What is Home Assistant?

This is my new shiny so I’m going to talk about it a lot. I really love it! Home Assistant (Hass) is an open-source software platform built using the Python programming language which controls home automation devices. It runs wonderfully on the Raspberry Pi 3.

It’s hard to encompass in one small post exactly what Hass can do, but it can basically monitor, control and automate almost anything it is possible to monitor, control or automate! And if a Hass Component you want doesn’t exist, the development community will very likely help you add one. It hooks up with things like IFTTT, Nest, Phillips Hue, LIFX, Arduino, Kodi and loads of others from the really well-known to the extremely niche. It’s brilliant!

I think the Hass community is its main strength. There’s a really helpful community of developers, enthusiasts and complete newbies spread across the User chat room, Dev chat room, forums and documentation. The Gitter user chat room for example isn’t staffed with a bunch of old greybeards who dismiss people who don’t know what a WebServer is, or get angry when new users ask the same questions over and over. The level of patience I’ve seen from the community is quite amazing. Seriously, the amount of times I’ve wandered into that chat room after completely breaking Home Assistant… I have always been treated with patience and understanding and found a solution.

A vibrant, healthy and nurturing community is so important for a new-ish open source software project. I don’t think that can be underestimated.

I’ve got this far into the post without yet mentioning the accessibility possibilities of Home Assistant. It’s so so useful! Yes, my lights were already automated and had an app, yes the heating was already automated and had an app, the door had an app, my music had an app, the motion sensors had an app, I had an app to call for help…

The problem is opening and closing all these different apps takes me a long time. I don’t use my hands, after all. So I’ve pulled all those different functions into one place - my Hass Hub that I am running on a Pi. I’m going to write loads of little posts explaining how I’ve done this and how you can do it too, but for now I just wanted to point you in the right direction and let you explore. They’ve also just released an iOS app (for my phone) as well, which I’ll review soon.

So in conclusion, Home Assistant + Raspberry Pi = WINNING! winning

A word of caution: please don’t be put off when you first look at the Hass homepage for the first time if you are not used to using computers. I understand that phrases like “built on Python”, “Git Repository”, “installs on Linux” and even “Raspberry Pi” can be off putting. But with a little patience it won’t seem that difficult hopefully and I’ll talk you through the whole thing step-by-step. You can make Home Assistant as simple or as complicated as you like and that’s one of its major strengths. If all you want your Hass installation to do is turn your lights on and off and be able to see who is at the front door then that’s great, we can do that. But if you want to be able to turn the lights on and off, to see who is at the front door, tell you the weather in Siberia three days from now and get a notification on your phone every time somebody goes into space (seriously) on your iPhone, then that’s possible too.

It’s going to be great! This is the start of a series I’m going to enjoy writing and sharing with you enormously.