Simple and Flexible – Samsung SmartThings System Review

SmartThings is a very good system that can support the use of most smart home products.

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When we build a complete smart home platform, the biggest pain is that we usually have to face a variety of brands and different platforms. Therefore, in addition to the router, we also need to use the Hub Control Center and install various apps on the smartphone, which is not only troublesome to use but also cumbersome. Samsung’s SmartThings hopes to change this problem through a unified control center and applications.

A new generation of SmartThings control center, better support for third-party devices, and integrated with Amazon Alexa voice assistant, greatly improving the ease of use of SmartThings. Since the SmartThings platform debuted, it has shown an interesting future, and now SmartThings has become an important part of the smart home market.

Design

The core of the second-generation SmartThings platform is still the Hub Control Center, a white compact box with a simple and low-profile design. It is only 65×63×59mm in size and can even be hidden in the cabinet. In addition to being able to connect to the power supply, SmartThings can also use the world’s AA batteries as a backup power source, which means that the control center can still play a role in power outages, such as automation and safety monitoring.

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In addition to the Hub Control Center itself, we can choose other kits, including a set of battery-powered Zegbee devices such as Outlet sockets, door/window/temperature/vibration sensors, motion sensors, and activity sensors. If you plan to buy the whole set, you will find that the price of SmartThings is quite kind, and it saves a lot of money compared to each component.

Supported devices

The main purpose of SmartThings is to connect different products from different vendors. In addition to the official support list, there are many devices that support the Z-Wave platform and Zigbee, which are also compatible with SmartThings. The addition of this feature expands the list of more compatible accessories, including door and window sensors, humidity sensors, smoke detectors, and Yale smart door locks.

An added benefit of being compatible with these protocols is the ability to communicate in both directions for a smoother communication. For example, if you set a security alarm, the alarm will automatically sound when the door and window sensor changes.

SmartThings’ control center is equipped with two USB ports and built-in Bluetooth connectivity, which basically enables docking with all smart home products. Although Bluetooth connectivity is less common, it can also make a big difference if necessary. In addition, the integration of other third-party products can directly control some products. For example, Philips Hue smart bulbs can also be controlled by SmartThings Hub, but the functions are relatively simple. If you want to tint, you have to rely on Hue Hub.

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In addition, SmartThings Hub is also compatible with security cameras, including the Arlo Wire camera for NETGEAR (but not the Arlo Q for NETGEAR). Samsung currently offers free cloud storage for SmartThings’ camera monitoring service, but it is only in the testing phase and should become a fee-based service in the future. However, many web cameras come with cloud storage space, so the cloud services of SmartThings Hub seem to be not very efficient.

If you pass the IFTTT protocol, SmartThings Hub can support more devices, and through the cloud connection, the IFTTT protocol can be used within a few seconds. This is great for some apps, such as the door and window sensor being triggered, the camera will automatically turn on. But if you need a shorter departure time, such as automatically turning on the lights after entering the house, IFTTT is not suitable.

Fortunately, SmartThings provides a pretty good API that allows developers to write their own device apps to run directly on the Hub. Including Nest and LightwaveRF (the greatest smart switch product in my mind), any integration into the Hub no longer requires response time, these are good news. The bad news is that built-in integration with third-party operations is not straightforward, and even the development code for the Web interface can be used very little and requires some additional hardware and software support.

For example, although the integration of LightwaveRF is very useful, I have to add the required scripts to SmartThings and manually add each LightwaveRF device. This requires a Raspberry Pi computer to run as a script server. So I hope that more manufacturers can directly participate in the integration of SmartThings, simplifying the configuration process.

Manual control and automatic control

All operations controlled by the SmartThings Hub can be done via iOS or Android client. The most basic aspects include simply organizing the process of opening the device and manually controlling it after entering the room. For example, I can set the brightness and color of the Hue bulb in the app, automatically turn the illumination on or off, and control the pause and playback of the Sonos speaker. I really like the interface of the SmartThings Hub application, which is simple and intuitive to use, and is better than many of the vendors’ own apps.

So far, not just manual control, SmartThings Hub can also perform a series of automated operations to get everything ready before we get home from work. SmartThings is a truly powerful smart home platform. Whether it’s smart home monitoring, mode switching or applications, many modules can make the purchase of smart home devices more potential.

