The Case for Open Source Automation in Your Home

A smart home expert’s top reasons why leaving your API open is better.

For customers considering a home automation system, the question of whether to go with an open or closed source can be a little confusing, at best. After reading this article, you should have a new realization regarding some of the ways you can best handle a brand new, high-tech system in the home. Those who are just looking to overhaul or update a home automation system can still benefit as much as a homeowner who wants something new. While there may be some debating the pros and cons of the Open-Source ​Home Automation​ versus Closed Sourced Home System, open-source supporters have some strong, valid arguments as to why it is an ideal option.

Why Open Source?

I asked Pete Sanford, the owner of ​Smarter Homes of Austin​, what he thought about overhauling a home with a fully closed source with Apple products galore to an open-source house with no Apple Homekit. He noted that: “I advise people to go with an open-source home system, not a closed-source system like Apple Homekit. Once a homeowner has gone all-in with Apple devices for their home, it is a rabbit hole that they have already gone down.”

Sanford also noted that he has worked with clients with a closed source house of Apple devices that run everything, from the thermostat to the ​security system’s​ video cameras, who decided to “just sell everything with the house.” These same clients chose to build a new house that was all open-source automation and fully customizable to their liking after selling the closed sourced home system. Sanford went on to mention that he always advises that new owners have an open-source house.”

One App Can Handle It

The use of NEST, Apple HomeKit, and RING may be ideal for those who want a closed-source network of devices, but open source provides many more customizable options than closed source does. Companies like ROKU, lZ-Wave, ​SONOS​, and RTI (Remote Technology Inc.) offer open-source options to customers and stakeholders who use their devices, services, application programming interfaces (APIs), and more.              

Sanford is adamant about the ​RTI (Remote Technology Inc.)​ app when discussing why open-source is the optimal solution. The RTI app allows the homeowner to control many functions from one central, easy-to-use application. Having folders for 15 apps that correlate with 15 different home functions can be frustrating. It’s not an efficient way to manage all the many devices contained in the home. The notable upside is that one app can make your home come to life in ways that you never thought were possible.

Three Key Things To Keep In Mind

When it comes to setting up your new home with open-source home devices from the ground up or midway through a new home build, here are three key things to keep in mind.

First, choosing a full-blown open-source home automation option requires that the device(s) that you use to monitor your thermostat, outdoor pool lighting, home security system, and ​doorbells​ with are not an Apple brand device.

Second, one single app on your tablet or smartphone should do all the heavy lifting by controlling every single automated gadget within that single interface.

Third, use the power of open-source devices and services to streamline processes by sending texts directly to your smartphone, especially as reminders when it is time to change air filters.

Tapping The Power Of Open-Source Thermostats

When it comes to the most popular automation trend he sees in the smart home market, Sanford quipped, “every one of his clients has the ECOBEE 4.” The ​ECOBEE4​ is a complete, open-source, smart thermostat that can send text messages to a smartphone or mobile device. ECOBEE can be programmed to notify the homeowner when temperature issues arise in the whole house, or any specific room. The power of open-source home automation systems lie in the flexibility and reliability. Having one or more devices communicating with ease can bring a special kind of novelty to a home or estate.

For clients who want to get the most out of their home heating and cooling systems in the automated sense, NEST offers a partial-open source solution for your thermostat. Control the thermostat from anywhere and allow the system to learn your temperature change patterns for smart automation and energy saving. Open-source options provide flexibility and notify you with real-time notifications on your smartphone, tablet, or another handheld device when you are away from your home or estate about what is happening inside and outside, 24/7.

The Demand For Open-Source

At the end of the day, Sanford noted, the demand for closed source systems like Apple HomeKit is “way lower than open-source systems.” Sanford says that he advises that clients choose open-source home automation, but warns about using voice-activated solutions due to their lack of strong security. These voice-activated devices that are sitting in rooms in your house, waiting for a voice command, are not hack-proof.

The good news for fans of open-source home devices is that there are many excellent ​open-source APIs available for integration into your home. Sanford and his highly technical staff at Smarter Homes of Austin can provide you with many examples of how and why an open-source automation system is the only way to go. If you’re a homeowner who is not a big fan of relying on voice control devices like Siri or Amazon Echo, consider a central hardwired device with a touchpad that is easy to use and won’t get damaged sitting out on the living room table or in a bedroom.

Having this device installed in one main wall in the house can keep your home secure and safe without relying on AI (Artificial Intelligence) to learn your voice and continue to listen to banter that is going on in the house. The idea of the Amazon Echo, Siri, or some other home audio system potentially being hacked and your privacy compromised is an additional worry you don’t need. Not to mention, if the security of open source was one of your concerns, Peter and his team can alleviate that issue altogether by building you a hack-proof system.      

With a mobile device, small actions performed on the fly or the touch of the home screen embedded into the wall of your house can produce impressive results with only a bit of programming. With an open-source home automation solution, the opportunities are there to maximize the technology available to get the most of your “​smart home​.”  You won’t be limited to the confines of a single technology brand. That’s why an open-source home system programmed by Smarter Homes of Austin can help you keep your guard up. Keeping your home as secure as possible and maintaining your privacy as you upgrade your smart home should be of utmost importance.

Contact Smarter Homes of Austin to learn more about why you can’t lose with an all open-source home automation solution.

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