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Struggling with controller choices

ano said:
Back in your first post you say you have lots of things to be controlled, and you mention a few hardware technologies. Really, most controllers that can control those hardware technologies should be able to do the job. Pretty much any. No do you want a UL listed security system?  Remote access on a phone? Remote camera recording? Voice control? 
 
If you expand on the list, you'll find out its not likely any controller will be able to do all that, but by combining two, you will likely get much closer.
 
Its a catch-22 dilemma. If you don't have a home automation system, you likely don't know all you'll need in a home automation system. 
 
I'd say get a SmartThings for $50, start small and learn from it. Its cheap, and you can't find a better value. Then move from there, or maybe that's all you'll need.  You can get all you need for that at Home Depot or Lowes.  Add an Amazon Echo or two and some free open source software, and you will be very amazed at what you can do for under $75 or $100.

Do keep in mind, the biggest cost with home automation is NOT the controller, its the light switches, thermostats, locks, etc. The controller is only a fraction of these in terms of total cost.
 
Thanks ano,
I agree with the catch-22 dilemma and unfortunately I think that is what most noobs like me face to start.
Or maybe its just me diving into analysis paralysis. 
 
Good point on the bigger cost being the devices as I have 7 Insteon switches installed currently from past planning during my basement/theater build.
 

mtgoat

Member
ano said:
Add an Amazon Echo or two and some free open source software, and you will be very amazed at what you can do for under $75 or $100.
Thanks for the tips; very relevant to the topic.
Given your experience, which open source software would you point people (starting out) toward?
 

123

Senior Member
@mtgoat
 
When you quoted ano's post, you left out the part recommending to begin with a SmartThings Hub. Connecting an Amazon Echo to SmartThings is fairly straightforward. Connecting an Echo to open-source software, like openHAB or Home Assistant, can be …. challenging. Therefore this statement "Add an Amazon Echo or two and some free open source software" could lead to a weekend's worth of cursing.
 
I've used Premise for over a decade. However, last year I began exploring open-source alternatives. I experimented with openHAB for several months then switched to Home Assistant. The choice can be a matter of personal taste (they're both very capable products) and, for me, Home Assistant was preferable.
 
Both of them can use an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Setting up this functionality can be done at least two different ways: easy and not-so-easy. Easy is via a cloud service like openHAB's free cloud service or via Home Assistant's paid cloud service (US$5/month). Not-so-easy is making your home automation server accessible from the Internet by opening ports in your router, acquiring an SSL certificate and a registered domain name, and installing a reverse-proxy (for added security). The not-so-easy option might cause cursing.
 
So, to answer your question, try openHAB, Home Assistant, etc and determine which one suits you best. Whichever one you choose, remember that you will be spending a lot of time with it so it best be a good fit.
 
 
PS
 
Premise continues to be the primary controller of my home automation system. I also use Home Assistant to provide a modern UI and for added functionality like its support for Apple HomeKit. The two systems, Premise and Home Assistant, communicate via MQTT (sort of the Esperanto of the Internet of Things).
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
123 said:
 Not-so-easy is making your home automation server accessible from the Internet by opening ports in your router, acquiring an SSL certificate and a registered domain name, and installing a reverse-proxy (for added security). The not-so-easy option might cause cursing.
 
This.  I'm hopeful that the utility of Echo devices and larger cloud connections will lead to revisiting local implementation such things.  
 

123

Senior Member
FWIW, I've found Home Assistant's integration with Apple HomeKit to be very easy to implement. There's no need for yet another cloud service or exposing one's server to the Internet.
https://www.home-assistant.io/components/homekit/
 
I may be wrong but I believe this is due to a division of responsibilities. Voice-recognition (Siri) depends on Apple's cloud service but device-control is done locally.
 
The Home Assistant server behaves as a HomeKit Hub. It exposes the devices it controls as full-fledged 'HomeKit accessories'. These accessories can be controlled by any Apple phone or tablet in our home (even without Internet access). So if I use the HomeKit app to turn on a light, all commands are local. If I ask Siri to control that light, then only the voice-recognition portion runs in Apple's cloud.
 
The beauty of this arrangement is that Apple's cloud service does not need direct access to Home Assistant (so no need to expose it to the Internet or using yet another cloud service to do it). In contrast, Amazon and Google combine voice-recognition and device-control in their cloud services so they do need direct-access to the Home Assistant server.
 
I'm not sure what would convince Amazon and Google to change their architecture.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
It's like getting the plumber in to fix some plumbing problem that seems overwhelming. When the plumber arrives, bends down and uses his wrench to tighten a nut you didn't think was the problem, hands you a $200 bill. When he leaves it looked really easy and you wonder why you wasted your money on a plumber..
 
Noobs starting out, need a simple, easy to understand, not much to do, starting system and they are afraid to make a money commitment before feeling confident.. After a few months/years experience, we want to use open-source, poor documentation, complicated systems because our confidence level is higher and we understand most of the basics.
 
