Meet a SmartThings Developer: Todd Wackford

Not only is SmartThings compatible with hundreds of smart devices from a variety of manufacturers, but it also supports a growing community of developers. By collaborating with other developers on the Build forum and inventing new ways to use SmartThings, this community is propelling the open platform for the Programmable World forward, and creating limitless possibilities for all SmartThings customers.

In the first installment of a new series shining the spotlight on developers in our Build community, we’re going to get to know Todd Wackford, the architect behind the Quirky and TCP Lighting integrations we announced today.

ST: Hi Todd, you’ve been an active part of our Core Team of enthusiastic developers who have embraced SmartThings as a primary way to help make your home smarter. We go way back, but please introduce yourself for the masses.

TW: I’m Todd Wackford, you can follow me on Twitter: @wackware

ST: Do you primarily write software (hacker) on the SmartThings platform or create new devices (maker)?

TW: I’m a bit of a hacker and a maker.

ST: How do you use SmartThings in your life today?

There is not one part of each and every day that SmartThings is not helping me save energy, be more safe, or enjoy a more convenient life.”

TW: I bought a new house about a year ago and have pretty much rewired all the doors, lights, and switches to power it with SmartThings. Now at the start of every day, my lights come on and the coffee starts brewing just before I wake up. When my wife and I leave, the house automatically locks up, the lights go off, the thermostat lowers, the garage door closes, and the coffee machine turns off.

While we’re gone, motion detectors and cameras alert us when someone’s at the door or the dog is having doggie parties (jk). When we arrive again, the doors unlock, the lights come on, and the thermostat is set to a comfy temp.

Finally, at the end of the day, I tell SmartThings “Good night!” using Hello, Home and it locks up, turns everything off, and lowers the temperature a couple of degrees. There is not one part of each and every day that SmartThings is not helping me save energy, be more safe, or enjoy a more convenient life.

ST: What are some fun/cool things you’ve built with SmartThings?

TW: My favorite is the parking spotter. It’s something that I built and programmed using the SmartThings Arduino Shield and an ultrasonic sensor. While some may consider it overkill, I have began to rely on it to help me park the car in the garage within 1-2 inches of the door so that it can close, yet still keep the space in front of the car at a maximum. You can see more about it at here.

I found that, at an early stage in my SmartThings life, the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was key to any particular project’s success. So my first project, and her favorite, was the Smart Crock Pot. Since all I had was a Hub and a GE Z-Wave outdoor outlet, I asked her what she would really like to have automated and she said without much hesitation, “The Crock Pot!”

smart crockpot

She loves cooking with the slow cookers but could only use it on the weekends. She wanted to be able to turn it on from anywhere and at any time. So what started off as a simple on-off switch quickly grew into a fully automated and pre-programmable start-and-stop device with its own twitter address: @SmartCrockPot. It even sends me push alerts that inform the family when dinner is ready and what we’re having. Follow along at its twitter address and you’ll see the yummy stuff my wife makes with the SmartThings-powered Crock Pot.

ST: What are some of your favorite things that you’ve seen other developers in the SmartThings community create?

TW: That’s a tie between the Sonos and the Jawbone integrations (editor’s note: the latter of which is forthcoming). While SmartThings is getting close to releasing these fully, I got to see them in person at the 2014 CES Smart House in January. Hooking wearables to the Physical Graph is probably the coolest aspect of the Internet of Things. It’s so powerful and yet it’s personal at the same time. The applications that people have made using the SmartSense Presence sensors have also been really cool.

ST: What excites you most about the future of SmartThings and the open platform?

SmartThings is an ultimate enabler of home automation. It puts me in the position of ‘If I can think it, it can be done.’”

TW: That’s a hard question to answer. It is all very exciting to me. I guess if you forced me to answer though, I’d say that SmartThings is an ultimate enabler of home automation. It puts me in the position of “If I can think it, it can be done.” It all comes down to taking what it does today and incrementally expanding on those capabilities to make something new and exciting.

By not being a closed proprietary system, SmartThings can communicate with almost every other open device out there. And as we saw in cases such as the Nest thermostat, developers were hacking interfaces before Nest was open. The closed system OEM’s need to realize that SmartThings is not a competitor, but an enabler. I guarantee that their device sales will increase when it’s announced that they integrate with SmartThings.

ST: What one thing would you like to see added to, removed, or changed about SmartThings?

TW: I’m really looking forward to something like and an App Store, where users can shop for solutions to their everyday home automation needs as well as any unique use cases they may have. Currently developers are creating applications/devices to solve their own problems and issues. People tend to develop the interface and/or usability of the program or device to their own level of expertise. While the application and device code is shared amongst the developers and geekier users, they’re typically difficult to get installed and usually require hand holding to get them fully up and running. I think that once a storefront opens, applications and devices will become more polished and professional. Which, in turn, will drive the developers to request more enhancements to the SmartThings environment as a whole. 

quirky and smartthings boxes

ST: So Todd, what are some of your current or more recent projects?

TW: Well, as you know, but maybe not our readers, Quirky has several products that are cloud-connected. Two of them, specifically the Pivot Power Genius and the Spotter looked like good candidates to become integrated with SmartThings, so I began tinkering.

The Pivot Power Genius is a power strip with two switchable/controllable outlets. The Spotter is a small pod full of sensors. It senses temperature, humidity, light, sound and vibration. The goal of the project was to control and or receive information from the Quirky devices using a cloud-to-cloud interface. Since this method of device control was new to me, it looked fun to do. Not to mention that Quirky was just releasing their “Wink API” for the connected devices at about the same time. You can definitely say, it was all new methodology that needed to be connected together.

Anyway, I started working with Quirky’s API Guru, Matt Bornski, to get the SmartThings API talking to the Wink API over the cloud. This first is what you’re seeing in SmartThings Labs today. It shows how products from two companies that you might think would see each other as competitors, actually benefited from being integrated together. SmartThings extends the use cases for the Quirky products by enabling a connection to all of the current and future SmartThings integrated devices. Or more simply put: it gives many Quirky owners a reason to get SmartThings and it gives SmartThings owners a reason to buy Quirky products. A win-win I would say.

 

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  • Buck Disqus

    What is the light on the plug in the photo of crock pot please?
    TIA!

  • Mark S Groves

    There is code on github for the less expensive GE Link bulbs that DO NOT require a separate hub. I have implemented it and it allows you to control status and dim the LEDs.