system. It works often but it seems to get worse with every release. Today it started doing things that are seriously making me consider shutting it down. I have ST connected to IR controllers to manage my AC units. I have them configured to turn on my Main floor AC if temp hits 80 and to turn my Master Bedroom AC off in the morning at 7am. I also have the Main Floor AC configured to let me use my Amazon Echo to turn the AC on/off.

The issue that has me considering shutting down the system literaly was discovered a few minutes ago. I walked into my Master Bedroom and it was really hot because my AC which is also a heater was turned on and set to heat. I assumed my Wife had accidentally turned on the unit but when I checked the remote for the unit it was set to OFF. And when I turned it on it was configured to DRY mode which is a de-humidifier which puts out Cool air NOT heat. This means only my Smart Things IR sender had to have turned on the heat. But here is the scary part. I don’t have ANY apps on this device for turning on heat. The only SmartApp I have configured is a time based smart app which shuts the AC unit OFF at 7AM, It’s 7:30PM right now and the Heat was turned on within the last hour or two.

How the heck did this system decide to send a HEAT ON request to my device when I have no apps configured to do this. That is scary. Also checking the activity logs there is nothing there.

I don’t see any way that this heat could have been turned on by something other than SmartThings because of the state of the remote. I can’t be 100% sure but the Smart Things system has been SO unstable lately that I have to assume it is the cause and I see no other possibility. I also found the AC unit on in my extra bedroom the other day and nobody was using it. I suspected the SmartThings hub but when I looked in the logs there was no event. So I dismissed it. But now I realize it had to be a similar issue. This unit has no automation, I do have it configured to work with my second amazon echo but the Master AC unit is not associated with any Amazon Echo do I don’t think it issued the command and if it did it would be in my Amazon Echo log and/or the SmartThings log which it is not.

My real issue with Smart Things at this point is that I have been using the system for over a year and been mostly happy but I have not had a single month during that time where I wasn’t fighting some issue with the system. I have also not felt like I could trust it since day one. And worst of all things keep getting worse not better. I think that is the real reason I don’t recommend this system to anyone. I feel it is on a downward slide.


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #11

I’ve been an ST customer since Sept 2015. I’ve been adding to the system since the first day.

I have some complex logic in my programming, but I’m really wanting much more than a fancy light switch. So, I push my system as hard as I can.

Overs, I am extremely pleased. The hardware is sound, the community support in this forum is unmatched. I highly recommend ST. Unless, of course there is always an unless, you are looking for an out of the box system that is designed for the most basic of user. If that’s the case, I recommend something with a picture of a red fruit on it. They are reliable, solid, and works like a champ. But it will work the way they say it will and your input is not needed.

But, based on your post, I don’t think you’re that your of customer.

I think you may go with wink, but you will hang out here and soon realize at heart you’re really an ST guy.

So, finish your homework and we’ll see you soon!


(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #12

Know that there have been issues for years, mostly around scheduling and polling. If all of your actions revolve around events, SmartThings is pretty solid most of the time.

But if you have anything you consider critical on schedules, timers, States, those will break regularly, requiring you refresh manually or even having to update app settings to kick it in the ass.


#13

I’ve had ST since Nov 2015. I give it 5 stars for the wealth of information in these forums, the community support, and the creativity of its members. You’re unlikely to find this level of community involvement with other automation systems. I haven’t been affected much by the recent platform issues, mostly because I’m still just dipping my toes into it and haven’t gone full bore into automating absolutely everything.

Keep in mind though that most of your expense will be with devices. Your hub is only a $99 decision in this case. Fairly easy to jump ship, should you decide to, and make a different $99 decision while not losing any of the $1000’s (or more) you’ll invest in devices. Keeping that in mind, this community is the reason I chose ST.


(Different Computers. So happy with Indigo.) #14

I’ve been on ST for 2 years now and I’m constantly on the fence about whether to abandon the platform at the cost of half a dozen devices that won’t be compatible with Indigo. This would cost me at least $250 or so, but it seems SO CLOSE to worth it.

I have a close friend who wants some Home Automation. She’s pretty technical. I still don’t recommend ST for her, and instead I’m thinking she might be best going with Hue and HomeKit with a new Apple TV.


#15

I’ve been using HomeKit in addition to echo since last November, and really like it. It’s very easy to set up, it’s been totally reliable, it works well with the Phillips hue bridge. I really like the ability to ask status and it works very well with the watch.

But there are as yet still no battery-operated sensors that can act as HomeKit triggers or send notifications. You can open the app and see how many times a Door has been opened. But you can’t use the door being open to trigger anything else. No motion sensors either. This is a huge gap for home automation. Apple uses examples of a motion sensor turning on a light in there HomeKit documentation, but there are as yet no devices that can actually do that.

I could set up a separate security system just for sensors and notifications, but then I don’t have triggers for my lights. I could use harmony, which can use sensors as triggers for harmony activities, but it has no notifications. So I’m still waiting to draw up my candidate list for my phase two for another couple of months.


(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #16

You can keep the ZigBee devices, and just have the SmartThings hub forward their events to Indigo. The event based stuff in SmartThings is still pretty solid.


(Glen King) #17

Reading these things gives me pause. I do want to eventually hook my heat/AC into ST, along with getting better control over my Schlage lock. But for the moment I’m going to defer those tasks until this system gets stabilized… I’d hate for the furnace to start up instead of the AC on a hot July day.

That said, I’m having fun and accomplishing some things - and I have a security system where I had nothing prior to ST. So I don’t regret being part of this.


(KG) #18

I appreciate all the responses thus far.

I think (and this was said by others in different places) that home automation + security just isn’t ready for prime time yet; at least, not to what I hoped it would be when I started researching this project. Some of it works most of the time, but not all of it works all the time. As long as you aren’t reliant on it, it seems like it could be a fun hobby. If you actually need it to work, then it becomes a stressor (and I have enough stressors).

To me, ST’s main positive attributes include versatility, ability to be customized, and quite frankly, this community. I hope Samsung sees this as a potential golden cow and pours resources into it to help make it what it should be. I suspect Samsung, Amazon, and Apple will all be major players in this going forward (I’m sure Microsoft will try to get into the act late in the game, because that is what they do).

As far as the negatives, I am not sure that the cloud computing is a positive; to me, it’s more likely to be a negative. It reminds me of the evolution from DOS to now Windows 10. The programs get more and more complicated, which results in laypeople like myself having less and less control if something breaks. The fact that scheduling doesn’t work (and hasn’t worked in forever?) correctly is also a big negative… why release new features when the current features don’t work properly? Overall, I agree with a lot of the posters that would prefer less features/interactions/devices but that those supported work 100% of the time.

I don’t know what I will end up doing… at this point, I may just bide my time, lurk around forums like this one, and see what happens.


#19

Thanks to the OP for asking this question. I’m in a similar boat and came here wondering to buy, or not. I was originally looking for a DIY home security system that can be self-monitored or, if desired, professionally monitored. SmartThings and Scout are the only systems I’ve found that will do both. I lean toward SmartThings because self-monitoring is free, it has more options and it’s backed by Samsung.

Like the OP, I don’t know what I’ll end up doing but hopefully this forum will help me decide.


#20

Home automation plus security is ready for primetime now – – just not at SmartThings’ price point. :wink:

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.

Coming soon?

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) :rocket: :boom: :pizza: :heart_eyes:
and the second group is willing to spend $60 for a lightbulb that turns purple, but only if it costs very little in time. :bulb: :rainbow: :heart_eyes:

SmartThings markets to both groups, but I’m just not sure you can hit the target price and keep them both happy.