What is SmartThings? What is the SmartThings app?
It is technically a Home Automation/Smart Home ‘ecosystem’ of ‘things’ to control your home. Devices like smart lights, motion sensors, temperature/ambient sensors, cameras, and even appliances. SmartThings started from the ground up- and ended up being acquired by Samsung. That’s why you see Samsung tied to the Smartthings product line now, but not on SmartThings products a few years back. The app is simply the interface to control the devices that are connected to the SmartThings hub. The hub is somewhat like a router- for all of your smart home devices- so they can speak to one another and you can setup custom rules or triggers, along with scenes for your home. It works with many brands- Schlage, Wink/Quirky, Philips Hue, Everspring, Alexa, GE, Samsung, Logitech Harmony- and so much more.
Simple To Use – Bottom Line:
It is one of the simplest, user-friendly systems I have ever used- and I recommend it to anyone looking to join the Smart Home wave, or even veterans that have been using connected devices for a while now. I’ll explain more below- but there is more products that are reliable and compatible with SmartThings- than any other system out there. It also is compatible with Google Home, Alexa and Cortana. Devices that might not be compatible with smartthings- you might even still be able to use with SmartThings- using technology like IFTTT. Generally, I tell everyone that it is a no-brainer to go for SmartThings- because it’s just way easier to manage all of my devices under one roof- and the reliability, security and ease of use is just there. The app works on both android and iphone- and you can also do some coding if you really want to get your hands dirty, and custom code with groovy to enable things that otherwise wouldn’t work with SmartThings. The price point is there- and here’s some devices and screenshots from the app and different ways that I use it!
Want to have a look in the SmartThings app and see all of the different features that I am using it for? Look no further- I’ve included screenshots to help give you an idea of the limitless possibilities of this flagship hub that I’ve had for years. Not everyone will use all of these integrations, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible to give you an idea of how many things you can do with it.
Not to mention- it’s very affordable on Amazon and will not be obsolete for many years to come. Check it out!
I’ve had both first and second generation SmartThings hubs and have been completely satisfied with this product- as it has enabled many different integrations and triggers in my home. The first thing that I’ve been most satisfied with is the ability to integrate was products like Philips Hue, Logitech Harmony and Netgear Arlo cameras.
Note: Samsung offers a new SmartThings app, but SmartThings classic is still available. If you’re having any troubles with your devices, integrations or simply getting something to connect- you may need the new app and have use the easy migration when simply logging in with your SmartThings username and email.
SmartThings Hub can work with multiple hubs controlling multiple houses:
I have a v1 hub running one home and a 2nd generation hub running my other home. It is very easy to control both homes seperately and setup triggers, devices, etc on different hubs.
There’s so many things and devices that work with SmartThings. In the screenshot below- you can see that I have a Netgear Arlo Camera showing Active (if battery dies, that status changes because it is completely wireless). I also have smart switches controlling heaters/lights and a smart mirror that I made (see my other post on that if you want to build your own smart mirror!).
In my other home – I have a Logitech Harmony hub (controlling entertainment devices) as-well-as lights, smart plugs/switches and even some triggers for my computers and Raspberry Pi.
You can also divide your zones/areas of your house into seperate components- so when you eventually setup scenes- you can ultimately group things that you want to turn on/off at certain times and for certain rules. It is very convenient and easy to do this all in the app.
You can manage the users that have been invited to use the app and can control certain aspects of it, or turn certain devices on and off. This is helpful if you have family, friends or a housemaid that may need to get in the home or control aspects of it.
You can also check your notifications to see which triggers are working, and sometimes can also tell when certain triggers aren’t working. Very helpful sometimes for trying to troubleshoot any problems with automations (I might add).
You also have the ability to run some diagnostics from within the app. A very useful feature when things are acting wonky. A user-friendly paradise for some of the newbs out there trying to get into Smart Home.
You also have the ability to use some programming with the graph portal for SmartThings. If you want to learn a little “groovy” syntax- you can bind/join/integrate things with SmartThings that wouldn’t otherwise be compatible. I have Belkin Wemo, Nest Protect Smoke Alarm and also was able to integrate the Quirky/Wink Aros A/C back when I had that cooler. What more could you ask for?
You can see here where I had quite a few things integrated. I also used it to create “virtual switches” with TriggerCMD. If you don’t have TriggerCMD – you have to check it out. I’m able to wake, sleep, shutdown, reboot and more- with my PCs using my Raspberry Pi and TriggerCMD on each PC at home. Very cool and more on that below.
There are even pre-made templates, which you simply change some of the parameters of text with your credentials and/or public URL for a Nest Camera or in this case – the Nest Protect:
See the pre-made templates here that you can use. You can also insert some code from Github that you might find online, but be careful to pay attention for the DATE- because there is a good chance anything older than a year- could be deprecated i.e. outdated. Something to think about.
There’s also really cool Integrations like IFTTT. If this, then that – is ultimately what IFTTT is all about. Software is the binding force between many different smart devices out there. If you can’t get something to work with SmartThings through an automation or direct compatibility- chances are, that IFTTT can help. Automations, rules and triggers that wouldn’t otherwise be natively in the SmartThings app- have been made possible with IFTTT. It is a free service, check it out at https://www.ifttt.com
Here’s some other products that work with SmartThings and IFTTT:
Here’s a list of some of the capabilities that you can capture within the powerful force of IFTTT.
There’s obviously a skill as well – that enables using your SmartThings hub with Alexa for voice-control. Note- it’s also available for Cortana and for Google Home. Samsung made sure to integrate wisely.
You can buy any of these Alexa devices to get voice-control with the hub:
You can transfer groups/scenes for voice-control, or you can simply group SmartThings devices together into a group to turn on all of them together and off together with an easy command. I use it to turn on my monitors, wake-up my laptop (with triggercmd), and also to turn on my desk light with one single command. I do the same to put my computer to sleep. Pretty cool huh?
One of the smartest things I ever did with the Alexa integration- I went ahead and added all of the different devices to the hub first, and then came in and did my Alexa integration. I can’t stress this enough – very important. You’ll end up having to re-sync and refresh everything a lot.
Also- make sure to do your research, because Logitech harmony works better seperate and with harmony’s integration for Alexa- instead of syncing it with SmartThings, and THEN integrating SmartThings with Alexa. It’s much easier to do all of your setup with little modification left, and do your Alexa integration. But, some aspects of SmartThings didn’t work as good as I’d hoped with the Alexa integration so I went ahead and removed my harmony devices from SmartThings and integrated Harmony directly with the harmony skill that Alexa had.
Here’s a nice Bundle with Logitech Harmony (the elite kicks ass) and Alexa Echo Dot:
Or you can just get the Harmony standalone hub (to control your infrared electronics and such):
In summary, I use all of my philips hue, and lifx under my SmartThings hub. I just found with some devices- it only made sense to integrate first with SmartThings and then to integrate SmartThings to Alexa. It saved a lot of time with setup and took only an hour or so to get everything good to go. Over time, I’d realized this was the best approach for my voice control. Since Smartthings is so interchangeable with so many devices- it makes sense to get a hub that is very versatile and that’s why SmartThings was my #1 choice.
Here’s the Netgear Arlo system if you’d like to find out more:
SmartThings will give recommendations for different smart apps to use with it. Although – generally, you may not need any of these.. It’s nice to know that you can use an app to add new features to your smart home and the devices within it.
As you can see- there are loads of SmartApps that I have connected to my SmartThings hub. I use ActionTiles for my PC dashboard web client, Amazon Echo for voice-control, IFTTT for unique rules and triggers based on location or time, LIFX for some bulbs I have outside my house, and TriggerCMD for controlling PC tasks (see below for more info).
I also love TriggerCMD – as there is a feature to enable “virtual switches” with SmartThings and also use it for IFTTT. It essentially can turn your computer, raspberry pi, and many other things into a smart device. You can see below different triggers I setup for my Desktop. I admit, I’ve used it like crazy- to basically wake my computers from sleep, restart them, and also put them back to sleep using my raspberry pi.
You can see here at the bottom of these routines, I have a Server Sleep routine- which puts my server to sleep after it automatically turns on at 2am, runs some data tasks I have setup for dashboards (for work/fun) and then goes right back to sleep using Windows Task Scheduler along with TriggerCMD and SmartThings. Granted, not everyone will use these features, but if you want to setup a scene to wake a computer, turn on a monitor and lights when it’s time to get some work done all in a snap, this tool makes features limitless while saving electricity with your smart devices…
Lastly, you can also use add-on web-clients like ActionTiles. I used the first generation called SmartTiles which progressed to ActionTiles and it has enabled web-client and pc/computer access to my different scenes, triggers, nest camera and more. You can change light colors, dimming, as-well-as get trigger status updates all from one screen. This app is really cool because it made it possible to put it on a tablet so I had a touch screen to put on my wall. Check it out if you get a chance. https://app.actiontiles.com/
Here’s my video demo of using ActionTiles as well:
Well, I hope you all enjoyed this article and the content I included in it. Make sure to share this post to other SmartThings users! Make sure to subscribe as well for more content in the future about Smart Home! This is the hub of choice right here: