The most common challenge to automate a home is tying pieces together from multiple vendors.
The Samsung SmartThings hub is the best combination of ease of use and interoperability on the market today. The installation and setup of the hub is simple, although your grandmother might need help. We’ve had ours since October, 2015.
The SmartThings hub offers ZigBee, Z-Wave, “Cloud-to-Cloud”, LAN (on your local network in the house), and Bluetooth for connecting your devices, although the Bluetooth radio is not yet activated. There are few home automation devices the hub won’t be able to connect with.
There’s a battery backup built in, with four AA batteries, so a power outage won’t cripple the convenience of your household once you become reliant on the SmartThings features at least until the batteries run down. Samsung claims the backup will last about 10 hours.
The hub will manage devices from different manufacturers and make them all work as a unit in your home, and you don’t have to be a computer programmer to put all the pieces together. It could be as simple as screwing in a “smart light bulb” and being able to turn it on and off and dim it from your phone.
How about having your kitchen light turn on when you open the garage door returning home from work? Maybe control your heating and air conditioning to work more efficiently when there’s nobody home?
It’s fun for a geek to mess around with, but it’s also simple enough that anybody can benefit from using it.
Before beginning the SmartThings setup, you will need to install their app on your Android, iOS, or Windows device. Once you have the app installed, fire it up on your device and follow the directions.
You will need to have a SmartThings account, so get that out of the way first with a few bits of information. Account setup is painless.
There’s a “Welcome code” in the hub’s box, enter that and then plug in your hub. We plugged in the Cat5 network cable into an empty slot in our router, then into the hub. Once that was accomplished, we connected the power to the hub and waited until the LED on the front turned green.
That’s it! Well, mostly.
Once the hub is running, add your location in the SmartThings app on your phone. We allowed the app access to our phone’s location because we wanted the hub to be notified when our phone left and arrived at the house, hopefully while in our company. You can mess with the size of the “geofence” where you want to be considered “home” if you wish.
Once the hub is running, you need to add your “things”, a simple process. If you aren’t presented immediately with the option, look around in your app to find the “Add a Thing” link and follow the directions, which will be slightly different for each device you’re connecting.
Okay THAT is it, at least until you want to add more “things” to your location.
Our SmartThings hub is currently connected to an ecobee3 thermostat, a Logitech Harmony hub (for A/V control), about half the lights and dimmers in the house, and to two Amazon Echos (one “regular” and one “Dot“). The Echos are key to accessing the home automation by voice.
We grouped some lighting so our low voltage front walk lighting, the front porch light, and a light in the living room are all scheduled to illuminate fifteen minutes before sunset and extinguish in the early morning hours. It works perfectly.
Many individual bulbs are addressable throughout the house, so we have LED lighting available individually to the SmartThings hub versus having “smart” wall switches control the lights. So, for example, simply saying “Alexa, turn bedroom on” anywhere in the house the Echos can hear (almost anywhere) will illuminate all the master bedroom lighting. Saying “Alexa, turn George light on” will illuminate my bedside lamp.
Each light is also dimmable via either the SmartThings app on our phones or by asking Alexa to take care of it. The ability to design “scenes” such as “watch movie” or “party” is easily accessed in SmartThings should that be to your advantage.
Once we’ve completed the conversion of the rest of the lighting in the house, and added maybe one more Echo device so we don’t have to yell from the farthest reaches of Rancho Deluxe, we’ll never have to reach for a light or ceiling fan switch again.
Also on the list of things to do is to bolster our home security with connected devices. When we’re ready, the SmartThings hub has the functionality to tie them all together. We’ll be looking for painless and unobtrusive ways to monitor the house better than we (and the dogs) already do.
The hub is painless. Firmware updates are delivered seamlessly with zero intervention.
Power outages for any reason aren’t a problem, nor are losses in internet connectivity. The hub simply recovers and reconnects to everything without needing to be touched. We have never been forced to reboot the device.
The SmartThings web site has a wealth of information and a growing community of people sharing ideas and solutions.
LOTS of products work with SmartThings (https://www.smartthings.com/products) with more coming every day. It appears Samsung has reached the sweet spot of installed units to be a “mandatory” device for household smart devices to interface with.
The hub requires an Ethernet connection to your modem/router. While the reliability and speed of a hard wired connection has clear advantages over a wireless connection, some will object to the requirement because of unfamiliarity with making and Ethernet connection or the possible inconvenience of placing the hub near the modem/router.
We had a battery “recall” on our unit. Some SmartThings units were shipped with defective batteries, and the company offered free battery replacements. When we received our new batteries in the mail, we opened the case and sure enough the batteries had leaked and there was corrosive “white stuff” inside the unit. We cleaned all the corrosion with compressed air and replaced the batteries. Samsung recommends replacing the rechargeable batteries once a year.
A web interface to the SmartThings hub would be really nice.
The SmartThings hub is a big win for $99.99.
The hub itself is just a tool to enable other accessible devices, but it’s a NECESSARY tool in our opinion. As a base for making an accessible home a more comfortable and independent place for people with a wide variety of disabilities, the SmartThings hub is a wise choice especially when paired with an Echo or Google Home voice assistance device.