Home Assistant goes mainstream as it is featured on Linus Tech Tips

Linus Sebastian, he of Linus Tech Tips fame, recently featured the open-source home automation software Home Assistant in one of LTT’s YouTube videos. In the video, he talks about his many previous attempts at setting up a smart garage opener and finally finding the solution in Home Assistant.

YouTube video

In a situation that will be all too familiar to the Home Assistant community, Linus was looking for the perfect way of remotely opening his garage door using the Google Assistant. All while not having to pay for subscriptions and with the fewest points of failure. This situation came to be after two whole years of tinkering with various setups and a steadily decreasing WAF. If only he had discovered Home Assistant earlier.

The video has already gained over 1.25 million views after only a single day and I reckon Home Assistant will be seeing an influx of new users over the next couple of weeks. If you are indeed new to the community, I promise, you are in for a hell of a ride. You are now part of one of the most active and friendliest communities on the web.

Before diving in head first, I recommend you take a look at my beginner’s guide to get acquainted with Home Assistant and how everything works. You will, for example, find a guide explaining the many names Home Assistant has (or had) which will help you better understand any guides you might want to follow. To stay on top of things you can subscribe to my new newsletter (I promise I won’t spam you):

While Linus’ previous solution of using a cheap, Wi-Fi connected relay board to emulate the push of a button by closing a circuit worked out to start off with (this setup is also documented in a Linus Tech Tips video), everything came crashing down when he had the absolute audacity to replace his wireless access point.

As it turned out, the board just would not connect to the new access point. To make things even worse, there was no way of resetting the board to the factory settings and the only viable option was to bin it and buy a new one.

This series of events eventually led Linus to Home Assistant and, as is the norm with everything techy he does, the whole procedure was documented for the Linus Tech Tips YouTube channel. Just in case you haven’t heard of it yet, Linus Tech Tips is rather popular and currently has over 13.2 million subscribers. That’s only a few more than my personal channel.

Home Assistant coming down from above.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

Instead of buying a new cheap relay board, Linus and his team at Linus Tech Tips installed a more professional Sonoff 4CH Wi-Fi Smart Switch. As you might already know, Sonoff is a very popular brand in the DIY smart home community and Linus definitely made the right decision in this purchase. What he could have done differently is not to rely on the eWeLink app and IFTTT for his remote control.

Linus Sebastian of Linus Tech Tips and a cheap relay board
Linus and his cheap relay board (source: Linus Tech Tips on YouTube)

As the same DIY smart home community will also tell you, he made the mistake of relying on IFTTT. Why was that a mistake? Because IFTTT changed their monetization strategy and suddenly vendors had to pay to let their customers use it. As the plan was to avoid any subscriptions, this setup was dead in the water.

Linus Sebastian of Linus Tech Tips and his new LiftMaster garage door opener
Linus and his new LiftMaster (source: Linus Tech Tips on YouTube)

Just as a new idea was starting to take shape, the nearly 40-year-old garage opener died. With that, it was back to square one. The new opener, which was professionally installed (something that doesn’t always happen on Linus Tech Tips), was made by LiftMaster, who is owned by Chamberlain. There weren’t many alternatives because, as Linus puts it, “the garage door opener industry is basically a monopoly […]”.

Sonoff and LiftMaster don’t play nice together

With the LiftMaster garage door opener installed, the idea was to use the same Sonoff 4CH Wi-Fi Smart Switch to trigger it remotely. Unfortunately, that was no longer possible as the newer garage door openers no longer work as a closed circuit and the LiftMaster remotes on the wall transmit their signal wirelessly to the opener itself. After further attempts at getting the Sonoff to work, one of which included soldering new parts to the LiftMaster remote, Linus gave up, bit the bullet, and started using Chamberlain’s own myQ software.

A negative review for the myQ app on the Google Play Store

That at least, was the idea. As Linus soon found out, the myQ app is pretty terrible. He made the discovery, that the myQ app has a terrible habit of logging users out when the network changes. For example, when driving home and entering your Wi-Fi zone. The workaround would have been to use an IFTTT recipe except that myQ only allows you to close a door using it, and not to open it.

The many issues with commercial smart home systems

In the video, Linus identifies two major issues that can occur when using commercial smart home systems. Both points will resonate with many Home Assistant users. I’d go as far as to say that one or the other is the main reason for using this excellent open-source smart home solution:

  • Unexpected service interruptions or policy changes can break already perfectly functioning setups.
  • Often times there is a poor or incomplete interoperability between different brands and platforms.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? Incidentally, Linus claims that you can’t really do much about the first issue. Linus, I think the more experienced Home Assistant users would like to have a word with you. Three words in fact: Only use local.

Unfortunately, myQ only allows for cloud polling and not local control, so that ship has sailed. Nevertheless, I would love to see someone at Linus Tech Tips build their own garage door opener using ESPHome or installing one that does allow for local control while explaining the benefits.

Home Assistant has entered the chat

As Linus already has a server running Unraid in his home, setting up a Home Assistant container or virtual machine didn’t present any hurdles. Not just that, but as it turns out, Linus Tech Tips writer Jake Tivy is a Home Assistant enthusiast. Integrating myQ with Home Assistant went smoothly as it has a direct integration with Home Assistant.

