Smart Home Choices and Ideas

Recently, I’ve decided to add some smart-home technology to my residence. This past weekend, I selected and installed three Nest 3rd Gen Learning Thermostats. (I have three A/Cs in my home) The Nest app is very cool and allows some sophisticated A/C temperature and humidity management. Nest is of course owned by Google. I have, however, integrated it with my Alexa Echo’s. I can say “Alex set the temperature in the Kitchen to 73 degrees” and she’ll make it so. This is very handy if you’re sitting in the living room and do not want to get your "fat lazy butt’ up and adjust the thermostat.

I also bought some camera technology to try out. I chose the Ring product and bought a Doorbell Pro and the RING Floodlight Cam, but now I’m having second thoughts. There is no way to save video except through a subscription of $3-$10 a month. This is not ideal for me. (I think there is a hack for this, but it seems convoluted since it uses the “Alexa” interface to do this) This means that Amazon, who owns Ring, has video of your home’s activities. They can do almost anything they want with it apparently:

Most of the other leading security camera companies do the same thing. My alternative is a completely local security camera solution. This limits the online video options for answering the door etc. I guess I could build a system which does this myself, but this has limits, too.

Next, I want to connect to my existing security sensors provided initially by Brinks and get rid of the monitoring service.

Here’s the solution I’ve found do do most of all of this. Hubitat:


and Konnected:

Another option instead of Hubitat is Home Assistant which uses a Raspberry PI BTW. (I bought my RPI4 2GB yesterday at Microcenter)

My questions are:

  1. Has anyone designed built and installed a security system that they love?
  2. Has anyone installed a system using local stand alone cameras that journal the video locally and are happy or unhappy with it? Something like Nightowl


3. Lastly, has anyone installed and hacked a Raspberry PI based system?
4. Right now the Hubitat, which uses Z-wave and Zigbee to access hundreds of devices looks very attractive at only $90 or so.

PS. I’m also looking at running Pi-Hole for a firewall after reading several recommendations on Talk.

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It would be great to have commercial, UL approved, switches/outlets/… and be able to control them from a RPi. I have not really looked but this could be developed into a very popular class.

There are several “smart” switches that can be controlled through a Raspberry Pi / Home Assistant setup. The one that looks the most “legit” [commercial, UL approved] is the Shelly brand [https://shelly.cloud/]. They have a few flavors that are really just ESP8266 with relays and exposed inputs [to control the device locally].

Most people running Home Assistant tend to flash the firmware to Tasmota - and the Shelly products make this simple.

I do not have any experience with these devices, but have looked into it several times when I come home to an empty but extremely well lit house… It was on the list to try out this summer, which is now on the try out this fall list - so this time next year I might have some first hand knowledge to share.

Tom

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Recommend you lock down your router to keep hostiles away from your Nests. Google has been very quiet about it, but there have been a number of ransomware attacks.

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I’ve setup a number of surveillance systems based around UniFi cameras recording to a Synology NAS. Everyone I’ve done that for has been very happy with it.

A number of people recommended the same in this thread:

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Thanks for the URL pointer the the preexisting discussion. I have Ubiquity wifi and didn’t even think to look at their cameras. I’ll look more closely at them based upon the numerous recommendations in the thread.

Ubiquiti, like Apple, can provide an excellent homogeneous experience.

1, 2, 3)

yes, this was all before hass.io, rpi, and cloud offerings so we had to look things up on instructables or use old laptops and usb webcams but it can be done with better hardware these days.

Amcrest 2K 3MP Wireless Outdoor Security Camera is a really good option for $69 (price of a pi and camera hat) one gets a full solution that has a https stream of the camera feed which can be picked up bo Home Assistant and also captured to disk via vlc, obs, or other similar software then automatically backed up to AWS S3 Glacier via s3fs or cronjob.

Take a look at https://www.home-assistant.io/components/generic/ for configuration and S3 Glacier is about $1/mo for 1Tb cold storage

I also suggest looking into https://zoneminder.com/ which is a free open source alternative to BlueIris.

Before I forget, there’s fairly easy way to build electric locks that tie into Hass.io:

This one pains the hell out of me since I want to build one that unlocks a pair of deadbolts as I get within a geofence of 3-5m of my door when I get home and lock when I leave the geofence. But whatever you do; avoid the bluetooth “smart” locks on the market. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/08/using_a_smart_bluetooth_lock_to_protect_your_valuables_youre_an_idiot/

Other than that I’d be glad to advise or help with the project at any time.

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Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it.

I purchased another RPI 3 for the HASS.IO controller today. I didn’t realize the RPI 4 binaries were Beta currently. I’m going to load the RPI and start working with it to get familiar with the interfaces.

I’m having fun at the moment. I may call upon you later though.

