Samsung Smartthings – my initial thoughts #ThinkSmartThings

I signed up to be part of the insiders project, getting a Samsung SmartThings starter kit for 6 weeks to review and play with.


The kit itself is well boxed and presented although documentation was a little thin on the ground.  Set-up was fairly simple although for some reason I had to do it twice which meant popping the cap off each sensor and pressing the reset button for the hub to set it up.
The presence sensor didn’t survive this process and the plastic holding in the battery disintegrated.  Support was mediocre and eventually (after nearly a week) I was given a second class label to return the sensor for it to be replaced upon receipt.  This meant a trip to the post office to get a proof of posting, which slowed the returns process down.  Fortunately the sensor was replaced within a few days of posting

In the box is a hub which is the control centre for the whole system.  It has battery backup using 4x AA batteries (provided).  Also included in the box is a presence sensor, a door sensor (which also detects vibrations and temperature), a motion sensor (which also detects temperature) and an open/close sensor.   A remote controlled plug socket is also included (which also feeds back the energy consumption in Watts)
The limited range of sensors provided mean that it is hard to rig up any meaningful home automation system with only one actuator (the socket).  The hub has the ability to link with other automation kit you might own and it was a two minute job to painlessly link it to my Philips Hue lighting kit.
I’m still yet to find a compelling use case for the starter kit – that makes use of the sensors and devices on offer.  The retail price for the kit is £200 and there are many cheaper solutions that don’t involve smart technology for the use cases I see being tweeted with the #ThinkSmartThings hashtag.  For example I have my hub turning my lighting on at sunset and off at bedtime.  This sounds clever but I was able to do this before using IFTTT.com without the need to buy specialist hardware.  The remote controlled socket is nice but most of the functionality can be replicated by a WeMo socket in the £25-£30 price bracket and again with IFTTT integration.
I do have the system linked to my Foscam security camera so that when the door is opened it takes a snapshot (hoping I have left the camera pointing at the door).  The SmartApp can take a burst of photos if required but I’ve had limited success (it depends on which side of the door the person opening it is stood when the photos are taken).
The app is available for iPhone and Android which means that iPad users like myself are left with a crappy second best interface (again IFTTT has an iPad app – Samsung take note!).  The Android app is buggy and doesn’t work well on Marshmallow with error messages warning you that presence detection isn’t working (so removing the option of using your phone as a presence sensor to let the system know you are in the house).
Key features have yet to be implemented (despite being labelled as arriving soon for over a month) such as OpenAuth to connect to external services like IFTTT.  Account sharing isn’t implemented yet either so you can’t add your spouse or partner to your system – you all have to be logged in as the same user…
Configuring the system is a pain – whilst it isn’t impossible to work, it does lack the ease of use of comparable systems like IFTTT, and uses a combination of SmartApps and Routines to work your SmartThings hub.
Where Samsung have missed a trick is the sharing of recipes showing how to achieve certain events – I worked out how to turn my lights on and off on a routine but others might not.  Without wanting to sound like an IFTTT fanboy, they do have this licked with their recipe sharing system.  I have reached out to other insiders and browsed the SmartThings community but have yet to find any must-have uses for the system.
The availability of compatible sensors could be the making of this system but availability is limited in this country and the prices are usually higher than comparable SmartThings additional sensors (which start at £30 each).
I still remain to be convinced that Samsung SmartThings could be useful and I’ve tried hard to make it work for me.  I would advise potential purchasers wait until Samsung has implemented a full feature set and there is an established user base with some good usage scenarios.

Update – my daily speed tests @virginmedia



 
I posted a short while ago because I had been experiencing poor speeds with Virginmedia on my 50Mb connection.
Over the course of this week I realised I couldn’t remote into my home connection and realised I had been given a new IP address.  As this rarely happens I wondered if this had fixed my poor speeds.
It’s early days yet and whilst not perfect it’s great to have a useable connection back in the evenings.  You can see from my speed test results above that there is a noticeable difference in the connection speeds at peak times.
The utilisation fault referred to in my last post wasn’t due to be fixed until November so I’m not sure what has changed,  hence the uncertainty over my recently improved speeds.  My ego would like to think that my efforts on social media made a difference but it was probably just a scheduled upgrade.
I won’t be posting any more daily speed tests unless there is a deterioration in my download speeds again.
Of course this doesn’t excuse the act of over-selling capacity in my area, or the fact that so many people all over the country aren’t getting their promised connection speeds with Virgin.   Competition is the best motivator for companies to improve and people experiencing poor speeds need to be vocal about them if anything is to be done.

Why I’m tweeting my speed test results every day – @virginmedia


I’ve had slow speeds for well over a year now.  I’ve reported them to Virginmedia but unfortunately they are unable to help.  The reason being that there isn’t an actual fault with my hardware or my connection.
The reason I’ve been getting slow speeds is what Virginmedia call a utilisation fault.  A utilisation fault isn’t caused by faulty hardware or equipment, it is caused by signing up more customers than your network can support. Unfortunately, this type of fault isn’t very easy to fix and requires investment in network infrastructure and bandwidth.
Virgin have assigned a fault reference to this problem (F002970318), presumably because they can give it to people like me who phone up wondering why they get nowhere near their promised speed.  I’ve been given a total of five dates for this to be fixed and it keeps getting pushed back, the date given now is mid-November, but I have no faith in Virginmedia to fix this problem.
What frustrates me even more are sales calls from Virgin offering me packages including 100Mb broadband.  If they can’t deliver 50Mb, there is little chance of delivering 100Mb or greater.  While this problem goes on Virgin media continue to sign up new customers who are oblivious to the fact that they will not get their promised line speed.
I’m told that Virgin can offer up to £7.50 a month rolling credit to those affected, which is little consolation to those getting speeds of 5Mb at peak times (or worse).  If you are in the Nottingham area then you will have to forget about connecting to the city of speed and accept that your connection will be subject to slow speeds until Virgin complete the investment that is long overdue.  You might also want to phone up customer service and ask for a discount, and share your connection speeds with others so that Virgin stop signing up customers with the promise of a service that they can’t deliver.
Feel free to get in touch if you are experiencing similar problems with your connection…