Some do not want the technology. They just want it to do miracles without understanding, experimenting, or researching. I know of many seasoned for years ISY994 users that still ask how to use a variable and yet for non-automation tasks they do just fine using Google Home and Alexa and remote fiddling with their thermostats.
 

damage

Senior Member
upstatemike said:
For those using Smartthings how do you handle hard-wired inputs and outputs? I saw this project for connecting to an Elk M1 
 
https://www.freewebstore.org/smartthings-diy-parts/Elk_M1_Alarm_Integration/p5233574_19007900.aspx
 
but it doesn't look like it is fully baked yet. Is there another solution for Smartthings to handle dry contact inputs and outputs?
 
one way is you can set up simulated devices ( https://community.smartthings.com/t/faq-creating-a-virtual-device/11282/2 ), use the mqtt bridge and handle the control & status updates on your device or a pi, etc
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Having trouble picturing this... What is serving as the mqtt broker here and what sort of wired I/O devices would wok as mqtt clients? Would that be I/O connected to a pi? How well does that scale?
 

damage

Senior Member
i use mosquitto as the mqtt broker running on a pi. for example, you use homeseer and that's connected to a bunch of devices for you, like the stargate. say you want to monitor some stargate DIs - set up simulated contact sensors in smartthings for the DIs. then in homeseer, write some script code that generates an mqtt message every time a DI changes.
 
for example, this is a snippet from my scripting engine that generates an mqtt message to smartthings on every DI change from my tc+
 

var contactState=new Array("open","closed");
...
...
...
} else if (ioType=="di") {
// map from TC input number to name
devName=idToDI[devID];
log(" tc status: "+ioType+" "+devName+" = "+devState);
// update state in ST via mqtt
mqttPublish("smartthings/"+devName+"/contact",contactState[devState]);
...
...
...
}




you don't have to go through your central automation engine like this. you can write code that talks directly to the device (for example the IOs on a pi) and have that relay the messages to smartthings. for controlling from smartthings, you would just handle the incoming smartthings mqtt messages (like turning on a simulated switch) in homeseer and perform the action.
 
you have to set up the devices in smartthings yourself (1 for each DI in my example) so it doesn't scale easily. there's manual work to do on both ends, but you have the flexibility to do things for devices that don't have smartthings compatibility
 

pete_c

Guru
you have to set up the devices in smartthings yourself (1 for each DI in my example) so it doesn't scale easily. there's manual work to do on both ends, but you have the flexibility to do things for devices that don't have smartthings compatibility
 
This is very time consuming and a PITA.  I have been tinkering here with Homeseer and Home Assistant MQTT stuff and it is way easier than doing this on the Samsung Smartthings hub.
 
Integrating HA MQTT and the Amazon Alexa is really just writing one line trigger and action stuff which you test before implementing it. 
 
For configurations here on the Smartthings Hub created an Android Virtual box and concurrently run it and do stuff on the web pages.  I do not do well though dealing with a tablet and my fingers to program stuff.  There is much more baggage doing it the Samsung way.
 

ano

Senior Member
mtgoat said:
Thanks for the tips; very relevant to the topic.
Given your experience, which open source software would you point people (starting out) toward?
When I say open source, this falls in many types. Yes there is OpenHab, and Home Assistant, but those are sure real full-blown home automation systems, and they are complex, and they don't include any hardware.  I wouldn't use these to start. They ARE complex and take considerable experience. SmartThings contains Zigbee, and Z-Wave so that is taken care of. By open-source here I am referring to the many "smartapps" that exist for SmartThings. Many people on GitHub (which is a free repository of open-souce code) have contributed application for SmartThings.  They are so easy to install. Just register for free on GitHub, enter a few details on each app. into the SmartThings "IDE" which you access on a web page, then click a button or two and its done.  For example, one can speak through an Amazon Echo/Alexa or Google Hub. Others communicate with other hardware like LIFX bulbs.  The point is, start with SmartThings, then you can always add more free functions which are really easy to add.
 
SmartThings may NOT be your ultimate home automation platform, but it can do A LOT for a very low cost, to give you a much better idea what you may like.  and the money you spend on Z-wave or Zigbee devices won't be wasted because almost ALL home automation platforms can also connect to that. You mention Insteon, but unfortunately, that isn't as universally embraced.
 

damage

Senior Member
pete_c said:
you have to set up the devices in smartthings yourself (1 for each DI in my example) so it doesn't scale easily. there's manual work to do on both ends, but you have the flexibility to do things for devices that don't have smartthings compatibility
 
This is very time consuming and a PITA.  I have been tinkering here with Homeseer and Home Assistant MQTT stuff and it is way easier than doing this on the Samsung Smartthings hub.
 
Integrating HA MQTT and the Amazon Alexa is really just writing one line trigger and action stuff which you test before implementing it. 
 
For configurations here on the Smartthings Hub created an Android Virtual box and concurrently run it and do stuff on the web pages.  I do not do well though dealing with a tablet and my fingers to program stuff.  There is much more baggage doing it the Samsung way.
 
you don't have to setup the virtual stuff on your tablet/phone, you can use the smartthings web site on your desktop
 

pete_c

Guru
you don't have to setup the virtual stuff on your tablet/phone, you can use the smartthings web site on your desktop
 
I do that but I cannot see the Android Smartthing App and GUI unless I am using Android.
 
Is there a Smartthings web gui that is identical to the Android or iOS GUI?
 
Here just accidently using my email logged on to a Smartthings hub that I set up in ATL showing it in Android and the web GUI.
 
With this I typically do a reverse proxy SSH tunnel to the location then adjust stuff via the web gui and watch the Android GUI for the changes.
 
So basically here utilize three connections to configure this specific Samsung Hub in ATL.
 
What I set up via the Samsung GUI I cannot see unless I utilize the Android app.
 
ATL-GUI.jpg
 
ATL-Android.jpg
 
Am I making this more complicated than it is?
 
 
 

hgupta1

Active Member
upstatemike said:
For those using Smartthings how do you handle hard-wired inputs and outputs? I saw this project for connecting to an Elk M1 
 
https://www.freewebstore.org/smartthings-diy-parts/Elk_M1_Alarm_Integration/p5233574_19007900.aspx
 
but it doesn't look like it is fully baked yet. Is there another solution for Smartthings to handle dry contact inputs and outputs?
 
 
This is what I am using.     The developer created this without even having an Elk M1 to test it on but instead relied on us to guide him.   It is fairly easy to setup, and it works well for detecting the alarm status.   I haven't had enough time to play with it to get it running, but lots of people have had great success with it.
 
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