Samsung Shuttering Original SmartThings Hubs

Samsung is causing much angst among its SmartThings customers by shutting down support for its original SmartThings home automation hub as of the end of June. These are network-connected home automation routers providing Zigbee and Z-Wave connectivity to your sensors and actuators. It’s not entirely unreasonable for manufacturers to replace aging hardware with new models. But in this case the original hubs, otherwise fully functional and up to the task, have intentionally been bricked.

Users were offered a chance to upgrade to a newer version of the hub at a discount. But the hardware isn’t being made by Samsung anymore, after they redirected their SmartThings group to focus entirely on software. With this new dedication to software, you’d be forgiven for thinking the team implemented a seamless transition plan for its loyal user base — customers who supported and built up a thriving community since the young Colorado-based SmartThings company bootstrapped itself by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. Instead, Samsung seems to leave many of those users in the lurch.

There is no upgrade path for switching to a new hub, meaning that the user has to manually reconnect each sensor in the house which often involves a cryptic sequence of button presses and flashing lights (the modern equivalent of setting the time on your VCR). Soon after you re-pair all your devices, you will discover that the level of software customization and tools that you’ve relied upon for home automation has, or is about to, disappear. They’ve replaced the original SmartThings app with a new in-house app, which by all accounts significantly dumbs down the features and isn’t being well-received by the community. Another very popular tool called Groovy IDE, which allowed users to add support for third-party devices and complex automation tasks, is about to be discontinued, as well.

Samsung’s announcement from last year laid out the goals of the transition divided into three phases. After the dust settles, it may well be that new tools will be rolled out which restore the functionality and convenience of the discontinued apps. But it seems that their priority at the moment is to focus on “casual” home automation users, those which just a handful of devices. The “power” users, with dozens and dozens of devices, are left wondering whether they’ve been abandoned. A casual scan through various online forums suggests that many of these loyal users are not waiting to be abandoned. Instead, they are abandoning SmartThings and switching to self-hosted solutions such as Home Assistant.

If this story sounds familiar, it is. We’ve covered several similar of IoT service closures in recent years, including:

Considering the typical home is a decades-long investment, we’d hope that the industry will eventually focus on longer-term approaches to home automation. For example, interoperability of devices using existing or new standards might be a good starting point. If you are using an automation system in your home, do you use a bundled solution like SmartThings, or have you gone the self-hosting route?

This news comes [via Ars Technica] and thanks to [MLewis] for bringing this to our attention.

83 thoughts on “Samsung Shuttering Original SmartThings Hubs

  1. I don’t get why home automation for the public isn’t moving to using real standardized protocols, with products designed to last 20 years minimum like KNX, oh well.

      1. there are a ton of knx compliant open source implementations – but obviously there’s no way one could run a legit commercially backed operation and copy the KNX stack. using knx for almost 20years now at home is an extremely pleasing experience: things are solid as rock – absolutely not comparable to nowadays wifi based smarthome tech.
        but can be linked with the umbrella solution of your choice. i’m using homebridge to make it homekit compatible.

        otoh, the way knx restricts you to use their hideous and bloated windows only binary for provisioing always sparks a little disgust in me.

        not to mention the barrier of entry: the software itself is pretty bleak and absolutely not complicated, yet it costs a fortune (or this is how it feels). that’s totally not meant for the home user or the maker.

        but at least we can get some knx compliant dev boards from china on budget

    1. I for one refuse to spend my money on these “internet of things” devices.
      The only devices I own that are connected to any kind of network are a Windows desktop, a TP-Link router (and attached NBN FTTC NCD) and a cheapie Android phone.

    2. I’ve been thinking about smartifying my next living space, but not once have I thought about buying any prerolled devices by any manufacturer anywhere. They’re all built in such a way that at some point, my smart home will suddenly become dumb, and that’s just stupid. Screw all these companies doing this garbage. They’ll never see a penny from me.

      1. So this behaviour is why they shut down: you did not throw more money ;)

        Standards and not tech islands may help. Whenever I asked in shop for interoperbility, the personnel has no answer. As long as these guys do not know, they cannot sell/consult properly. It is the fault of the companies thinking inside the box.

      1. Not sure where you saw WiFi in a IEEE 802.15.4-based technology Greg.
        Matter is the application layer. It runs on OpenThread, which is relies on 6LoWPAN and thus is a low power, wireless mesh network.
        Of course, you are free to connect one (or more) border routers to WiFi, Ethernet, etc. to give more access to your network.

