Shelley Powers was asleep one night in January when suddenly every light in her suburban St. Louis, Missouri, house came on. Then the sirens began to wail. It wasn’t an intruder, though. It was a false alarm, one of many she’d experience over the following weeks.
After that, her smart home security system shifted between not arming or disarming itself at all and setting off false alarms. Pretty soon, Powers couldn’t even count on her smart lights turning on at the times she designated, something that’s pretty simple in the world of home automation.
The culprit turned out to be SmartThings, the technology that was supposed to let her effortlessly control all of her smart appliances. Instead of making her life easier, SmartThings couldn’t handle the more than 60 smart devices Powers connected in her house. She ended up disabling the SmartThings Smart Home Monitor so she wouldn’t lose her sanity.
“It’s just not something you can rely on,” said Powers, a writer and former software engineer who blogs about her smart home.
SmartThings, the darling of Samsung’s smart home push, isn’t looking so cute right now. Users complain it’s been glitchy, causing their security systems to sound alerts when nothing’s happening or turning on lights when they’re not supposed to. Devices disconnect themselves from the system or show they’re working when they’re not.
It’s unclear how many users have been impacted by the issues, but one community blog post about the “SmartThings user experience and platform performance” had nearly 27,000 views and 1,700 comments in one month. That makes it one of the most active threads on SmartThings’ message board.
The glitches are mostly affecting the system’s power users who have dozens of connected devices, according to SmartThings. But it’s also causing would-be SmartThings users to consider waiting for conditions to improve or opting for other systems. Most worriedly, the troubles raise concerns about whether the smart home is really ready for the mass market.
“SmartThings, when everything works, is really friendly for the average user,” Powers said. “But for the average person coming into this [now]…they will run from [the Internet of Things] and smart home devices, all of them.”
The SmartThings promise
Samsung has been making a big push to provide the hardware, software and services designed to make our homes smarter. The so-called Internet of Things — which could hit a market value of $3.04 trillion in 2019, according to IDC — involves the notion that everything around you should communicate and work together. Proponents say this will make life easier, letting you do things like close your garage door while you’re away or get a heads-up from your refrigerator when you’re out of milk.