Home automation platforms

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The purpose of this site/blog is to get those who are just starting in home automation into a journey that is pretty much guaranteed to be successful. It’s for your average person who wants to start relatively modestly with their current infrastructure. Some of what I talk about might be relevant for others but this is definitely not aimed at those who are doing new builds, serious refurbs or those who have limitless money to put in bespoke systems.

So, no, this won’t have all the options. A Lutron system, for example, is going to set you back a couple of grand upwards. Similarly with something like Control4.

But if you’re someone with a 3 or 4 bed place that may or may not have neutral to your switches, you don’t want to rewire, and you want to get started with a solid foundation and a few devices then this will stand you in good stead.

The table below gives 2 examples of specific products and one that is more of a concept with multiple variations (more in this in an upcoming post). Any of these would be a good place to start. A couple of hundred quid will get you your controller and a handful of devices.


Platforms  

Ease of installation

Ease of maintenance

Local device control

Local automations

Protocols

Works without the internet**

Device availability

Support

Your Text

SmartThings

~£80

Plug and play

90% stable

Some

Zigbee & Z-wave

Excellent

Community - excellent

Manufacturer - flaky

Hubitat

~£100

Plug and play

90% stable

Zigbee & Z-wave

Excellent

Community - excellent

Manufacturer - not known

Open Source*

~£80

Bit of a learning curve

Can be very variable

Can be Zigbee and/or Zwave with a USB stick or hub

Excellent

Community - excellent

Manufacturer - not applicable***

I will add to this table as I think of other bits that might be important.

*Open Source
This is created, maintained and supported by communities for free. In a lot of cases, the product might have been developed by one person in their bedroom. When they have something workable they release the code. Developers across the world contribute. Nobody has the right to “sell” the product unless they’re adding value. I can charge you £50 for my time plus the hardware parts to install it on a Raspberry Pi but I CANNOT charge you £50 for Home Assistant, for example. You can download the software as an image, write it to an SD card, stick it in a Raspberry Pi and be on your way in an hour. The communities can be massive. Support can be a bit hit and miss. You’ll end up with 10 different opinions, one of which will be right. So a bit of patience can be needed at times.

**Works without the internet
This is an important one to think about. Very handy if your ISP goes down to stop your smart house becoming very dumb. BUT… This does rely on you having hardware that will talk directly to your device. For example, you have a Raspberry Pi with a USB Zigbee adapter and Zigbee devices (More on this in an upcoming post). Your Pi will talk directly to your bulbs, etc, not through some cloud based server. This won’t always be the case. For example, I have a weather station. My Pi can talk to that but it goes via a cloud server. Internet goes down, I can’t see my weather station data through my home automation system. That’s not a show stopper for me. As long as my lights, etc, still work then that’s fine.

***Support
Take Home Assistant. There are Facebook Groups. There are forums. There’s stuff on Reddit. You might get the developer involving themselves in a thread about a bug but they’re not sitting at their computers waiting for people to log problems. That’s what you’re for. You know nothing, you ask questions, you learn, you give back by answering questions for others. I reckon you learn more from answering other people’s questions than you do looking after your own installation. And you get ideas when you see what other people are trying to do. Win-win!