I bought this hub and now I’m wondering if it’s really necessary. I use Alexa for voice control and rarely operate anything with an app. I have the Philips Hue bridge, some Philips bulbs, a couple of AC outlets, and a Honeywell Lyric thermostat. I can control everything via voice from Alexa. What does the Samsung hub buy me? Isn’t the only benefit having one app to control things from if you use the apps? You still have to download an app for all the devices used and create an account for each. I thought, before buying the hub, that it would communicate with everything without the need for additional apps.
I think the manufacturers and Samsung should get together so this could happen. The companies aren’t making money on the apps since they are free. They want to sell hardware and having something like the Samsung hub being able to do this by itself would simplify that a great deal. I work for an audio/video company and we are also looking into these smart home systems to provide services to our customers. Making dozens of new accounts and downloading a plethora of apps is a bit confusing. Have it all in one place.
So, do I need the Samsung hub if I’m using Alexa for all my control?
Not if everything that you want to control with Alexa has its own integration with Alexa.
What SmartThings gives you is what is sometimes called “home automation” versus “home control.” That is, the ability to schedule things to happen based on specific events. That might be someone arriving home, a specific time of day, a specific sensor being triggered.
For example, one community member with a large family found that the dog was getting fed too many times because no one could remember whose turn it was to feed the dog and the dog was very good at convincing family members that she had not yet had dinner.
So he put a sensor on the dog food container and now he gets a reminder if the dog has already been fed twice or if it’s midnight, and the dog has not yet been fed twice that day. (I think he also has it set up so that he can ask Alexa how many times the dog is been fed that day. But that’s using a special smartthings smartapp, it’s not available as a basic echo function.)
Anyway, that’s not something that you can do with just echo.
But if everything you’re doing is based on you saying a voice command, and you have all the devices you want and they work directly with echo, then you don’t need to use SmartThings. SmartThings extends the devices that you can make echo-controllable and adds the whole constellation of automatic triggers. So different things will work for different people. It just depends on what your own household’s needs are.
If all you do is voice control, then indeed you can forego a system like SmartThings.
But there are so very many times where voice control is useless. Here’s one from my day today: wife and I wanted to take a bath (we have a nice, 2-person tub). But she was busy cooking, while I was fixing a door. It’s easy to get involved in what you are doing, and forget that the tub is filling… to prevent overflow, I have an automation. A water sensor hangs in the tub, and when the water reaches the sensor a bunch of lights start flashing and an android tablet says “your bath us full”.
Right there, the sensor and hub and effort to set up pay for themselves in avoidance of water damage.
Now add lights that go on automatically upon a family member returning home, doors that automatically lock themselves, cameras that automatically record video into the cloud if they sense an intruder, visual and audible alerts that a clothes wash has been completed, etc…,. Once you have the sensors, the world of automation opens up and makes itself evident to you.
But I’m not attempting to persuade you. None of that might ever affect you.
Also z-wave and zigbee devices in general. The echo has no zigbee or z-wave gateway built-in. So if you use another gateway like hue, or only wifi devices, then you’re ok with Alexa only. If you want to use other zigbee and z-wave devices, you need a hub like SmartThings.
The manufacturers are, however, making money by keeping customers in their (sometimes proprietary) ecosystems. This is often what keeps them from making their systems completely (or just obviously) open to integration with competing controllers/coordinators/hubs.
As noted by @JDRoberts, Alexa is largely a “dumb” controller without any real automation currently built-in. Issuing a command to Alexa is the equivalent of pressing a button on a remote in most cases. I’m sure Amazon has a desire to make the system as ubiquitous in home control as possible. This might lead to more home automation and scheduling in the long-term.
Once you begin to venture into Smartthings (or possibly any other HA system), you begin to realize that you’re not limited to the Hue app and what it can do. You’re not limited to your smartphone or tablet for control over devices. You’re also not limited to the manufacturer’s provided forms of automation and integration.
You will be able to do things like:
- Have a temperature sensor in your bedroom that Smartthings uses to determine how to set the temperature on your Lyric.
- Create time-based, day-based or even sunrise/sunset relative triggers to set lights, temperature or turn on your AC outlets (if compatible).
- Expand your system to include motion, temperature, humidity, light, vibration, tilt, contact, and even energy/power sensors to use as triggers for various alerts and actions.
Essentially, Smartthings tries its best to be ecosystem (and manufacturer) agnostic, allowing you, the consumer, to determine how your want to build out your HA system, and exactly what you want it to do.
And…nearly any device in Smartthings can be directly or indirectly controlled via Alexa voice control.
Thanks to all of you for these solid answers. I have a couple of other issues that I’d like to expand on, if I may:
Not all of these are SmartThings issues but many of you may know.
There are devices in the SmartThings app that allow you to set an image for the app, but it appears you can’t do this for other things, like the Lyric thermostat. It just shows a gray circle and no option to select an image. I can add an image for my phone, the rooms, the lights, etc., but not for others.
I have also noticed that the SmartThings hub app will often fail to operate the Hue bulbs. I press to turn one on and the indicator turns green (On) but the bulb doesn’t, and after a few seconds, the button reverts back to off. I can use Alexa via voice and it works 100% of the time.
In the Hue app, I have (so far) three Hue white bulbs, all identical. I was able to rename the first two but it isn’t possible to rename the third one. You can edit the name but there is no “Enter” button and it just goes back to the generic name when you return to the previous menu.
Finally, the Alexa app will not forget old devices that I once had but returned because they weren’t working properly. I had a bulb by TP-Link that reappears every time I discover new devices. I do not have any TP-Link bulbs and haven’t for months. I have told Alexa to “Forget” this device dozens of times to no avail. I have removed the Smart Skill associated with it and uninstalled the app. Makes no difference. Now I can give voice commands to Alexa that aren’t in the list and the wrong thing happens. For instance, I once had an outlet in the bathroom for a space heater. That outlet is no longer there, but another brand is in its place. I can say “Alexa, turn on the bathroom heater” and a Hue light in that room turns on instead.