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SmartThings wants to automate your physical world

SmartThings Hub

Likely going to surpass the one million dollar milestone on KickStarter in the next twelve hours, a group called the Physical Graph Corporation has achieved about four times the required funding for a new automation platform called SmartThings. The SmartThings platform is designed around automating the small tasks in your life and funneling all control of those tasks through an application called SmartApps that can be used on a smartphone or tablet. To get started, a SmartThings user will purchase the communication hub before deciding on sensors and devices needed within their home. All the sensors and devices are tied back into the hub which relays information to and from the SmartApps software using the Internet.

SmartThings packagingFor instance, a presence sensor could send a message to a user’s smartphone when their pet decided to make an unplanned trip out of the home. The Kickstarter page describes that as the “Oh No, My Pet Is Loose!” SmartApp.

Another idea would be to install a motion sensor within an area that contains valuables and get alerted through the “My Stuff is Secure” SmartApp. A more complex example heavily illustrates the concept of a smart home and performs such tasks as turning on the lights in the morning or starting up the coffeemaker as well as locking the doors automatically upon leaving or adjusting the temperature controls in order to save on energy costs. 

Hardware that will be available with the SmartThings communication hub includes a SmartOutlet for controlling any device with a plug, the Presence tag to monitor location, an Open/Closed sensor for doors and windows, an Infrared motion sensor, a temperature sensor and an accelerometer to detect motion or angle. In addition, developers will be able to dive right into the software development kit and hardware makers will receive modules or shields for Arduino to turn more everyday household items into a SmartThings device. Conceptually, the group behind SmartThings foresees a home where everything has an API and is constantly communicating to automate common tasks.

According to CNN, the idea that evolved into SmartThings started after founder Alex Hawkinson experienced a series of escalating problems that ended up with his basement pipes exploding. Hawkinson didn’t discover the problem until it was too late and ended up with a costly home repair.

SmartThings tagsDetailed by Hawkinson, the basic kit will come with the communication hub as well as three sensors selected by the user. Additional sensors and devices will be priced between $25 to $35 and Hawkinson has plans to charge a monthly fee for service at some point. However, some KickStarter contributors can avoid the monthly fees at specific contribution levels.

Interestingly, the group behind SmartThings is also partnering with other KickStarter projects to expand functionality. By partnering with Ubi, SmartThings users will be able to use voice commands to accomplish certain tasks within the home. Ubi will also be able to announce notifications to users. The InstaCube partnership will include new functionality such as visual notifications on the InstaCube screen as well as a secondary touchscreen interface in case the smartphone or tablet is on the other side of the home.