Planning a Home Automation System using SmartThings

I recently helped my Aunt and Uncle in California to plan a home automation / home security system using SmartThings and Arlo. In order to get the system setup they needed to make some upgrades to their home network.

Their objectives were the following:

  1. Add better security to their detached garage
  2. Prevent packages from being stolen from their front door
  3. Better awareness of visitors that approached their house from the side entrance
  4. Better monitoring of vulnerable entry points of their house
  5. Deterrent to would-be burglars

They currently have a home security system with wired sensors on windows and some lamps that are on timers that are scheduled to come on to simulate late night readers.

Their current setup consisted of an internet connection that came in through a cable modem provided by the ISP (Spectrum). The cable modem was connected to a NetGear Wi-Fi router also provided by the ISP that was rented for approximately $5 / month. The NetGear router had a 4-port network switch built into it that was being used to connect to a docking station in the Study.

current_setup.png

One challenge they have is that their detached garage is separated from their main house by their backyard which contains a swimming pool. Due to the swimming pool, their single Wi-Fi access point can’t reach the garage and they don’t have a wired network line out to the garage.

Our solution was the following:

Upgrade to a Mesh Wi-Fi System

The Mesh Wi-Fi system would allow for better Wi-Fi coverage throughout their house and potentially traverse the backyard and swimming pool to extend coverage to the detached garage without the expense of dropping a network cable through the garden.

Use Arlo Wireless Camera System

Arlo provides Wirless camera system that allows you to use a Wi-Fi connection to connect one or more cameras to the internet to allow you to monitor your house through the Arlo app on your smartphone. Arlo could use the more robust Wi-Fi system to provide coverage at the primary entrances, vulnerable entryways, and the garage. Thanks to Arlo being wireless and battery driven no expensive electrical work is needed to drop lines or add power outlets.

I recommended they purchase a pair of extra Arlo batteries and a Arlo Pro Charging Station so that they can always keep two batteries at the ready when their Arlo Pro cameras run out.

Add SmartThings Hub

Smart Things will allow them to monitor windows, doors, and their Arlo camera system. SmartThings enables coordination and orchestration of complex activities across all the sensors in their home, including their Arlo cameras. Motion or persons detected from Arlo cameras can trigger a siren connected through SmartThings to deter would be burglars.

Because SmartThings devices talk over Z-Wave and Zigbee wireless protocols it’s necessary that they have a SmartThings hub in their garage and in their house as the distance between their detached garage and their main house can cause a problem connecting sensors from the garage to the SmartThings Hub in the primary Samsung Wi-Fi Router setup in their study. Z-Wave and Zigbee also use a mesh network to communicate which means that you can have devices that are pretty far from the hub but as long as they are within range of another powered device (such as a wall outlet) with a strong signal they can bounce their communication through that other device. This is really useful when you utilize smart switches like the GE Z-Wave Plus because they are able to also act as a repeater given that they have a power source. However, if you are only using battery operated devices, the only relay mechanism you have is the hub itself. Given that their backyard had a swimming pool that separated the detached garage from the main house, they would need to purchase an additional standalone SmartThings Hub for their garage.

future setup

Here’s their full shopping list:

Update:

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