        1. Pardon my confusion, that Matter page says ‘IP-based’ five times and ‘Matter protocol will run on Wi-Fi and Thread network layers’. Project CHIP says it ‘will initially support Wi-Fi and Thread’.
          Thread is maybe less objectionable than plain Wi-Fi, but still leaves ZigBee and Z-Wave hardware users in the lurch.

          1. > Pardon my confusion

            Confusion pardoned! :D And yeah, CHIP became Matter, so I guess that makes it a bit harder to track.

            > that Matter page says ‘IP-based’ five times and ‘Matter protocol will run on Wi-Fi and Thread network layers

            I’m not surprised they mention IP-based, since it is using IPv6 networking… making it trivial to integrate with other networks (through border routers).

            And, realistically, the devices you use to control your home automation are typically on your local WiFi or work through Bluetooth BLE (or both!) [ex: a smartphone], so it makes sense to have the possibility to have your OpenThread network of devices (running Matter plus customization on top) connect to your WiFi too.

            > Thread is maybe less objectionable than plain Wi-Fi

            I’d say Thread (and OpenThread specifically) is definitely far less objectionable than WiFi!

            > but still leaves ZigBee and Z-Wave hardware users in the lurch.

            As for Zigbee, well, you can already find a few examples of devices running dual protocol Zigbee+OpenThread (and thus Matter could be added on top) from one piece of hardware (that used to run only Zigbee). The advantage here is that Matter, since it relies on OpenThread (a 802.15.4 based mesh network) can also run on the same hardware that runs Zigbee (another 802.15.4 based mesh network). So I can see a conversion / adaptation being possible. Probably not as trivial as “upgrade/patch with the press of a button” in most cases, but certainly doable with the right attitude from those manufacturers.

            On Z-Wave, well, they use a different set of technologies completely… so zero interoperability there!

  2. Try Node-RED and Home Assistant (together). Tech companies want you locked into their ecosystems which makes no sense when there’s such a vast range of devices available.

  3. Never mind Right To Repair laws, how about Right To Keep Using What You Have Paid Money For laws. Anyone who has bought one of these devices should be able to get a refund from Samsung.

    1. What about refunds to everyone who bought a NTSC television? How about refunds to people who bought cars that require leaded gasoline? Everyone who ever bought a POTS modem should get a refund. Maybe I can get a refund on my 80386 computer since nothing runs on it any more. People need to learn to not buy into this stuff, just as it always has been. It takes two to tango, the customer is also at fault for their gullibility.

      1. You are arguing the wrong point here. It is not that something has become obsolete, but that something still working is being bricked. Zenith did not end analog broadcasting, Ford did not stop selling leaded gas, etc. etc.

      2. But the TV still works with media produced for it. The cars still run(with proper anti-knock additives), the 386 still runs software that is designed for it.

        Nobody is coming into your home and permanently disabling these devices.

        Samsung is doing that very thing to the devices you bought from them. That’s the difference.

        1. Actually, there’s still a bunch of support for analog video. There was a good 20 years of warning that terrestrial analog broadcasts were going to stop, and in the interim there were all sorts of bridge technologies developed, like digital tuners with analog outputs.

          And it’s not like Sony and RCA shut down their servers one afternoon and actively bricked all the existing TV’s out there. The market simply moved on slowly to a newer technology with better features over the span of *decades* leaving the existing units behind until they became so feature poor they were replaced.

          Not the same thing at all

        2. This is a good example — when the FCC made the decision to shut down analog broadcasting they started a program to give everyone on the US a free converter box to convert the new signal to something that their existing hardware could handle. Seems like a great example to set.

        3. I can build an NTSC transmitter if I want, because it’s in public domain, but I can’t start blasting away because there are still broadcasting rules. Swing and a miss. See [jrfl] response for a good explanation.

        4. You don’t need an NTSC transmitter, just a set top box to convert a (probably heavily compressed) digital signal to an ugly analog signal.

          You’ve really got the wrong end of the stick though – the analog switch off is mandated by governments, not equipment manufacturers. Samsung’s artificial switch off is purely down to the manufacturer. This would be akin to your analog TV’s manufacturer coming by in the middle of the night to put a hammer through your screen.

      1. Or at least a law that requires that the company releases all relevant source code if they discontinue support. All this home automation junk should be built around open source.

