The Boy Genius Report: Why Home Automation is Being Disrupted

SmartThings Home Automation

The entire home automation industry is about to be upended by startups. Companies that are starting out small have a clear and concise vision: one in which your home and the many things in it can all communicate and work seamlessly with each other.

I have been looking for the perfect way to automate a room, a whole floor, and an entire house for the past ten years and have consistently been disappointed. Disappointed with the integration, the cost, the flexibility, and the ease of use.

There are a few major brands out there, but they really only help you solve very specific scenarios. I have used them all and my favorite up until now has been Crestron. However, the problem with brands like Crestron, Savant, Control4, all of the old incumbents in this space is the same issue that plagues Microsoft, BlackBerry, Nokia, and many businesses in the technology sector: they have legacy products, services, and protocols that they can’t–or aren’t willing to–break. Their entire business is built on selling you inflexible solutions that can only be set up with third-party contractors and don’t allow you to buy, install, or customize anything yourself. At the end of the day, what you’re left with is a really expensive home automation system that’s incredibly limited.

To automate an average-sized house using Crestron to control lights, A/V, shades, and a couple other devices, you could easily spend $50,000 to $75,000. And here’s the terrible part: You, the person paying for this, the family using this system every day and night, can’t change it. You can’t update it yourself, and you can’t personalize it in any way yourself. Every time you want to make a change, you need to call your integrator and they will charge you hundreds of dollars an hour to make any adjustments and changes.

Not only is this a brilliant mobile-first and forward-thinking company, but the end product is so much better than anything else I have ever used, and they are only getting started.

After trying to figure out the right home automation solution for my house, and after having Crestron integrated in two of my homes, I decided to jump on the SmartThings bandwagon. And I am thrilled that I did. I started with the $299 kit, and a couple minutes after I took it out of the box and had everything connected, I knew this was finally the type of product I could trust in my house.
Not only is this a brilliant mobile-first and forward-thinking company, but the end product is so much better than anything else I have ever used, and they are only getting started. I was able to add over 60 devices to my SmartThings hub and app just days after I first bought it, and it took only seconds for each device.

I was able to set up modes that are based on a number of different triggers, ones that would be next to impossible with any other automation solution, and it literally feels like our house is thinking for us and our lifestyle, making everything easier. For instance, when everyone leaves, the house switches to an “away mode,” automatically making sure the door is locked, and all the lights are off. It also lets us know if there’s any motion inside when we’re gone, and will turn on certain lights if that happens. When we come home, the door opens automatically for us, and specific lights turn on to greet us so it’s not dark when we walk in if it’s in the evening.

If we’re already home and it’s nighttime, certain lights will turn on to a dim level and basically follow someone around the house to make sure they don’t ever have to walk in the dark or find the light switch, and as soon as there is no more motion, the lights will turn off.

Our outdoor lighting automatically turns on at sunset and off at sunrise–not a preprogrammed time, but the actual sunrise and sunset time for the day.

The mobile app is not just beautifully designed, but it’s thoughtfully designed. It is the best mobile app for controlling devices and your home that I have seen and used.

SmartThings is compatible with Z-Wave and ZigBee protocols–as well as Wi-Fi–and I’m excited that it seamlessly lets me control my hue lights, my three Nests (unofficial for now, but actively being worked on by the SmartThings team) in addition to all of my light switches, dimmers, motion detectors, outside motion detectors, water detectors, Mutli sensors, garage doors, and more all from one amazing system and platform.

This article is reposted from the SmartThings Blog.

The Boy Genius Report is a periodic column written by BGR founder Jonathan S. Geller. It offers insights and opinions on various products, companies and trends across the consumer electronics business and beyond. Jonathan can be reached via email at jonathan@bgr.com.

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