Samsung SmartThings and the Alexa Smart Home

by W. Andrew Powell
Toronto's Alexa Smart Home

The smart home is getting easier, more powerful, and even cheaper. So what does it take to turn your home into a smart home?

This month Samsung gave me a demo of some of their new SmartThings products, and how they’re being used at the Alexa Smart Home Pop-Up in Toronto. It was a great demonstration of just how much control there is now, and with a simple voice command, or push of a button, what you can do.

So what can you do in a smart home? Lock or unlock your door, from almost anywhere, with your phone; pre-heat your Samsung smart oven; turn on your lights when you open your front door; or just set the mood for movie night, or a quiet night in with mood lighting and music.

From televisions to light bulbs, ovens, and speakers, a lot of technology out there today already has smart features built in, but the one stumbling block is that not all devices can work together unless they have the right connections, and that’s where the Samsung SmartThings Hub and SmartThings WiFi come in.

Working with a range of other devices–like WeMo, Philips Hue, and even Ikea’s smart lighting–the SmartThings Hub and WiFi devices can act as one hub for a range of Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. That means that, even if you have devices from multiple brands, you can replace all their hubs, with one SmartThings Hub.

How it works

Alexa Smart Home

Before we talk about the Alexa Smart Home, let’s look at how it works. Anthony Dimech, product manager for Samsung Canada, showed off some of the features of the new SmartThings devices, how they work, and had a few suggestions for how you can work together.

As Dimech pointed out, any smart home features start with at least three things: a hub, a device to control, and a controller.

For the device to control, I’d suggest you start with either the Samsung Outlet, or the Belkin WeMo smart lightbulbs. Setup is generally quite easy, and in the case of the Outlet you can use it to turn just about any device on or off, from a lamp to your Christmas tree.

For the controller, you can use the SmartThings app, which comes on Samsung phones, or there’s of course the Amazon Echo or Echo Plus, which you can setup to use voice commands to do almost anything.

Or you can go a different route and set the SmartThings Button to control another device, or devices, when you press it. The button works off a battery that will last for a long time, and can be attached nearly anywhere without any wires.

And lastly, there’s the SmartThings Hub. So why do you need a hub? The answer is that the Echo or your smartphone can’t directly communicate with many smart devices like light bulbs or plugs, so a hub acts as the intermediary to connect the two. So when you tell Alexa to turn off the light, the command goes to the Hub to pass on to the lightbulb.

The power of this setup is that the Hub can control numerous devices, and you can create Automations in the Samsung SmartThings app to do multiple things at once. In the app you can setup home monitoring, lock or unlock a door with a smart lock, adjust your lights, plus thermostat control, to name a few.

Alexa Smart Home

Alexa Smart Home Kitchen
Alexa Smart Home Kitchen

Within the Alexa Smart Home, the experts on hand showed off a bunch of smart tricks, like calling up your favorite song, setting the temperature with a voice command, calling up shows on your smart TV, or having Alexa read you an Audible book as you drift off to sleep.

The power of the Smart Home space is in the combination of devices from across the smart ecosystem. Samsung had their gorgeous Frame UHD 4K TV on display, showing off Prime Video; there was a Nest thermostat that worked with Alexa; a smart lock on the front door; smart lighting, plugs, and, yes, even a smart air filter.

For anyone in Toronto, you can shop the smart home right from inside the event space, including the new SmartThings products. Those products include the SmartThings WiFi or Hub, the Outlet, Button, plus sensors: a Water Leak Sensor, a Multipurpose Sensor for notifications when doors or windows are open, and a Motion Sensor.

The Amazon Alexa Smart Home is ready to show you what you can do with your Samsung and Alexa devices until December 31 at 220 Yonge Street, on the outside of the Toronto Eaton Centre. The store is open select hours seven days a week.

You can buy the SmartThings products from the Samsung online store, Amazon, and in store at Best Buy.

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