The rest of the video details how Linus set up his own domain for Home Assistant and connected it to the Google Assistant. Linus didn’t opt to pay for Home Assistant Cloud as his goal was to set everything up without paying for any subscription. Strangely he doesn’t count the cost of the domain in that category.

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Extreme Kit - 128GB Edition (8GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter PRO Kit - 4GB RAM
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Basic Starter Kit with Fan (4GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Basic Starter Kit with Official Case (1GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Extreme Kit - 128GB Edition (8GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter PRO Kit - 4GB RAM
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Basic Starter Kit with Fan (4GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Basic Starter Kit with Official Case (1GB RAM)
$149.99
$99.99
$82.99
Price not available
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Extreme Kit - 128GB Edition (8GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Extreme Kit - 128GB Edition (8GB RAM)
$149.99
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter PRO Kit - 4GB RAM
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter PRO Kit - 4GB RAM
$99.99
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Basic Starter Kit with Fan (4GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Basic Starter Kit with Fan (4GB RAM)
$82.99
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Basic Starter Kit with Official Case (1GB RAM)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Basic Starter Kit with Official Case (1GB RAM)
Price not available

From my point of view, they went over Home Assistant Cloud too swiftly. Home Assistant Cloud doesn’t just give you remote access but also security. If you do not know what you are doing I highly suggest paying the price instead of risking anyone gaining access to your dashboard.

Incidentally, the same subscription also supports the development of Home Assistant. And if you enjoy using Home Assistant you will want the project survive.

Debugging Home Assistant automations will soon be much easier

Ever wished you could easily and, more importantly, visually debug your Home Assistant automations right from the dashboard? If yes, it would appear that your prayers have been heard as the upcoming release for the month of April (Home Assistant Core 2021.4) will make finding (and hopefully fixing) errors in your automations much easier.

This feature will once again tempt Home Assistant users away from using YAML for their automations and instead doing everything directly from the web interface. Whether you agree with the direction Home Assistant is taking or not, this development is certainly a welcome one not only for beginners but also for power users.

Not quite Node-RED yet (but an indication of what is to come?)

When looking at the following screenshot or the video embedded in the introduction, you might be wondering whether the automation editor in Home Assistant has taken a leaf out of Node-RED’s book in becoming visual. However, that is not (yet) the case. The visualization can’t be used to edit an automation, it is only there to help you understand what happened.

You can select an exact date and time in the top bar and then go through the automation step by step. The visualization will help you understand, why a certain path was taken and not another one.

The new automation visualization in Home Assistant core 2021.4

Despite not being as advanced as Node-RED, this could potentially be a sign of what is to come. The implementation is very basic right now and only allows for viewing, but it could potentially offer an alternative way of creating automations at some point in the future.

Do not update Yeelight devices or the app

Confusion is currently reigning over Yeelight devices (it’s mainly lights, but I’m not going to write every time Yeelight lights) and their ability to be controlled locally by Home Assistant. Some users such as @hkrob on Twitter are reporting that the integration is broken and the option to enable LAN control has been removed due to a firmware update.

A Home Assistant alert warning that Yeelight has removed their local API

At the same time, there is a Home Assistant alert active, informing users of Yeelight’s alleged decision. Is that really what is going on? Yes and no, but mainly no. Let me explain because currently the blame is being directed at the wrong people.

What we know

It is known that both the Yeelight Bedside Lamp 2 and an RGB bulb which identifies as the yeelink.light.color3 in the Yeelight app can no longer be locally controlled following a firmware update.

The issue with the Yeelight Bedside Lamp 2 appears to be caused by an error made by Yeelight, and they are offering to roll back the firmware on their forums. The confusion surrounding the yeelink.light.color3, however, is another story and needs some explaining.

While I’m not trying to have a go at @hkrob, it is important to keep in mind that Yeelight is a Chinese company and their Tweets might be written by someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language. Specifically, the part where Yeelight allegedly admitted that Xiaomi forced them to remove local control is, to my understanding, not a reflection of what is really going on.

Xiaomi is removing local control, not Yeelight

The exact relationship between Yeelight and Xiaomi isn’t known to me and the deeper you dig, the murkier the waters get. Whatever the situation is, the two companies obviously have many ties and often times sell what is essentially the same product under a different name.

The light which identifies as a yeelink.light.color3 in the Yeelight app isn’t in fact a Yeelight. It belongs to the Mi/Mijia family of smart home products but is almost certainly manufactured by Yeelight (or maybe Xiaomi produces all the Yeelight devices) or purchased from a shared OEM. To make things even more confusing, the yeelink.light.color3 can be added to the Yeelight app and Yeelight devices can be added to the Mi Home app.

A response from Yeelight in the Yeelight forum.

According to representatives of Yeelight, Xiaomi has decided to remove local control from their lights. This is why the yeelink.light.color3 will no longer have the option of being locally controlled, even when used with the Yeelight app. The same will happen to any device which doesn’t have the Yeelight branding but not to devices that do.

What will happen to the Home Assistant and Yeelight integration?

As things stand, Yeelight devices which are branded as such and not Mijia/Mi or Xiaomi, should still have the ability to be locally controlled and Yeelight has made assurances that they are committed to creating an open ecosystem (how long this holds true remains to be seen). I say should because I don’t own any Yeelight devices.

