I was pretty excited when Samsung announced the SmartThings Tracker, an LTE based personal location tracker. So excited that as soon as I read about it I preordered one. Well, the release has come and gone and I have been playing with it for some time now seeing just how well I could integrate the SmartThings Tracker into my home automation. Before we get into using the SmartThings Tracker as a home automation device, however, we should look at how well it works as a stand-alone tracker considering its feature set.
- Reasonable price
- Decent battery life
- Subscription plan
- Indoor performance
- No webCoRE support
AS I mentioned previously the SmartThings Tracker is a small LTE based location tracker, it runs on the AT&T network thus requiring a monthly subscription. Now right off the batt, the SmartThings Tracker is considerably more expensive than say the Tile Tracker but comparing the two is a lot like comparing apples to rocks. The Tile is a simple BTLE device that pairs with a phone for location awareness whereas the SmartThings Tracker is LTE based and can communicate on its own. The initial cost of the SmartThings Tracker also includes one year of AT&T service valued at $50. Now you might wonder what happens if you are not an AT&T subscriber? Well, it does not matter as there is not AT&T contract involved and everything is handled through the SmartThings App (Samsung Connect not SmartThings Classic). To use the SmartThings Tracker as a tracker with no integration with a smart home you do not even need to have a SmartThings Hub which makes the SmartThings Tracker appeal to users outside of the SmartThings ecosystem.
Setup of the SmartThings Tracker could not be easier. If you do not already have the SmartThings App simply download it from your appropriate App marketplace turn the SmartThings Tracker on by pushing the power button, at this point the LED indicator on it will turn blue and you can open the SmartThings App and the SmartThings Tracker should automatically be found by the SmartThings App and added to your device list. Now I have heard complaints about this process not working as it should and if it does not all you have to do is press the + sign in the SmartThings App and the SmartThings Tracker should be recognized. Now that the SmartThings Tracker is added you next need to select the Location (think SmartThings Hub) that you want it associated with (only if you have more than one Location and SmartThings Hub). Now press Activate and agree to the ToS and complete your registration.
Samsung claims that the SmartThings Tracker operates with 90 percent location accuracy. While I do not have any information to argue against as in my testing the location accuracy was very high (at least outdoors) 90 percent is a very high claim and my assumption is that claim is not based solely on location data gathered from the SmartThings Tracker but instead data from the Tracker and your smartphone (which may be running on a different network as well as having its own hardware location sensors built in) are combined in the cloud to determine location with higher accuracy.
In my testing I found the SmartThings Tracker to do a decent job tracking its location although you should know that you will not get the same kind of “live motion tracking” you can get with an app like Life360 which is still my preferred location tracking method. You can, however, refresh the location of your SmartThings Tracker “on-demand” by pressing the GPS icon in the lower right of the map screen or set up automatic updates at a specific time interval. Options for automatic update times are; Off (you will need to manually refresh location) Every 10 minutes, Every 30 minutes, Every 1 hour, Every 3 hours, and Every 5 hours. You will notice that there is no option to have it auto update location based on movement so no real-time tracking is available. Now, this is not really an issue, for the most part, it is easy enough to manually refresh the SmartThings Tracker location but it would be a nice feature especially when looking at the SmartThings Tracker as a home automation device.
Now the only real issue I had with location with the SmartThings Tracker was inside my home. While I could still see the SmartThings Tracker was located at my home using the SmartThings App I could not find the SmartThings Tracker inside of my home. This is where devices like the SmartThings Presence Sensor shine for one simple fact, they have an audible alarm which can be triggered. It seems to me like a glaring oversight for a simple buzzer to be left off of the board of the SmartThings Tracker and is something that would make pinpoint accuracy much easier to achieve. One of my use cases for the SmartThings Tracker is finding a cat that loves to run out into the woods behind my house. Sure I can see where they are in the app but if I could make the SmartThings Tracker beep it would make the cat tracking go much smoother.
With the lack of live location updates, you might be thinking that integration into a smart home is not possible. Well, you can get around that by setting up geofences. and having automation triggered on entering or exiting these geofences. In my testing this worked fine but thinking about it you really only need a geofence around your home for automation and theoretically, this can be done using a SmartThings Presence Sensor at a quarter of the price. The other thing to consider when looking at using the SmartThings Tracker as a home automation device is SmartThings out of the box really does not have the power to automate much of what you may want to automate without using some third-party smartapps like webCoRE. I am not positive on this but I think this lack of functionality comes from the fact that the SmartThings Tracker has to run in the new SmartThings App and really has zero integration with the SmartThings Classic App.
Overall the SmartThings Tracker functions as a location tracker although it is missing some features like the ability to track in real-time (even if I had to pay more for additional data usage) and an audible alert that limits its applications, especially when trying to integrate it with a smart home. Overall for me, I do not see this getting used much and will most likely be sticking with Life360 and my SmartThings Presence Sensors but that could change as my three-year-old grows up and starts traveling outside more without us although I could achieve the same thing by getting him a cell-phone with Life360.
Have you used the SmartThings Tracker? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I am passionate about the IoT and connected devices. Using connectivity to automate our lives will empower civilization to achieve greatness.