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SmartThings Hub Gets Smarter

The IoT controller has gained battery backup and the ability to handle streaming video.
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SmartThings, a maker of Internet of Things (IoT) devices acquired by Samsung last year, has introduced the second version of its Hub control unit.

Promised for Q2 delivery at CES in January, the second generation Hub acts as a router and control point for a wide variety of network-ready hardware, such as motion sensors, video cameras, thermostats, light switches, and other appliances.

The revised Hub now has battery backup (4 AA batteries), a feature that makes setting up a DIY home alarm system more feasible. An alarm system that cannot function in the absence of power presents a significant vulnerability.

Though having an Internet connection that also has backup power represents the optimal situation, the Hub has been revised to handle more app processing locally, to make connected devices less reliant on a connection to the cloud. According to SmartThings, some automations controlled by ZigBee and Z-Wave devices no longer require an Internet connection.

The Hub v2 includes video streaming support, so users can set up cameras to view live video. SmartThings has also introduced a premium service that allows users to rewind buffered video to review recorded events.

Free through 2015 during the beta testing period, this video review capability will eventually cost $5 per month and is available through the Smart Home Monitor portion of the SmartThings mobile app (iOS 7.0+, Android 4.0+, Windows Phone 8.1+). Smart Home Monitor handles security system functions and allows users to set rules for different alarm states.

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Beyond Smart Home Monitor, the mobile app has several other sections. There's Home, which includes: Things (connected devices); Rooms (devices organized by room); Smart Apps (apps from the SmartThings Marketplace); and Family (presence of family members). There's Routines, which runs multiple commands tied to a specific trigger. There's Notifications, which controls notification settings. And there's Marketplace, a store for IoT apps.

SmartThings offers developer documentation for those interested in writing apps that interoperate with compatible hardware. Currently, its system supports almost 200 IoT devices.

Available for a suggested price of $99, the Hub relies on a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with 512MB DDR3 RAM, and 4GB flash memory. The device requires a wired Ethernet connection. It includes 2 USB ports (inactive, for future use), supports ZigBee and Z-Wave protocols, and is capable of supporting Bluetooth, if and when SmartThings choses to activate the technology.

In June, research firm IDC predicted that the Internet of Things market will grow from $655.8 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020, at rate of 16% per year.