Smart things part three

So it turns out smart things aren’t so smart as I thought. The reason my light wouldn’t switch off was eventually discovered to be because I hadn’t set times during which the trigger should be active. This is because I wanted it active at all times – no movement, turn off the light! Simple, right? After dutifully adding the times to the “routine” it started working.

It’s just as well it started working because my partner has discovered he is unable to work with the devices. While I can use my smartphone to turn off the light at will, he is powerless to do anything but turn off the light so it won’t be activated, or unplug it – again meaning it can’t be activated.

The app has a section where it invites me to add other people. When I fill in an email address for another person all that happens is that I get a popup saying that feature is not yet implemented. This is strange behaviour – I would have expected the option to be unavailable until it does something. We also can’t connect afresh to the hub – there’s a one time code to connect the hub and a single app instance and I used it up. This seems like an oversight – I have inadvertently become a dictatorship in which I alone control the light. I can’t imagine many people want their family to be led by one sole bastion of smartness while they remain powerless.

So to date the items show some real promise but it feels very much like they’re in beta. The app reviews on the google play store contain many people aghast that a company like Samsung should have put the app out in the state it’s currently in. Personally I’m using the iPhone version and it seems nice and clean and it is functional if you know what you’re looking for but it’s quite a learning curve and I would expect it to see some major revisions.

At some point I’ll try to figure out what I’d like to do with the presence sensor. I wonder if I’m supposed to report back that the other item doesn’t want to talk to me…?

Smart Things: Part 2

Sickness, tiredness, being overly busy and the nights drawing in have made things difficult to keep up with over the past couple of weeks, so the Smart Hub sat awaiting its unboxing for a while. However, yesterday was the day!

IMG_6358 Unwrapping the main packaging revealed a chunky folding out box that contained the “smart things”. It’s certainly nice packaging, which adds to the general idea of entering the slick, automated future with a tri-fold box that unwraps to reveal not only the items, but a sleek purple finish within, that proclaims the brand “smart things”. Very much on message, so far!

IMG_6360 Upon removing the hub, a message peers through from underneath, with a friendly “hello!”. Pulling the packaging out gives access to the small instruction manuals which actually contain very little information and are more of a reference for identifying each thing plus a load of warnings and bumf in several languages. The main instruction is to take out the smart hub and plug it in, then download the free app and follow the instructions. So far so good – everything is nice and simple and phrased in a friendly way.

IMG_6361 I downloaded the app and set up the hub. Everything went well, the screen was nice and friendly, although the blue branding was a bit of a departure from the purple encountered so far.

IMG_6362 And that was where things started to go a little wrong. I was supposed to pull out the tabs that blocked the batteries and wait for the hub to discover my items. It started well, soon proclaiming that it had found two items. However, then it stopped. At least, it stopped finding them. It never stopped trying. After twenty minutes of my phone’s battery being drained for no reward I quit the app.

And somehow, despite all attempts to be a very friendly interface, the app became rather difficult to navigate. I’m good with technology. I’ve worked with websites and apps for as long as they’ve been available to home users. I test them for a living. But no matter what I tried, by the end of Sunday I had managed only to poke around the app and get it to turn on and off a lamp I plugged into the outlet socket.

After work today I tried again. One of the items it does recognise is the motion sensor. Our proper landing light is broken (long story, quite dull, but we have a lamp as a substitute) so until this weekend we had a lamp plugged into a remote controlled socket that requires you to press the number associated with that particular socket. This seemed like an ideal chance to come up with a better solution. I linked the motion sensor and mounted it downstairs – only temporarily with sticky pads as I’m in no mood for drilling and plate mounting at this stage. I then went looking for how to make it trigger.

This could certainly be better labelled. It took me a while to recognise that triggers are associated with “routines”. I expected a routine to involve doing things at a set time of day, not when a sensor is alerted to something happening. As such I kept avoiding that screen and looking for what I wanted and ending up going round in circles. Eventually I got there, though.

And so I set up a trigger to switch on the landing light when there’s movement downstairs during the hours of darkness. It’s pretty cool! I switched off the light, pleased with this progress.

Then I went hunting for how to trigger it turning off and found that it was a similar story. So I set one of those up. As far as I can tell I have told it “automatically peform ‘turn light off’ when things quiet down” with “things quiet down” being defined as when the motion sensor senses no motion for 3 minutes.

It doesn’t work. I can make the light come on as expected, but it never decides it’s been quiet for 3 minutes. I know the sensor is not detecting extra activity I’ve not accounted for because if I perform the switch off manually then it doesn’t come back on by itself until I approach the sensor. This is a little frustrating. I shall persevere. I will probably delete that trigger and set it up again later.

Poking around the interface has let me appear to set up the presence sensor, although I’m not sure if that’s a false positive. It doesn’t want to know about the door sensor, it might as well be a lump of plastic. I shall try some more experimentation tomorrow.

Smart Things!

I signed up to trial some “smart things” from Samsung recently. I had no idea whether I’d be accepted but I was very interested in the chance to try out some geeky tech things for free. All I had to do was justify why I wanted to be involved and hey presto, a package would be sent to my designated pick-up point. So when they asked why I should get to try their shiny toys out I responded to say that this was me picking them as much as the other way around – and asked if getting my hands on their kit would be enough to convince me that I need to introduce the internet of things to my life. I see innovations like washing machines that can be switched on from afar, and heating that can be controlled by wifi and so far I’m not seeing the value. This is for a couple of reasons in the case of these particular examples. First off, if I can get my washing machine to go and pick up all the clothes for me and ingest them, at that point it’s worth switching it on from afar. Otherwise why would I not just set it on a timer delay rather than marvelling over making it go from afar? And as for the wifi heating, we spent a day with friends the other side of London this weekend just gone. I’m glad it was warm weather because they couldn’t turn on their heating. Why? Because they were in the midst of a struggle to change internet provider and left without any broadband. Their smart thermostat was therefore rendered useless.

So, I’m waiting to be convinced. Sometimes I’m an early adopter, but this time I’m a little late to the party. My package has been picked up but we’re off away from home for the weekend so it will not be used until next week, and I can’t even recall what I’m expecting in the pack.

Tune in later to find out with me!

Here’s their own blog regarding the trial: