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Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit review: A solid connected-home foundation

Dave Zatz | Dec. 11, 2015
A second-generation hub is the key to this platform's appeal.

Once I installed the app and connected the SmartThings Hub to my FiOS router, the SmartThings iPhone app efficiently walked me through account creation and Hub registration via a one-time use code printed on the welcome packet. (This will likely make subsequent setups or resale more tedious, as you’ll need to call tech support to get a new code.)

For the next step, the app prompted me to discover existing Things by removing the temporary shipping spacers separating the batteries from the electrical contacts on the motion sensor, the multipurpose modules, and the leak detector. Each device immediately powered up so the Hub could find them. Similarly, plugging the lamp module and the siren into power outlets rendered them discoverable. I had everything added to the app in no time at all. But that’s where the simplicity ended, leaving me wondering what to do next.

SmartThings app 
SmartThings offers apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, but expect to invest some time to master them. Credit: Dave Zatz

Mastering the app

While I found the SmartThings iOS software polished and attractive enough, routine operation is marred by arcane icons and competing, redundant paradigms. There is a definite learning curve and at this time, only the tech savvy need apply—at least when it comes to setting the system up and enabling its features. Once everything is operational, the rest of the family will benefit from your time investment.

As I mentioned above, Things are the individual components of your smart home: The connected light bulbs, motion sensors, smart door locks, and so on. During setup, you associate each Thing with the Room it will be installed in. You then establish Routines that trigger various Things to behave in certain ways at certain times. The Goodnight! routine, for example, might tell the SmartThings hub to lock all your doors, turn out your lights, and adjust your home’s thermostat to an energy-saving temperature while you’re snug in your bed.

For more robust control, you can install SmartApps that tap deeper into the capabilities of Things. SmartApps can also control devices outside the SmartThings universe, such as a Sonos multi-room audio system or Philips Hue LED lighting. Some SmartApps come preinstalled with the SmartThings mobile client app, while others are acquired through the SmartThings Marketplace (accessed via the mobile client app). If you’re inclined to write code, you can even create SmartApps of your own.

Putting SmartThings to the test

To put SmartThings through its paces, I outfitted my largely tech-free basement as if it were a smart apartment. I placed one multipurpose sensor on the exterior door and another on the single window, with the water leak detector finding a spot next to our sump pump (a common fixture in my region). I placed the motion detector on a ledge near the stairwell, and plugged a floor lamp into the lamp/small-appliance module near the seating area with the siren nearby.

 

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