5 open source home automation tools

5 open source home automation tools

Posted 29 Mar 2016 by 

Jason Baker (Red Hat)
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The Internet of Things isn't just a buzzword, it's a rapidly expanding reality.

With an ever-expanding number of devices available to help you automate, protect, and monitor your home, it has never before been easier nor more tempting to try your hand at home automation. Whether you're looking to control your HVAC system remotely, integrate a home theater, protect your home from theft, fire, or other threats, reduce your energy usage, or just control a few lights, there are countless devices available at your disposal.

But at the same time, many users worry about the security and privacy implications of bringing new devices into their homes. They want to control who has access to the vital systems which control their appliances and record every moment of their everyday lives. And understandably: In an era when even your refrigerator could now be a smart device, don't you want to know if you fridge is phoning home? Wouldn't you want some basic assurance that, even if you do give a device permission to communicate externally, that it is only accessible to those who are explicitly authorized?

These concerns are among the many reasons why open source will be critical to our future with connect devices. Being able to fully understand the programs which control your home requires the ability to view, and if necessary modify, the source code running on the devices themselves.

While connected devices often contain proprietary components, a good first step in bringing open source into your home automation system is to ensure that the device which ties your devices together—and presents you with an interface to them (the "hub")—is open source. Fortunately, there are many choices out there, with options to run on everything from your always-on personal computer to a Raspberry Pi.

Here are just a few of our favorites.

Calaos

Calaos is designed as a full-stack home automation platform, including a server application, touchscreen interface, web application, native mobile applications for iOS and Android, and a preconfigured Linux operating system to run underneath. English speaking readers should be advised that, while some English documentation is available, some of the instructional material as well as support forums are primarily in French.

Calaos is licensed under version 3 of the GPL and you can view its source on GitHub.

Domoticz

Domoticz is a home automation system with a pretty wide library of supported devices, ranging from weather stations to smoke detectors to remote controls, with a large number of additional third party integrations documented on the project's website. It is designed with an HTML5 frontend, making it accessible from both desktop browsers as well as most modern smartphones, and is lightweight, running on many low power devices like the Raspberry Pi.

Domoticz is written primarily in C/C++ under the GPLv3, and its source code can be browsed on GitHub.

Home Assistant

Home Assistant is an open source home automation platform, and is designed to be easily deployed on most any machine that can run Python 3, from a Raspberry Pi to a NAS device, and even ships with a Docker container to make deploying on other systems a breeze. It integrates with a number of open source as well as commercial offerings, allowing you to link, for example, IFTTT, weather information, or your Amazon Echo device, to controls from locks to lights to even a command line notifier.

Home Assistant is released under an MIT license, and its source can be downloaded from GitHub.

OpenHAB

OpenHAB (short for Open Home Automation Bus) is one of the best known home automation tools among open source enthusiasts, with a large user community and quite a number of supported devices and integrations. Written in Java, openHAB is portable across most major operating systems and even runs nicely on the Raspberry Pi. Supporting hundreds of devices, openHAB is designed to be device-agnostic while making it easier for developers to add their own devices or plugins to the system. OpenHAB also ships iOS and Android apps for device control, as well as a design tools so you can create your own UI for your home system.

You can find openHAB's source code on GitHub licensed under the Eclipse Public License.

OpenMotics

OpenMotics is a home automation system with both hardware and software under open source licenses, designed at providing a comprehensive system for controlling devices rather than stitching together many devices from different providers. Unlike many of the other systems designed primarily for easy retrofitting, OpenMotics focuses on a hardwired solution. For more, see our full article from OpenMotics backend developer Frederick Ryckbosch.

The source code for OpenMotics is licensed under the GPLv2 and is available for download on GitHub.


These aren't the only options available, of course. Many home automation enthusiasts go with a different solution, or even decide to roll their own. Some other potential options to consider include LinuxMCE, PiDome, MisterHouse or smarthomatic. Other users choose to use individual smart home devices without integrating them into a single comprehensive system.

So we turn to you. Are you thinking about using an open source home automation system, or perhaps you already have one in place. What advice would you have to a newcomer to home automation, and what system or systems would you recommend?

6 Comments

Don Watkins

Wow. This is an amazing article. I just spent ten days with a family member who's got a partially automated home. I'm sending this article to him. Thanks for sharing this.

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Jason Baker

Thanks Don, and thanks for all of the great Raspberry Pi related home automation things you've been cc'ing me on via Twitter - I'm hoping to do a follow up to this piece just on the Raspberry PI part of the home automation puzzle.

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bmaynard

The world of home automation is a changing. I spent a good deal of my adult life in the home automation field. I have seen it change from a few controlled light in the home theater to controlling most everything in the home. Most of the stuff I dealt with was proprietary software, such as Elan, Crestron, Lutron Radio Ra2, and RTI Remote.
I have worked some with LinuxMCE. It was once considered the Crestron killer but never really took off.

With the use of Zwave and Zigbee technology, and to some degree Bluetooth, it is amazing to see where home automation came from to where it is now. The possibilities are endless.

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D1

Really nice article. A few years back I worked on a project using open remote. It has an open source version as well as a commercial one. Opensource one meets the basic needs of any home automation enthusiast.

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Nikorun

Hi. Thanks for this article . Just to mention Jeedom which also do a gréât jobs ans and have thé particularity to have a store and therefore à lot of plugins.

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druthb

I've been researching home automation for *months* now for my new home, and was kind of resigned to spending a lot of money on proprietary hardware. But in looking at OpenHAB, I think it'll do the trick just fine! It's so nifty, and I'd not even heard about it. I've submitted a Nooks & Crannies article on OpenHAB for April, in fact...

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Jason is passionate about using technology to make the world more open, from software development to bringing sunlight to local governments. He is particularly interested in data visualization/analysis, DIY/maker culture, simulations/modeling, geospatial technologies, and cloud computing, especially OpenStack. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.