SmartThings and iSmartAlarm are two recent entrants to the market of providing DIY home security systems.
They are both putting more control in to the hands of the owner or renter than has been possible with the traditional systems. You get much of the functionality and more that you could only get with monitored systems.
You get this without having a contract and monthly fees (however it won’t be professionally monitored). You have the ability to control, program and monitor the systems using your smartphone using the company’s app.
These 2 systems are similar in many ways with the ability to use your smartphone to control and monitor and get notifications when something happens at your home when you are away.
They are both new startup companies. However, they do have different approaches to home security and it is that perspective I’ll be using in comparing them side by side rather than the home automation possibilities they bring. (However, I do talk about home automation as it is one of the differences between the two).
The iSmartAlarm is a home security system that uses the power of the internet for monitoring and control.
There are plans to expand the range of features and devices available to extend its security and home automation features.
You are limited to the products manufactured by iSmartAlarm with their security system.
There are no monthly fees or contracts to monitor the system or receive notifications.
The most popular starter kit is the iSmartAlarm iSA3 Preferred Package Home Security System.
The SmartThings is a home automation system that can be used to secure your home in a similar way to a home security system.
It gives you the option to add other manufacturers devices to expand its coverage due to it z-wave and zigbee (home automation wireless standards) compatibility.
This gives you the option to use the best products for securing your home that use the standard home automation communication standards (Zigbee & Z-wave).
As well as monitoring and receiving notifications you can control and automate electrical devices using your phone.
Their most popular package is the SmartThings Smarter Home Starter Kit.
You can read my full review here.
Installation And Set Up
Both systems are wireless and require few DIY skills to install the sensors around your home. Set up requires plugging the respective hubs into your router and downloading the app to your smartphone to complete the initial setup. All this can be done fairly quickly but can take some time to get used to the app as neither is that intuitive but both systems are regularly updating the software making this process easier. Most people are up and running in less than a couple of hours.
These are unmonitored or self-monitored security systems, so you are responsible for the monitoring of the system 24/7.
Both systems are monitored remotely using your smartphone by downloading the system’s app. They both support Android and iOS phones. As well as monitoring and controlling from afar this is the way you do this when at home as there is not a traditional control panel that has a keypad and LCD display to see what is happening.
You can set/disarm the systems from anywhere you can get access to the internet. There are different notifications you can receive – such as when the system is armed/disarmed and who did it – great for checking when your kids arrive home – as well as when a sensor has been triggered and with the combination of a camera you can then check what is going on at home.
The SmartThings has some further functionality that isn’t available with iSmartAlarm. You can get it to set and disarm the system automatically when the remote tag is in range or goes out of range (you can set this up for your smartphone too). If you don’t want this you can get a reminder sent to you to let you know you haven’t set the alarm or locked the door (if you have smart locks installed), or before you open the door you can have it remind you to disarm the system if you want.
Even when the systems are not armed you can get notifications when a sensor has detected a door opening and when motion is detected if you want – useful if you want to know if someone is sneaking out or someone is in an area of your home they shouldn’t be.
Although not required for protecting your home against intrusion these sensors are normally available to be added on to a system if you desire. These sensors can detect carbon monoxide, smoke, temperature changes and water etc.
SmartThings gives you the ability to integrate third party sensors to their system and have a list of those that work seamlessly with their app. However, iSmartAlarm does not have these components available currently and they do not appear to be in the pipeline for the near future looking at their press release dated 25 March 2014.
Home automation features do not have to form part of a security system for it to be effective but they can add to the overall peace of mind and comfort for residents and owners. You can control your lights, locks, temperature, curtains and more to give the appearance that someone is at home. You can set them up so that the lights come on when a sensor is triggered as well as having the siren sound to give the appearance that you’ve been woken up and are coming to check.
SmartThings gives you the opportunity to use IFTT.com (stands for if this, then that) where you can set up or use a number of recipes to have your system automate actions for you based on the time of day or something happening. You could ask that all notifications of the medicine cabinet being opened are recorded on a Google docs spreadsheet – in fact you are probably only limited by your imagination to a certain extent depending on devices you have added to the system.