If you have anything other than Yeelight devices connected to the Yeelight app, it is possible that local control of that device will be removed by a firmware or app update (or already has been removed).

SaleBestseller No. 1
YEELIGHT Smart LED Bulb, Multi Color Rgb, Wi-Fi, Dimmable, 60W Equivalent, E26 110V, Smartphone...
  • Create the right lighting scene for any occasion: Easily adjust the color, brightness, and color temperature of each Yeelight bulb through the intuitive Yeelight mobile app (iOS & Android). With 16 million colors, the possibilties are endless
Bestseller No. 2
Yeelight Google Seamless Setup Led Smart Bulb, 1000LM, 8W, RGB Multi-Color Changing, Bluetooth,...
  • [Easy to Setup - Google Seamless] Quickly and easily set up bulb in the Google Home App. No need to download another app. Bluetooth further improves the reliability of the devices, especially in group control, ensuring superior user experience.
Bestseller No. 3
Yeelight Lightstrip 1S,16 Million Colors WiFi RGB Strip for Mi Home APP, Smart Phone Control,...
  • 💗 ONE-KEY CONTROL: You can switch the lightstrip on or off by pushing the button, or change the color by long pressing. It's very useful at night, because you are too sleepy to find your smart phone for control.If you have Amazon Alexa, Google Assitant, you can via the voice to control.(APP selects Singapore server)

In the short term, whatever you do, do not update any of your Yeelight, Mi/Mijia, or Xiaomi devices until the confusion is cleared up. Even better, keep all of your devices local only and do not let any of them communicate with the internet. It appears that Xiaomi won’t reverse this decision and your goal should now be to keep your devices running on the current firmware.

As we’ve seen previously, it can pay off letting the vendor know of your disappointment. Keep in mind that it is Xiaomi/Mi/Mijia you should be addressing and not Yeelight. If you bought a device because it promised to have local control you have a right to that device.

The long-term solution? Use Zigbee.

In the long term, it is possible that Yeelight will also remove any local control from their devices. That is why I recommend devices which aren’t reliant on any cloud services and never have to call home. And you can even buy cheap devices from Xiaomi without worrying about the future or potential firmware updates. I’m talking about Zigbee products, of course. Zigbee is the best solution for anyone wanting an open and locally controller ecosystem.

ITEAD releases a $7 Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle

ITEAD, otherwise known for their Sonoff line of devices, has just release a $6.99 Zigbee 3.0 dongle. This Zigbee 3.0 dongloe is pre-flashed with the Silicon Labs Zigbee stack, which means that it can be used as a Zigbee coordinator on Home Assistant using the ZHA integration and openHAB straight out of the box.

The ITEAD Zigbee 3.0 dongle is about the size of your average USB memory stick and thus won’t block any other USB ports on your system. It uses a Silicon Labs EFR32MG21 system-on-a-chip (SoC) which is much more powerful and can handle a larger network than the CC2531.

The SoC on the ITEAD Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle

No external antenna…

Sadly, this adapter does not use an external antenna and relies only on the PCB antenna. I have been blown away with the range of my CC2652RB development stick from slaesh, so it is a bit disappointing to see ITEAD no even giving us the option of attaching an antenna.

…and no case

The ITEAD Zigbee 3.0 dongle is clearly an enthusiast’s product. What else would a product designed specifically for Home Assistant and other open home automation systems be? The dongle is only available without a case.

The ITEAD Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle

Is the ITEAD Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle compatible with Zigbee2MQTT?

As things stand, the ITEAD Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle is not compatible with the stable release of Zigbee2MQTT. The good news is that support for EFR32 chips using the EmberZNet v8, such as the ITEAD Zigbee 3.0 USB dongle, is currently being worked on. If you wish to use this dongle with Zigbee2MQTT at this very moment, you will need to switch to the dev branch. Keep in mind that the dev branch might not be stable.

Bestseller No. 1
SONOFF ZBBridge Smart Zigbee Bridge Hub, WI-FI & Zigbee Dual-protocol Supporting, APP Control and Multi-device Management
  • 【Dual-protocol Supporting】Whether Wi-Fi or ZigBee your devices support, now you can control them together on eWeLink APP via the Bridge. Make ZigBee and Wi-Fi Devices Interact
  • 【Strong Connectivity, Limitless Possibility 】The Bridge supports to add ZigBee devices that SONOFF has released, like S31 Lite ZigBee smart plug and BASICZBR3 DIY smart switch, making your home smarter.
Bestseller No. 2
SONOFF SNZB-02 ZigBee Mini Indoor Temperature and Humidity Sensor for Checking the Room Climate, SONOFF ZigBee Bridge Required, Indoor Thermometer Hygrometer with Alert, Works with Alexa, Google Home
  • 【Real-time Temperature & Humidity Feedback】SONOFF SNZB-02 is a ZigBee temperature and humidity sensor that can seamlessly work with SONOFF ZigBee Bridge to track the temperature and humidity change in your home, which all real-time readings can be checked on eWeLink APP.
  • 【Works with Alexa】If your Amazon Alexa hub Built-in Zigbee smart home hub, such as Echo (4th generation) and Echo Studio, SNZB-02 can be directly connected to alexa without other zigbee hub. Alexa APP can only display temperature but not humidity.
SaleBestseller No. 3
SONOFF S31 Lite Zigbee Smart Plug US Type, Works with SmartThings and Amazon Echo Plus, Hub Needed for Amazon Alexa(2-Pack)
  • Interact with your devices via ZigBee Protocol:A compatible ZigBee hub is required to control this plug. Pair your plug to a compatible ZigBee hub such as SmartThings, or Amazon Echo Plus
  • Smart Control: Use your smartphone to switch traditional lighting and appliances and put your appliances on a schedule.

