SmartThings Can Protect Your Home and Track Your Grandpa

Our Rating 5.0

I would love to review all of the things you could possibly do with SmartThings but I simply don’t have time. What I can say about SmartThings is “SmartThings, dum dum duh duh duh, you make my heart sing. dum dum duh duh duh. You make everything, groovy.” In addition to being groovy, SmartThings makes a seriously competitive home alarm system. Imagine this. You wake up one sunny day, walk into your kitchen, tell your kitchen good morning, and in return your lights switch on and your coffee machine starts brewing a fresh cup. Later that day you get a text letting you know your spouse has arrived home so you unlock the door for them from your cell phone. With SmartThings you can do all of this and so much more. As a security system it can control lighting, monitor windows, doors, detect motion, monitor for water, monitor smoke alarms, send text notifications, and even interlock with other security systems. If you want to move into home automation but find it confusing this is your ticket. I won’t say it’s easy easy but the cloud interface is simpler than a device setup through a web-ui.

To get started you will need the free app, internet, sensors, and the $99 hub. The hub is the brains. It connects everything and what’s entirely unique about the SmartThings hub is that it speaks to Zigbee, Z-Wave, and IP-accessible devices opening the door to so many possibilities. The hub connects directly to a router or a Cat 5 outlet and a power source. While the hub is both internet and power dependent you can plug it into a UPS for added protection. Once the hub is setup it can control hundreds of smart devices. You are only limited by your creativity.

How do I turn my SmartThings hub into a home security system?

After you purchase the hub you will need to purchase a la carte sensors or a kit and install the mobile app. The SmartThings app currently has a 3.8 star rating on Google Play and a 3 star rating on iTunes. SmartThings has also watched an app for the Apple Watch and they offer an app for Windows phones.

The SmartSense Multi Sensors (available on Amazon) are a critical purchase for home security. As the name implies, they can perform multiple tasks. However, I use them to monitor our front and back door. We’ve tested the setup with both an Android and an iPhone and found the alerts are instant. The only downside? When you have multiple phones setup on one account only one phone can receive text notifications but all phones can receive push notifications.

The SmartSense Multi is akin to the traditional open/close sensor that is included with most security systems but smarter. According to SmartThings,

“The most versatile device in the SmartThings family, the Multi acts as a movement, vibration, orientation, and temperature sensor all in one. The SmartSense Multi can detect whether an object like a door or drawer is open or closed, sense when valuable or off-limits items have been moved or tampered with, offer temperature readings, and feel vibration.”

If you want to expand into motion or presence detection you may want to look at one of their SmartThings Home Kits available on Amazon.

What is the difference between the “Know Your Home” and the “Know and Control Your Home Kit”?

The “Know Your Home Kit” is currently $199. It includes:

1 SmartThings Hub
1 SmartSense Multi-Purpose Sensor
1 SmartSense Presence Sensor
1 SmartSense Motion Sensor

The “Know Your Home and Control Your Home Kit” is currently $299. It includes:

1 SmartThings Hub
2 SmartSense Multi-Purpose Sensors
2 SmartSense Presence Sensors
1 SmartSense Plug-and-Control Outlet
1 SmartSense Motion Sensor

The addition of the Plug-and-Control Outlet is what puts the control in “know and control”. It plugs directly into your existing outlet and connects to lights, electronics, and small appliances.

How does it compare to Canary, iSmart, Piper, and Scout?

To compare SmartThings to systems made specifically for home security may not be fair but it shares so many similar qualities. Not surprisingly, it is a serious competitor.

 canarysmartthingspiperscout
Monthly Fee$0+$0$0$0+
Home AutomationProprietaryZigBee & Z-Wave
Video Surveillance
Plays with Others
Door/Window Sensors
iOS Compatible
Android Compatible
Windows Phone Compatible
Text Alerts
Where to Buy
canary
Monthly Fee
$0+
Home Automation
Proprietary
Video Surveillance
Door/Window Sensors
iOS Compatible
Android Compatible
Windows Phone Compatible
Text Alerts
Where to Buy
smartthings
Monthly Fee
$0
Home Automation
ZigBee & Z-Wave
Video Surveillance
Plays with Others
Door/Window Sensors
iOS Compatible
Android Compatible
Windows Phone Compatible
Text Alerts
Where to Buy
piper
Monthly Fee
$0
Home Automation
Video Surveillance
Door/Window Sensors
iOS Compatible
Android Compatible
Windows Phone Compatible
Text Alerts
Where to Buy
scout
Monthly Fee
$0+
Home Automation
Video Surveillance
Door/Window Sensors
iOS Compatible
Android Compatible
Windows Phone Compatible
Text Alerts
Where to Buy

List of Things That Play with SmartThings

DropCam, Philips Hue, Sonos, TCP Lighting, Quirky Pivot Power Genius, Belkin WeMo, Ecobee, FirstAlert, and many more. SmartThings is currently compatible with 100s of products and the list continues to grow.

The Future of SmartThings

SmartThings has started pre-selling their new hub on Amazon. The new SmartThings Hub offers even more security than the original hub and addresses several top concerns. The biggest announcement? The new hub will now work in the cloud or locally. This means that you can still control your smart devices even if the internet fails. If the power fails you will be protected by the new battery backup feature. There is also talk of a cellular connection for backup. All of this is designed to keep your system up and running which is essential to total home security.

In addition to all the existing smart home languages, the new hub will add Bluetooth Smart. This means SmartThings will be able to play with more devices like Netgear cameras, Honeywell thermostats, Chamberlain garage door openers, August locks, and all Samsung smart appliances.

The third improvement will be seen in the size of the SmartThings’s sensors. The new sensors will be one third the size of SmartThing’s first generation devices which were already rather discreet.

Finally, SmartThing’s will roll out premium services. I’m never a fan of a monthly fee for self-monitored systems but SmartThings’s premium services will bridge the gap between self-monitored and monitored. When I first heard of the premium service I understood that it allowed owners to setup a text or call when a problem was detected but this confused me. Why did this confuse me? It’s confused me because SmartThings already does that – FOR FREE! However, the premium service will offer something different. It will be an expanded “trusted circle” situation where SmartThings tries to reach you first if an event is detected. If they can’t reach you to give the “all clear” signal, SmartThings will try someone else on your list. In addition to a “trusted circle”, the premium service will include DVR services for cameras. The new SmartThings Hub, sensors, and premium subscription service will be available for purchase nationwide in the U.S. and Canada in April 2015.

A Summary of Things to Think About

  • SmartThings is entirely dependent upon internet and power. If your internet goes down or your power is out SmartThings will go down. Ideally you would pair the system with a battery backup system like this one on Amazon to provide some added protection.
  • They do not have a video surveillance option yet. (Rumor has it there may be something in the works.) However, they do play well with others. This includes the DropCam. Though it is not fully supported it is supported through DropCam connect. The connect system allows you to integrate your DropCam with SmartThings and gives you access to Photo Burst. Photo Burst allows you to train your DropCam to listen to SmartThings. You can have Dropcam take pictures when someone gets home or opens the liquor cabinet etc.
  • The hub does not have a built-in siren but you can purchase one on Amazon to connect to your system.
  • There is no option for professional monitoring.
  • They were acquired by Samsung. Though they currently act as separate companies I am not sure if that will remain or change

Total Score – 94% which is a 5 Gem Rating for DIY Systems.

You can also watch my video demonstrating the use of the open/close sensors from a remote location here.