There are a few good home automation hubs out there. I’ve used Vera extensively in the past, recently switched to Samsung SmartThings, and love it! Here’s why.
My Adventures with the Vera 2
A few years ago, I got the MiCasaVerde Vera 2 Z-Wave home automation hub and I’ve gone to town with all kinds of home automation. I’ve written a lot of Z-Wave Home Automation tutorials if you’re interested.
Well, over the years, the old Vera 2 started showing its age. The firmware for it stopped being able to receive updates as Vera stopped supporting the device in favor of their newer models. Also, the Vera 2 became more unreliable as it would stop responding and need to be rebooted ever few days. That’s pretty unacceptable in a home automation hub. It almost defeats the purpose of home automation when the hub needs to be manually rebooted periodically.
Other Options for a Smart Home Hub
As I was in the market for an upgrade, I had my eye on the Vera Plus which was Vera’s latest and greatest model. Plus, it was only $150 which was $50 cheaper than what I paid for my Vera 2 a few years ago.
But then I started thinking… do I actually need to stick with Vera? Z-Wave is a somewhat open protocol that other company can and do support. What’s stopping me from which over to another platform that also supports Z-Wave devices? I read some reviews and comparisons between Vera, Samsung SmartThings, and the Wink Hub. They got me interested.
Product Adoption & Community Support
Then, I got the Google Home. You can read my review about it. Right on the box, it says it support Samsung SmartThings. That got me thinking… while all these smart home hubs have their pros and cons, the most important factor of a home automation platform/ecosystem is high adoption with an active developer community.
Vera has always been a very niche community. It was never a well-marketed product. Most people I talk to have never heard of it. As a result, support for integrations with other devices and services was quite scarce.
It was obvious to me that the Samsung SmartThings was going to be the best choice when it comes to adoption and community.
At the time I was looking into this, the Vera Plus was $150 and the Samsung SmartThings Hub was $100. Then, the SmartThings hub went on sale for $50 leading up to the holidays.
At that point, it became a no-brainer for me. SmartThings was already looking like the better choice and then it became 1/3 the price of the Vera Plus. So, I pulled the trigger and got it!
SmartThings First Impressions
After getting the SmartThings hub and using it for a while, here are some of my initial thoughts.
Mobile app interface is the way to go. Vera UI5 had an old web interface that was not mobile friendly which meant you had to be sitting at a computer or holding a laptop in order to work on your home automation. But now with SmartThings, it’s all in the Android or iOS app.
A lot of devices just work right out of the box. I was surprised how many devices were support and could easily connect and get working right away.
SmartThings has a strong community of users and developers. After lots of Googling, I’ve found answers to just about every question. I can definitely tell that SmartThings has a higher adoption rate and thus a stronger, more vibrant community of users.
You’re not limited to the devices that the app says it supports… you can usually Google it and find some code to copy and paste to create custom SmartApps and Device Handlers in the API web interface.
SmartThings is fast. Devices respond quickly to triggered routines. The Vera usually involved some amount of waiting.
SmartApps are really nice. Some things I used to do in the Vera by creating lots of scenes and triggers, I can now handle with one single SmartApp with a little configuration in there. This allows me to keep a lot of the basic lights on and off depending on triggers or circumstances in the Smart Lighting SmartApp instead of cluttering up my list of Routines.
The presence detection and home security monitoring in SmartThings is very cool. Just add a new user in your account for your spouse, and have them install the SmartThings app logging into their own user. Now, you can use these phones as presence detectors. You can set your home security monitoring to arm when you’re away, and disarm when you’re home (and of course arm again while you’re sleeping). I setup something like this myself a while back using Tasker, but that was a lot of work and was often buggy.
Transitioning from Vera to SmartThings
The transition of devices from Vera to SmartThings was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
At first, I thought I would have to open up the add/remove devices screen on the Vera to exclude all my devices so they would be discoverable by SmartThings. I started doing that for the first set of devices.
Then, I discovered that the SmartThings app has a built-in feature for general exclusion. In the app, pull out the left slide-out menu, tap on the item that says “Hub is Online”, tap on Z-Wave Utilities, and tap General Device Exclusion. When that’s running, then toggle a Z-Wave switch that was tied to the old Vera, and it will be excluded and will then become discoverable in the “Add a Thing” scan for new devices.
Overall, I am extremely happy with my move from Vera to SmartThings. I’ve already been able to connect so much more than I ever could have done with Vera and it’s just a much more enjoyable experience. If you’re thinking about moving off of Vera, or getting into home automation for the first time, I highly recommend Samsung SmartThings.
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, etc., please let me know below in the comments. Thanks!