    1. Companies don’t want you to own a product, they want to keep getting your money so they “invite” you into their ecosystem and if the product doesn’t make a profit they just kill the product and leave you with the corpse.

      1. So when I buy, say strawberries, from a farmer, after I give him my money he can piss on them making them inedible? Remind me not to shop at a farmers market near you. Food, once you buy it is yours as the grower can not alter it after your purchase, a product that a company can render useless by fiat it not.

      2. I’m pretty sure this guy is an astro-turfer at this point. Probably a Samsung employee or someone who scams people with software as a service and is perturbed by people not kissing his feet for being an ass.

  4. Can’t say I blame Samsung; people with lots of devices and setup are surely mostly moving to DIY solutions anyway? The casual market is much larger and better suited for a big player to target.

    Though they should really keep the existing service running (I assume it all relies on some hosted thing) at least until there’s a security risk on it.

      1. You don’t see an upside to having a good relationship with your customers? You don’t believe loyal customers and company image have any effect on stock price? You clearly can’t see the forest for the trees.

    1. As far as I can tell, Sonos came to their senses. I have four of their first-gen products and other than the name of the Android app changing from “Sonos” to “Sonos S1” my experience is the same as before they announced that they were going to screw their customers.

      TuneIn and Pandora still work, and it still plays files from my server, and my phone still controls it. But those features are all I ever use, so I’ll admit that other features might have disappeared without my noticing.

  5. Typical, Samsung re-focuses on filthy casuals that want to control some colored light bulbs and leaves the real users to find a better product.
    It’s a shame that the open source alternatives are 50%-75% as user friendly. HomeAssistant gets a lot of buzz, but their implementation is a mess. openHAB and Domoticz seem more manageable, but not as friendly to use.

      1. Here’s my favorite line from that article:

        “One way to improve a rewrite’s security is to switch from memory-unsafe languages (such as C or C++ ) into memory-safe languages (such as nearly all other languages),”

        People who continue to write in C and C++ should be financially responsible for losses suffered from the use of their code. That’ll teach ’em, apparently nothing else will.

        1. I tend to read comments before commenter names. Somehow I just knew this was from you. You seem to have given up on your caveat emptor stance. Now we should make people financially responsible for others using their open source code. I’d be interested in knowing your stance on corporations and their limited liability. No I wouldn’t. It’d just be a mash of contradictory garbage that accomplishes nothing positive nor negative.

    1. I’ve been hoping for something like this. The V2 hardware is even more capable than Samsung ever used it for, and with open software it could be pretty great.

  6. I’m happy using Node-RED and would never consider a cloud solution. However, I’m not sure what I’ll have to do the day I decide to sell the house given that everything from heater, to air conditioner, to gate, to window shutters, etc. is controlled via Node-RED…

      1. I can’t retrieve the story of the guy who gives up on a multi k$ zigbee setup because of all the hassle of making it work *decently*.
        Yes home automation is easy for a couple of automation, but having 100+ light switches, shutters, heaters and so on is close to nightmare and maintenance issues…

        On my side I have made a choice of only overriding a couple of dumb automation with a couple of esphome device on HA.
        I don’t care switching on my lights with a phone, but I do care that my AC is turn on automatically on a schedule (because it can’t on original remote), the ventilation in the basement is on automatically when temp/humidity is correct.

        The only next step I will take is if I install some solar panels to offset big energy sink (mainly pool and water heater).

    1. That’s what has kept me from most HA projects. I don’t want to have to rip out a bunch of non-UL hacks when it’s time to sell the house. And what I do put in should be usable by my Luddite in-laws without having to read a manual first.

      Unfortunately, locally controlled systems that also play nice with automation controllers are a rare breed.

  7. Have them put on the advertising what the planned life of the product is. I’m sure this information is already known by the offending company, they just don’t say. Same reason why a 25 year old washer gets replaced with a newer more expensive washing machine that lasts half as long. To see the shenanigans look at the dryers, this device has nearly reached it’s end result, as it is an extremely simple device in operation and repair. Replaced a 20 year old machine with same make, 2 year later replaced tension pulley, and a belt. Tub rollers squeaking. They have dumbed down the construction of a simple device. I’ll say on purpose, when comparing machines of different ages doing the same exact thing. You don’t save pennies on a machine at the cost of customer loyalty, and all the free press that comes with, Unless everyone is doing it, then the consumer is really choosing between multiple inferior products, thusly choosing which one stinks less, as there is no other choice. The list can go on and on with companies in my local sphere alone. Not rocket science, just business.

