SmartThings V3 Review | Can you use this smart home hub for home security?By - 08/17/2018
In 2014, I purchased my first SmartThings hub. Earlier this month, I purchased my third. Let’s take a look at what’s new, what’s good, and what’s bad with the latest SmartThings hub.
SmartThings Hub V2 vs. V3
The best way to understand the new hub is to compare it to the last hub: V2.
|SmartThings V2 (Old)||SmartThings V3 (New)|
|Size||4.9 x 4.2 x 1.3 inches||5 x 5 x 1.2 inches|
|Protocals||Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth||Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth|
|Connectivity||Ethernet||Ethernet or Wireless|
|Under the Hood||1GHz ARM Cortex-A9, 512MB DDR3 RAM, and 4GB FLASH||528 MHz ARM Cortex-A7, 256MB DDR RAM, and 4GB FLASH|
|Ports||2 USB, 1 Ethernet||1 USB, 1 Ethernet|
|Camera Support||Local and Cloud||Cloud Only|
First of all, where V2 sold for $99.99, V3 is selling for $69.99.
Second, Samsung has upgraded the hub’s performance. The new hub uses the latest Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols as well as Bluetooth 4.1, but SmartThings claims that V2 will receive Zigbee 3.0 support later this year.
The third difference is the most compelling difference, V3 is wireless. Though the Ethernet port will remain, it’s no longer a necessity, which means that I can free up one more of my coveted Ethernet outlets.
Fourth, V3 is a little less powerful. However, SmartThings promises that this will not impact performance. In fact, they promise that V3 will have the same limited abilities to perform locally as V2.
Fifth, V2 supported Samsung and D-Link cameras via a local connection as well as cloud connected cameras. V3 will only support cloud cameras.
Sixth, in addition to upgrading the hub, Samsung has also upgraded the Water Leak Sensor, Motion Sensor, Multipurpose Sensor, and Smart Outlet. And though they are new and improved, they are also more affordable. For example, I paid $39.99 for a SmartThings Multipurpose sensor in 2016 while the new Multipurpose sensor I purchased was just $19.99. We’ll talk more about the sensors and pricing in a minute.
Seventh, Samsung added a new device called the SmartThings Button. The Button can control your routines. For example, you might program it to enable Night Mode when you click it. It sells for $14.99, and you can read my in-depth review of the button here.
Finally, they’ve launched the SmartThings Tracker which is a tracking device that uses LTE-M and GPS to track people, pets, cars, and more. You can read my hands-on review of the Tracker here.
Building a SmartThings Home Security System
Our SmartThings V2 review did a pretty good job of outlining the multiple paths to a SmartThings home security system. Buying a traditional hub isn’t the only way now that they also sell routers and the SmartThings Link, but for this article, we’re going to talk about building a security system around the V3 hub using the Smart Home Monitor section of the SmartThings app.
Start With a Hub
To build a home security system using SmartThings V3, you’ll need a hub.
As a hub, V3 is missing two key security hub features: cellular and battery backup. V2 offered 10 hours of battery backup using four AA batteries, but V3 lacks battery backup.
V3 requires internet and power, but without internet can perform some functions locally. (You can read more about what SmartThings can and can’t do without the cloud here.)
Cellular backup is missing from both hubs which is a disadvantage when comparing SmartThings to competitors like Ring Alarm and Nest Secure.
Also, V3 lacks a keypad, touchscreen, and a siren, all common features found in home security hubs.
What makes the SmartThings V3 hub compelling is its ability to connect with a vast number of third-party products, thus eliminating the need to manage your smart home separately.
With the hub in place, you’ll need to buy and add home security related sensors.
Most self-monitored systems start with kits that include door/window sensors and motion sensors. Depending on your needs, I recommend that you add the same. Where SmartThings has an advantage is that the hub also works with third-party products so that you can build a fairly creative system.
To create a home security system using the SmartThings V3 hub, I recommend you buy the devices listed below. I also recommend digging into the SmartThings’ forum to see if you can find a good Glass Break Sensor. I read through a few reviews, but couldn’t find one I feel confident recommending.
|Aeotec Gen5 Siren||$49.25||Amazon|
|Water Leak Sensor||$19.99||Amazon|
|First Alert Smoke and CO Alarm||$49.99||Amazon|
First, you’ll need to add a motion sensor, which can help you protect large rooms. I recommend that you set the Motion Sensor to arm when you’re away, but not when you’re sleeping, which will help prevent false alarms.
