unitstars4Rating: 4.0 Reviewed by Paul

 
NOTE: This kit is no longer being made and has been replaced and improved upon by the Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit. Read review here.

The SmartThings Know and Control Your Home Kitis a home automation system that includes the functionality to secure your home. It is a wireless DIY kit that you self monitor and control using your smart phone.

I’ll be looking at this system from the point of securing your home rather than looking at it for its ability to automate your home in the main as a number of people buy this system for its ability to secure their home.  But I will discuss some of the other features this system can offer.
                     buy5._V192207739_                        You control and monitor everything through your smart phone using the SmartThings App. There is a lot of functionality that you can add to the system that is security related – such as locking/unlocking locks, turning your lights off or on and closing or opening your curtains.

The wireless network is compatible with Zwave and Zigbee devices which gives you the ability to add different devices to your network from various  companies to build out your system for security and automation purposes. Zwave and Zigbee are wireless standards used to transfer data between sensors and a controller.

Installation

To install this system you need to plug the Hub into your router via the Ethernet cable and download the smartphone app. It supports Android versions 4.0 and above and IOS versions 7.0 and above. It does not support Windows or Blackberry.
Getting the sensors and detectors paired (found) by the Hub and App works well with them being found in a few seconds after activating the devices (by pulling the battery activation tab) as long as you are within 10 feet of the hub when doing this.

The multi-sensor can be attached to your doors or windows by using the double-sided tape, although this is a bit weak and you’ll be better off using 3M Double-Sided Scotch tape for a more secure mounting. There are instructional videos online that can
The motion sensor can be placed on a shelf or on the floor or it can hung on the wall by hooking the device on to a screw in the wall. It’s best not to fix it to the wall as you won’t be able to access the battery.

Setting up the App can be fairly straightforward if you don’t want to make too many changes, however when you start making changes it can be tricky to work through as it is not intuitive.  The support team is very helpful in guiding you through any issues you may have with set up and installation.

Contract

There are no contracts to sign nor are there any ongoing monitoring or service fees. All the functionality is included in the price of the equipment.  However, they may bring out additional functionality in the future that you will need to pay to use.

Support

You can only contact with the company using email or livechat using the smartphone App or on their website. They are normally online Monday to Friday from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM EST. There is also an active community forum where you can ask questions and make suggestions.
Although you can’t speak to them direct most customers in their review like the customer service they receive and found it helpful and responsive.
When I contacted them by email they were quick to respond with full and helpful replies.

Cameras

Update 5/5 – From 24 April 2014 you can control and integrate Dropcam cameras with your SmartThings app.

( Superseded – No cameras are included nor can third party cameras be added to the system currently using the SmartThings App.)

Video Storage

This is not applicable.

Alarms

The system does not include an alarm as standard. You can add one from another supplier that is Zwave or Zigbee compatible. SmartThings have tested the FortrezZ Siren Strobe Alarm and found it works with their system. It is an internal alarm and is 110 db loud.  I’d like to see an external alarm added to the system as well as an internal one so it alerts your neighbors when there is an incident and may help in deterring a would be criminal from choosing you home.

Notification

notificationWhen there is an event that happens in your home you can receive a text or push notification (the App can send message to your phone even when the App is not open). You can also set up other members of your family or others to receive a message too.  This is all done through your existing internet connection and router (as long as you can plug an Ethernet cable into it) so you will not need to buy additional equipment.

You add other members to the system by using the Home and Family module in the smart app so they can receive notifications and also control the system.
Once you have added them to the account they have access to all the devices and have the same permissions that you do, so they could change your setting if they wanted to. Apart from this being annoying it does mean you should be wary of adding people to your account that you don’t know too well.

If you want to know when your children get home you can use the presence sensor by attaching it to their backpack  and when they get in range of the Hub you can have a message sent to you telling you that they are at home.

You can choose to get notifications whether the alarm system is armed or disarmed. This gives you a lot of flexibility in knowing what is going on a home when you are away from home.

Remote Monitoring

AppYou monitor this system using your smartphone or any device that supports Android or IOS software but you won’t be able to use a PC or laptop.

To access the SmartThings App you do not need to enter a passcode, so once the phone is turned on and you have entered the password for the phone you only need to tap on the icon to access it. This something the company is looking to address in a later release to make it more secure.