    1. I’m not convinced SmartThings had a clue how long it was going to live when they kick-started the first hub. Samsung bought ST, and still stayed with the same model, before realising there wasn’t enough money in the hardware.

      These business decisions aren’t made ahead of time, because they have to react to the market that exists for them; had ST hardware been more popular (which is undoubtedly the business case that was presented to Samsung) the model would still be the same now – “It’s working, and we’re making money; Nothing needs to change”.

      1. Design obsolescence, not shamed to say I first had to look for the word itself, then the meaning of it. I had an idea of it from previous articles somewhere, but I first experienced the phenomenon long ago then read what it was. Assuming the article is well enough researched, and I think it is, this activity seems to fit the ‘bigger picture’ strategy. Sure, some products may fall into a premature demise due to unforeseen circumstances, poor design or marketing, etc. If you have a product that still functions as designed and then sold to the public, then cease support in one way or another some time later, it is one form or another obsolescence. The bigger picture might be this, can someone build a home automation system that just works as if it were a wall switch, meaning it just works time after time, year after year, so much so you don’t even question the switches ability to switch stuff? If so, where is it, or why hasn’t the product been made yet? Referring back to my analogy of the dryer is my answer. Imo, business is not in the business of making long lasting great products. Also imo, is we have been conditioned to consume too much stuff by accepting design obsolescence as just a part of how business runs. Technology seems to fit the strategy the clothing industry works in one form of obsolescence. I think this path is very bad for a multitude of reasons.

        1. I don’t disagree that built-in obsolescence is a bad thing, since this just leads to an increase in Electronic Waste, but the problem is that people don’t like subscription based services – and as such, if you have a light switch that you sell once and always works forever more, it leads to a bad business case – you can’t sell enough lightswitches to make money in the future.

          As for the article being well researched, I would say that it was written by someone who had an axe to grind, or at least a story to ‘sell’. I’ve been a SmartThings user for 5 years now, and while the first releases of the ‘New’ app were poor, things have got better, and I’m not aware of any functionality that isn’t there in the latest build now. The user interface is fine, and they have added new functionality that wasn’t there in the old build.

          The biggest change, and this is the one that has caused the old V1 hubs, the ADT/Smartthings hubs and the NVidia Shield Stick to be end-of-lifed is the introduction of local processing. These old hubs are not powerful enough to run local processing, and they wanted to introduce a system that didn’t rely on Internet (as much to lessen the load on their AWS bill).

          In short, they are _trying_ to improve things, but they can’t do that while the old hardware still kicks about – that’s not so much built in obsolescence as it is a design failure where they didn’t anticipate how they would want to use it in the future.

          1. The new app and systems keep breaking and they can’t maintain any consistent uptime. Just follow their twitter feed and look how many are leaving Smartthings to hubitat or home assistant. Samsung has and continues to provide smartthings a slow death. The response times are horrible even on our fiber connections vs hubitat, etc. I was also with ST since the beginning and its got nothing but slower as a service.. only thing Samsung wants to do is make a cute app that controls their stuff now.

          2. Can’t really disagree with much there, but how are the products sold? Technology as a whole introduces itself as helping the consumer out, we can do this or that for you, where the consumer might be ‘sounds good’, I’ll buy that. The items that haven’t as much entered the mind, until lately, has been how long will this thing be functional in todays world. It has always been an issue seen by recalls for vehicles as example, lawsuits in others, but it generally hasn’t been consumers buy something, at times expensive, and a handful of years later it is useless, not necessarily because it physically broke or wore out due to use. I don’t think it unreasonable to have manafacturers produce at least -some- products that are more like that dryer example. Home automation is a good fit for that imo, where the mechanical aspect of that isn’t the issue at all, I would say cost,unless absurd, isn’t the issue either, it is software. If one was to purchase a home automation system for $2000 usd, and in the advertising it said ‘may or may not work in 5 years’, then I would say ok, but not to have a hint of longevity (pitted against cost obviously) is shenanigans imo, mainly because business knows the average consumer isn’t thinking in those terms yet. I’m in the opinion tue average consumer has some amount of trust in bigger manufacturers that they will produce solid, well engineered, long lasting products in older terms, not new terms where lifetime warrenty does not really mean lifetime warrenty. This is taking advantage of consumers in some respects.