Home Assistant 2021.2 replaces OpenZWave with Z-Wave JS

It’s a new month, and you know what that means: A new version of Home Assistant Core has been released to the public and made available to download. Home Assistant Core 2021.2 brings with it a major change for those invested in the Z-Wave ecosystem as the old integration, which is based on OpenZWave 1.4, is being replaced with Z-Wave JS.

Even if the Z-Wave JS news overshadows everything else, there have also been a few new Home Assistant integrations added, more setups have been moved to the web interface, and one (superfluous) service has been lost. So don’t worry, this article will not just be for those using Z-Wave.

What’s new in Z-Wave JS?

The previous Z-Wave integration was based on OpenZWave 1.4 and a part of Home Assistant Core itself. But as all the rewrites have shown, Z-Wave is just too complicated and too heavy to be maintained and included in Home Assistant Core. Alongside that, OpenZWave 1.4 is starting to show its age and is no longer properly maintained. It was time for the integration to be rewritten yet again.

A working release of Z-Wave JS was first made available August 18, 2019, and it has since then been gradually gathering steam. Z-Wave JS allows you to control your Z-Wave network from Node.js and is coded only in clean JavaScript. Unbelievably, the Z-Wave JS integration with Home Assistant was created in a single month. Props to the developers for that one.

Bestseller No. 1
First Alert Z-Wave Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm,...
  • Help keep your family safe with this battery-powered smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm; includes 2 AA batteries
SaleBestseller No. 2
GE 46201 Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Switch with...
  • VOICE CONTROL – Alexa & Google Assistant Compatible (requires a Z-Wave certified hub). Works with the following Z-Wave...

How Z-Wave JS work

As with the integration based on OpenZWave, Z-Wave JS is completely decoupled from Home Assistant. While the old integration used MQTT to communicate with Home Assistant, Z-Wave JS uses a WebSocket connection. But what differentiates it is that you will have to run a Z-Wave JS server that sits in between the Z-Wave USB stick and Home Assistant. Luckily though, there is a Docker container available, and the server will be installed automatically once you set up the integration, if you’re running Home Assistant and not just Home Assistant Core.

First reports on Z-Wave JS are claiming that it is much faster and more stable than the previous implementation. One community member has even gone so far as to claim that their response time has been halved when compared to OpenZWave.

Only use Z-Wave JS going forward

The old Z-Wave integration has officially been marked as being deprecated. Those just starting out with Home Assistant should only be using the new Z-Wave JS integration. Existing users can migrate their system but there is no rush, as the old integration won’t be removed anytime soon. That is of course unless you run into issues with newer devices.

The downsides of Z-Wave JS

Not everyone is happy with this development and while the complaints are understandable, the move away from OpenZWave was clearly necessary. The biggest gripe users seem to have is that Z-Wave is no longer built-in to Home Assistant Core. You used to be able to plug in a Z-Wave USB stick and have the integration set up instantly.

Yes, it might be more complicated to set up the Z-Wave integration for those of us running just Home Assistant Core. But if you are using Home Assistant, the container for the server will be set up and configured in the background. Considering that, the setup won’t be much different to what it is now.

If you do decide to continue using the old integration, please be aware that you might not be able to use newer devices. If you are currently experiencing issues when trying to add devices to your network, it might be because they aren’t, and won’t be, configured in OpenZWave.

New integrations: Monitor air, pools, and power

As usual, Home Assistant Core 2021.2 brings with it a few new integrations. That is, of course, besides Z-Wave JS being introduced.

Using the AirNow integration with Home Assistant, you can monitor the AQI in your area and as with most new integration, you can set it up in the web interface without having to touch any code. AirNow reports air quality using the official U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), a colour-coded index designed to communicate whether air quality is healthy or unhealthy for you.

The Ondilo ICO integration allows you to continuously analyse the water quality of your pool or spa. The current water temperature, the oxydo reduction potential, pH level, and total dissolved solids will be reported back to Home Assistant. The ICO is a small, battery-powered device you simply drop into your pool and connect to using Wi-Fi. This integration can be set up using the web interface.

Huisbaasje is a provider of power meters in The Netherlands. Using this integration, Home Assistant will have access to your current power usage, your current grid power and gas consumption, your power return to the grid, and the daily total energy and gas used.

And finally, DHCP Discovery will allow Home Assistant to watch your network for DHCP requests for supported devices and services. This integration is by default enabled.

Less YAML

The following integrations with Home Assistant have been fully transitioned to the web dashboard. You can remove any existing YAML as it has already been imported as part of a previous release:

The Home Assistant app is getting Wear OS support

Google might have forgotten about Wear OS, its operating system for wearables, and is even starting to remove once useful features from it, but Home Assistant certainly hasn’t. The most recent update to the Home Assistant Android app, which should be rolling out right now, is laying the groundwork for you to be able to control your smart home, using Home Assistant, from your wrist.

Wear OS, which at the time was still named Android Wear, was announced on March 18, 2014 and at Google I/O in the summer of 2014, the first watches were launched. The Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch both featured square watch faces and were joined by the round Moto 360 in September. Despite launching earlier than Apple’s watchOS and Apple Watch, Wear OS has fallen behind in terms of shipments and functionality. Google has since purchased Fitbit (or has it?) with the hopes of bolstering its wearables line-up.

Home Assistant on Wear OS
The current state of the Home Assistant Wear OS app

The APK file (this is what Android uses to distribute and install apps) for the Wear OS app will currently only be published to GitHub and won’t make an appearance in the full Android app yet, though. Don’t expect to see Home Assistant in your Wear OS watch’s menu after you’ve updated as even the initial release of the Wear OS app doesn’t provide any functionality besides displaying the Home Assistant logo and some text.

What to expect from Home Assistant on Wear OS

In contrast to Wear OS, Home Assistant has been available for the Apple Watch for some time, and it’s safe to assume that the functionality between the two wearable operating systems will be comparable. On the Apple Watch you don’t get to see your full dashboard. After all, watches in general only have a small screen, so that wouldn’t make much sense. What you can do is add complications and execute actions such as opening a garage door or turning on lights.

As the Home Assistant apps make use of just about every feature they can, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wear OS app provide users with a Tile. Tiles are comparable to home screen widgets on smartphones and give you a quick look at relevant data. While they aren’t accessible to all developers yet, the team behind Wear OS is working to make this happen. This could be used to display things such as whether certain devices are active or not or sensor readouts.

As on the Apple Watch, NFC on Wear OS is locked down and can only be used for payments. You shouldn’t expect your Wear OS watch being able to read NFC tags you have lying around your home. This is a shame, as it would be much convenient than having to get your phone out every time you want to do so.

What is unknown is whether you will be able to use a Wear OS device for presence tracking. Presence tracking using the Apple Watch is near impossible as it randomizes the Bluetooth MAC address. The developers of the Home Assistant Wear OS app would most likely enable the feature if the hardware and software allowed it, though I haven’t been able to find any details.

What are the alternatives for Wear OS?

There are two alternative apps to the official Home Assistant app I could find. Both of which you can install on your Wear OS device right now. One of them is the app Home Slide for Home Assistant. This app was developed specifically for Home Assistant and lets you execute actions as you would on an Apple Watch. Once the Home Slide app is opened you are presented with a list of toggles you can choose from. As I don’t own a Wear OS device any more, I haven’t had any opportunity to test it but reviews on the Google Play Store are generally positive.

The other option is to use AutoWear with the popular Tasker app. This solution isn’t programmed to work with only Home Assistant but many different types of automations and apps. Thus, the setup isn’t quite as easy as it will be with the official Wear OS app.

While not an app, you can of course also control Home Assistant through the Google Assistant. Though that would obviously require you use your voice, and you won’t have access to any shortcuts or complications.

When to expect the Home Assistant Wear OS app

As stated, development on the Wear OS app for Home Assistant has only just begun. For a stable version to hit the Google Play Store a lot of work will have to be done. I wouldn’t expect to see this feature until spring by the earliest. If you are capable of developing Wear OS apps and want to support the development you can, of course, do so as the apps are all open-source.

TicWatch Pro 3

Battery: Up to 3 days (Smart Mode), up to 45 days (enhanced Essential Mode)

SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100

Sensors: GPS, barometer and 24-hour heart rate monitoring

Screen: 1.4-inch AMOLED, 454×454

Ticwatch S2

Battery: Up to 2 days

SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100

Sensors: GPS, barometer and heart rate monitoring

Screen: 1.4-inch AMOLED, 400×400

Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle

Battery: 1 day, multi day extended mode

SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100

Sensors: GPS, barometer and heart rate monitoring

Screen: 1.4-inch AMOLED, 416×416

Moto 360 3rd Gen

Battery: 1-2 days, Quick Charge in 60 minutes

SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100

Sensors: GPS, barometer and heart rate monitoring

Screen: 1.4-inch AMOLED, 390×390

Movado Connect 2.0

Battery: Up to a day

SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100

Sensors: GPS, barometer and heart rate monitoring

Home Assistant OS finally supports the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B was a special bit of hardware for many reasons. Not only did it finally solve the networking bottleneck caused by the USB 2.0 bus speed but it also introduced multiple options for the amount of RAM (random-access memory). The Raspberry Pi 4 thus potentially had more RAM than was ever seen on a previous model. It shipped with up to 8 GB of RAM, while the Raspberry Pi 3 maxed out at a measly 1 GB.

With that much RAM at its disposal, combine with a more powerful SoC, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B made for a perfect mini server to host Home Assistant as well as a few add-ons. The problem was that Home Assistant OS, on top of which Home Assistant Core runs, never officially supported the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4. At least not in any of the previously stable builds. While there were workarounds and the ability to use development releases, using an official and stable solution always feels a bit safer. Especially if that device is controlling your whole smart home.

