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Edward Evdokimov
Edward Evdokimov

Build Your Own Smart Home



And because these smart speakers have been so widely embraced by other smart home device manufacturers, they have become de facto hubs in their own right, serving as a central interaction point for everything from smart lights to home security cameras, displaying video feeds from the latter on connected TVs or their own displays, if equipped.




Build Your Own Smart Home



The Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control has a built-in Amazon Echo speaker and can respond to voice commands. It also has remote room sensors that help to eliminate hot and cold spots in your home. This high-end device can even serve as the hub for a broader smart-home or home-security system.


Nest also has some great thermostats, including the $129 Nest Thermostat, and Wyze Labs recently jumped into the market with a very inexpensive smart thermostat that deserves your consideration if those other models are outside your budget.


Sophisticated multi-room speaker systems from the likes of Sonos, Yamaha (MusicCast), and Denon (HEOS) are largely self-contained, enabling you to drop speakers in multiple rooms in your home so you can stream music from your own collection or from online services such as Spotify to all of them in sync, or to send different tracks to each one. Amazon Echo and Google Nest smart speakers can pull off the same tricks.


You need money to make a change from dumb to smart, so the benefit of adding smarts to your home has to outweigh that cost. Another cost is the potential for unforeseen new problems. What downsides exist? The one risk universally discussed at Internet of Things conferences I attend is digital security. Unauthorized hackers exposing your IP camera feeds to the internet is super creepy. Imagine the dark web selling data on which homes contain latchkey kids who are alone after school, and which homes are empty during the workday. The potential losses and safety risks are downright depressing.


Tired of running a dozen different hub and Apps for your smart home devices? Here is how to build your own custom smart home server that is a universal hub and so much more. With a Raspberry Pi, Docker and open source smart home software and without spending much money.


I personally hate this. Currently the smart home market is very fragmented, with few systems playing well together. Well unless you count the smart speakers/assistants but those have different problems (foremost the privacy issues).


If you have some basic IT knowledge there is a much much better way: building your own smart home server. It can interface with most smart home systems, gives you full control over all devices in one App via open source smart home controllers and can run pretty much any software you like.


Now your server needs to become a hub able to talk to all of your smart home devices. It already includes Wifi/Ethernet and Bluetooth so those devices can be reached. Most other common ones use Zigbee (like Hue and Tradfri). For those cases you can get a small and cheap Zigbee to USB stick. I use the popular CC2531, other also use the Conbee II. If you plan to also use Zwave devices then have a look at the Aeotec Z-stick, a USB to Zwave converter.


Getting an operating system onto your Raspberry Pi is pretty easy. You just need to download an image. I am using Raspberry Pi OS lite (it is a smart home server after-all, we do not need a graphical user interface). This was formerly known as Raspbian and is the recommended system.


Docker makes installing software really easy and allows you to separate the software from the actual data you need. It is also platform independent so if you later decide to move to a bigger/different smart home server that will be really easy. docker-compose is a software on top of Docker which allows you to define a list of containers and their (inter)dependencies in a simple yaml file. I will provide my docker compose files later in the article so you can simple use them to start quickly.


Afterwards you can access the share by using the IP address/name of the Pi and the homeassistant user and its password via your file browser. If you use Windows just type \\ip.of.your.pi into the top bar and then enter the user and password.


Now lets actually get to installing the needed smart home software to control all of your devices. We are going to install a MQTT broker called Mosquitto and Zigbee2MQTT to control a lot of Zigbee devices. I also added Zigbee2MqttAssistant for a better overview.


Finally we need a software to tie all these devices and protocols together. I can really recommend OpenHab or the other open source software I am using at the moment: HomeAssistant. Here is the full yaml file you need to also copy as smarthome.yml.


If you are looking for help to configure all of this software check out the other articles on this blog. You can built so much awesome automations, command your smart vacuum robot, build smart light systems or get notified when water leaks. All with your own smart home server without the cloud.


