What would you put in an ultimate Smart Home?

I am extremely fascinated by Smart Homes, I am just beginning to get into them and would love to learn as much as i can. I have a project that i would LOVE input on :wink: There are so many “Things” out there and i can’t even comprehend them all!
I have a client who is building a massive home (mansion standards for our area). We’re talking 4 stories, 2 double car garages, an elevator, a builtin vault that is the size of a master bedroom, quarters for 3 different sets of guests that may visit anytime with mini kitchens… Their main living areas include a lodge style open concept living/dining & kitchen area and my guess is that it measures at least 60’ across from wall to wall. 2 large offices are on the other side of the kitchen where Cat6 that has been run to every aspect of the house terminates. There are 2 small children with their own bed/bath combos and 2 playrooms, one on each upper level of the house. They have balconies on the 2nd and 3rd stories with sliding glass doors. The house is setup for geothermal heating via a pond that is about 150’ away from their house with a creek that runs to it from the house. So, I could go on and on about this place but hopefully i’ve given enough to get us started…
The house is wired for POE IP cams, haven’t decided on which ones yet, open to input here as well… would like integration with smart home if possible…

Top of my head Items:
Some type of sensor in all kid areas and main living areas
-*The pond and stream concern me with the small children, what sensors can be put in/around these? i was thinking devices like they use in swimming pools? Variables include lots of deer and other wildlife that will trigger these… not sure if there is a full work around?
-sliding glass doors on the balconies - I cannot find smart locks that work with sliding doors… There are door sensors though…
-moisture sensor in utility room
-Motorized window coverings would be awesome that automatically close when the temperature reaches a certain degree. southern facing windows, the heat gets real bad in the summer, I have the same issue (mini issue in comparison) in my house. Awesome in the winter though… I did see Aeotec’s smart film but don’t think that it will block the sun/heat from coming in…
-Lighting -Love the LED Hue that is available, but how to install in an area that has 5-10 lights/ dimmer switch without changing out all? areas to put these would be great… rope lighting ideas too needed outside of above/below cabinets… what about hallway floor and stair lighting for night motion?
-at least 3 different fixed control panels for use outside of phones (suggestions?) read a post about nexus 7 tab used in this thread: http://blog.smartthings.com/stories/home-automation-dashboard/ (SO AWESOME but i know absolutely nothing about coding/script/html etc… Really need to learn…
-I believe they have ordered 2 door locks so far Zwave maybe
-doorbell camera intercoms?
-outlets and switches - what should be a must?

Whew… going to stop here and let the fun begin!!!

Wow! That’s a huge project, very exciting.

First the easy part. For control panels, SmartTiles is free, officially supported, and runs on an iPad or android tablet. Very popular, very nice. No custom code required.

Info site here:


And see this topic for wall mount ideas.

Next, the impossible:

There’s nothing practical that you can do about the ponds and streams. The parents are just going to have to come up with their own solutions for that, as human beings have done since time immemorial.

To be honest, the best safety device for A home with streams and ponds and kids is a good farm dog. Not perfect, but a big help if the parents are dogs Savvy and know what they can expect and what they can’t.

But even so, you just basically have to watch the kids until they’re old enough and smart enough to understand water safety. There’s no technological solution for that problem so I wouldn’t waste a lot of time and effort on it.

Good to know there isn’t anything really out there for this… They are very aware parents thank goodness :slight_smile: will save me lots of time not scouring the internet

This is perfect! can’t wait to see what else it out there!

Now the easy stuff. Lighting.

look first at the solutions that don’t require motion sensors, just because motion sensors are the trickiest thing to get right. It’s really hard not to have motion sensors that turn things off at the wrong times. So just put that part of the project aside for the moment.

Now, how can you turn on lighting without using motion sensors?

Lots of options:

  1. with the physical switch (more on that later), but those tablet control panels count for this too.

  2. with a remote control, so you’re sitting on the couch and you turn on a light across the room. Or you’re in bed, and you turn off lights in several rooms.

  3. on a time schedule, like things turn on at seven in the morning or turn off at 10 at night. Or turns on 20 minutes before sunset.

  4. based on light sensitivity, so something turns on when it’s dark.

  5. when someone arrives home based on the presence sensor (not a motion sensor). Can be combined with time of day. Note that this applies to the person entering a pretty big region, usually the whole house,. This is not room by room which is a trickier technology.