Currently iSmartAlarm systems do not include any of these features but they are working on releasing some new components this year.
With SmartThings they either have these devices or you can add third party devices and control them with your smartphone app through their hub.
The table here compares the most important features of the iSmartAlarm and SmartThings side by side to demonstrate similarities and differences quickly. You can sort by the columns by using the arrows in the header. You can search the table by typing into the search box at the top of the table.
|Contract for Monitoring||No||No|
|Environmental Sensors||No||Yes - Can add third party sensors|
|iOS Versions supported||5.0 and above||7.0 and above
|Android Versions Supported||Gingerbread 2.33 -2.37|
Ice Cream 4.0 - 4.3
|4.0 and above
|Can add cameras||Yes||Yes - Dropcam|
|Max Sensors/Devices Can be|
|No maximum||No maximum|
(Wireless standard for home automation)
|Return period/money back||30 days||30 days|
|Manufacturers Warranty||1 year||1 year|
|Wireless Coverage||Up to 330 ft||Up to 150 ft|
< 2 hours
|Panic button||Yes - on remote and app||No|
|Entry Delay||30 seconds||30 seconds|
|Exit Delay||30 seconds||60 seconds|
Panic Device and Duress Codes
Neither system has a specific device set up as to push as a panic button, however iSmartAlarm does have a button on their remote and their app that is panic button to trigger the alarm instantly and send notifications out.
With both systems if there is a power outage they stop working. This is the same if your internet connection stops working. They are both working on how to overcome the problem of the internet connection but have not yet addressed the issue of a power outage. They both do send you a notification if the company’s server loses contact with your system.
As the systems stand at present there is no maximum as to the number of devices that can be added to them. The only limit at the moment is on the devices available and/or those supported by the system, with iSmartAlarm only supporting their own motion sensors, door/window contacts and remote controls. SmartThings have a broader selection of their own devices plus a wide range of third party devices you can add.
Both systems come with a 30 day money back period and a 1 year manufacturer’s warranty. It appears both companies now provide a good level of customer support in standing behind their products (iSmartAlarm were poor to begin with but recently their interactions with their customers have improved markedly).
You can phone iSmartAlarm Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 5.30 PST time. With SmartThings you do not have this option but can use live chat between 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM EST.
Contracts And Ongoing Fees
Neither system requires a contract to be signed nor do they charge ongoing fees for the functionality of controlling and monitoring their systems with your smartphone. They do not appear to be looking to change this in the future from what they are saying but it seems to me that this cannot be a long term sustainable model.
I guess they could “grandfather” existing customers in to a basic ongoing package, i.e. not charge them for the current levels of service but charge for any additional levels of service or functionality. Anyway for now all functionality comes at no extra cost.
As both these systems are relatively new they are regularly updating the features of their systems on a regular basis and to fix any issues being reported by customers. For example: SmartThings only added the functionality to support Dropcam cameras on 24 April. This does mean that comparisons can go out of date quite quickly. I intend to update the reviews and this comparison as I become aware of the changes.
Both systems are controlled by an app you use on your smartphone app and through the internet. If the internet is down or there is a power outage then the systems do not work. Both companies are looking at giving local control when the internet is down but I’ve yet to see how they are addressing back up power for when the power is out.
If you are looking for a home security system first that is likely to grow to have more automation features over time than the iSmartAlarm makes a good option. You get the security features at lower cost than with SmartThings but at a higher cost than with traditional self-monitored security systems. However, you do get a lot more functionality that is not available with the traditional ones – you can see what is going on at home through your smartphone if you add a camera and you can get notifications when people arrive and leave home and more. You can have more information on what is going on at home and control your system from afar.
If you want a home automation system with security system features included then SmartThings is a good solution. It is more expensive than iSmartAlarm and other traditional self monitored security systems but you do get a lot more functionality for controlling your home security and automating your home with more features being added on a regular basis.
Filed under: Buying Advice
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