I’m thrilled to be talking about the Internet of Things and Home Assistant at the OpenWest conference next week. The talk for it has come together quite nicely, and I’ll hopefully be giving it a few more places over the coming year as well. The goal of the talk is to explain some of the complexity of the space, and see why it is so complex, and why the only real path forward in the short / medium term is an open source hub at the heart of everything.
For those that can’t make it all the way to Utah, there is a trimmed down Article version of it up at opensource.com. The article seems to be doing well, and was #2 for this week on the site.
I will also be forever indebted to Benjamin Walker and his complete throw away line “this is why we can’t have the internet of nice things” during his New York After Rent series (which is really incredible, and completely unrelated to any of this), which stuck in my brain for months afterwards, and became the seed of inspiration for this talk.
A really interesting thing happens if you have a reasonably long standing, stable, and documented API in the wild for a while. Other people start building their own implementations to serve different needs. My current favorite example of this is the emulated_hue code in Home Assistant.
Philips Hue has been one of the most consumer ux friendly IoT platforms out there. They have an extremely robust and documented API. And they provide cloud level access to some of the larger vendors, which has made integrations with other platforms pretty extensive. It was one of the first IoT platforms that voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa could talk to and control.
Which makes it an ideal platform to build your own copy of. Because, if Alexa can talk to it on the local network, you can tell Alexa that anything is a lightbulb, and get basic on / off / dimming controls of that. Which is exactly what was done in Home Assistant. Switches, lights, and even media players are exported as fake lightbulbs with names that voice assistants can address. And now, they can control parts of your house they weren’t originally designed to support.
This was originally written by my friend Bruce, this is now part of the Home Assistant base, and being extended to Google Home as we speak. It goes to show was stability and documentation do for making an API become embedded way more places than you imagined.
People often ask me about my vision for Home Assistant. Before I can describe where I want to go with Home Assistant, I should first talk about how home automation would look in my ideal world. This will be the aim of this post. I’m not going to focus on protocols, networks or specific hubs. That’s all implementation details. Instead, this post will focus on what is most important: the interaction between the users and their home.
Source: Perfect Home Automation – Home Assistant
After my MHVLUG talk on IoT and Home Automation, I stumbled upon Home Assistant. It’s an exciting project, and the maintainer has a great view of what home automation should look like.
I agree with all of this. The best user interface is no interface, things are just correct when you need them to be. The cloud should be very optional, and a cloud outage shouldn’t cripple your home (like the recent Nest issue). Graceful fallback is important.
I’ve had fun contributing to the project so far, and look forward to making this the primary interface to my house over the next couple of months.