  6. Voice control. More on that later.

  7. based on a contact sensor or an open/close sensor. Open the closet door, the light comes on automatically. Close the closet door, the light goes off again. Step on a welcome mat, the porch light comes on. Contact sensors because they capture a moment in time are much easier to set up then motion sensor triggers, especially for the turning lights off part.

  8. based on another light going on. With smart technology these lights don’t have to be in the same room or on the same circuit. Turn one light on and a bunch of others come on also.

  9. miscellaneous other triggers. Anything from being tagged in a Facebook photo to getting an email to the temperature falling below a certain point… There are whole bunch of these possibilities most of which you can see in something like IFTTT. The big complication with most of these is the length of time it takes between the trigger and the light actually going on and off. That might be 15 or 20 minutes. So they don’t substitute for the immediate on options in one through eight, just something else to be aware of… Easy to set up and may have uses.

Anyway, all of those are easy to set up, so you just need to think about which ones would be practical for which specific lights. That is which ones would they actually use.

You are probably going to need to add some kind of switches for many cases, but if you like the wall-mounted smarttiles dashboard, that can handle a lot of them.

So lighting can end up being fairly expensive, but easy to set up, lots of scheduling options, and people really like it.

(And before I forget, for a family with this kind of home, only look at light switches or dimmers that have the “instant status” or “instant update” feature. This will cost about $20 more per light switch, but they’re going to like it a whole lot better. So if they have the means, this is definitely worth investing in. Because of a patent situation, this issue only arises with actual networked switches or dimmers, typically zwave or zigbee. It doesn’t come up for bulbs, contact sensors, tablet dashboards, motion sensors, or anything else. Just physical light switches.)

Motion sensors can also be used but introduce much more scheduling complexity and may require custom code.

Another place to look is the set of existing smart set up SmartApps.

All of these are available in the standard smartthings mobile app, no custom code required.

These may give you some additional ideas for things to explore.

And now for the elephant in the room…

Would I personally right now, in 2015, undertake this type of project for somebody else based on SmartThings?

My own answer is no. I don’t find smartthings to be reliable enough right now for me to sell it to someone else. I like it at the present time for a few small convenience cases, set up so I always have an immediate plan B available in case SmartThings fails.


My personal belief is that at the present time there are several very reliable, very nice, very expensive home automation systems available that cost between $15,000 and $40,000 and require ongoing professional maintenance. Crestron and control 4 are two of the most popular in this group.


And my personal guess (only a guess) is that by the summer of 2016, there will be several reliable plug-and-play home automation systems in the under $5000 range. Apple’s homekit/Insteon Will be one of the competitors. I fully expect a Samsung/smarTthings system to be another. Nest will probably anchor a third. And there will likely be another three or four.


But we’re not there yet. The only system under $2000 that has made reliability its top priority is Staples connect, because their target audience is small businesses who won’t put up with the kind of instability that residential homeowners will, at least that the first adopters will. But they got that stability by having many fewer features, only a few device choices, and most of the devices being the most expensive in their category.

Everybody else in the under $2000 group, including SmartThings, has made adding lots and lots of cool features their priority. Which is fun, but I would not rest my professional reputation on providing the system based on any of those controllers to someone else. Because my client is going to come back and Yell at me the first time the lights don’t go on when they should.

I have been putting off all my own major home automation projects until the fall of 2016, when I think there will be many more choices to consider and they will all have much better reliability than the current generation of what’s out there in my budget range.

So that’s the elephant in the room. There are all kinds of cool things that you can make a cheap home automation system do today. But you can’t count on things that work on Monday to also work on Tuesday. They might, but they might also stop working for a couple of weeks at a time, as happened recently with the minimote controllers.


So your first question as a professional providing services to others, is what will your clients’ expectations be? And will the system you recommend be able to meet those expectations?

Glad someone got to this (c; A home this size, and a client with sufficient resources (and expectations) is going to be furious at the reliability and maintenance issues presented by an underpowered network device with an embedded system used for integration, someone else’s server in the cloud for executing queries and commands, and a bunch of cheap, battery operated input devices… i.e. SmartThings. While it is a clever, open (somewhat), and versatile cheap & dirty solution; it’s designed for do it yourselfers, and has yet to prove itself in areas of security, reliability, and properly tracking the states of devices in a typical family dwelling, let alone a mansion.

