One of the most popular options available on the market is the ‘SmartThings‘ system which was purchased and developed by tech well known’s ‘Samsung’. While they don’t solely manufacture every known bit of smart home kit, they have designed a fantastic base system which works well with lots of other bits of third party kit, more on that later.
Samsung offer a variety of SmartThings kits to purchase, as well as the items individually should you want to expand. While the sensors are given a lot of discussion, and are fairly self explanatory, the purpose and importance of the hub is often overlooked causing confusion to newcomers.
Introduction to the hub
The hub is the core of the SmartThings system and, simply put, handles all of talk back and forth between the smart accessories and smartphone application interface, it basically was designed to allow users to easily access everything from one place, removing the inconvenience of jumping between multiple apps.
Connecting this hub to your internet router (cable included) allows you to remotely access your smart kit system from anywhere in the
world, providing you have an internet connection of course.
Those of you familiar with the first generation of this product might be asking what has changed? Firstly you may notice that the 2nd generation looks a little thicker, this is to accommodate 4 x AA batteries which will keep your hub powered and functional for up to 10 hours should a mains power failure occur, handy!
Next up Samsung have added support for the devices to work locally as well as in the cloud, much like the battery addition above, this means that if your wifi goes down your devices will still carry on as expected, particularly reassuring if you rely on the system for security.
Video support was added in beta, a few cameras work for now with the plan to develop this service further in the future.
Under the hood Samsung have also added Bluetooth support, and externally you may have noticed the addition of two USB ports, these have been put in place to ‘future proof’ the device towards any upcoming devices, a nice addition to satisfy the knowledge that you won’t have to upgrade your hub too often.
Getting Set Up
You will need the free SmartThings app to set up your hub which is available for both iPhone and Android..
Once you have downloaded the application you will be prompted to create a free account, this is a fairly painless process and worth noting here to set a fairly complex password to help keep your system secure.
Next you will want to plug up the hub, best to do this as near to your router as possible to avoid cable runs. In the box you will find the hub, a power supply, and an Ethernet cable. After plugging in the power supply you will need to connect one end of the Ethernet cable to the hub’s ‘internet’ port and the other end into a spare ‘Internet’ port on your router, and that’s it!
You can then log in on the app which will start looking for your hub and begin the setup process. Once the hub has been recognised it will begin a syncing process which you will be told could take between 5-10 minutes, I’ll be honest in telling you that it took me a few attempts of waiting for 20 minutes and restarting the pairing process to perform this action successfully, but thankfully you only need to perform this process once! You can then proceed to add your various SmartThings devices, more on this process can be found in our mobile application article.
Talking My Language
Now we understand why the hub is required, and its basic setup, we can talk a little more about its technical specifications, all within reason of course, I’m sure you aren’t too fussed in knowing that the device runs at an operating temperature of 0 to 40°C….
The main bit of technical information you need to know about this device is the two protocol languages it uses to exchange communication between smart devices. The first language is called ‘Zigbee’ and the other is ‘Z-Wave+’. Don’t worry you don’t need to become fluent in these, or really know anything about how they work, but I wanted to make the following few points that can cause confusion if unknown.
You may have noticed a number of third party devices that feature these words such as ‘Z-Wave plug socket’, or ‘Zigbee door sensor’, while these may technically speak the same lingo, don’t be fooled into thinking that SmartThings will always play well with them. It is usually best to first check the ‘supported products‘ page of the SmartThings website and if a particular product you are interested in isn’t listed there then head over to the support forums where many users can be found discussing hacks and workarounds. My main point being not to presume that a device mentioning those languages will work seamlessly with SmartThings.
While having the ability to remotely control a number of smart devices is exciting, let’s not forget that this hub has to sit on display somewhere in your home, unless of course you have your router buried away in a cupboard somewhere.
The hub measures 123mm (high) x 107mm (wide) and 37mm (depth), and comes in a brilliant white colour only. I have mine next to an Apple AirPort Extreme which blends well, but I have to admit it would be nice to see it offered in another colour as well such as black to appeal to a larger variety of home colour schemes.
Overall I would highly rate the SmartThings system, while the app is sometimes not the easiest to get your head around the simplicity and reliability once it is set up has been fantastic in my experience and with the additional improvements such as battery backup this system will leave you with peace of mind when away from home.