The concept of a smart home is enticing for many people, and the idea is expected to really take off this year – if people can figure it out. Most people I talk to are intrigued by the idea of a smart home, but put off by it’s general complexity and requirements. In fact, those that do purchase smart home devices are shocked to discover that they don’t all talk to each other, and that they need multiple apps to manage them. But that’s where a smart home hub comes in. It becomes the brains of the operation; the central location to manage everything and make them work together.
And the Samsung SmartThings hub is one of the best products suited for this task.
If you’re worried that a smart home is difficult to setup, Samsung SmartThings looks to alleviate that fear.
SmartThings — first launched as a Kickstarter project before being purchased by Samsung — bills itself as a powerful, easy to set up smart home hub; connecting to it’s own devices as well as other third party devices thanks to Z-Wave and Zigbee technology built in (things like Phillips Hue use Zigbee, while Z-Wave is popular with alarm companies like ADT, etc). It’s meant to be the hub for all your smart home devices; a place where you can easily manage them together. And while we use the term smart home, the SmartThings hub should conceptually referred to as a Home Automation hub.
Home Automation, in the most simple explanation, is executing routines with smart devices in your home. If you have a morning routine like getting up, turning on the light, going downstairs to make coffee, and locking the door to go to work – you can set a home automation hub to turn on your lights when you wake up, which will then turn on the coffee maker; all before you even get downstairs. Then when you walk out the door, it can lock the door so you don’t have to.
If you’re worried that a smart home is difficult to setup, Samsung SmartThings is there to alleviate that fear. In 5 easy steps, you will be on your way to making your home smarter in no time.
Download the Samsung SmartThings app
The SmartThings mobile app is how you will primarily control your home automation. It’s worth mentioning that there is no website dashboard to access, so you will need to use an Android smartphone or tablet or an iPhone to access the smart things app. For those iPad users, Samsung recently made it available to use on the iOS powered tablet, so you can have more screen real estate to control your devices.
Once you download the app, tap create account.
Create your Samsung Account
Follow the prompts to create your smartthings account. As always, the golden rule of passwords should apply: make sure to use a strong password to ensure that your password cannot be guessed by anyone.
Activate the SmartThings Hub
You will be prompted to enter the code of your hub. The unique 6-character code for the hub is packaged inside the box and located on a card under the Hub’s tray inside. Once you enter the code, connect the hub with the included cable to a power outlet. When the Hub shows solid green LEDs, tap Continue. You will then be prompted to set up your home (Location).
Create a Location
You will be prompted to allow Location permissions on your device, which you will want to allow, as this will allow the Hub to send you status notifications, as well as any notifications you set up for specific routines or devices. This can also allow SmartThings to trigger different actions to happen automatically when you enter and leave your customized Location. If you choose not to give your home a name, it will default to “Home”. You will next want to confirm your home’s physical location, so tap This is My Location to confirm if your location and address are correct. Once this step is complete, you will see a success message saying your Hub is activated!
Connect your “Things”
From this point, you can select the smart “things” you have. SmartThings works with a huge amount of devices and third party companies. Here are some of the devices that are compatible with SmartThings:
- Amazon Echo: $179
- Amazon Echo Dot: $49
- Phillips Hue Starter Kit:
- Logitech Harmony Hub (to control your tv):
- GE Z-wave Smart Lighting Switch:
- Ecobee 4 smart thermostat: $248.99
- Aeon Labs Home Energy Monitor: $34.99
- Aeon Labs Z-Wave Power Strip: $59.99
- Z-Wave Motion Sensor: $39.99
And of course, Samsung has their own branded products built for the SmartThings hub:
- Samsung SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor:
- Samsung SmartThings Smart Outlet:
- Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor:
- Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor:
- Samsung SmartThings Arrival Sensor:
To add SmartThings branded products to your hub, do the following:
- Select My Home in the SmartThings app.
- Under Things, scroll to the bottom and tap Add A Thing. The app will say looking for devices.
- When the device is discovered, it will be listed at the top of the screen, where you can then tap to rename it.
- Tap finish to save it, and then tap ok to confirm the paired devices.
The process for adding third party devices (not made by Samsung) looks a little different, but is just as simplistic. You would proceed similarly as the steps above, but when you tap the Add A Thing button, you would then select Add Device Manually at the bottom. This will bring up a recommended selection of devices to add. From there you will search for the device you’re trying to add, and follow the instructions that come with the device you’re looking to add. For something like a GE Smart Switch, the manual may instruct you to press the light switch button or toggle up to put the device into a “pair” mode and get the SmartThings hub to see it.
One bit of advice: the SmartThings hub should be in close proximity to the device you are looking to add. SmartThings recommends no less than 15 feet away, but I would say it should be no more than 5 to 10, as I encountered pairing issues when I was a little over 10 feet away from my Hub (I was also on a different floor, and that will make a difference as well).
Now you will notice that there is a section of the app for Automations, which makes sense since the SmartThings hub is, as we mentioned before, a home automation hub. I didn’t include the automations portion of the things as part of the 5 steps for two reasons: 1) You can’t do anything with them until you do all the other steps including adding devices and 2) they aren’t necessary, and some may find them complex. Does that make sense? Well, here’s the thing…
The SmartThings hub is a great way to control all of your smart home products in one app. And really, that’s what most people will want: the ability to control all of their “things” in one centralized location; as opposed to opening multiple apps and having them take up space on their smartphones. The Automation part of things is an added bonus for those who want to go further with their devices and really turn their home into a smart home. Still, you can create automations with relative ease, and they can range from simplistic to advanced. Here’s how to create a simple automation:
- Open the app and navigate to the Automation portion on the bottom and select it. You’ll see Routine’s listed, and an option to Add a Routine. Tap on it and you will be presented a list of options:
2. Those options will be based upon what devices you have added to your hub. In this instance, we’ll make a simple automation to change the thermostat and the living room lights at a specific time. Select the option to turn on these lights and select which lights you want.
3. Set the thermostat you want to control – in this instance we will use the ecobee – and set the heating or cooling schedule.
4. Scroll down to the Automatically perform option and tap on it. From there, select At a Certain Time and set your preferred time. Hit Done in the top right corner when it’s complete.
5. It will now bring you back to the previous screen, at which point you can select Done one final time to start the automation. Once you do, it will prompt you with a message stating that the activity is now installed and automating. Because you set an automatic activity for this, you will not have to select this every single time you want it to run.
And that’s it! At this point, you are well on your way to creating your ideal – and intelligent – smart home. When I purchased my home a few months ago, it was only after purchasing the Samsung SmartThings Hub that I realized I could make my smart home dreams a reality. In fact, I credit SmartThings with single handedly sparking my love for smart home tech, and wanting to inform others how easy – and beneficial – it can be to create your own smart home. Like I mentioned before, there are other home automation options out there like the Wink Hub (which was recently purchased by another company) and some of them offer fantastic, advanced local control of devices: like the open source, Raspberry Pi-run Home Assistant. But it’s in my opinion that SmartThings is the most accessible – and simplistic – offering available on the market today.
If you’re interested in the Samsung SmartThings Hub, you can purchase the device on Amazon:
Are you a user of SmartThings? What do you love about it? Let me know in the comments below or mention me on Twitter @kevinG_harris!