Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
You might be interested in smart home technology, but with so many options, where do you begin? Do you want smart central heating to save on your heating bill? How about smart lights to save on your energy bill? And what about those smart kettles and fridges — are they really necessary in a smart home?
Samsung has supported the idea of the smart home for a long time. They’ve made numerous entries into the smart home market, and have a dedicated smart home line, called SmartThings. But how do you know if Samsung’s SmartThings is right for your smart home? And does this system represent a smart choice for the future? Let’s take a look.
What’s on Offer?
Samsung proudly declares that they have “everything you need to create and monitor your own smart home in no time.” To get started, you’ll need the SmartThings app, a SmartThings hub, and some smart devices to connect. Common devices include surveillance cameras, thermostats, motion sensors, multi sensors, door locks, and power outlets, as well as other specific smart gadgets.
The Samsung smart environment begins with the SmartThings hub. The hub works with a massive range of smart home protocols and devices, including: IFTTT, Z-Wave, ZigBee, WiFi, Bluetooth, Nest, and Amazon Echo. The hub currently retails for $100 and is an excellent starting point for any smart home owner, beginner or not.
How Does It Compare?
The Samsung SmartThings Hub is well-received and equally well-reviewed. The smart home industry is still in its infancy, creating confusion as to what device will work with which hub. But at this moment in time, the SmartThings hub does an excellent job of connecting to the widest range of devices.
In many areas, the SmartThings hub is significantly better than its direct competitors. This isn’t to say those competitors are bad options. They all have specific features that make them worthy competitors, but none have the SmartThings hub’s range of integration.
Currently, SmartThings’s closest competitor is the Wink Hub 2. Wink’s second generation smart home hub connects to more devices than its predecessors, including Zigbee, Z-Wave, Lutron Clear, Kidde, and Thread. Wink has also packed in a faster processor at 512 MB RAM, as well as much needed auto-discovery and a guided setup feature.
The Wink Hub 2 currently retails for around $99.
During March 2016, Amazon created a stir with the release of the Echo Dot (UK). The second-generation Echo Dot brought a lower price, improved voice recognition, and increased functionality to smart home devices. The Echo Dot can control the standard range of smart devices (think lights, fans, thermostats, etc.) and integrates with other smart hubs, like Samsung SmartThings.
The Echo Dot retails for $50, making it an enticing offer for those who might want to dabble without too much of an outlay.
Is it sensible to make a smart home investment at this point in time? Are the devices and system you choose going to be future-proof? I think the answer lies in the timeframe.
Within the very immediate future, Samsung SmartThings is an excellent choice. Samsung continue to update and expand its range of connectable devices, and their position as an industry leader should keep them invested moving forwards.
— Gui Ambros (@GuiAmbros) July 22, 2013
For instance, the latest generation of Samsung Smart TVs comes with built-in SmartThings integration. The television doesn’t have quite the range of the actual SmartThings hub, but it is more than capable of powering a smart home. The Smart TV has other cool features too, like streaming your security cameras direct to the screen.
While the smart home hub may fall into obsolescence, the devices connected to it won’t — at least in the very near future. Many of the devices are built to last. Take a Philips Hue Connected Bulb. They’re rated for around 15,000 hours of operation. Presuming a bulb is used for eight hours per day (which is a relatively high estimate), you’ll be on course for 1,875 days of light (over five years).
The biggest threat to your investment that I can currently envision is the potential for entire companies to fail. In 2015 the then-Wink-developer Quirky filed for bankruptcy, casting doubt over how their existing products would continue to function. Luckily, the original manufacturer of the hub, Flextronics (now known as Flex), stepped in with a $15 million bid. They continue to develop the Wink smart home environment to this day.
In early 2016, Google announced they would be closing down the cloud service used to power communications between the Revolv hub and its connected devices. Nest, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, stopped supporting Revolv’s technology on May 15, 2016. $300 paperweights were suddenly all the rage.
Some refunds were issued. Some compensation was claimed. But the ill-feeling toward Nest and Alphabet continues. Moreover, it was one of the first clear cases against investing in the fledgling smart home industry.
Despite these incidents, the demand for smart home technology has made it clear that the smart home industry is here to stay. Because of Samsung’s position in the market, it’s pretty safe to assume that Samsung SmartThings technology represent a solid investment.
That being said, Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem hasn’t remained free of controversy. In May 2016 security researchers at the University of Michigan discovered a number of design flaws in the SmartThings platform.
design flaws in Samsung’s SmartThings allowed people to remotely hack a front-door lock
— Big Dog (@macmansd) August 13, 2016
The flaw allowed malicious applications to unlock doors, falsely set off alarms, reset home access codes, wake devices from vacation mode, and more. The attack vectors created a massive potential vulnerability for any SmartThings user. Thankfully, the vulnerability was only exploitable through a malicious app downloaded through the SmartThings store.
These security issues are now completely resolved. It’s also worth noting that Samsung isn’t the first smart home company to experience security issues, and they certainly won’t be the last.
Is Samsung the Smart Home Choice for You?
Samsung SmartThings is an excellent choice for your smart home. Its numerous device pairings, powerful central hub, and continued development at the forefront of the smart home market make SmartThings a solid investment for the coming years.
As well, SmartThings has enough in the locker for an advanced user, but is open and friendly enough for any newcomer. Start with this system for the basics, and then let it advance in complexity as your vision for your smart home changes and grows.
Is your smart home powered by SmartThings? Did you make the switch from another smart hub? What devices would you like to connect, but can’t? Let us know your thoughts below!