Mode

First, you can change how the device works by using different modes such as Routines, Smart Home Monitor, and SmartApps. For example, in the exit mode, the motion sensor can be responsible for safety; in the Home mode, it can also act as a sensor that triggers the lighting system; this is a very powerful function that can play different roles in different scenarios through different modes of the sensor.

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SmartThings presets three modes, leave, home and night mode. In addition, we can manually add new modes by ourselves, but we need to use the web interface instead of adding it directly in the app. But this brings up a problem, which is not very convenient. For example, I added a “guest mode” that will enable and disable some devices when a guest comes. For example, when I allow visitors to enter, the alarm system will be turned off and the lighting function will be turned on.

Daily mode

Mode changes and switching can be activated manually or automatically. For example, SmartThings can detect whether the owner is at home through sensors and smartphones, and then switch to other modes. Or we can set a time point, such as turning on night mode at 11 o’clock every night. It is also possible to enable special rules in a certain mode. For example, in night mode, although there are people at home, the motion sensor function is also turned on.

In addition to manual, the changes to the rules can also be set. When I go out, SmartThings Hub will automatically turn off all the lighting systems in the home and pause the music played by the Sonos speakers.

You can also connect different smart devices together in daily mode, such as using a motion sensor to turn on the lights, or to turn them on in a specific mode of operation or for a specific period of time.

Smart home monitoring

There are more settings that can be done manually, such as Samsung’s Smart Home Monitor, which can customize security, detect smoke and leaks. The use of smart home monitoring mode requires the use of the correct sensor, such as detecting leaks in the home, you must use a moisture sensor. The safe mode is the simplest mode and provides maximum support for the sensor.

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There are also three different modes in Safe Mode, including Leave Alarm, Home Alarm, and Deactivate Alarm. At home, I used this configuration, the door and window sensor used to leave the alarm, and only turned on the home alarm at night. This way, when I am at home at home, I won’t trigger an alarm because I am walking around.

In safe mode, we can also allow us to preset the type of alarm we want, from a simple trigger notification to a dedicated alarm recording video, in addition to some smarter methods. For example, I don’t have a special alarm, but I set my Sonos speaker as an alarm. When there is a change, the speaker will automatically turn on and turn on the light.

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At the same time, the security mode can also intelligently change the rules. The best way is to use the sensor to filter, for example, when no one is in the house during the day, it will be closed after work. At the same time, not only SmartThings’ smartphone app can take on this job, Samsung also provides a hardware button as a switch.

This mode works very well in most cases, but there are also a few problems. First of all, if you have no power after you go out, you can’t disable the alarm system. Second, if someone is at home, you also need to disable the sensor. At present, it is regrettable that the Samsung official does not provide a supported physical disable button, so you can only use the PIN code to achieve such an operation. Although there are some third-party products, we have not tested the actual use.

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SmartApp

SmartApp is a tool that can be additionally controlled, with the exception of simple controls for more functionality. These control ranges can also be integrated in different ways such as IFTTT, Alexa, etc. to achieve more diverse changes.

For example, in the SmartThings Marketplace, we can find a controller that SmartApp uses to slowly wake up the lights to achieve automatic brightness adjustment, or to use multiple monitors to detect letters in the mailbox. There are also many apps written by developers themselves that can be integrated into the SmartThings platform.

Amazon Alexa

One of the biggest changes in the new generation of SmartThings is to support Amazon Alexa, and the official Alexa’s help allows SmartThings Hub users to control various smart home products through voice commands. This is a very powerful feature and can be said to be the biggest highlight.

In addition to activating smart home devices, Alexa is unable to control security devices such as smart door locks, cameras and alarms. If there is no such restriction, then everyone can come and say “I am back” and open the door, the consequences can not be imagined.

Final

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SmartThings is a great system and can support the use of most smart home products. Its excellent automation, extensive compatibility and support for Alexa have become the most flexible smart home control platforms I have ever used. Powerful and affordable, especially considering features such as Z-Wave, Zigbee, and custom apps.

However, one of the shortcomings of SmartThings is that it is compatible with third-party platforms. The setup process is a bit complicated and requires a certain programming foundation. However, with the development of SmartThings, it is believed that the future will greatly enhance the friendliness of ordinary users and simplify the use process, becoming one of the best smart home platforms.

Pros

App interface is simple;

Flexible use;

Strong developer community support;

Cons

The way to disable alerts is slightly more complicated;

Integrating third-party tools is difficult.

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