Within the app dashboard you can see; who is at home or away, the status of your locks and doors and lights and switches.  Using the dashboard you can add people to your SmartThings network, tell the system what to do when a door is open or closed, schedule events – such as arming the alarm or turning on the lights, to send you a message when a door has been open for five minutes.

You have a lot of flexibility on what happens when setting up the system but it can get a little confusing working through the App at first. The company has improved this but there is still work to do on it, but if you are prepared to work through it and if necessary contact support you should be able to get it all up and running as you want it to be set up.

In addition to the functionality you get with the App you can also use the IFTT (if this then that) and there is a separate channel on the IFTT.com website. This gives you a lot more flexibility and functionality as you can program for more actions to happen.
There are a number of these functions already set up on the channel that you can use.  One of the most popular recipes (as they are called) is to get a call when you’re not at home and your teenagers get into your liquor cabinet.

Some other things you can have is a log of door openings sent to a spreadsheet to help you get a picture of the comings and goings to your home over a period of time. You can set up your own “recipes” and you could use this to use the motion sensors to activate a camera so you can see what is going on.

As well as using the spreadsheet functionality you can access the system log of notifications and movements inside your SmartThings Know And Control Your Home account online.

Battery

Batteries are needed for the sensors and presence detectors. The Hub is powered by connecting it to the wall socket.
The devices are fitted with batteries when you buy and are activated by pulling the activation tab. The batteries are expected to last 6 – 12 months.  The devices need the following:

Multi-sensor – requires 2 AAAA batteries.  The batteries are accessed by pulling open the case.

Motion Sensor – requires 2 AA batteries. You access the batteries by unscrewing the back plate of the sensor. The screw is located on the back.

Presence Sensor needs one CR2032 (coin type). As with the multi-sensor you pull open the case to access the battery.

The App lets you know when the battery charge is getting low in the sensors and it’s time to replace them.
The costs of these batteries at Amazon when I checked are: 6 AAAA Energizer Batteries $5.45, 20 Duracell Coppertop AA Batteries $14.55 and 5 Energizer CR2032 Batteries $2.71. All the batteries can be bought from places like Home Depot, Walmart, Walgreens and more.

Sensors/Detection

switchThe motion sensor  is a PIR (passive infrared) sensor and sends you a message when it detects motion and/or sound the alarm (needs to be bought separately) or maybe you night just want it to turn on a light.

It can be hung from the wall or placed on a shelf.  If hung from the wall there is no option to turn or tilt it.

The effective range of the sensor is 30 feet with an effective angle of 130 degrees. The motion sensor is not pet friendly and the sensitivity of it cannot be changed. The only way round this is to change the direction of sensor by turning it upside down.

The kit comes with 2 presence sensors. With these sensors you can know when people or things (a car) come or go by setting it up to receive a push or text notification. You can use them to trigger certain actions such as setting the alarm or lock the door.

Another handy feature you can attach to your key ring and it can help you find your keys when you’ve lost them.

Door/Window Contacts

contactsensorThe 2 SmartSense Multi Sensors included can detect vibration, when doors/windows open or close and monitor temperature too.

When it detects vibration or the windows/door being opened you can set up to receive push or text notification and sound the alarm (if you have bought this separately). As with all sensors in this system you can get it to do different things depending on the circumstances. When you child gets home (with the presence sensor) you might set it to notify you and not to sound the alarm.

The sensor has two parts – the sensor and magnet. You attach one part to door or window and the other part to the frame. It will work on all types of windows. You attach using the double sided tape but you will probably want to use 3M double sided tape to have a secure fix.

If you want the vibration sensor to work on the door/window you are going to want to attach the sensor to the door/window to detect the vibration if someone is trying to kick down the door or break the window.

Panic Button/Duress Codes

There is no panic button included and it isn’t available on any devices that have been tested as compatible with the system.  Panic buttons are normally part of an alarm system so that the alarm can be triggered instantly and notifications went out when there is an emergency. They are looking at adding a panic button to their range of supported devices.

Duress codes are not part of the system as there is no keypad. If you are forced turn off the system by an intruder you cannot get a message out that you’ve been forced to turn the system off.

Setting The Alarm

arriveYou set the alarm or disarm it with your smartphone or you can set it up to arm/disarm when a presence sensor moves in or out of range. If you have people staying over or children they will not be able to disarm it if they don’t have a smartphone or they haven’t been added to I or aren’t wearing presence sensor.