This can be done without the proprietary big fish like Crestron, but still requires a dedicated server, coding, integration, networking, and maker skills. Coach the client well in the choice of their control systems, making certain they have a well maintained and documented local API (Hue, iTach, and Venstar are prime examples of this), for if they depend upon a vendor’s cloud solution (or even proprietary local control software), you are at the mercy of their developers, servers, and the company’s well being. Things simply move too fast in this day and age to count on these types of dedicated solutions.

But to be brutally honest… your client (if that means someone that has contracted with you to design and implement this) needs a new contractor.

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I may be wrong, but I assumed that the original poster is probably an interior decorator, not a contractor, someone who had been attracted by the marketing materials for smartthings and similar low-cost home automation systems. The kind of professional who would, for example, be aware that there are automated blinds available without actually being the installer.

These days interior decorators do make recommendations on lighting fixtures and all that, without actually knowing any of the detailed technology behind them.

In my own case, since I’m quadriparetic, it’s pretty typical for an occupational therapist to recommend an environmental control system (home automation), even discuss the advantages and disadvantages of say, an elevator versus a stair lift, again without their having to know any of the technology behind it. Or oversee the installation. They just have to know the feature set and the usual cost ranges, and how a typical consumer client would interact with those features.

So I thought that’s what we were looking at: a forward thinking interior decorator. In which case, knowing about the expensive options may be enough to meet the clients’ needs in terms of this particular person’s professional services. But again, I may have been mistaken.

Fair enough, but the comments made about wanting/needing to learn coding, scripting, and HTML, had me thinking otherwise.

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You’ve definitely hit it on the nose there, JD. Home Automation (and various peripherals of the space, including remote controls, light bulbs, speech recognition, whole home audio, cameras, super sensors, …) are a very popular product type on Kickstarter and IndieGogo. Many of those projects/campaigns don’t meet their lofty objectives, especially (ironically?) if very over-funded. New project creators don’t seem to be learning from the difficulties encountered by past similar scale projects – well, actually, the crowdfunding platforms haven’t done anything to incentivize conservative scope. – In short, I don’t see any value in pre-purchasing these products (i.e., backing / funding), since the risk of delays, poor quality, and non-delivery has a high probability of outweighing the fictitious “retail discounts” offered.

Anyhow, here is one super recent example; picked at random, I am not endorsing any specific product(s) in this posting:

Oomi: Smart Home. Redefined.

They are including rebranded black versions of the Aeon Aeotec Multi-Sensor 5 and power outlet, but also have a nifty combined camera-sensor cube instead of a “hub”.
A very flashy and attractive component is the “affordable” classy touch pad.

I used to start an entirely new Topic for such products like the Oomi so that the Community could discuss the pros and cons, hopes and fears, … but there never was much discussion and the products are so delayed or disappointing, it was not worth the bytes.

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Whenever I consult on architectural projects (residential or commercial), I always recommend using one of the larger automation players. In this instance, as budget doesn’t seem to be a big factor, I would call a Control 4 dealer. Their solutions are must more robust and integrated.

ST is great for hobbyists, but I would never recommend installing it in a client’s house. When my ST system fails, I have to fix it myself. When a Control 4 system fails, I just call the dealer. (Or even better, the client can just call the dealer and leave me the heck out of it :slight_smile: )


I love tech stuff to be plainly simple… I live in the middle of nowhere USA and do tech support for the locals here… To them I am a genius. In reality, I am Tech Savvy at most… I can admit it openly just fine. I crave knowledge and can’t get enough but only have access through the internet and limited time due to a busy life…

[quote=“JDRoberts, post:10, topic:16127”]
I may be wrong, but I assumed that the original poster is probably an interior decorator, not a contractor, someone who had been attracted by the marketing materials for smartthings and similar low-cost home automation systems. The kind of professional who would, for example, be aware that there are automated blinds available without actually being the installer.
[/quote] No interior designer, just a local computer person… Yes attracted to low cost home automation systems, want to take a crack at them, starting with myself but the “Client” in question heard me talking about it all and wants it put in… I explained that it was in its infancy and there would be issues… Definitely in over my head at this time after reading all your posts and doing some more research…

Definitely don’t want this to happen
I can’ t thank everyone enough for all of your answers. I have been researching and looking into “inexpensive” smarthome systems for a couple of months on and off and the picture that I have gotten in my head is what you all have confirmed… In the Future they will be great but not right now… The LAST thing that I want is for my client to be calling me constantly because their system is unstable or not working…

