Creating actions is very similar to creating notifications. From the dashboard screen, navigate the top menu to Actions. For the composite screenshot below, I selected Motion category (left image). Next I selected lighting to bring up some pre-configured SmartApps and selected "Turn on when there is motion" (center image). Next you choose the action device (one of the light bulbs), the motion sensor. You can set the dimmer for the light bulb from 0 to 100% in 10% increments.
Optionally, when the motion stops, you can specify how long the light remains on. Finally, you have the same time, days of week and mode options as for creating notifications. There are also SmartApps for simpler functions such as turning lights on/off at a specific time. SmartThings supports Sunrise and Sunset scheduling.
SmartThings Add Action - Choose Lighting under Motion category (left), Select SmartApp (center), Configure SmartApp options (right)
As with alerts and notifications, I created quite a few actions to test both turning lights on based on motion as well as on various schedules. All worked as expected. Some actions were created created using my iPad and others were created either on my Nexus 7 or my Android phone. All actions created on any platform were available on the other platforms.
To the right of the Actions menu, you'll find the "More" menu. This menu seems to be a catch-all of the various lifestyle apps as well as the SmartThings Lab where you'll find the latest apps from SmartThings and third party developers. The composite screenshot below shows the categories under the "More" menu (left image), a partial listing of SmartThings Labs (center image) and the Safety and Security category (right image). There are a couple of interesting apps under Smart Things Labs - Integration of the Logitech Harmony Hub with SmartThings, and the ability to trigger Logitech Harmony Activities. I'll be covering the Logitech apps in a separate review.
SmartThings More Menu - Category listing (left), SmartThings Labs partial listing (center) and Safety and Security apps (right)
As part of this review, our hardware included two SmartThings branded sensors shown in the image at the top of the review. The composite screenshot below shows the device pages from the "Things" dashboard page for the SmartThings SmartPower Outlet (left) and the SmartSense Motion sensor (right).
The SmartPower Outlet is an on/off plug that is controlled by the SmartThings app. It measures the power currently flowing through the plug, but you can't take any action based on power consumption. The green icon reflects that state of the plug, and you can turn the plug on/off from this menu as well as from the Things menu one level up. As expected, there were no problems encountered with discovering the SmartPower Outlet.
The SmartSense Motion sensor only detects motion. Tapping the icon does do anything. If motion is detected, the icon will turn blue and show "Motion" The sensor also measures temperature. You can select which one shows up in the "Things" menu by clicking on the dot near either the motion icon or the one to the right of the temperature indicator.
As with the SmartPower Outlet, there were no problems connecting the SmartSense Motion sensor to the Hub. I just pulled the battery protection plastic tab, clicked connect now and it showed up. I did have one concern, however. The battery in the motion sensor started out at 100%. Over the course of 3 days, it dropped to 77%. However, it was in my office and was constantly detecting movement and sending data back to the SmartThings app. Today, I moved the sensor to a room with less motion and battery levels didn't drop any further.
SmartThings SmartPower (left) and SmartSense Motion sensor (right)
SmartThings works with IFTTT. In fact, there are currently 304 active recipes available for SmartThings. Connecting your Hub to IFTTT is really easy. There aren't any authorization codes like WeMo Link requires. When you first go to the SmartThings page, you are prompted to log into your SmartThings account. From there, you can connect your Hub to IFTTT.
I created a recipe to send me a text message when motion was detected. The recipe ran as expected. However, that recipe actually duplicates a native capability found under Alerts and Notifications. I didn't really need IFTTT for that kind of notification. Other actions, such as logging events to a Google Doc spreadsheet or sending email notification require IFTTT.
As noted in the introduction, there are mobile clients for Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices. The iOS app is an iPhone app and is optimized for that screen format. I switched freely between my Nexus tablet, my Samsung S5 and my iPad and the applications worked the same way on all three devices. Sharp eyes may have caught that the screenshots for the SmartThings sensors were done on the iPad. All of the rest of the screenshots were done on the Nexus 7 because more information fit onto the Nexus' screen than onto the 2X iPhone app on the iPad.
In general, I preferred the Android app because of the additional content available on the screens. The Android apps didn't give me any problems on either my tablet or phone. On the iPad, the program hung several times and I had to force close the app. I tested each of the mobile platforms on an "off-LAN" public network. All mobile devices were able to connect seamlessly with the Hub. While you could notice some additional latency due to being routed through the Internet, the response to on/off commands were still very acceptable.
SmartThings' Smart Home system follows Securifi's Almond+ as the second product I've reviewed that supports multiple communication protocols and can connect to a large number a various sensors from different manufacturers. I was able to include the non-SmartThings branded GE-Link and WeMo LED smart bulbs into a basic HA system that also included the SmartThings power plug and motion sensor.
However, the ZigBee-based sensors that came with the Almond+ review sample didn't connect to the SmartThings Hub. In fairness, they were not on the list of compatible devices. Reviewing the list of compatible sensors, you can see that you can build a very robust HA system that could include security, entertainment, convenience and control features. I was disappointed, however, that the only cameras on the supported list were Dropcams.
SmartThings is attempting to be universal with mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. I was only able to test the apps on iOS and Android. The apps installed and ran smoothly on my iPad, Nexus 7 and Samsung S5 phone. At this point it time, I'd have to give the Android app a slight edge as the iOS app is optimized for the iPhone. On an iPad, it really doesn't take advantage of the added screen real estate. I also had the iOS app hang several times. The menus and capabilities of the apps on the two tested platforms are very much the same, so users of both platforms have only one learning curve to climb.
The SmartThings app is robust and fairly intuitive. Initially I had a little trouble figuring out how to set things up. I feel the UI isn't quite as easy to navigate as the WeMo app. However, as you add devices, the SmartThings app suggests some of the top notifications and actions you might use for each device. And, as you add devices, there are links to instruction manuals, installation videos (if available) and FAQs to provide you with support—a helpful touch.
The SmartThings app includes both in-app and text messing notification options. In contrast, external notification for WeMo relies on IFTTT,and the Almond+ supports neither external notifications, nor IFTTT. SmartThings has strong IFTTT support, with over 300 recipes published by IFTTT community members. But many of the recipes duplicate notifications and actions that can be done by the SmartThings app.
With only two systems under my review belt, it's too early for me to say SmartThings has the best Home Automation system in the market. But for now, SmartThings checks most of the boxes on my must-have list: multi-vendor sensor support; robust mobile app support; remote access; and IFTTT support. Stay tuned to see how other universal Hubs stack up.