So recently I had my house broken into – so much for a nice neighbourhood!
1. I immediately rigged up some cheap IP cameras that would take regular pictures of the back of the house
2. The landlord promptly agreed to fit a new alarm system, which is now up and running
3. I started looking again at home-automation as a way of telling me what is going on when I’m out and about
The latter is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I’ll be honest – never felt that the products out there were right. The choices seemed to be either consumer-level systems for single purpose actions (such as security cameras) or highly technical solutions that suggested a high level of electrical engineering expertise. However, with the new release of SmartThings from Samsung, I’m thinking it might be time to revisit.
This started as a Kickstarter project and proved massively popular – to the extent that the firm was bought by Samsung, and this week saw the UK launch of the Samsung labelled kit. In the UK, SmartThings is being sold exclusively through PC World and from Samsung themselves. On launch day I duly headed down to my local PCWorld to be told “we’ve not received any stock”… so it was only a couple of days later that I’ve managed to get my hands on a starter kit and start playing.
The small box contains, a hub (the brain of the operation), a motion detector, a presence fob for your keyring, a plug socket adaptor and a magnetic door/window switch. It’s all neatly boxed and the “START HERE” instructions in the top of the box are pretty straight forward.
The first thing you’re asked to do is download the SmartThings application onto your phone. It’s iOS, Android or Windows – but interestingly there’s no software option for your PC or Mac – it’s a phone-first experience. Having installed the app and registered an account, the app leads you through the initial setup. This took some time, when configuring the hub for the first time and being told to wait for the NEXT option to appear, it was fully 5 minutes with no real feedback other than a blue light on the front of the hub. Was it doing anything? Dunno… I went and made a coffee and came back to see it had completed. I was then invited to tell Samsung where the hub is located and to define a “Location” and locate it on a map. Interesting that I might have more than one location… they obviously think I might have a place in the country too.
I’m then asked to pair my first “things” – which is fairly painless, and my motion detector, plug socket and presence fob are all picked up quickly. For each of them I’m asked to give them a name, and to then optionally place them in “rooms” that I define.
OK – motion detector in the bedroom. Plug outlet connected to the radio in the kitchen and keyfob on my keys…. Now what?
Time to define a rule! The app comes with some preset routines – “Good morning”, “Good night”, “Goodbye” and “I’m back” but up to now they have to be triggered from the phone, and don’t actually do anything! Time to change that… The other pre-defined things are “modes” (or states as I would call them) of “Home”, “Night” and “Away”
By editing the Good Morning routine, I’ve now set a rule that says “if it’s been ‘night’ and there is motion detected in my room between 6-9 am, then trigger the ‘Good Morning’ routine, which now consists of turning on the radio and set the mode to ‘home'”
So far, so good! The rule will only run if there’s motion in the getting-up part of the day (rather than a midnight bathroom trip!) and will only run the first time it sees me in the morning (as the mode will have changed from night to home).