So… My final question on this… Should I scrap the whole thing or go with something extremely simple like a few lights and a couple door locks? They already have the door locks, I told them to wait on a hub until the V2 is released, so currently there isn’t a controller for the locks…

[quote=“NorCalLights, post:14, topic:16127”]
Control 4 dealer. Their solutions are must more robust and integrated
[/quote] I’m going to give them the links for the Big guys or Creston who was also mentioned but i doubt they’ll go there… I think they’ve gone overboard in pricing about as much as I did with the thought that this would work :pensive: Sad day…


Dunno what locks you have; The “smart” locks I have seen use batteries that need to be frequently replaced, and the lock mechanism itself is of low quality (insecure). There are far more secure mechanisms available such as solenoid operated deadbolts and electromagnetic sill plates.

Which brings up the fact that prewire is king in smart homes. I am using maybe only 70% of the wire I ran when I built my house, but I am glad I ran it, because ten years ago I was only using maybe 50% of it. I even have some main conduits from my low voltage board to the attic, other wing of the house where the home theater is located, and to the underground entry for utils. Really glad I did that as I have pulled numerous new connections (including fiber) that I simply did not foresee initially.

I would have run EMT everywhere if I could have afforded it. If the construction is still at the stage where prewire is possible, run conduit from your main termination point/patch station to everywhere… (c; You almost can’t have too much capacity if the future is to be considered.

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Someday, (soon?) ST will be robust enough and simple enough for this type of project. But not yet. Until then, @scottinpollock is right. Run conduit. If you can’t run conduit, run copper.

Except for the locks, a small SmartThings kit is ≈ $200 and that can be an opportunity to show your client the potential… Such as did I leave the garage door open? How about turning on the hall light whenever a motion sensor triggers? That will leave them wanting more… But slowly.

Schlage FE599NX CAM 619 ACC 619 Home Keypad Lever with Z-Wave Technology, Satin Nickel is what they and myself have purchased. Haven’t been opened yet if this is one of the not so good ones…

[quote=“scottinpollock, post:17, topic:16127”]
Which brings up the fact that prewire is king in smart homes.
[/quote] Go figure, they just painted last week… :confused: Cat 6 was run throughout the house to about every room, can this be used in anyway besides for the internet and ip cams? Conduit and pull wires are ran all over also, can you point me in a direction for learning more on this?

They are wanting to buy z-wave light switches, should i have them go ahead on these or go in a different direction? same with a few outlets… i would think better to not have to purchase switches twice but i honestly don’t know what direction to point them at this point… Further thoughts are these would be wired and not dependent on batteries, and the current/future hubs use the z-wave technology… Please let me know if I’m wrong on this or your inputs or suggestions

While we’re talking wiring though, they called yesterday asking how they could control the pump house that is about 500’ from their house? they want to be able to turn it off/on from inside their house? the wiring for this isnt run yet, any input?

At this point I have to agree you/they need to bring in somebody who is expert in this.

Just as an example, they shouldn’t be buying any end devices, whether it’s locks, switches, or whatever, until they decided on the control system that they are going to use. These things are not all interchangeable.

The first thing I would do is schedule a free demo with crestron or control 4 just so they can see all the amazing stuff they might be able to do if they want to spend the money.

If they then decide they don’t want to spend that much money, you have a basis for setting lowered expectations. Because they’ll have a better understanding that you get what you pay for to some extent.

But if they do want to go cheaper, there are many many decisions to make based on small details and their personal priorities, and you really need an expert to help at that point.


edited to add If they just want something to play with now that will likely work well with anything they end up with in the future, get Phillips hue lights. Note that these are Zigbee, not Z wave. Get a few tap switches for now (part of the Hue system) as these are very versatile and kids love them. The tap switches don’t integrate with all hubs (smartthings doesn’t recognize them, for example) but that won’t be a big deal.

And they can use their Hue lights where they’re living now, and then move them to the new house when it’s ready.

Also have them sign up to get an Amazon echo if they haven’t already, and that will give them voice control over their Hue lights, which they and the kids will also love.

But don’t do anything else until you get a home automation expert in.

@JDRoberts I think you’re right… Thank you guys for your info, stopped me from going in way over my head… I wish ST was where it needs to be and was what it shows itself as…

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