After two-and-a-half years of primarily using HomeKit, now called Apple Home, I think it’s time for a change in my smart home. Prior to settling on Apple’s platform, I used Google Home for a while. And before that, I was a Samsung SmartThings user. Moving forward, I think it’s time to transition to Home Assistant for several reasons.
The bigger platforms are boring
I’m sure most people prefer a “boring” smart home platform. You know, one that just, or mostly, works to meet their needs. These platforms from Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung, are fairly stable and proven at this point. And any changes to them are generally incremental, with Matter support being a recent exception. But I don’t like boring. I prefer watching a platform evolve and grow. And watching Home Assistant grow is very interesting to me.
How could it not be as it also is integrating Matter support, while tweaking or adding features by the dozen every month. The July update for Home Assistant, for example, added the following interesting items:
- Services can now respond with data, allowing for unique automations or routines to be triggered by that data.
- Updates to the recently released natural language voice control service, Assist.
- Additional energy views in the energy dashboard, which is something I’d like to use once I add supporting hardware.
- Copy and paste support for user dashboard cards
- Signifiers to indicate unavailable automations or scripts, which is helpful for troubleshooting
- Climate device support in the Matter implementation
I could go on as even more changes arrived in Home Assistant last month, but you get the idea. It seems like there are quality-of-life improvements each and every month. And again, aside from the benefits of those improvements, I like to watch the process unfold.
Matter support opens up more freedom
To be honest, since nearly every smart home ecosystem I’d consider using is or has added Matter support means I could easily choose to use any of them. But as I mentioned, Home Assistant is also supporting the Matter standard. I’ve only taken an early look at it and it is a work-in-progress. However, it’s less of a “closed box” than other implementations as I can view more of the data and actions my Matter devices are taking. It’s not perfect yet; then again, I’m not sure any Matter implementation is as the rollout is slow going.
Regardless, support for the few Matter devices I have means I have the freedom to make the switch to Home Assistant with little or no loss of functionality. So I won’t have to replace much, if any, of my current hardware when it comes to Matter. As for older devices? I haven’t run through the entire list, but I know most of them integrate with Home Assistant.
The one pain point I do foresee is with my video doorbell.
I use a Logitech Circle View Doorbell and it works so well with Apple Home. Even better, it fully encrypts my video feeds using HomeKit Secure Video. Not only will I lose that service but also that doorbell with the switch. Home Assistant works with some Logitech devices; my doorbell isn’t one of them. So I’ll have to replace that device with another one, preferably a model that lets me keep the video content locally stored rather than using the cloud.
I want less big tech and more open source in my life
Over the past few years, I’ve been migrating away from “big tech” products and services in favor of open-source software. As I’ve been learning more and more about programming, I appreciate and understand more of the code behind these products. MacOS and Windows have been gone from my life since 2020, for example, in favor of Linux. I migrated off of Gmail to Proton Mail around the same time. And even though I use a Chromebook for my other job, I use the Sidekick browser on it which keeps even more of my data out of Google’s hands.
I fully realize that most people don’t think like I do when it comes to the larger tech companies vs. open source. And that’s fine. People want smart home devices and services that make their life easier, often as it comes with the cost of giving up data.
I think you can have a great smart home experience without giving up all of that data or using a “big tech” brand to tie those devices together. Home Assistant, as well as Hubitat, are examples of this. And they attempt to rely less on the cloud with more emphasis on local control too.
Speaking of Hubitat, I did consider it going forward. However, I simply prefer the overall interface, feature set, and app experience that Home Assistant provides. And I appreciate the sheer amount of progress the platform makes on a regular basis. I should also note that I installed the Home Assistant application on my wife’s iPhone and… surprise: She loves it! She says she prefers it over the Apple Home app that we’ve been using for the last few years.
Additionally, moving to Hubitat would require the purchase of a new hub. I already have a few Raspberry Pi devices in my house, one of which has Home Assistant installed. There’s no additional expense for a hub to make this transition.
Let the journey begin…
Again, I’ll reiterate that most people wouldn’t do this thought experiment and come up with Home Assistant as their answer. That’s the beauty of today’s smart home landscape: You have plenty of good choices that will suit your needs. There’s no universal “best” smart home ecosystem for everyone.
Given my requirements and my migration to transparent, open-source services, I think Home Assistant is the right platform for me at this time. I’m looking forward to sharing the experience as the journey begins!