What comes to mind when you think of a smart home? Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs, video doorbells, cloud-connected robot vacuums, or smart fridges perhaps? Brands like Google/Nest or everything enabled with Amazon’s Alexa? While often providing some genuine convenience, these devices are also usually designed to invite and lock users into manufacturers’ ecosystems. Create a cool piece of hardware, you’ll make one sale. Create a cool piece of hardware that extracts recurring monthly service fees for cloud storage or to unlock extra functionality, and you’ll have sales for life.
Compounding our collective frustration, these ecosystems are often incompatible with each other and require multiple different apps for control. Not only are subscriptions and upselling part of the game, the underlying business models for these products are built around planned obsolescence and mining user data.
Luckily, aspirational smart home folks in 2021 have at least one viable alternative: Home Assistant. This piece of open source software is the proverbial ring “that in the darkness binds them.” It is the glue for smart home gear spanning all sorts of manufacturers, from behemoths like Google to minnows like Shelly. It’s a project that has set out to change all of the smart home pitfalls listed above by putting local control, privacy, and interoperability first.