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Gen-2 SmartThings hub migrates to Linux

Jan 12, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 7,717 views

SmartThings debuted a 2nd generation home automation hub that moves to Linux, and adds new sensors, battery backup, optional cellular, and premium services.

Prior to Samsung’s acquisition of SmartThings last August, the company told us its next-generation home automation hub would likely move from an embedded RTOS (real-time operating system) to Linux. A SmartThings rep now tells us the newly announced second-generation SmartThings Hub does indeed run Linux. Not so surprisingly, consider the Samsung acquisition, the rep also said “We will be moving to Tizen over time.”

SmartThings has been around longer than most home automation vendors, and has built an impressive ecosystem of compatible third-party smart devices. According to Samsung last August when it bought the company, SmartThings had more than 1,000 devices and 8,000 apps created by the SmartThings community.

Second-generation SmartThings Hub and peripherals
(click images to enlarge)

Despite its RTOS underpinnings, SmartThings has always offered a fairly open development environment. At the time of the announcement, the company assured concerned community members that Samsung would not change the platform’s open nature. The spirit of openness was reinforced in the CES keynote when Samsung CEO BK Yoon announced the new SmartThings offerings and promised: “Our IoT components and devices will be open.”

SmartThings has yet to reveal many technical details on the upgrade, although presumably a good deal more will be disclosed when the hub ships in April at an undisclosed price. The device, which has a more squarish shape than the earlier flying saucer design, runs Linux on a more powerful processor and includes a “local app engine,” says SmartThings. It now offers battery backup, as well as an optional USB cellular modem to keep you informed from afar about your home’s status during a power outage.

Gen-2 SmartThings Hub (left) and its rear-panel connections

The device will continue to support WiFi, Z-Wave and ZigBee, but will also add Bluetooth Smart, according to this GigaOM report. From the blurry photo above, the second-generation hub appears to provide rear-panel connections for DC power, Ethernet, dual USB 2.0 or 3.0, and possibly a micro-USB service port.

SmartThings app

No doubt, the new hub continues the company’s support for Android and iOS app control, as well as rule-based triggers and alerts.

SmartThings is also introducing an optional premium service that provides advanced incident management control, as well as improved home monitoring with DVR video streaming. The premium service lets users set up pre-selected contacts that can be called during disaster events. GigaOM suggests that SmartThings may also generate revenues from possible referral fees from local plumbers it might recommend as part of the emergency contact service.

SmartThings also announced updated SmartSense Presence, SmartSense Motion, and SmartSense Multi sensors that are about a third the size of the earlier devices. In addition, the new hub is expanding its support of smart devices to include Netgear and D-Link cameras, Somfy window shades, the Racchio water irrigation system, Chamberlain garage door openers, August locks, and Weather bug climate data devices. According to GigaOM, SmartThings also plans to support Google’s proposed Thread wireless protocol, and possibly support the AllJoyn IoT standard as well.

The company will also support unnamed Samsung smart appliances, and it will soon release an app that lets you control existing and new SmartThings devices using Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear S smartwatch. In Yoon’s keynote, while announcing that all 2015 Samsung smart TVs would run Tizen, the Samsung CEO said that Tizen would help “establish Samsung’s Smart TVs as the control center of any Smart Home.” This suggests that once SmartThings makes the switch to Tizen, Samsung might bake the hub technology into some of its smart TV models, letting you control your home on the big screen, as well as through mobile devices.

Further information

The new SmartThings Hub and updated sensors will be available in April at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in the SmartThings blog announcement.

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