There are plenty of different home automation and smart home platforms and apps to choose from.
So which one should you go with?
You might want to consider few things before making the decision. In my opinion, these are the most relevant factors:
- Do you have a certain specific need / problem you want to solve? Or do you want a platform where you can start small and have the option to expand?
- How much money are you willing to invest in the devices?
- How much time are you willing to invest in the configuration?
- Do you already know some very basic scripting / coding and if not, are you willing to learn?
- Do you have some preferences regarding device manufacturers?
- Do you have some existing devices that set some limitations or preferences?
There are a lot of good’s and bad’s with them all. Some have more of the former, some the latter.
Familiar, easy, reliable?
Two platforms with probably the biggest user growth in the last few years are Apple’s Homekit and Google Assistant. They have a lot of different manufacturers selling compatible products, they are actively developed all the time and the apps come with your phone and tablet pretty much whether you want it or not. So therefore they become the easy choice for many. And neither of them is a bad choice.
Homekit and Google Assistant, as well as many of the ‘smaller’ ones such as Logitech Harmony, Philips Hue, Ikea Trådfri and Elgato Eve are all quite good. You can accomplish a lot with them and for an average user they offer plenty.
I myself started with Homekit and was really happy with it for a couple of years. You have a lot of devices to choose from, they are really easy to setup, you have automations and scenes and a beautiful user interface. Plus it kind of just works. So why should you even consider something else?
More control, more support, more everything
Configurability, available devices, more powerful automations, prices… you name it. The Works with Apple Homekit logo often comes comes with a hefty price tag and you don’t have that many different devices in the same category to choose from.
I decided to go with Home Assistant. As stated in my previous post, it
is an open source home automation platform, which has support for thousands of components. Doesn’t matter whether you get those cheap Xiaomi sensors from China, the expensive Logitech Circle 2 cameras with Homekit support from your local retailer, your DIY multisensors from your garage / hobby room or anything in between.
Home Assistant does however require a bit more time, nerves and patience. And some willingness to learn a bit of scripting (mainly with YAML). You shouldn’t be afraid of this though, because there is a massive amount of free tutorials, Youtube videos and other material that will help you get started and much further. Home Assistant has a massive community that is also very willing to help out in various different places, such as
I think Homekit or Google Assistant are the perfect choice to start with. And then you can see whether they are enough for you or not. If you decide to move towards Home Assistant, remember that you are
still able to use Homekit and now with all the unsupported devices too, because Home Assistant is able to help you out with that.
With Home Assistant I like the possibility to have pretty much anything in my house controlled. I like that I can create really powerful automations with a lot of different kind of conditions, notification systems and so on. I like that I am not confined to a specific platform and specific devices. And I also like the challenge the scripting gives me, because I’ve always liked to code but my work life took me into a different direction. Now I have almost no ability to code, but this is a nice and easy way to do even something close to the actual coding.
KNX and such? What are those?
I purposely didn’t mention the widely known and somewhat standardized KNX platform and likes. They are mainly meant for houses and apartments that are just being built and you are able to do the wiring inside the walls, which these systems pretty much require. They are also a lot more expensive than these retrofittable & wireless platforms. But they definitely do have their use cases and advantages. If you are interested in these, you can check out the blog my friend Tapio is writing about a house with KNX.