Home Assistant with Rosemary Orchard (MacSparky Labs

I recently purchased a Home Assistant Yellow, a Raspberry Pi-based piece of gear to let you control just about any home automation product on the market. So I did an extended video with Rosemary Orchard, who’s been running Home Assistant for some time, where she showed me how to set it up and the ropes of running it…

This is a post for MacSparky Labs Tier 2 (Backstage) and Tier 3 (Early Access) Members only. Care to join? Or perhaps do you need to sign in?

Unifying Home Automation with CHIP

I wrote a few days ago about Logitech canceling the Harmony remote. The problem continues to be all the differing protocols for home automation. One solution may be the Connected Home over IP (CHIP) protocol, engineered jointly by Apple, Amazon, and Google. We’re now getting word that some of these CHIP products may ship later this year.

In theory, a single protocol between all of the hardware manufacturers would open the gates wide for interesting home automation hardware, like a re-imagined Harmony remote. However, for the hardware to take off, first the protocol needs to take off. I sure hope it does. Imagine a world where buying home-automation products is just a matter of picking the best hardware solution and not worrying about whether or not it can handshake with your existing stuff.

The best thing we have going for us as consumers is that none of the existing Apple, Amazon, or Google proprietary protocols came out of this first round as a clear winner. Put me on team CHIP.

Apple Home Kit

The Verge did a nice post-CES write up on the state of Home Kit. In principle, it sounds pretty appealing to me as an Apple device user. It also sounds like it isn’t completely ready yet either. I’ve been a little surprised at how slow Home Kit has been to roll out. It was announced at WWDC  and you still can’t buy Home Kit enabled devices. I suspect this has to do with dialing in the API’s and making deals with the hardware manufacturers. As soon as Apple announced Home Kit, I stopped buying third party automation devices. I’d like to see how this plays out before investing any more. 

In some ways, the home automation racket feels a lot to me like early computers where there was no clear winner and it seemed like everyone wanted to get into the game. Right now, I don’t think anyone has an idea where this is all heading.

My guess is that ultimately Home Kit devices will include a slight premium but will be much easier to use from an iOS device than their competitors. You’ll even be able to use Siri to control your devices. (However, according to the Verge, to use Siri from offsite, you’ll also need an AppleTV.) My inner twelve-year-old would love talking to my Apple Watch at the Airport and turning off lights at my home.


Nest Protect

Today Nest announced its new product, the Nest Protect. It is a combination smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm that received the same love and attention the Nest thermostat did. It has an app and connects to your WiFi. It gives you a warning before it goes off and if it a false alarm (I burn toast, often), you can waive your hand in front of it and it will go off. 

I think the tricky part is the price. All of the smoke detectors in my house combined didn’t cost the $130 price tag of one Nest Protect. I suspect the people at Nest aren’t aiming for Home Depot bargain hunters here and I suspect they’ll do just fine with this new product. 

Have you noticed the way all of these connected devices are slowly pulling us into the smart-house of the future? I’m loving it.