Why Samsung's SmartThings Home Controller Is Under Fire

Why Samsung's SmartThings Home Controller Is Under Fire
What Exactly Is SmartThings?
The Home Monitoring Kit Is Essential
Samsung Says It Plays Well With Others
University of Michigan Researchers Find Security Flaws
Criticism Abounds Over SmartThings
Samsung Has Acknowledged Some Trouble
Samsung Hires an Amazon Executive to Sort Things Out
SmartThings Technology Doesn't Just Work at Home
Let's Look at Accessories
Smart Home Devices Aren't Cheap
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Why Samsung's SmartThings Home Controller Is Under Fire

Can Samsung rebound from reports that SmartThings is vulnerable to attacks? Here's a look at whether it is a viable product in the field of smart home devices.

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What Exactly Is SmartThings?

SmartThings is Samsung's smart home platform for connecting a variety of smart home devices to a single controller. SmartThings is the central hub for users to monitor security devices, such as locks, alarms and security cameras. It can also control lights, thermostats, home appliances and more. SmartThings is all about connecting "dumb" devices in the home and giving users more control over them.

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The Home Monitoring Kit Is Essential

To get the most out of SmartThings, users really need to get the associated Home Monitoring Kit. The kit acts as a starter kit for SmartThings, which can be extended by connecting it to various devices. The Home Monitoring Kit is central to the appeal and connectivity of SmartThings.

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Samsung Says It Plays Well With Others

Samsung says its service will work with a wide range of products from third-party companies. In fact, the service supports thermostats from Honeywell, sound systems from Bose and security locks from Schlage. Customers will also find support for Philips Hue light bulbs and several other third-party products.

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University of Michigan Researchers Find Security Flaws

Researchers at the University of Michigan published a report claiming that SmartThings comes with several flaws that could allow a malicious hacker to gain access to a person's connected devices. The hack would allow the hacker to set off smoke alarms, unlock doors and more. While the researchers blamed the service's framework, Samsung responded, saying that while the vulnerabilities might be possible, they're only "hypothetical." Samsung added that it has already patched many of the issues disclosed in the report.

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Criticism Abounds Over SmartThings

The security report was just the latest in a long line of criticisms about SmartThings. Just recently, Bruce Ravenel, the developer behind Rule Machine, a third-party SmartThings app, posted a notice on the SmartThings community blog that he will stop supporting SmartThings because the platform suffers from "ongoing serious degradation" that prevents his Rule Machine app from working reliably. SmartThings has been similarly beaten up on Twitter by other developers and users.

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Samsung Has Acknowledged Some Trouble

SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson on April 14 responded to the SmartThings outcry, saying that his team is "fully aware of the issues that have been affecting platform reliability." He noted that his team has made several revisions to the platform and will work at improving its service as time goes on. "We are in this for the long term," Hawkinson said, adding that his company wants to build "the best, most open platform in the world."

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Samsung Hires an Amazon Executive to Sort Things Out

In an effort to improve its standing in the smart home business, Samsung on April 25 hired Robert Parker, former head of engineering at Amazon, where he worked on that company's smart home products, including the Echo voice-controlled assistant. In his new role, Parker will serve as senior vice president of engineering and manage SmartThings' software and hardware efforts.

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SmartThings Technology Doesn't Just Work at Home

While smart home technology is being heavily marketing to consumers, there is no reason why the same technology couldn't be applied to the corporate world to control security and environmental devices in corporate offices, such as smart locks and security cameras. For now, though, Samsung, like other companies, is focused on building its presence in the home, which is expected to thrive in the next few years.

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Let's Look at Accessories

Although the Home Monitoring Kit is one of the easiest ways to get started with SmartThings, users can buy a wide array of accessories from SmartThings to enhance their smart home. Users can acquire door sensors, motion sensors, and temperature and humidity sensors. In addition, SmartThings sells a water leak sensor to alert users to a problem before it causes serious damage. Since SmartThings was bought out by Samsung, it's perhaps no surprise the company's online store includes Samsung devices, including the SmartCam HD Pro.

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Smart Home Devices Aren't Cheap

Going smart comes at a price. The Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit, which includes the SmartThings Hub that talks to other devices, is available for $249. Those who simply want to extend their platform with more "things" can do so by picking up a multipurpose sensor for $40, a wall outlet for $55 and a smart camera for $189. Third-party devices are similarly expensive, with the Schlage Century Touchscreen Deadbolt setting customers back $215.

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