A couple of days ago that all changed. With the release of Home Assistant OS Release 5, the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is officially supported and it can be used to power your smart home without having to rely on any workarounds. This places the 8 GB Raspberry as the top recommendation for those wanting to do more than just running Home Assistant on their board.

RPi 4 Model B

RAM: 2, 4, 8 GB

CPU: 4× Cortex-A72 1.5 GHz

GPU: Broadcom VideoCore VI @ 500 MHz

USB2.0: 2 ports

USB3.0: 2 ports

Why support for the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B took so long

The 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B was released just over half a year ago and yet wasn’t officially supported until now. The reason for that is the bootloader, U-Boot, Home Assistant OS uses. The first development release of Home Assistant OS Release 5 changed this by bumping U-Boot to version 2020.07 for the 64-bit Raspberry Pi 4 Model B build. That’s the reason you previously had to use the unstable 64-bit version of Home Assistant OS to get it to boot on the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4.

With the final and stable release of Home Assistant OS Release 5, U-Boot was once again updated to version 2020.10. Combined with the fact that all Raspberry Pi models now use Linux Kernel 5.4, just like Raspberry Pi OS, meant that the 8 GB model could finally be considered as officially supported and stable.

No more 32-bit

With the testing done before releasing Home Assistant Release 5, the developers are now confident in recommending the 64-bit releases for all the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B options. Though do keep in mind that only the 32-bit version supports GPIO.

Even more Raspberry Pis to choose from

With Home Assistant Release OS Release 5, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, which is intended for consumer electronics vendors to use in their products, as well as the Raspberry Pi 400, which is built in to a keyboard, making it a mini desktop PC.

Raspberry Pi 400

The Raspberry Pi 400, which now works with Home Assistant

Raspberry Pi Compute Module

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, which now works with Home Assistant

While it is nice to see more devices supported, I’m predicting that both models won’t be used much in the community. The Compute Module 4 isn’t as easy to set up as Model B (the former uses a 200-pin DDR2 SO-DIMM interface) and Home Assistant OS is headless so paying extra for an added keyboard doesn’t make much sense.

New boards from ASUS and Hardkernel at your disposal

This release didn’t just bring support for the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with it but it also allows you to use a few more boards from other vendors. You can now install Home Assistant OS on the ASUS Tinker Board, which uses a microSD card for storage, and the Tinker Board S, which has 16 GB of fast eMMC storage onboard. Both versions of the ASUS Tinker Board have a four-core CPU which should boost multithreaded performance.

ASUS Tinker Board

RAM: 2 GB

CPU: Quad-core ARM SoC 1.8 GHz

GPU: Mali-T764

USB2.0: 4 ports

ASUS Tinker Board S

RAM: 2 GB

CPU: Quad-core ARM SoC 1.8 GHz

GPU: Mali-T764

USB2.0: 4 ports

Storage: 16 GB eMMC

ODROID-C4

RAM: 4 GB

CPU: Quad-core Amlogic S905X3

GPU: Mali-G31

USB3.0: 4 ports

Storage: eMMC module socket

The ODROID-C4 is another alternative to the Raspberry Pi Model B which has better storage options thanks to an onboard eMMC connector. Just as with the ASUS Tinker Board, the SoC comes with a little heat sink which should help with keeping everything running smoothly and prevent it from throttling. According to their benchmarks, the ODROID-C4 outperforms the Raspberry Pi 4 partially due to a more powerful CPU and DDR4 RAM.

Remove ZHA Network Visualization and ZHA Map before updating to Home Assistant Core 1.0

As I’ve reported in an earlier article, Home Assistant Core 1.0 is almost upon us and should make its first appearance in no more than a week. This major release won’t just add new integrations but also improve those already in place. ZHA (Zigbee Home Automation), which is Home Assistant’s native Zigbee integration, will see the inclusion of a Network Visualization to the ZHA config panel once Home Assistant Core 1.0 hits.

Previously, users of ZHA had to either use the ZHA Network Visualization (zha-network-visualization-card) card or the ZHA Map (zha-map) card to achieve something similar in Home Assistant. But, as we’ve seen in the past, when a custom feature or integration reaches certain popularity, it is likely to be integrated into Home Assistant Core as a native feature, making it easier to use for all.

How the ZHA Network Visualization works

The ZHA Network Visualization’s appearance will be similar to the two custom cards mentioned above. You will be able to see all of your individual Zigbee nodes and how they are connected to one another. The ZHA Network Visualization will tell you what type of device each node is and whether it is on- or offline.

A Zigbee network visualisation

You will also be able to see which Zigbee nodes in ZHA are end devices and which nodes are routers. In a Zigbee network certain devices, mainly those that are battery-powered, are so-called end devices. This type of Zigbee node is only capable of sending commands but not receiving them. The reasoning behind it is simple, most remotes, buttons, motion sensors, and temperature sensors will only ever send Zigbee commands in order to conserve energy.

Routers, on the other hand, are devices that can both send and receive commands, making your Zigbee network a mesh network. Most Zigbee devices which are connected to the mains have routing capabilities. These include smart plugs, light bulbs, LED strips, repeaters, and more.

With the ZHA Network Visualization, you will be able to tell why certain devices might be lagging or frequently disconnecting from your network. The network map will show you which end devices are located too far away from any of your repeaters. An end device which is connected to multiple routers is the best-case scenario. If an end device has a weak connection and is only connected to a single router you might consider installing a Zigbee router between the two.

