On the surface, the SmartThings hub looks a lot like a Mac mini. Inside, the SmartThings Hub is all Samsung. The $99.99 device has been called the “heart of your smart home.”
Installed, it connects wirelessly with hundreds of compatible smart devices, allowing you to monitor, control, and secure your home from anywhere in the world.
What is the SmartThings Hub?
First introduced in 2012, the SmartThings Hub got its start through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Less than two years later, parent company SmartThings, Inc. was purchased by Samsung for $200 million.
By 2015, the next-generation Samsung SmartThings Hub arrived, alongside a new lineup of products, and a brand-new SmartThings app experience for mobile devices, including Android and iOS.
What It Can Do
SmartThings is compatible with hundreds of connected products thanks to its Smart Home Platform. Not surprisingly, a lot of these are made by Samsung and SmartThings. Many, however, come from third-parties. We’ll break them down into three categories – monitoring, security, and control.
What’s Going on in Your Home?
The $249 SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit features the SmartThings Hub, two multipurpose sensors, a motion sensor, and an outlet. With these, you can monitor whether doors, windows, cabinets, or your garage are open or closed; monitor movement in your home; and have the ability to control lights, electronics, and small appliances. You may add additional sensors and outlets to your setup at any time.
Having the SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit serves little purpose without having devices attached to it. For monitoring, think smart cams placed throughout your home. Compatible devices include the SmartCam HDP Pro from Samsung and the Pan & Tile Wi-Fi Camera from D-Link.
With these type of cameras, you can view what’s going on in and around your home from anywhere, 24/7 using your smart device or through the web. Available features include live stream video and video clip notifications whenever activity occurs in your home.
Secure Your Home
A phrase that first became popular during the Middle Ages says it all; your home is your castle. For almost as long, we have protected our abodes with locks on the doors. Today, we have smart locks and deadbolts, which we can operate remotely.
All About Control
Lights were one of the first smart devices on the market. Thanks to products like Philips Hue, Lifx, Osram, and Cree, you can control, automate, and monitor your lights inside or outside of your home. Did you forget to turn off your lights? Want to add a little bit color to your next party? There’s nothing to worry about thanks to SmartThings.
Lighting isn’t the only type of product you can control with the SmartThings Hub. You can also add coffee makers, wireless music systems, water monitors, and thermostats to your system.
About Those Protocols
When shopping for smart devices, you’re likely to see the words Z-Wave or ZigBee on the packaging. In laymen terms, this is the secret sauce behind many of the smart devices on the market. From a technical standpoint, these are best described as high-level communication protocols used to create personal area networks with small, low-power digital radios.
These rules are considered simpler and less expensive than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
For this discussion, it doesn’t matter whether a product works with Z-Wave or ZigBee, as long as it’s compatible with SmartThings.
Great SmartThings-Compatible Products
Cree LED Connected Lightbulb
The Cree Connected LED bulb produces a high quality, soft white light. Best of all: It’s one of the least expensive smart bulbs on the market. Once installed, these bulbs are easy to dim or brighten. With SmartThings, you may schedule the lights to come on automatically or at a moment’s notice.
The Massachusetts-based audio company has a lot of SmartThings-compatible products on the market, including wireless music players, amplifiers, and home theater systems. For those looking for a starter package, look at the $199.99 Bose SoundTouch 10 wireless music system.
Samsung SmartCam HD Pro
The Samsung SmartCam HD Pro can be placed anywhere in your home. It features live feeds and automatic event-based notifications and video clip recording.
GE In-Wall Smart Switch
Perhaps “cool” isn’t the best word to describe a wall switch, but we’re adding the GE In-Wall Smart Switch here nonetheless. With this switch, you can turn your lights on/off from your smart devices, and also trigger the lights when certain events occur. For example, when someone opens a door or leaves a room. The switch also plays nice with ceiling fans, which can turn on/off depending on the temperature of the room.
FortrezZ Siren Strobe Alarm
This device emits a loud siren and bright strobe light when unexpected motion, tampering or entering occurs. The SmartThings app adds the ability to customize which actions trigger the alarm and sends out a notification. Lights are available for indoor and outdoor use. Currently, the FortrezZ is the only SmartThings-compatible strobe alarms on the market.
First Alert Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms haven’t changed much in recent years. Nonetheless, they still serve an important role in homes. First Alert’s latest product offers 24/7 protection and sends out notifications when there is a problem. When paired with a SmartPower Outlet, the First Alert Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Alarm can automatically trigger lights, thereby giving family members an easier path to an exit.
A Final Note on Security
Security researchers at the University of Michigan recently uncovered design flaws in the Samsung SmartThings platform. These flaws could potentially allow malicious applications to unlock doors, falsely set off alarms, or wake devices from vacation mode, among other attack vectors.
For its part, Samsung has released a carefully worded statement on this issue, which says, in part:
“Protecting our customers’ privacy and data security is fundamental to everything we do at SmartThings. We are fully aware of the University of Michigan/Microsoft Research report and have been working with the authors of the report for the past several weeks on ways that we can continue to make the smart home more secure as the industry grows …”
Security is always going to be a concern with wireless products. It’s something to keep in mind when making new purchases. The key is making sure the software associated with these products is updated on a regular basis to address these vulnerabilities.
There are many SmartThings-compatible products already on the market to monitor, control, and secure your home. New products arrive each month. For a current list of compatible products, see the SmartThings website.