The new Motion Sensor is redesigned with a magnetic mount which means that you pop it into the magnetic joint and can rotate it to get the best view possible. The sensor has a 120-degree field of view and a 15-foot range. Though I did not test the new motion sensor, those who have claim that it has a better range when compared to its predecessor.
The Multipurpose Sensor is excellent for protecting doors and windows. I recommend that you set your Multipurpose Sensors to protect your home when you’re home and sleeping and when you’re away. At a minimum, you’ll want to add one to each of your entry doors, and even add one to your garage door—while it can be used as an open/close contact sensor, it is “multipurpose.” You can use the sensor as a tilt sensor, allowing it to protect garage doors, and also as a vibration sensor, and temperature sensor.
In testing, the new Multipurpose sensor worked great as a contact sensor. It was responsive and easy to set up. I also tested it as a vibration sensor, and it worked well.
Finally, the Aeotec Siren is just that—a siren. It is a third-party device, but according to several users on the SmartThings forum, it’s one of the best and loudest sirens that connects to the SmartThings hub. The 105dB siren offers battery backup and a 210-lumen strobe. As a side note, if you choose to add a camera and opt for Arlo Pro or Arlo Pro 2, the included base station includes a siren that you can tie to your SmartThings system.
|Netgear Arlo||D-Link (SmartThings Labs)||Ring|
|Clip Recording||Notifications Only|
|Works With||Hub V1, V2, V3||Hub V2||Hub V1, V2, V3|
|Motion Sensor Within SmartThings|
|Number of Cameras Supported||15||4||4|
Next up, you’ll need a camera.
I’m a fan of managing your cameras separately from your security system as I haven’t found an impressive integration, and I prefer to pick the best camera for the situation versus picking one just because it works with my security system.
That said, SmartThings has managed to partner with a few of my favorite cameras. And while you might find a device handler that allows you to connect a not officially supported camera to SmartThings, we’re going to stick with those that are officially supported.
Of those that are supported, only cloud-connected cameras work with V3, and they happen to be the same cameras that get my stamp of approval. I have tested Arlo Pro, Pro 2, Q, and the Ring Video Doorbell. I have also tested Arlo Pro with the V2 SmartThings hub, and you can read about my experience doing so here.
- Arlo Pro (Indoor or Outdoor)
- Arlo Pro 2 (Indoor or Outdoor)
- Arlo Q (Indoor)
- Arlo Q Plus (Indoor)
- Ring Video Doorbell (Outdoor)
- Ring Video Doorbell Pro (Outdoor)
If you’re asking yourself if you need a camera, the answer is yes. It is inevitable that you will eventually have a false alarm or alert, and unless you happen to be home all of the time, a camera will help you manage the system and separate emergency from accident.
Add Voice A.I.
The devices above are enough to create a usable home security system, but we also need to focus on usability, and the SmartThings app isn’t all that pleasant to use. For that reason, I recommend you lean heavily on automation as much as possible. This will come in the form of rules, which we will talk about below, and also alternative methods of controlling your system, like your voice.
If you choose to use Bixby, you can use it to control SmartThings devices, routines, and scenes.
Google Assistant via the Google Home smart speaker can control your connected lights (Hue, LIFX, OSRAM Lightify, Cree, GE, and Leviton), smart plugs, thermostats, and locks, but its ability to run Routines is limited to those that “trigger thermostats (US only) and lighting actions, arming Smart Home Monitor, and mode changes.” (source) This limitation means that you can’t use Google Assistant to unlock your door, open your garage door, or disarm your Smart Home Monitor.
Amazon Alexa offers the most useful integration. It supports the same sensors as Google Home but also supports motion and contact sensors. For example, you can create a routine that announces when your back door is open or you can ask, “Alexa, is my back door open?” (How to guide here.) You can also use Alexa to control multiple devices with one command by using the voice A.I. to control Scenes and Routines. For example, “Alexa, turn on Good Night,” can arm your system, turn off the lights, lock your door, and turn down the thermostat.
IFTTT and Stringify Rules
While you can create rules and automations through the SmartThings app, sometimes it’s easier to get it done using IFTTT or Stringify.
Both services allow you to connect your SmartThings system to hundreds of other devices and services which can help to enhance your home’s security.
For example, you can set IFTTT to trigger a phone call alert if motion is detected. All IFTTT rules are created in this simple “if this then that” format. Stringify allows you to create more complex rules. For example, “If motion is detected, trigger a phone call alert, but only if it’s between midnight and 6 AM.”
You can learn more about IFTTT and Stringify here.
SmartThings has two apps as they are migrating from their old app (Classic) to a new app.