Improvements to the ZHA Network Visualization are already in the works

The ZHA Network Visualization will presumably be rather basic at launch. It will show you your nodes, how they are connected, and device-specific information. A likely upcoming change to the ZHA Network Visualization will be the possibility to filter and zoom to a certain node. Apart from that, I haven’t been able to find any other PRs relating to the ZHA Network Visualization.

The Network Visualization is another win for ZHA

The development of the ZHA integration with Home Assistant accelerating at an incredible rate. Native network visualisation is something that has been in the works for Zigbee2MQTT for some time now. As things stand, the best option is still the third-party software Zigbee2MQTT Assistant. Obviously, there are still convincing arguments for choosing Zigbee2MQTT over ZHA but ZHA’s development is definitely closing in.

What to expect from Home Assistant Core 1.0

Your eyes are not deceiving you, after seven years of releases starting with a zero, Home Assistant Core 1.0 is on the horizon. It will be formally announced at the Home Assistant Conference on December 13 and a beta version is already available to download from GitHub. For most users, it will be worth waiting for a stable release though as you won’t want to have potentially buggy software controlling your smart home.

The major new feature to be found in Home Assistant Core 1.0 is the so-called Blueprints. Besides that, there are four new integrations, a couple of new platforms, more integrations available for configuration from the UI, and three integrations which have been removed.

There is a lot to unpack here and undoubtedly there will be a few more surprises by the time Home Assistant Core 1.0 is released. I have tried to sum up the most relevant changes and additions but it’s safe to assume that what you are reading here won’t be all Home Assistant Core 1.0 has to offer.

Four new integrations in Home Assistant Core 1.0

Home Assistant Core 1.0 will add support for FireServiceRota which is a is a powerful and flexible availability, scheduling, and dispatching system for firefighters. This integration won’t be of interest to the vast majority of Home Assistant users but for the firefighters among us, it will provide real-time information about incidents (emergency calls) from the local fire station and the ability to send a response depending on your duty schedule. That is of course if you fire station supports FireServiceRota.

Also new are the abilities to control Motion Blinds and gather information from SRP (Salt River Project) if you are one of their customers. Motion Blinds are smart blinds which can be controlled by the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, and now Home Assistant. For the integration to work consistently you will have to make sure that your Motion Bridge has a static IP.

Just in time for Christmas, Twinkly has been added to the ever-expanding list of integrations. Twinkly sells decorative RGB LED strings which can be synced from within the app. Unfortunately, this integration does not allow you to change any effects as Twinkly devices do not store them locally. But you will be able to adjust the brightness and turn the device on and off.

Home Assistant Blueprints

The biggest change coming to Home Assistant Core 1.0 is the so-called Home Assistant Blueprints. These will give more advanced users the option to easily create reusable automations, reducing the amount of necessary configuration. Blueprints will also make sharing automations with the community and inexperienced users of Home Assistant much easier.

Below is an example of such a blueprint taken from the PR. In the automation, the blueprint, which is named test_event_service.yaml, can be inserted into the automation. Once the Blueprint is processed, all the placeholder values will be replaced with actual values. The Blueprint can be used in an unlimited amount of automations and should spare you many lines of YAML. Blueprints will not only be restricted to YAML as there will be an initial UI in Home Assistant Core 1.0.

blueprint:
  name: Call service from event
  domain: automation 
  input:
    trigger_event:
    service_to_call:
trigger:
  platform: event
  event_type: !placeholder trigger_event
action:
  service: !placeholder service_to_call

automation:
  use_blueprint:
    path: test_event_service.yaml
    input:
      trigger_event: my_event
      service_to_call: light.turn_on

Less YAML needed for integrations

Two existing integrations with Home Assistant will be available to configure from the UI in Home Assistant Core 1.0. One of them is Aurora, which uses the NOAA Aurora Forecast service to let you know if an aurora might be visible at your home location in the next 30 minutes and the other is ReCollect Waste which allows you to track the next scheduled waste pickup.

The Aurora integration with Home Assistant Core 1.0 has been completely moved to the UI. If you previously used YAML to set it up, you will have to change it once you have updated Home Assistant. Though as the Aurora integration is currently non-functional you might as well remove it now in preparation.

Solar-Log, which allows you to get details from Solar-Log devices, is another integration with Home Assistant whose configuration has been moved from YAML to the UI. The good news is that you won’t have to adjust anything if you already have it set up using YAML. The configuration will automatically be imported into the UI.

Potentially more users will be affected by the changes made to the Apple TV integration in Home Assistant Core 1.0. This integration has been completely rewritten and you will only be able to configure it using the UI. Once you have updated you will have to remove old Apple TV configurations and re-add devices via the integrations page.

More possibilities with the HomeKit Controller

The HomeKit Controller integration with Home Assistant allows you to connect many accessories which are certified as “Works with HomeKit” to Home Assistant. Home Assistant Core 1.0 will add support for humidifiers and their counterparts, dehumidifiers, and initial support for cameras.

