"Top 10" uses for beginners? I'm overwhelmed

Hi everyone -

I’m a beginner and have a handful of switches and a multipurpose sensor online at this point. I’ve been searching for some sort of “Top 10” list of where to start with SmartThings, but no such luck. Is there a particular thread for newbies where I can dive into the most popular items? I realize I can do pretty much anything, but I guess I want to start more basic at this point.

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!



Welcome to the world of home automation! Here is a place where you can find a lot of interesting reads. It is not fully developed as the Wiki is a community initiative, but has a lot of good info to get you started.


As for your question, are you looking for top 10 uses or more like top ten apps?


Do you mean the most popular use cases? Smartthings is an extremely versatile system, so different people will use it for different purposes. For example, someone who lives alone might want a “light follows me” type use case where the lights keep coming on and going off as you move from room to room. But as soon as you have two people living in a house, that type of smartapp becomes much harder to coordinate and you’re more likely to have one person sitting there in the dark. :wink:

I myself am quadriparetic with limited hand function, so I am very interested in these cases that give me hands-free operation. The Amazon echo was a very valuable addition to my set up for me for that reason. But if you have a new baby, you may not want to use voice control at all in order to make naptime last as long as possible!

If you want to think about some of the things you can do with automation that you can’t easily do without it, that usually falls into the following big categories:

One) put things on a time schedule. For example, I have an entry light that comes on 20 minutes before sunset. I never realized how much we would like that Until we had it.

  1. trigger one set of devices from values measured by another set. This could be something as simple as a closet light coming on when the doors opened. But it might also be triggered by motion, light level, a pressure sensor, humidity, a device crossing a geofence, etc

  2. Group devices in a way you couldn’t do before. For example, I have a “bedtime” routine which turns on one light in the living room, one in the hallway, and one in my bedroom. That way when I’m ready to go to bed, I turn the lights in three rooms on and after I’m in bed I turn them all off again. I do this by voice, but you could do it with one button on a handheld remote or just with your phone.

And there’s the classic “movie night” where you have turning on your home entertainment system also turn down the lights. So sometimes grouping means multiple devices come on together, and sometimes it means some come on and some go off. :film_projector:

  1. get notifications when specific events happen. I get a notification when the linen closet has been left open for more than two minutes, or if the guestroom window is open and rain is expected. Different people will find different notifications useful, but most people find something in this category helpful.

Anyway, those are just some General ideas. If you’re looking for an introduction to how to set up these kinds of actions in SmartThings, see the following scheduling intro:


If you just want some inspiration, the official blog always has some cool ideas. :sunglasses:

And the following thread is where some members put their favorite automations. It’s not exactly a top 10 list, but again, lots of inspiration:


There are no top 10 list because everyone has different purpose for IoT.
I can give you a few examples.

Night light dimming / Wake up light.
-when my bedroom motion is activated, the night light would turn on at 100% and within 1 hour it dims to 10%. In the morning 1 hour before my alarm up it dim up to 100% until my living room motion trigger.

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1)You can get a weather report in the morning when you walk by the kitchen motion sensor.

2)You can have Lights outside your house turn on with motion or sunset.

3)You can get an Alert if your baby’s room is TOO HOT in the summer or TOO COLD in the winter.

4)You can get alerts when your doorbell is wrung.

5)You can control your garage/front/back doors open/close while away and get alerts on your phone.

6)You can get an Alert when someone rings your door, while the dropcam takes a photo of the person.

7)You can get alerts when members of your family come and go from home. i.e.Elderly mambers of the family wondering out of the house.

8)Your lights can turn off when no one is in the room.

9)You can integrate Alexa into your house.

  1. You can get Alerts when mailbox is open/closed.

Here is a post by SmartThings’ CEO that inspired me to tripple my home’s smarts inventory couple of years ago:

Fast forward to 2016, there is a revival of the same topic

Heres a few of the things I have

  • Porch light comes on 30 minutes before Sunset and turns off at 10:30pm. Light also comes on when the door is opened if its dark. Back door light does this too, as do the garden lights.

  • Lounge lights come on when motion is detected when the sun is set and go off after 10 minutes

  • Nest smoke alarms are connected to my Hue lights, so they flash if there is a warning

  • I run Plex Media Server at home, and have my lights in various rooms set to automatically dim when something is playing, and then light up when paused or stopped

  • Various lights around the house come on when I’m not in to simulate someone at home

  • My office Hue lightstrip flashes different colours when something happens so I know what’s going on when I have my headphones on

  • I get a notification when my doorbell is rung

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And here’s a nice infographic about a SmartThings home that many of us have implemented:

Per that infographic.