Whether you own or rent, the allure of the smart home is strong. Imagine: You can unlock your front door with your phone, walk into your home, have the lights turn on automatically, and ask your virtual assistant to make you a cup of coffee. When you're not there, a robot vacuum will clean the place, your smart thermostat will dial down the air conditioning or heat to keep costs down, and you can monitor everything from your phone with indoor and outdoor security cameras.


No single solution can flawlessly automate your entire home, but installing and managing multiple smart devices is easier than ever. With a few off-the-shelf products, the smart home of your dreams can be a reality. Here's how to get started.


You can control the basic functions of many smart home devices directly via Wi-Fi and a companion mobile app. This means that you can simply pick up a new product, connect it to your home Wi-Fi network, download the corresponding app, and be on your merry way.


Other devices rely on more generic wireless protocols such as Zigbee and Z-Wave that help them communicate with a hub (Matter is an emerging smart home standard to keep an eye on, too). The benefit of using a hub is that you can consolidate all of your smart home products under one app and control them from there, rather than using separate apps for your light bulbs and thermostat, for example.


Some products work with multiple standards, but not all platforms are open and universal. With so many different products in so many ecosystems, building a smart home can feel like an overwhelming logic puzzle. But, as with any task, breaking the process down into smaller pieces can help you make sense of it all. We recommend starting with one or two gadgets.


A smart speaker is the easiest way to get voice control in your home, providing access to popular voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant depending on what speaker you buy. Amazon offers the widest range of choices with its diverse collection of Echo speakers, while Google has a couple of Nest speakers, and Apple sells the HomePod mini. You can also find third-party speakers with Alexa and Google Assistant support, though Siri is limited to the HomePod.


You can link your smart home devices to any of these speakers (provided they support the corresponding voice assistant) and simply speak supported commands to trigger actions such as turning off all the lights before you go to bed.


If you want a voice assistant that also puts smart home control at your fingertips, consider a smart display. They function the same as smart speakers, with support for voice commands and the ability to play audio, but they also have a screen that gives you access to touch controls for different smart home devices. Some compatible home security cameras and video doorbells can even send their video feeds directly to the screen.


Smart thermostats let you control your air conditioning and/or heating from your phone, and automatically adjust the temperature based on the time of day, your current location, and the status of other connected devices. Some models use remote room sensors to provide uniform heating and cooling throughout your home. Smart thermostats are generally easy to install, but require working with low-voltage wiring (and typically some light drilling).


Smart locks let you lock and unlock your door from your phone, and most let you manage permanent or temporary time-specific access for friends, family, and workers. Some even let you use voice commands to lock and unlock doors. Still others offer fingerprint access. Most smart locks are complete sets that are relatively simple to install, but a handful of models require you to only replace a single interior component.


Smart doorbells enable you to see and speak to whomever is on your front steps before you open the door to potential danger. You can even view feeds on your phone or from smart displays. Many pair with cameras from their parent companies, and allow you to create a whole system of devices with sensors that detect motion, send you alerts, and save recordings. Some doorbells require you to work with low-voltage wiring, but the models that run on battery don't require wiring and install in minutes.


Indoor and outdoor security cameras let you monitor activity in and around your home, relying on sensors to detect and capture video of motion and sound events. Some indoor cameras use motorized components to provide a 360-degree view of a room, plus offer the option to store recordings both locally and in the cloud. Outdoor cameras are built to withstand the elements, and some come equipped with floodlights for illuminating driveways and backyards, but be prepared to deal with wiring. Or, you can go with a wireless outdoor camera, which is much easier to install.


For for a complete security package with door sensors, indoor motion sensors, and a siren, a full-on home security system is the way to go. DIY security systems are easy to install and let you self-monitor your home via a mobile app, but if an alarm goes off, you have to call the proper emergency agency yourself. Fortunately, most DIY systems now offer no-contract professional monitoring services; if a sensor or smoke alarm goes off, the company dispatches emergency personnel automatically. 041b061a72


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