Recently, we received a SmartThings kit, with some of their popular monitoring items. With their tag line, “Easy, Open, Limitless Smart Home Platform” at the forefront of their homepage, you get the feeling SmartThings is interested in connecting your home, as it stands, with some home monitoring devices. Using the ZigBee Wireless Alliance, they’ve allowed themselves the freedom to be able to connect a myriad of different devices across a range of companies, to their hub, and therefore, system. With motion sensors, light controllers, cameras, glass break sensors, temperature sensors, door locks and SmartThings Labs at their disposal, you’d be hard pressed to find something you couldn’t do with this system.

SmartThings UnBoxing

I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not a fan of excessive packaging. And SmartThings is my type of company in that regard. These boxes are strong cardboard, with cardboard or (recyclable) plastic inserts to hold the items in place. They all had a small paper sheet with printed instructions on them, which nicely referred you to the app (iOS or Android), for full installation instructions.

The above picture shows the included items in the kit. Two SmartSense Presence devices, two SmartSense Multi Sensors, a SmartSense Motion detector, a SmartPower Outlet (not pictured) and a SmartThings Hub, which is the brains of the operation.

SmartThings unpacked

Here are the peripheral boxes and devices as I unpacked them. Notice the simplistic packaging and the wonderful recycling!

SmartThings Installation And Setup

Once you’ve connected the hub to your home network (via ethernet cable), download the SmartThings App from the App Store or Play Store. Right in the package with the hub, is a small bi-fold piece of paper with a code on it.  Using this code in the app you install on your Android 4.0+ or iOS 6+ device, connects you to the hub. From here is where the party starts. Now you can begin adding devices to your hub. If you select the + sign in the app, you can add any number of devices to the hub quickly and easily. If you are slick, you can just select the brand and type of device and it will pick it up faster. It’s also best to have the devices within 15 feet of the hub while you are pairing them to the hub. And, pair one device at a time.

The SmartThings App is very simple, yet complete. You can set what you want the system to do when you detect motion, whether it be turn a light on, or notify you on your smartphone, or both. When you use the presence device, when it senses you’ve reconnected to the hub, you can select to have it turn lights on/off, change the temperature on your HVAC system, or even unlock the doors (if you have a ZigBee Wireless doorlock). Your Android or iOS device can also be used as a presence device, so you can assign actions to it as well.

From the + sign on the main menu, you can also add actions and alerts to your system. These can range from notifying you of the front door opening when your kids get home, to motion in a room they aren’t supposed to be in! As an example, I set up a presence sensor on my work keys, so that my wife would know when I was home, as she is sometimes in the backyard, or the basement, and I’m not a fan of startling her! So lets see how it works.

SmartThings Everyday Use

After the first few days, I wanted to see what else this system could do. I had previously purchased a WeMo, by Belkin, for my front lights. Makes it nice and easy to turn them on and off when I come home. SmartThings SmartLabs can connect to the WeMo, and control it with the hub! This makes the WeMo even more valuable, as it is able to be turned on automatically using my mobile phone as a presence detector.

So with that, I also have connected the IFTTT channel to my SmartThings home automation system. IFTTT is where you can put SmartThings to work. While the SmartThings App is great and provides easy set up, connecting it to IFTTT is for those folks who want to go the extra mile with their automation.

For example, if my motion sensor goes off, I can send an email, Tweet or a text to myself, or anyone else for that matter using IFTTT. Or, I can turn on other lights through the SmartThings Channel on IFTTT. If I had the beeping device, I could tell it to beep when there was motion, turn on the lights, and send everyone in my family an email. While it is true you can perform most of these functions from the SmartThings App itself, things like Tweeting and emailing, are not accessible in the app.

Things like IFTTT are the reason why SmartThings and other home automation systems are so good. These can be turned on and off on a whim from the IFTTT app or their website, so if you have a reason for these recipes (as they are called), IFTTT can add a bunch of functionality to the already exceptional SmartThings system.

Think of the day when you have a home connected with different brands of devices all being able to communicate with one hub. When you arrive home (in range of your WiFi) the hub can turn up the heat (or A/C), turn on specific lights, and fill the house with some relaxing music after a hard day. We are very close, and with SmartThings working on integrating many 3rd party devices into their system, it will only be a matter of time. Posts like this one show how close SmartLabs and the community are to getting the HoneyWell WiFi connected thermostats into the fray.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a home automation system to get you dabbling in it, much to your wife’s chagrin certainly, SmartThings is one of the premiere kits out there. Set up was extraordinarily easy, and even when one of the devices wasn’t found, the reset button was easy to find and use. The SmartThings App is slick, with many options for adding items, with the 3rd party items like the WeMo in my case, added through the SmartLabs section. It communicates with the 3rd party items flawlessly, whether it be commanding them, or reading their status.

Add in the functionality of IFTTT recipes, and SmartThings can really work for you. Sure there are others like it, and you can certainly build your own, even from a Raspberry Pi, but the commitment to the 3rd party community by SmartThings is unmatched in my eyes.

We here at TechDissected would like to thank Courtney of BrewPR and SmartThings for the opportunity to review the kit! It is a valuable resource in the ever growing world of home automation and we’ve been glad to have been able to put it through its paces.

About the author

Jeff Trocchio

Apple IIe green screen is whence I came. Where I go, only technology knows. If its Automotive, Mobile, Gaming or Computer tech I'll try my best to give my thoughts on it.