To help in setting the alarm for the most common settings the system has 3 modes as standard where triggering the sensors can result in different actions.  For example:

Home – when in this mode you want the motion sensor to just turn on a light and not send you a message
Night – you want a text message and the light to turn on.
Away – you want a text message and the siren to sound

You can tell the App for the alarm to be set and disarmed at various times during the day, it can be set when you leave home for you automatically by programming the App to do this for you or you can set and disarm remotely.

Control Panel

hubThis system does not come with a traditional control panel. It is controlled by your smartphone and the Hub. The sensors and other devices communicate with the Hub. The Smartphone is where you set up the system and also make changes to the set up.

As well as receiving instructions from your phone and sending them to your smart devices, it relays any messages from your devices to your phone – such as a door was opened or motion was detected.  It also lets the devices communicate with each other for instance you could have a light turn on when motion is detected or turned off when there is no motion for a certain time.

The Hub looks stylish. There are not any buttons on it. It does have a USB port that you plug in the power cable and adapter to, an Ethernet jack for connecting to your router and a LED light that indicates the status of Hub. The LED light shows 3 statuses:

Blinking Blue – acquiring DHCP Lease – or starting the process of connecting to the internet
Solid Blue – connecting to the company’s servers or cloud
Green – connected and working fine

The system can only work when there is internet connectivity or the Hub loses power you can no longer control the system or receive notifications until the power or internet is restored.  A notification is sent to your phone if this happens.  The company is working on future software release to allow local control when the internet is down.

Timers

There are no timers specified as you control the system through your smartphone, not with a keypad. You can give the system certain actions to take when the smartphone is in range of the Hub such as disarming the security features of the system. Similarly when you leave hour home it can automatically set the alarm. You can also use the presence sensor s to do the same thing.

Protection against it being switched off

If the internet connection is cut a notification is sent to your smartphone to let you know that the internet is down. The system is then offline and there is no local control available at this stage so it no longer works.

Coverage

The devices can work up to 150 ft from the hub. You can use a SmartPower outlet to increase the range of the system or other compatible extenders.

Wireless or Wired

The Hub and devices communicate wirelessly with each other. The Hub plugs in to the wall socket for power and plugs into your router with an ethernet cable to communicate with the SmartThings server and your SmartPhone.

The Zigbee devices work on 915 mhz frequency and Zwave works on around the 900 mhz frequency in the USA.

Zones

You have the ability to name the sensors and other devices so you know where they are situated or who has them. So, you have the ability to have as many zones as you have devices and have them all controlled by your smartphone.  This gives you a lot of flexibility in setting the system how you want it to work.  If you receive a notification you can know which sensor has triggered the alert, it could be someone has opened your gun cabinet that shouldn’t have and it will tell you Gun Cabinet opened or maybe your jewelry box was opened.

You can add sensors to groups if you want so that you program them all to do certain things when an event occurs and have other sensors in other groups do something else. When you are at home you might want the sensors in your garage to send you a notification but not turn the lights on but if the sensors in the lounge detect some movement you can set it to have the lights turned on and send you a notification.

Dimensions

The dimensions of the devices included in the system are:

Hub – 4.3 by 5.6 by 1.3 inches

Smart sense Multi Sensor 2.2 by 0.5 by 1.4 inches

Motion Sensor 2.6 by 0.9 by 2.6 inches

Presence Sensor 2.2 by 0.5 by 1.4 inches

SmartThings Know And Control Your Home Features

The devices that are included in this package are:

bitsHub – gives you the ability to connect different devices to the smart phone app.

Multi Sensor – this senses if a door or windows opens, if there is vibration and it takes temperature readings too. It sends a notification to the Hub and you can set the actions to be taken.

Motion Sensor – senses when there in a room and can send an alert to your smartphone and/or turn the lights on or trigger an alarm etc.

Presence Sensor – sends notifications to your phone when someone or a pet approaches or leaves your home or office or any actions you have set up.

Jasco Light & Appliance Plug-and-Control Power Outlet – it is a pluggable outlet that allows you to monitor and control lights and electrical items with your phone – turn them on and off at certain times of the day or when other events happen.