For the longest time, I was stuck with Classic, but when I purchased V3, I was finally allowed to use the new app. I had heard such terrible things about it that my expectations were low, but I found it to be a vast improvement in usability. The new SmartThings app is cleaner and has a very IFTTT-like interface for automation rules.
From the app, you can create rules in an ‘If This Then That’ format. You can even add extra ‘Ifs’ and ‘Thens’. For example, “If my door is opened and it’s between 7 PM and 11 PM, then turn on the light and play music.”
Rules are created from the Automations tab. From here, click +, select your hub, and then choose Custom Automation. You can choose from four options including time of day, device status, location’s mode, and security mode. For example, If Smart Home Monitor is Armed (stay), then notify me, lock the door, and turn off the lights.”
Using the SmartThings App
Like Classic, the new app relies on Smart Home Monitor for home security. Everything you need to monitor for burglaries, fires, and leaks is all found within this one section. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of self-monitoring is alerts, and even that is done from the Smart Home Monitor section.
To set this up, head to the Dashboard, tap Automations, +, and then select your location. After that, hit Smart Home Monitor and Security.
From this section, you will be able to set up your modes. There are three modes: Armed/Away, Armed/Stay, and Disarm. Armed Away is what you’ll use when everybody’s gone. You’ll want to make sure you arm all of your sensors in this mode. Armed/Stay is what you’ll use when you’re home but want protection, like when you’re sleeping. In this mode, I recommend you arm everything except for your motion sensors.
With your modes in place, you can enable notifications. You can set up push, audio, light, and siren notifications.
Once you have your Smart Home Monitor set up, you can arm and disarm your system right from your SmartThings dashboard. You can even click in to see system status, get an overview of what’s happening in real time (e.g., back door open, front door closed), and view a history of notifications.
If you want to view a sensor’s history, which is way more helpful, you’ll have to use the Classic app. The Classic app has a comprehensive history that goes back pretty far. I have events in my history from 6 months ago.
The new and old app also lack arming shortcuts. While arming/disarming from the homescreen is nice, shortcuts are better. While SmartThings supports Widgets, the Widgets are related to Scenes, not Smart Home Monitor.
What Happens During an Alarm Event
While the pictures above are examples from my SmartThings app, the screenshot below is borrowed from SmartThings as it shows how the new app behaves during an alarm event.
When an event occurs and you open the app, you’ll see that an intrusion was detected. You will also see what caused the event such as motion or a door, and you’ll be able to view the status of multiple sensors. For example, in the screenshot above, you can see that there’s motion in the hallway but nothing in the living room or front yard. If you check in and everything’s okay, you have the option of dismissing the alert right from the mobile app or muting your siren, but do you see what’s missing? The option to call the police. If you want to call for help, you’ll need to leave the app to do so.
Adding Professional Monitoring
Thus far, I’ve referred to SmartThings as a self-monitored security system because that’s how I view it, but you can add professional monitoring.
Monitoring is provided by Scout Alarms. The service is month-to-month and does not require a contract. Monitoring is provided 24 hours a day, 7 days per week by a UL Certified monitoring center that is also CSAA Five Diamond certified.
Pricing for monitoring starts at $19.99 per month, or you get a slight discount if you pay the annual fee of $215.00.
Keep in mind that Scout equipment is not compatible with SmartThings, this is simply a way to add their service to your SmartThings equipment.
Finally, if you want to use ADT for monitoring, you will need an ADT hub. While you can add your Smartthings sensors to the ADT hub, ADT will not monitor them.
Konnected and Noonlight
On a related note, Konnected and Noonlight add a lot of security value to SmartThings.
Konnected is a device that allows you to connect your existing wired sensors to SmartThings for monitoring. This includes old ADT, Honeywell, Ademco, DSC, and Brinx equipment.
When you connect Konnected, you can also add Noonlight. Noonlight is $9.99 per month and adds professional monitoring via a UL-listed monitoring center.
You can read our Konnected review here.
Those who plan to make SmartThings their home security system really need to be tinkerers. It isn’t going to be ready to protect out of the box, and setting it up can be a bit frustrating.
Also, SmartThings doesn’t have a great track record regarding reliability. Sure, they have a new app now, but that doesn’t address the outages that have become a part of SmartThings’ history. And for that reason, I don’t recommend adding professional monitoring.
Do I recommend that you buy SmartThings to help build your smart home? Yes, absolutely. SmartThings and Wink are the two best hubs on the market. Do I prefer V3 over V2? Not really. I’ll probably continue to use my V2 hub as I prefer battery backup over wireless connectivity.
Do I recommend that you buy SmartThings to use as a self-monitored home security system? I do not. If you want to learn more about what I recommend, head here.