On our most recent IoT Podcast, Todd called in to our voicemail hotline with a question about a brand new smart home device. He heard about the recently announced Home Assistant Amber, wondering if we were familiar with it and if we’ll be reviewing it. The answer to both questions is yes, Todd!
If you’re not Todd or us, and you haven’t heard about the Home Assistant Amber, it’s worth providing an overview of the product, as well as helping you decide if you need one.
Home Assistant is a free, open-source platform that acts as a local smart home hub. It’s actually been around since 2013 and has long been a favorite of smart home owners that want complete control over their system. Sounds great so far, right?
It is but it does require that you run the software on your own hardware and there is a bit of configuration required to get started and to maintain Home Assistant. If you don’t mind that, Home Assistant is a fantastic platform that integrates with more than 1,000 other platforms and devices. And you don’t need a high-end, expensive computer to run Home Assistant: A low-cost Raspberry Pi will do the trick, which is what I’ve used in the past.
Home Assistant Amber is an all-in-one solution that comes with Raspberry Pi-based hardware and the software already installed. Think of it like a traditional smart home hub you purchase at a retail store: Plug it in and go. Indeed, this is a follow-up to a previous version of a Home Assistant appliance called the Home Assistant Blue.
The Amber model adds more hardware features and works with the newer Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 (CM4) and has additional options such as PoE, or power over ethernet. Conceptually though, the Amber and Blue are the same things: A simple plug-and-play Home Assistant implementation.
The Home Assistant Amber is currently in a crowdfunding stage where you can back the flagship model for $149. That gets you everything you need right out of the box along with 2 GB of memory, 16 GB of storage, the PoE option, and a Zigbee module that will be upgraded to Matter support in the future. There are other configurations at lower prices available as well. Keep in mind due to chip shortages, the current expected delivery dates are a year out.
So the question becomes, do you need the Home Assistant Amber if you want a locally-controlled smart home?
As with most IoT questions, it depends. As long as you don’t mind following configuration instructions and spending time to set up Home Assistant, you can download it for free. And if you have a Raspberry Pi, or are willing to purchase one for around $35, along with a case and power supply, you can get the Home Assistant experience for less than the Amber’s $149 price tag.
Are you more of a plug-and-play person? The Home Assistant Amber is the better choice for you. You’ll pay more, of course, but you’ll be up and running much quicker, without as much effort. Both solutions work the same, so it’s up to you which route to take.
To hear Todd’s question in full, as well our discussion on the topic, tune in to the IoT Podcast below: