Samsung SmartThings

Samsung SmartThingsI was recently lucky enough to be given the newly released UK version of the Samsung SmartThings home automation Starter Kit to try out.

Home Automation has long been the dream of geeks and the rich, but kits like this are doing a lot to put the technology in to the hands of your everyday person. At the £200 mark it’s not expensive and whilst the software is somewhat unintuitive at times, it’s a lot easier than many rival bits of kit at this price point.

I’ve long held an interest in home automation and have recently moved in to my own flat after a few years of renting, so I’m excited to get dug in. That said, Samsung have kitted out the hardware such that anything that needs to be attached to the wall comes with sticky pads as well as screws, so even if you don’t own the property you can still use everything in the box without your landlord/lady becoming irate.

The Samsung SmartThings kit is of particular interest to me as it’s a professional piece of kit but also open source and hackable. It supports ZWave and Zigbee protocols (among others) which cover a lot of the good hardware out of the market already, and a good deal of what’s coming out in the future. The development kit allows developers to do a load of neat things like integrate otherwise unsupported, third party hardware, to scripting interactions between connected devices. I haven’t had a chance to actually get down and dirty with the coding side of things, but I intend on jumping in to the web based IDE and active support community soon! More info over at http://developer.smartthings.com/

In terms of the kit you get in the box – the hub and additional hardware (presence sensor, motion sensor, multi-sensor and socket) come with batteries and instructions to get you going. Control of the kit is done exclusively through a mobile app.

A basic rundown of the way the app works is thus:

  • You can have multiple locations (home, office etc)
  • Each location can have multiple “Modes”. A “Mode” is similar to a state – you can be in multiple modes at once, for example “Home” and “Night”.
  • Each location can have multiple “Things” (hardware, ie multi-sensor) associated with it.
  • Each location can have multiple rooms (“Lounge”, “Kitchen” etc) which you can assign “Things” to. From what I can tell, rooms are just a grouping mechanism and don’t really server any other purpose.
  • Each location can also have multiple “SmartApps”, which are scripts that say “If X happens, do Y” – think ifttt.com.
  • Each location also has a “Family” section which tells you if anyone with a presence device or smartphone running the SmartThings app is present or not.
  • You can define routines, which allow you to pre-define configurations of all your hardware and mode state. Routines can be triggered manually or automatically based on various criteria (time based, sensor status etc) and there are options to send various alerts when routines get automatically activated (push notification and text message). An example of a routine would be “If motion is detected and it’s night time and nobody is home, turn the socket on and send a text message”
  • There’s a notification panel which shows you all the things that have been going on with your automated home.
  • Lastly there’s a marketplace where you can get forwarded to placed which sell supported pieces of kit, or browse and install various scripts to add functionality to your kit. A script that I particularly like is the “Door Knocker” script which alerts you if it detects a knock on a door (using the multi-sensor) but doesn’t then detect you opening the door after a set period of time.

There’s a fair amount of functionality packed in to the app, which sometimes means hunting through menus to try and find the functionality you are looking for. Also, the app currently only allows one device to be connected to your hub, something which the developer team assure me they are hard at work trying to fix.

It’s still early days for SmartThings in the UK, but the list of supported devices is getting larger all the time. I’m voting with my wallet and have already purchased a couple more motion sensors and multi-sensors, and plan on using the supported Sonos integration to create an instant Party routine (lights low, music on high!). Now I just need to work out how to get a disco ball integrated in to the system – needless to say I’m confident there’s a way to do it.

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