Hardware for the ultimate smart home controller

  • Plugin Developer

    Let's say you wanted to create a future proof universal smart home controller.

    My assumptions are:

    • The target audience doesn't have smart home devices yet.
    • The device should have local voice control (for privacy reasons).

    With that in mind, which combinations of radio's and other hardware would you combine?

    There are a lot of commercial devices that try to do this, but they costs quite a bit of money.

    • Homey: $300 ($400 for the pro version)
    • Amazon Echo (Has wifi, bluetooth and Zigbee): $200
    • Samsung, etc

    What would open hardware for this look like?

    • Wifi (Raspberry Pi with power plug $40)
    • Bluetooth (Raspberry Pi)
    • 433Mhz (2$ ASK hardware? Or RFM69?)
    • IR (2$ hardware)
    • Zigbee (NRF52840? or a $10 usb adapter?)
    • MySensors (NRF52840?)
    • Microphone array for voice control (Playstation Eye ($12) or 2-microphone hat (12$))
    • Speaker (BYOD, plug into Raspberry Pi)
    • Manufacturing the hat/hardware(?)

    Things that don't seem as important anymore:

    • 868Mhz
    • Z-wave

    Anything I'm forgetting?

    If I add that up I come to about $60 to $80 worth of hardware.

    • Are there any open source hardware projects that try to do this? I know @scalz is exploring a similar direction.
    • Can it be cheaper? For basic voice commands a Pi Zero might just suffice..

  • future proof is a difficult answer, but I bet my horse on opensource that run on a HW that have enough USB ports, then anything can be bought and attached to the system. I prefer Domoticz, some OpenHAB and some like Windows and use Homeseer - all these will handle all new protocols that can be attached as USB

    Most important is that there is huge developer community to support the future protocols, why would any support in there leasure-time spend hours to support a proprietary system!?!

  • Mycroft has some of that. www.mycroft.ai

  • You might be able to link snips to a controller. 2x rpi would probably be best for this though. http://snips.ai/

  • Hardware Contributor

    @alowhum said in Hardware for the ultimate smart home controller:

    Let's say you wanted to create a future proof universal smart home controller.

    My assumptions are:

    • The target audience doesn't have smart home devices yet.

    Really? Who doesn't at least have Philips or Ikea lights with zigbee?

    • The device should have local voice control (for privacy reasons).

    Local voice recognition is a tough requirement. www.mycroft.ai plans to add a solution for this but it will require a GPU...

    Do you really need local voice recognition? I have sold all my alexa devices for privacy concerns and do not really miss them. I have tablet with imperihome and operate with fingers instead of voice which is much faster and there is no Alexa that can missunderstand me... 🙂

  • Mod

    Why are you considering zwave not important? Given that an usb zwave dongle it is a quick way to add the functionality, I don't think it would be a good idea to exclude it since there are still a lot of commercial products using it.

  • Plugin Developer

    @gohan From my conversations I get the feeling that Zigbee is beating Z-wave in the market (Philips hue, Ikea, Amazon Echo, they all chose Zigbee). As all the Z-wave products are also available as a Zigbee version, why support both? Then again: as @bjacobse put it: if you have enough USB ports you can support anything really. And the Raspberry Pi 3 sure has enough of those.

    @FotoFieber No one in my circle of friends really has any smart home products. All I see are connected thermostats and 433Mhz power sockets.

    More over, is anyone else getting the vibe that in the long run Bluetooth might end up replacing both Zigbee and Z-wave? Xiaomi has taken some steps in this direction lately. And it makes sense: then you can also easily integrate mobile devices and fitness devices.

    As a software I'd use Mozilla Gateway. Of all the open source controllers I've tried (and I've literally tried them all), it feels like it has the strongest focus on being user friendly. It's still in development though. But it already supports things like voice control via Snips @wallyllama .

    The Mycroft device would have been great if they had included Zigbee. Perhaps that can be plugged in via USB. But then that still leaves the question of it currently being designed as a simple voice device only, and not also a home controller. The Amazon Echo saw the opportunity to also function as a (basic) home controller, and they took it. Mycroft, with the built in screen, could have rocked this.

  • Hardware Contributor

    It might be just a feeling 🙂 because I still see many people on forums ordering zwave because they get some troubles and don't like range/reliability of 2.4ghz zigbee..
    Do you think zigbee will beat wired HA ? I'm kidding of course 😁

    subghz is still very efficient, and reliable (better penetration etc)! vs a 2.4ghz crowded indoor band. BLE5 etc are nice sure, then it depends on your environment, rf performance of your device, because BLE5 doesn't mean bigger range if antenna is too small and inefficient, and not everyone live in aprtment too, so the subghz solutions.. Each solutions have their set of pros&cons.

    An ultimate "thingie" is very subjective, as some people could say they don't agree with you about a rpi0 or better rpi3, because for them the ultimate ha, controller or whatever, should run virtualized with others services on a low tdp computer machine, nuc-like for example.
    Some could also say they need to be able to connect to multiple brand of devices, protocols, or wired KNX etc.. when you build a fresh new house for example, it would be pity to use radio.

    Another point you forgot in your list, the storage.. sdcard or hdd/ssd for an ultimate controller device? not same end price but not same reliability.

    I agree I like a lot Snips too. But Snips needs one rpi3 as server at least.
    Rpi0 isnt enough powerful for that, it can be used only as a snips satellite.
    If rpi0 and cheap are the keywords, then it's limited to simple voice commands without AI (nlu etc).. not what I would call ultimate controller 😉
    And regarding the microphone, the simple rpi 2mics hat is cheap&nice for starting but it has no true DSP for audio treatments, so, not as good as the more expensive alternatives like the respeaker core2 .

    About user friendly, and all the opensource stuff vs commercial solutions, I don't know anyone, who wouldn't be a geek or computer guy, to invest lot of time, writing notes etc to learn how to run and handle a Linux system.. and I'm not talking about all the security stuff like what's ssh, a fail2ban etc.. I know a lot of smart people in their work, some have little spare time, or not, but all look at me with wide opened eyes when I use command line, and they say they don't want to learn that for running their house, and there'll always be a moment when you'll need to use cli..

    Very subjective 🙂

  • not only that, zigbee has different standards/profiles and not all controllers support all devices.

    zwave is interoperable with ALL zwave devices of ALL versions. IMO, zwave is a better way to go.

  • I was reading through the BLE5 specs and I got an impression that this standard is so complex that it would be really hard to make ble5 network reliable ... and it is still 2.4GHz 😕 but I think that it may be the future of smart home.

  • Mod

    Unless they find a way to make a mesh network out of Bluetooth, it will not get much success imho, or you have smart devices like xiaomi that have a Bluetooth gateway on board but that would add more complexity

  • Plugin Developer

    Bluetooth does have mesh networking now (since 2017).

  • Mod

    Never seen a single device using it

  • Plugin Developer

    Me neither.

    // Update: perhaps the Xiaomi smart bed lamp uses it. It's supposed to act as a bluetooth extender for their smart home products.

  • Mod

    I think it is more of a BT gateway to connect some of their BT devices

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