Accessories

You can add more motion sensors, presence sensors. As well as these the other SmartThings accessories available are:

SmartSense Moisture Sensor – detects moisture and sends out instant text messages and push notifications. It is for detecting leaks in the laundry, basement or attics etc.

SmartPower Outlet – This outlet allows you to control and monitor lights and small electrical items from your smart phone. It is also a Zwave extender.

Although there are limited SmartThings accessories you can buy, a number of other companies’ devices that are compatible with the system, such as sirens, thermostats, dimmers, door locks, water valves and more. You can see a list of the compatibility tested items here http://build.smartthings.com/compatible-devices/

This list will be expanded as they test more items but the theory is that any Zwave or Zigbee device should be able to work with the Hub and your App.  There is no limit on the number of devices that can be added to the Hub with some users controlling between 100- 150 devices with it.

Pros

Can monitor from wherever you smartphone works and read what is happening at home

No contract and no monthly fees to use (currently)

Zigbee and Z-wave compatible so able to add devices from other manufacturers and control with the App, so you are not tied to one seller

Flexible able to customize the system to fit your own needs

Portable as it is not wired so you can take it with you.

Expandable so can add more devices as you want

IFTT channel to add more options to the range of functionality

1 Year Manufacturers Warranty

30 Day Return policy

Cons

An alarm does not come as standard but you can add a FortrezZ Siren Strobe Alarm

Cannot monitor with a PC

Android software is lagging behind IOS software upgrades

No local control so if an internet outage you cannot monitor or control

You are reliant on SmartThings servers to receive notifications, so if they have an outage you will not receive notifications of anything happening at home. The servers are reliable and I have not seen it mentioned as an issue. Nor can you control the system without your smart phone

No panic button

If you don’t have a smartphone you can’t arm or disarm the system but can set it up so when presence sensor moves in or out of range it disarms or set the alarm.

No duress code

The SmartThings App is not set out as well as it should be making it difficult to navigate around and setup the system as you want it.

You only receive 2 multi-sensors, 1 motion sensor so plan on buying more if you want to secure your home fully

Limited scope for discount on home owners insurance as it is self monitored

SmartThings Know And Control Your Home Consumer Ratings

Customer feedback on the whole positive for this system. I’ve spent time reading through over 40 reviews for the system and noted the most important points above.

The most common concern is the App which is used to program and monitor the system. It is found to be confusing by some and the positive reviews point out that you do need to be prepared to spend time working out how to use it. These reviews do say it is worth persevering. I think it’s a bit like learning to use an “old-fashioned” video recorder to record programs at a pre-set time – many found this confusing at the time.  The company are regularly making improvements to the App to improve its functionality and making it easier to use.

Some people seem to be not aware that you need use your Smartphone to monitor and control the system and are disappointed when they realize that. The product description does say that you need to download their App to install and set up the system.

Customers do say in their review they like the flexibility and the ability to customize the system. They also find the customer support from the company to be very helpful.

SmartThings Know And Control Your Home Price

As this is a home automation system kit rather than a DIY home security system kit it does cost a bit more than other security kits.

You are paying for the extra functionality and capability of the system to automate your home through controlling lights, locks and more. For a home automation system it looks reasonably priced.

This is starter kit and will cover 2 doors and a room. If you are looking to secure windows and rooms downstairs you will be looking at paying a total of $846. The door/window contacts are more expensive than other systems because they also sense motion and can measure the temperature.

Looking at prices around the web the prices are the same as Amazon and the manufacturer’s website as at publishing this post. When purchasing through Amazon you get their customer support to help you if there are any problems in addition to SmartThings. It also qualifies for Amazon Prime. You can see if that is still the case by going here: SmartThings Know And Control Your Home

Summary

smartthingsLooking at this as a security system for your home there are some things that are missing that you probably want to have – a siren, remote controls (for other users), a duress code and a panic button. I also don’t like the fact that when you add someone to your account they have the same rights as you do.

However, if you are looking for a home automation system with security features this looks like it is a good deal. You have the ability to add a siren and more sensors to make it a more complete security system. It does give you the ability to lock your doors remotely as well as turning your lights on and close curtains to give the appearance that someone is at home. These may all help in dissuading the criminals from targeting your home.

The kit itself is a starter kit and is probably good for a small apartment or home with the addition of a siren but for anything larger you will probably want to add more sensors and an alarm to secure your home.

Filed under: Reviews

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