The acclaimed Samsung SmartThings is now in Australia via a partnership with the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria). Lucky 2.1 million members!

GadgetGuy attended the launch today and was among the first to see Samsung Smart Things in action. The good news is that the long-awaited and highly anticipated SmartThings is here even if Victorians get to use it first.

Am I bitter – no. Jealous is a better word as SmartThings has been available in the US, Canada, UK and Ireland for a couple of years.

It is one of the better open standard and affordable smart hubs supporting Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi and more.

But the Catch 22 with Australia is that Z-Wave uses a different frequency here rendering the unlicensed US 908.42Mhz and all US devices useless here. So, while there are thousands of devices using Z-Wave, they are country specific. That is why Samsung took a while to make its SmartThings hub for Australia/NZ.

What are Z-Wave and Zigbee?

Both are short-range wireless technologies but have different strengths and weaknesses.

Zigbee occupies the2.4-2.483GHz range and can interfere with the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth bands.Its data rate is a maximum of 250kbps and has a maximum 10-metre range – if you are lucky as it can bounce off walls and glass. It favours a ‘star-topology’ – multiple devices connected to a hub in the centre.

In Australia, Z-Wave uses the far lower 921.4Mhz range (that is far more effective penetrating walls and floors) and has a longer range (up to 30metres). No other protocols use that band, so it is interference free and more reliable. Its downside is low speeds between 9.6/40kbps. It favours a mesh topology where one device talks to another etc.until you reach the hub.

Neither of these can match Wi-Fi 2.4 or 5Ghz where speeds can be up to 866Mbps suiting security cameras and devices that need to move alot of data.

There is no real bitter competition between the three standards– you simply cannot achieve a smart homewithout them all – so don’t try!

PS: Just to repeat any Z-wave device needs to be for the Australia/NZ frequency or it will not work here. Zigbee devices work all over the world.

Enter Samsung SmartThings Hub and RACV

I cannot think of a better partnership for both companies. Samsung wants the maximum engagement to ensure this new technology is properly applied and above all used. Its experience in the US and elsewhere is that you need a helpinghand to achieve a true smart home.

RACV is a membership organisation – its 2.1 million members rely on it for roadside assist, insurance and member services. RACV staff I spoke to are far more aware of the issuesthan a major retailer could ever be.

From today, Victorians can be among the first in Australia to experience the SmartThings platform as part of the SmartHome Starter Kit. The $378 kit includes a SmartThings Wi-Fi Hub, and several sensors (motion, temperature, orientation and door/window sensors). At no extra cost, RACV will provide an assisted installation service by a SmartThings specialist to ensure customers get the most out of the system.

SmartThings

The announcement is significant, as it marks a step toward creating a more seamless connected future in consumers’ homes by unifying a range of other devices. SmartThings allows consumers to connect the SmartThings Hub to multiple compatible smart third-party devices, like cameras, lights, locks and speakers as well as smoke detectors.  Once connected, all these devices can be managed through the SmartThings app to simplify everyday tasks at home.

Eric Chou, Head of Category Management at Samsung Electronics Australia – IT and Mobile said: 

“Today’s announcement is an incredibly important stage in Samsung’s journey with partners like RACV to support the lifestyles of Australians with smart technologies for the whole home.

“SmartThings is a simple and easy to use system that will give Australians confidence and peace of mind by allowing them to manage a range of home sensors and connected product through the SmartThings app ontheir compatible smartphone.

SmartThings

Nicole Brasz, Home Executive General Manager at RACV, said: 

“We are delighted a simple with Samsung to launch the SmartThings Starter Kit, as it gives us the opportunity to provide our members with a unique platform to help make their homes more efficient and their lives easier.

“Considering smart technology in Australia is growing substantially each year, RACV is committed to meeting the changing needs of ourmembers in their homes.

“Australians are predicted to have over 30 connected devices per household in the next couple of years. Gaining greater control on the way we manage and control our homes is a crucial step in maximising potentialefficiencies.

GadgetGuy: What about the rest of us?

Consider the RACV as a test market. Once it irons out any local issues, it will leverage its community to roll out further afield.

Samsung could not comment on future distribution channels, but I suspect it is hoping other membership focused organisations will take up the challenge. Eric Chou did say he expected SmartThings to be available elsewhere within six months.

As a tech-savvy GadgetGuy who has tried Telstra’s SmartHome offering and OriginEnergy’s HomeHQ, I can say that smart homes are not for dummies. At best I have Google Assistant controlling Philips Hue, Sony Android TV and smart speakers. I have not managed to get Zigbee devices working without dedicated hubs and drivers – it is not easy! That is why I have been waiting for Samsung SmartThings hub – the world awaits.

We applaud the RACV move congratulate Samsung for showing that it is not about bulk sales but good sales.

In 2018 the Smart Home category just crept into GadgetGuy’s top ten. In 2019 we predict it will go with a rocket to the second spot! It’s hot and you can rely on us to review products and provide advice you can put to good use.