the need to use a home automation ‘platform’

a tutorial sequence: > the offer > why a platform > home assistant > ESPhome > camera project > main menu

In the beginning there was the smart bulb that changed colour and convinced me that here was something trivial and fanciful. Today I’m surprised by the usefulness of the smart gadgets on sale. There are door locks, thermostats, garage door openers, air purifiers, window blind openers and garden waterers. There are also smart electric sockets, security cameras, smart doorbells and that’s not half of it.

If every smart device has an app and a login account you may sense how messy it will be to have more than a few devices. You might think that you can improve the mess by buying it all from one supplier – but you can’t do that as there isn’t one supplier, there are many. This page explains how to uncomplicate the diversity of smart device sources.

a choice of home automation platforms any of which help make things uncomplicated
a list of the popular home automation platforms

To those cynical about home automation I say: “be content to turn things on and off yourself. But do look at your central heating timer and ask why something that’s made to save energy, can’t stop itself wasting it when no one’s at home.

A way forward is to have just one app to manage devices from different suppliers and we call that kind of app a home automation platform. Fortunately most of today’s smart gadgets are capable of working in such a ‘platform’. It connects things so that you can make a temperature sensor made by say, Samsung control a thermostat made by Google.

The automation platform names may be familiar: Apple Homekit and Siri, IFTTT, Google Home & Nest; Amazon Alexa and SmartThings. Other platforms that can integrate your stuff in one place include Home Assistant and openHab and NodeRed.

If you’re new to home automation, I’d recommend that you try one of them to control your equipment. About £30 gets you onboard with Amazon Alexa or Google Home or Apple Homekit (which costs more). They can embrace new equipment as well as coexist with what you use already.

I use Home Assistant as my automation platform as I rather like getting under the bonnet to achieve a result. Home Assistant helps me tidy up a proliferation of gadgets. It’s so versatile it’s enabled the more advanced projects on this website. To make progress with Home Assistant the first project is of course setting up Home Assistant

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