The box, a $99 gadget from SmartThings called the SmartThings Hub, was set up in under 10 minutes, and connects all sorts of home automation devices to a service that lets me control and monitor them from anywhere using my phone or tablet. They offer tons of switches, dimmers, and sensors on their site. Each has a video showing exactly how to set them up- typically a simple one-minute process. By answering a few questions in the app, I can then add smarts to my home to automatically turn things on and off, alert me to various conditions, and take action for me.
You may be thinking you don't have a need for this, but you may be surprised. Here are some of the conveniences this gadget has brought:
- I can control my lights (and soon, garage door) from my phone, from anywhere. Did I forget to close the garage? My house notifies me and one tap later I close it while I'm out fishing.
- My gun case is locked and up high, but I also have a motion sensor inside. SmartThings alerts me whenever the gun case moves. It could very well save a life.
- Whenever my wife and I both leave the house, my house knows and turns off lights. If there's motion while we're away, it notifies us. When we come back, it can turn on lights as well.
- When there's no longer any motion in the living room, it turns on the bedroom fans and turns off any lights that were left on.
- I'm brewing beer, and SmartThings logs the temperature at the fermenter to ensure a consistent temperature.
Next on my list of things to automate are several more lights, locks, garage door, and watering. What impresses me the most with SmartThings is that after the novelty of controlling lights from your phone wears off, it's still bringing intelligence and value to our home.
If this sounds a little nerdy - well, it is. But, I also think it's the "next big thing" in technology. Think smartphones before everybody had them. Already, the media hype engine is revving up around the "Internet of Things" and various big-name players are jumping into the market. What sets SmartThings apart, though, is that they play well with lots of different systems and do not require a monthly fee. I can pick up a ZWave switch at Lowes, or a Phillips Hue bulb and the system sees it just fine. Similar systems I've tested either require a monthly fee, or are not as polished.
Disclaimer: I'm using a referral link to SmartThings, but it's a good deal. You get 10% as a new customer, and I get $10 to automate my next thing.