SmartThings- How to Create a Routine




SmartThings is a fully capable home automation platform. There are several ways to achieve automation with SmartThings. This post is all about routines.

Routines can be manually or automatically started. When you set up an automatic routine, you will need a trigger. A trigger is what causes the routine to run. The trigger can be a presence sensor (mobile phone or dedicated arrival sensor), the time of day, a switch, a motion sensor, a contact sensor, or even a button. When the routine is told to run, it will operate the devices you tell it to: turn on or off lights and switches, lock or unlock doors, and open or close garage doors. You can also use routines to change the status of Smart Home Monitor (Armed (Home), Armed (Away), Disarmed) and SmartThings’ mode (Home, Away, Night).

Routines are manually started from within the app or from a home screen widget. I typically only start a routine manually if I’m testing to see if it works.

There are 4 default routines: 1) Good Morning! 2) Goodbye! 3) I’m Back! and 4) Good Night! You can alter or delete these to meet your needs, and you can also add new ones to use for specific situations.

Routines are the cornerstone of automation with SmartThings . They are nothing more than cause-and-effect-based scenarios, so they’re very simple and easy to create. There are a few things that you should know though.

What Routines Can and Can’t Do


Routines are designed for simplicity. If you need a complex set of conditions to trigger an action, routines won’t do the job. Although multiple conditions technically are possible, they are of the variety if this OR that, then do this. SmartThings does not understand a logical AND, at least at this time. You cannot set up a condition of if this AND that, then do this. In my opinion this is something that SmartThings will eventually have to address to stay competitive and expand their presence in the home automation space. If you need advanced conditional triggers for SmartThings, you will need to use CoRE, IFTTT, Tasker, or another 3rd party platform.

Routines cannot trigger camera recordings. This is reserved for Smart Home Monitor, which is designed to be more like a traditional home security system. You can, however, set the status of Smart Home Monitor from within a routine.

Routines can set the mode of SmartThings. This is an extremely important, but often overlooked, feature of SmartThings- and here’s why. SmartThings has 3 modes: Home, Away, and Night. SmartThings also has the capability to provide a person with easy access to their home. If SmartThings misinterprets a presence sensor as arriving at 2 o’clock in the morning (due to spotty GPS reception, a fault in your mobile phone, a bad software update, a malfunctioning arrival sensor, anything really), you could very well open up your home to potential intruders while you sleep.

To combat this problem, we need to look at the role modes play in how you use routines to control your devices. We’ll assume the default routines are set to do the following:

  • The “Good Morning!” routine sets the mode to Home at a preset time.
  • The “Goodbye!” routine sets the mode to Away when you leave.
  • The “I’m Back!” routine sets the mode back to Home when you arrive.
  • The “Good Night!” routine sets the mode to Night at a preset time.

The problem is always going to be the “I’m Back!” routine, because that’s the routine people are going to use to open an access path to their home. Fortunately there is a simple solution. Open the “I’m Back!” routine in the SmartThings app. Scroll down to the “Additional settings” heading and tap Automatically perform “I’m Back!” when… Under the “Advanced Options” heading you’ll see Don’t automatically do this if I am in one of these modes and choose Night. As long as you have a routine that sets the Night mode (time-based recommended), you won’t have to worry about doors unlocking or opening while you sleep.

Choose Automatically perform “I’m Back!” when…

Then set Don’t automatically do this… if you’re in Night mode.

Now let’s take a look at what you have available to trigger a routine:

Slideshow- Tap or click to view

You can use the SmartThings arrival sensor or your mobile phone. You also have the option to prevent the routine from running during specific days during the week. This option is available for all triggers.

For Everyone Leaves, you have an additional option. An Action delay time is also included to help prevent false triggers.

The next two triggers are time-based.

You can set a trigger based on the actual time of day…

…or use sunrise/sunset as the trigger. You can also enable an offset if you want.

This is a switch trigger.

Your options for switch state are 1) turns on, 2) turns off, or 3) turns on or off.

Next is the button trigger.

If you have any buttons available you can add them here. I just can’t imagine many scenarios where I would need or want this type of trigger.

These two are motion-based triggers. If you’re building a SmartThings security system, you’ll probably have at least one motion sensor.

Select your motion sensor(s) and the time-frame during which they should activate the routine.

And here’s the options available for when Things Quiet Down.

Curiously, you have more options for when Things Quiet Down than you do for when Things Start Happening.

Your final available trigger is based on contact sensors. If you’re building a SmartThings security system, you’ll probably have a few of these.

Choose which contact sensor you want to monitor. The choices are 1) opens, 2) closes, or 3) opens or closes.

Creating a Routine


So now that you know a little about routines, let’s walk through actually creating one. Follow the slideshow below:

Slideshow- Tap or click to view

Tap to give the routine a name.

When you’re done, tap Next.

If applicable, tap Turn on these lights or switches.

Check the boxes for the lights and switches you want to turn on.

Next tap Turn off these lights or switches.

Select all the lights and switches you want to turn off.

You can set Smart Home Monitor if you use it.

Whatever cameras and sensors you set up in Smart Home Monitor will go to the Armed (Home) state in this example.

If you have any door locks you can set them here.

Select any doors you want to lock, then tap Done.

Here’s what we have so far. As you can see, routines can operate many devices. But we’re not done yet.

If you have a smart garage door opener, tap here.

Tap Garage Doors.

Then select which garage door you want to operate. Tap Done.

Then pick what you want it to do. We’ll select Close in this example.

Tap Done.

The mode can be easily set from a routine.

We’ll choose Night.

Next tap Automatically perform….

You can choose whichever condition applies to your situation, as already discussed in detail above.

You can prevent this routine from running if the mode is set to Night. I highly recommend any routine that provides a path to the inside of your home have this setting enabled! Tap Done.

SmartThings should save your routine and you’re finished! You can manually run the routine by tapping the routine’s tile from this screen.



SmartThings’ routines are a great way to automate your home if you know the limitations and what to expect. They are simple to create, yet provide a powerful set of rules for most cases. Could SmartThings stand to improve routines? Absolutely, and hopefully they will in the future. Giving users the ability to run a task based on multiple conditions would definitely add depth to the SmartThings platform. In the meantime, there are workarounds, but nothing as simple as the SmartThings app.

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About Adam Bollmeyer

I'm a home technology enthusiast with a penchant for home automation, networking, and computers. My goal is to help others improve their knowledge of how available technology can be used at home.