It is the latter integration which will be of most interest as the Aqara G2H Camera Hub (Amazon/AliExpress), which supports HomeKit Secure Video, has garnered some interest. The Aqara G2H comes with a HomeKit setup code making it possible to add it to the HomeKit Controller in Home Assistant without any issues. Other security cameras with support for HomeKit Secure Video are the Eve Cam and eufyCam 2c with which the integration was tested.

However, if you were looking to use this feature to monitor all of your camera streams, I have some bad news. As this is only an initial integration that covers the basics, it will only discover cameras and display still images. In Home Assistant Core 1.0 you won’t be able to view any full video streams yet. Thoug, according to the PR, that feature is being worked on.

Do more with Shelly in Home Assistant Core 1.0

The Shelly integration has existed for some time but it will be greatly improved in the upcoming release. In Home Assistant Core 1.0 you will be able to read information about the firmware installed on your Shelly device and compare it to the latest release making it easy to receive notifications when you need to update. Furthermore, there will also be support for REST sensor, input events, and binary input sensors. 

Do more with Google Nest in Home Assistant Core 1.0

The new Google Nest integration with Home Assistant has been continually worked on and the upcoming release makes no exception. Two very useful additions will be available in Home Assistant Core 1.0. The Google Nest Cam will be able to trigger motion, person, and sound events and the Nest Hello Video Doorbell (I hate that name) will support everything the camera does and additionally chime events.

Saying goodbye to three integrations

There’s bad news for all of my Swiss friends who have been using the Salt Fiber Box integration with Home Assistant to track devices. The integration will be completely removed in Home Assistant Core 1.0. As it was using web scraping to gather data, which isn’t allowed anymore. Unfortunately, it had to be done but it is for the better as web scraping is quite a hacky solution.

Two more integrations will be completely removed due to web scraping no longer being allowed in Home Assistant. As the Ubee Router from Ubee Interactive and yessssms both don’t over an API and had to be integrated using web scraping they will be removed.

Home Assistant Core 1.0: Summary

Home Assistant Core 1.0 will be a very exciting release and it will mark a milestone in the development of Home Assistant. It will not only be the final release in this doomed year but the first not to begin with a zero. Over the past seven years, Home Assistant has come a long way and may it long continue!

Lidl launches its own line of Silvercrest and LIVARNOLUX branded Zigbee devices

Lidl, the popular discount supermarket chain, has launched a number of Zigbee devices under its brands Silvercrest and LIVARNOLUX. Though most of these devices appear to be rebranded TuYa products, they went through the effort of getting them all Zigbee 3.0 certified under the collective Lidl Home branding. Judging by the number of products Lidl has already registered and the fact that they will be launched under the Silvercrest and LIVARNOLUX brands, this doesn’t seem to be a one-off offer but rather something we will regularly see inside of Lidl stores.

Most of you will know Lidl for cheap products that aren’t always of bad quality (but definitely can be). The Silvercrest and LIVARNOLUX Zigbee products are no exception to that rule. The Silvercrest smart plug, door/window sensor, and motion sensor each cost only EUR 6.69. The LIVARNOLUX RGB lights, which will be compatible with GU10, E14, and E27 sockets, each cost only EUR 12.99. For those who like buying their smart home products in physical stores, these are a great and much cheaper alternative to IKEA and Philips bulbs.

It appears that these products are so far available, or at least announced, in Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, and Switzerland (though I could be missing some countries, let me know down in the comments and I will correct the article). The fact that Lidl has gone with Zigbee as their protocol of choice is both surprising and very welcome. It wouldn’t have unexpected for Lidl to launch rebranded Chinese Wi-Fi devices containing an ESP8266 microcontroller which can only be controlled by their own app. But the fact that Lidl has gone with an open standard means that these products can be made to work with Zigbee2MQTT, DeConz, and ZHA in due time. Zigbee lets you keep everything local without the need of any cloud services.

Are the Lidl Zigbee devices compatible with Zigbee2MQTT, DeConz, and ZHA?

As the Zigbee devices from Lidl are Zigbee 3.0 certified and many of them are based on TuYa products, both ZHA and DeConz already support many of them. Zigbee2MQTT, on the other hand, is struggling a bit but will surely catch up in the next couple of releases. As these products get into the hands of developers and contributors I do expect all of them to appear on the list of tested compatible devices rather quickly.

Lidl Home sensors and smart plugs (sold as Silvercrest)

A steady stream of reports has been coming in from countries where the Lidl Zigbee devices have already been launched. It appears that the Lidl smart plug works well with DeConz using a ConBee Zigbee gateway. Two other users of DeConz have reported that the smart plug works perfectly while the door sensor is unusable.

One user of the Home Assistant Community has reported that he managed to get the door sensor, the motion sensor, and the smart plug to connect to ZHA. Only the motion sensor caused some issues and had to be paired several times before they got it to work as expected.

Zigbee2MQTT users are currently out of luck as first reports seem to indicate that the integrations aren’t quite ready yet. But support for both the movement sensor and smart plug should appear in an updated version sooner rather than later.

Lidl Home lights (sold as LIVARNOLUX)

The LIVARNOLUX RGB bulbs have been confirmed to be compatible with both ZHA and DeConz. An owner of such as a product has also reported the smart LED strip to be working with ZHA. But I haven’t been able to find anyone who has tested them with Zigbee2MQTT yet. For those still rocking a Philips Hue hub, the bulbs should also be able to pair with it.