How would cabinets notify you if small children are opening them?

Or do they just notify you when anyone is opening them?


At the present time there’s not really a practical way to do what’s called “Microlocation,” that is knowing who is in a particular room. You can know who is in a house sized zone using Geopresence. But an individual room is much more complicated, primarily because most of the detection methods can go through walls so it’s really hard to differentiate between the kitchen and the hallway right next to the kitchen.

Everybody wants inexpensive micro location, The technology just isn’t quite there yet. (No matter what Indiego go prerelease marketing campaigns say.)

You can do small area recognition with I beacons if you really want to (we do at my house) but it requires the cooperation of the person being detected because they have to either be carrying the phone or wearing a beacon.

Which means if what you want is detection of a teenager opening a liquor cabinet, that’s not going to happen – – they’ll figure out how to get around it too quick.

What you could get was a notification that the liquor cabinet had been opened when you yourself were not home. Or after midnight. So just comes down to the details of the use case.

By the way, there are complicated multiple device methods that you could use if you really wanted. For example, you could put a pressure mat on the floor in front of the cabinet and get a notification if there was a weight of less than 120 pounds on the mat and the cabinet opened. Stuff like that. But you have to get pretty creative and again it generally requires cooperation on the part of the people involved and it depends very much on the exact details of each use case.


I think the only willing participant in my house would be the dog.


Yeah, dogs are a lot easier to train than people. :wink:

(not my dog, but mine knows the same behavior)


For me, the primary draw for ST was being able to remotely check on and turn off lights when nobody was home. Between my wife and my daughter I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from work in the afternoon only to realize that the lights in 3 rooms have been on for the past 10 hours. I started with a couple of switches for the most commonly left-on areas and primarily used the ST routines to control them based on a combination of my wife’s and my phones.

As I’ve learned more about the types of devices available, as well as the huge flexibility of the open platform, my setup has grown quite a bit, including voice control with Echo and integrating my Logitech Harmony remote into several different things.

As a beginner, I’m assuming that if you have been able to justify the initial expense then you have identified at least one specific use case to get started with. As you learn more you can grow the system in the direction that makes the most sense to you.


You may need a more complax multi device integration to know who exactly opened the cabinet.

What I did for my kid is setup one of my BLINK cameras to take a photo of the location when the cabenate open/close sensor is opened. It will push notification alert to my phone and my wife’s phone and there will be a photo in the feed.


A couple of my favorite uses:

  • Smart Lights (Marketplace>SmartApps>SmartThings Recommends>Smart Lights) to turn my lights on when I come home after sunset so that I never walk into a dark apartment.

  • I do not have an AC unit in my bedroom. I have a motion sensor under my bed that turns a night light on and off (Smart Lights). I use it’s temperature sensor to control a box fan in hallway with Virtual Thermostat (*Marketplace>SmartApps>Climate Control>Virtual Thermostat) when the temperature gets too hot

  • Sonos only works on LAN, but SmartThings Hubs can trigger them to activate remotely. I manually activate Speaker Mood Music (Marketplace>SmartApps>Music & Sounds>Mood Music) to turn on NPR from my building parking lot so I don’t have to sit in the car to hear the end of the report. (<- yes - I am aware of the geek-level when this is considered an everyday use)

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I think my top 10 favorite in my setup are:

  1. Turn on garage lights when the garage door or the entry door to the hosue open at night. This way if my arms are full of kids or i’m going to get dog food I don’t trip up the steps.

  2. If my foscam on the porch detects motion at night after the porch lights go off, it turns them on for 30 minutes

  3. Turn off the fan and lights in our master bedroom if we leave or there is no motion for 15 minutes

  4. Turn off the TV when not motion in the living room for 15 minutes

  5. Turn on the deck light when i open the back door at night. turn off on the 2nd close.

  6. Disarm the alarm (Smart Home Monitor) when the master bedroom door is opened at night (letting the dog out). re-arm when it closes.

  7. Alexa to turn on night mode (goodnight routine)

  8. Turn on the living room lamp for the dog if we aren’t home and it gets dark

  9. Turn on lamp T 10% in daughters room at night when the door opens (when my wife goes in to feed her)

  10. If the dog sitter code is used to unlock the front door, disarm SHM

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What I have done…


Wow - thanks everyone! Now my wheels are really turning.

I love the porch lights idea where they turn on at sunset - I’ll probably do that next. I also realize I need to really start implementing motion sensors - I can see a lot of potential there.

Thanks again for taking the time to write – this is very helpful!



Loved your video. But my Dot named Echo that sits next to my computer when I watched it, was sure confused.:grinning:

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