Do you have many connected devices in your home and are you tired of having to use a dedicated application for each of them? What if Home Assistant was the solution while allowing you to use all of these alike even more efficiently?
Home automation and connected objects have been on the rise in recent years. With the multiplication of the number of “smart” devices, it is just as many more or less proprietary solutions that have emerged to manage, configure and interact with all these objects.
Today we present to you Home Assistant, a free and open source platform to install yourself and which will allow you to manage and control all your connected devices and home automation in one and the same interface. Best of all, the tool will allow you to communicate and interact autonomously and intelligently (almost) all your favorite gadgets.
Imagine being able, with just one tool, to control your Philips smart bulbs, your air conditioning, your boiler, but also your alarm center and your smart speakers while allowing them to work together. This is exactly what Home Assistant is for and we will try to walk you through it in detail in this article.
Home Assistant, what is it?
Home Assistant is therefore an open source application and free developed in Python and the first version of which was made available in September 2013. As its slogan suggests, the goal of Home Assistant is to ” awaken your home while keeping control over your privacy and personal data.
The main strength of Home Assistant is its huge community which allows very rapid integration of new devices and market standards while offering a very wide choice of possible integrations . As of this writing, there are no less than 1,700 integrations available. Each integration corresponds to a brand or type of device that can be integrated into Home Assistant as standard.
By integration, it should be understood that from the moment when a device or a type of product is compatible with Home Assistant, you will be able to use it in the tool transparently and to a certain extent, in the same way. way only with the official app of the builder. Thus, Philips Hue bulbs can be controlled, Nest devices as well, but also Daikin air conditioners to name a few.
Obviously, the objective of such a solution is not simply to reproduce the way official tools and applications work. The interest is initially to bring all these devices together in a single interface to facilitate management, but above all to make them work together.
For example, we can imagine the case of a house equipped with a compatible air conditioner, Ikea bulbs, Nest Home speakers and, why not Somfy electric shutters. When the owner of the house comes home from work, the geolocation of his phone will allow Home Assistant to know which will have the effect of turning on the air conditioner, the lights and then launching the radio in the living room while opening the shutters. , remained closed during the day.
All these devices, which were not necessarily designed to work together, become capable of doing so and the possibilities are then almost endless as the configuration of Home Assistant is flexible. We will talk about this a little later with some concrete examples of what can be done with Home Assistant.
What do I need to use Home Assistant?
The easiest way to start having fun with Home Assistant is to get a mini computer Raspberry Pi . Version 3 of the latter in model B or B + is recommended. Installation images are directly available for these devices, so you can set up your installation in minutes without additional hardware.
Home Assistant can also be installed in a virtualized environment on VirtualBox for example. This method allows you to quickly test the tool in order to familiarize yourself with its operation and then move on to a “real” installation on dedicated equipment. Finally, it is also possible to install Home Assistant on any system using Docker. In any case, all these installations are described on the dedicated page of the Home Assistant documentation .
Then all you need is a little patience and of course some devices to integrate with Home Assistant. The best thing is obviously to go through the list of integrations in order to see if your equipment is compatible with the solution. You just have to integrate them and start looking in more detail at the Home Assistant configuration to make this little world work.
To go further, we recommend that you take an interest in certain communication standards already well established such as ZigBee (used by Philips Hue bulbs ) or even Z- Wave. Thanks to these, you will expand the range of possibilities of your installation with the possibility of using many very accessible modules such as motion detectors, opening detectors, room sensors or electrical relays.
In any case, we recommend that you test the solution with the devices you already have in your home to ensure that Home Assistant meets your needs. Home Assistant is now easier to use without technical knowledge. On the other hand, it will certainly be necessary to modify the configuration files by hand to be able to set up complex automations.
Some examples of use
Automation of Philips Hue or Ikea bulbs
One of Home Assistant’s most basic integrations is its ability to control Philips Hue lights. Once the bridge is paired with Home Assistant, all the bulbs in your home appear in the interface and become controllable with a single click via the web interface or the Home Assistant application.
From there, the bulbs, movement detectors or switches of the brand can be integrated into what are called automations (automations). For example, your servant has an office equipped with several Philips Hue lights that turn on and off automatically depending on the electrical status of the computer.
In the same way, an automation can be set up so that all the lights turn off automatically when one leaves the home and that those at the entrance come on automatically when the front door is closed. opens while adjusting their brightness according to the time of day. We can also imagine setting up a presence simulation system, from the moment the family is not at home, automatically and transparently.
A DIY alarm center
Thanks to a simple Zigbee key available for a few tens of euros on Amazon, a Home Assistant installation can thus access many modules offered for a few euros at Aqara (Xiaomi). Among these modules, we find in particular motion and opening detectors which can transform Home Assistant into a real alarm center.
For example, in our case, Home Assistant is able to know whether users are present or not at home and thus adapts its operation accordingly. Thanks to this, the motion and opening detectors are “dormant” when the house is occupied and become really active when the occupants leave.
In this way, when the front door opens or movement is detected, Home Assistant can trigger the actions of our choice with for example the launch of a video recording on a camera (many models are compatible) and sending notifications on the application or via Telegram for example.
Management of locations and notifications
A home automation solution worthy of the name has to be smart. One of the most important aspects of this intelligence is mainly that the user does not have to interact directly with the tool and that its operation is as transparent as possible. Therefore, the Home Assistant installation must be able to know whether users are present at home or not to adapt its behavior.
For this, Home Assistant offers many integrations such as “ device tracker ” which aim to track the presence and location of devices. Thus, presence management can be based on the presence of residents’ smartphones on the home Wi-Fi network. It is also possible to use the GPS position of these using the Home Assistant application available on Android and iOS . This application will also be able to receive notifications from the server to notify or alert users of certain events.
Thanks to these mechanisms, we can, for example, automatically activate and deactivate our DIY alarm center rather than having to press a button. Likewise, location management can allow you to be notified when a family member leaves work or school. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Anything you want
Finally, it should be understood that it is possible to do more or less everything with Home Assistant. The biggest limit will be your imagination because the tool is so complete. Its greatest strength lies in its immense and international community. So, if you have an idea, it’s highly likely that someone has already thought of it and a setup or integration is available.
In addition, because the application is maintained by the community, updates are very regular and many features are added each year. As a result, the Home Assistant that you may have known a few years ago has evolved a lot and is now more complete, but also easier to use without technical knowledge.