SmartThings came

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I had seen lots of things about Samsung SmartThings (ST). One of the things I really liked was ActionTiles, a third party solution for creating nice looking dashboards with icon based tiles of different sizes. After all the self build work that I’d done it felt like a bit of a cop-out to be going with something off-the-shelf but the relief in finding something that just seemed to work was huge.

Lots of cloud based integrations available from the community, Zigbee and Z-wave all in one little box. With the breadth of devices that I had started to accumulate, this was a really nice solution. The actual SmartThings app was a bit pants so I didn’t bother too much with that. ActionTiles came first, followed by SharpTools. I’d highly recommend trying out both if you choose to go down the ST path.

Automations within the ST app were a bit frustrating but they worked OK for a while. Then came webCoRE. webCoRE is a rules engine that allows you to create more complex automations, perform logic based operations, store variables and more.

Now home automation started to take on a new meaning. The “smart” part was making sense now. Where most things were either time based or voice controlled, I started introducing more sensors, or at least using them more intelligently. Motion, light and temperature started to play much more of a part in what was happening. I’ll go into more detail about this in a later post.

In basic terms, with a dumb home, you have a switch on a wall. You operate the switch and a light comes on. Swapping this for voice still requires an intervention on your part. In reality, it might be slightly more convenient to say “Alexa. Lounge on” but it’s more intrusive when you have 3 or 4 people wandering round shouting commands at a device which often gets things wrong.

Likewise with time based automations. Having a light come on at 6.00pm in September is fine. In July it’s too early. In October it’s too late. That’s not smart.

By this point, I had sensors in several rooms and areas of the house. WebCoRE made it relatively easy to start using the capabilities of these sensors to turn lights on more appropriately. Lights started coming on when the light level was low. Then they started coming on only if motion was detected AND the light level was low. Making them turn off again when no motion was detected for 5 minutes already figured to some extent but it tended to be hit and miss. The lights would go off after 5 minutes and then come back on again.

The other thing that ST introduced was the idea of “modes” for the house. Commonly, this tends to get used for “away” and “home” so that the devices behave in different ways depending on whether you’re in or not. You might want things slightly different if you’re on holiday, for example, especially if you have an alarm integrated with your system. For me, the main use was to give the house different behaviours for day, evening and night.

It feels like the house is starting to develop a personality of its own now.