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I purchased another RPI 3 for the HASS.IO controller today. I didn’t realize the RPI 4 binaries were Beta currently. I’m going to load the RPI and start working with it to get familiar with the interfaces.

I’m having fun at the moment. I may call upon you later though.

Cool! Love to hear how it’s coming along and one should know to find me :wink:

Short little update on my home automation project. I installed Pi-Hole on my Raspberry PI 3B and installed it into my network. Everything on our network now goes through it looking for DNS. The little cpu is using <3% to manage all of the DNS requests and there have been 1000s of them. You never really know what your Google mini home, Alexa echo’s, Firesticks and Nests are doing to your network until you see the 1000s of requests that they make to the PiHole DNS server. Wow. It is startling.

I’ve blacklisted most of the domains for Amazon but the devices keep trying. Alexa is especially diligent. About 100-200 a minute sometimes.

I also purchased a Hubitat instead of building the Home Assistant although I plan to do that too sometime. I’ve already integrated some devices called Kasa plugs and switches. They respond quickly to commands from the Hubitat.

I’m working on other integrations, too. Apparently, there were several Works With Nest projects on Github for Hubitat, but Google has stated that they are moving away from WWN towards Works with Google Assistant. I

Eventually, I hope to get Ring, Nest, iRobot and other devices integrated. I’m still looking towards installing a non-subscription, possibly Ubiquiti, camera system though. My Ring trial expires this month.

At least I’m enjoying the work and having fun. Installed two intelligent switches today. Will install tow or three more tomorrow. Its cool to tell Alexa to turn off your kitchen lights.

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Great job Dan. Kasa and the associated hardware have worked great for me. Probably have 20 bulbs and 12+ plugs. The Logitech Home Hub is great for controlling AV stuff via RF/IR. Has a great touchscreen remote or you can use your phone. It will control most DVRs, amps and TVs with it.

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Use this for your surveillance server
https://www.axxonsoft.com/products/axxon_next/free_version.php

One does know they can just install a bunch of android tablets and IP WebCam. Then use OBS to archive that source stream to a network share off one’s file server.

Heck this is darn close to how Linus from TechTips does his setup for the video streams and one gets rather good video from IP WebCam given they use something with a decent camera to begin with.

All one needs to do is mount the tablet in a vesa mount to the wall, then install a kiosk software that launches a browser (or dashboarding tool) plus ip webcam, lookout, and airdroid in the background. Then point OBS to the ip address and port on your tablet.

Yeah but Axxon can unlock your doors for you automatically when it detects your family’s face & it can scan and keep a record of all your neighbors and license plates of cars that pass by in the neighborhood built in.

unlock your doors for you automatically

Sure that’s a nice feature and selling point to most but I’d rather not give anyone that ability.

and keep a record of all your neighbors and license plates of cars

Big brother much!?

No seriously, the moment anyone says your doing it to stock or harass them even with a vehicle on public roads and your camera on private property it becomes a court case with potential 3rd degree Felony charges on a bad day. Of course sure having a company doing the management of the video helps but still becomes a grey area for personal use.

Paranoid much? That is so well-settled that there’s not even the remotest question that it’s perfectly legal. The police ask people to please share video when they are investigating crimes.

A camera pointed into your neighbor’s back yard - yeah, a potential fight (that they’d still likely lose, depending on whether the camera is where a person could stand and see into their yard). A camera pointed at the street? Not a chance they’d have a case, regardless of your motives.

Paranoid, not much these days but did worked with some high level government contracting firms, hung out around some hacking groups in the day, and worked political action groups thus learning first hand why one should take 1984 as a warning; sure.

Either way if one is monitoring stuff outside my solution above (using ip webcam and android tablets) is by all means NOT usable. sorry tablets on walls outside a building just doesn’t make sense in this day and age.

I’ve only brought up that option since OP (@coloneldan) was talking about things that integrate into cloud platforms and home assistant. Something I’ve done with the same setup very nicely. Even set up a monitoring center using just:

  • android-x86
  • random laptop I had laying around
  • these apps:

com.pas.webcam.pro was installed on each table around the home which they where mounted to get enough coverage for that room and provide a infographic display for things like shows, shopping lists, etc…, then obs saved the stream to s3 via a vpn link into the home (obs ran on a vm in aws)

The monitoring center just had android on a laptop, home assistant, a plain launcher that allowed me to use widgets and had multiple “desktops” each of which had a instance of IP WebCam Viewer pointing to each tablet’s camera.

Point being, 99.9% ip security cams are streaming mpeg video either via rtsp or http. Thus yes, one should use the right application for the right job but overall building a smarthome with security system is so accessible these days one can do it with cheap android tablets and a bunch of raspberry pis.

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Just released a Pi-Hole appliance:

Next releases will have

  • haas
  • iron.io faas
  • gitea+drone cicd
  • octopi
  • community grid
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