        2. It won’t let me leave a comment to your most recent message, so I’m jumping back one – to others, follow below first.

          You must remember that the V1 of the SmartThings hub was first sold in 2012 – that’s nearly 10 years ago. 10 years out of any piece of tech is phenomenal! Most laptops seem to be ‘expired’ in 3 to 4 years.

          1. I agree 10 years is a good return on technology, depending on what the technology is, what it does, how much it costs and why it is no longer functional. It is a big conversation with this story entering into that conversation well past it’s beginning. Go to a thrift store, buy a DVD player for $5 and you can watch movies that you pay $1 for, granted the UI for the player is awful, as most DVD players are, yet it will still function from years old tech. You can do this with quite a bit of technology up to a point. At some point in time, technology as a whole changed to where by one means or another you can’t just find stuff at a thrift store (as example), bring it home, plug it in, off you go, like with a dvd player. There came hurdles, subscription services, new software that can become outdated for various reasons in itself, proprietary ‘stuff’, or even just lower lower standards for economy technology ( a glimpse at throw away tech). A bare bones old DVD players will still play movies.That is value oriented technology, which in my opinion is what all technology should be, if one wants to ‘move forward’. Moving forward, to me anyway, isn’t throwing out perfect good technology and buying new. I think this because this is how technology as a whole presents itself to the consumer. If you take corporate stuff out of the equation, maybe not all thinking of profit, technology of today can be like the thrift store DVD player, no reason it technically can’t be. I’m sure there are physical hurdles, quality of parts and such, but the beginning of making long lasting products is well before anything is made, it is a frame of mind. Technology, again as a whole, is by far more like the 4 year laptop than the thrift store dvd player. It isn’t that big business can’t make long lasting products, surely they can, and have, it more like they learned their lesson. If they present themselves honestly Before they sell a product, say like Dollar stores, ok. Honesty type statements after the fact, well, depends on how the company moves forward. Every improvement I do my my house I think in the longest terms possible. I don’t want to remodel a bathroom every 5 years, or a kitchen (small), flooring, etc., with only paint and other aesthetic items every handful of years, although even that can be extended with the right choices. Look at house shingles, how they are rated according to cost, kind of absurd when you think about that, but I digress. That is honesty. 10 years is pretty good, kind of around the time where one might think they have gotten a really good value if they get more out of it. For me, anyway, this article is an entry into a much bigger conversation not limited to just technology, tentacles everywhere in modern society, mixed messages and the like (society, not the article).

  8. Samsung is also soon going to pull their SmartView Android app. As long as you have it on your phone or tablet it will continue to work, but they won’t have it to download from the Play Store, Amazon App Store etc.

    So if you have the app and use it, get the APK extracted from your device so you can reinstall it should you have to wipe your device.

    1. It seems to me that this is not the first time that Samsung has done this with smarthing hubs. About 8 years or so ago, the stopped supporting a previous hun version and required users to purchase a new “upgraded” hub. We kicked them to the curb back then because we knew if they got away with it once, they would do it again.

  9. I guess the lesson here is to never buy hardware that requires a subscription or third party to continue working (only skimmed the article, not sure they were actually bricked, or software was automatically “upgraded” to a dumbed down version?).

    That limits the selection quite a bit. I usually buy stuff I can flash with open source software (or made with it from the start). But it’s a rabbit hole, and some things aren’t really there yet. What happens when Sony or Google decides to brick my Android TV (it’s already out of support, but still works fine)? Or it gets hacked because it never gets security updates anymore.

    I guess next time I buy a cell phone, TV or anything really, I’ll be looking long and hard for something that runs actual open source software or is just plain dumb with no connections to the outside world. And there are still no guarantees of course, with software projects coming and going.

  10. Or they can get some good publicity and either release the full source-code or implement an “open firmware” that interacts with opensource home automation.

    But no let´s just push a button and create more e-waste.

  11. I never trust anything from Samsung since it ditched their Samsung Galaxy tablet designed to compete with Apple iPad during the early years of the iPad. I wasn’t going to buy another tablet just to get future Android updates. My tablet has been a useless piece of junk since 2016-ish. Fool me once, not again.

    Then they ditched their Samsung subscription music and other products and services. This ominous history should have alerted consumers to stay away from buying Samsung failed ecosystem.

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