Home Assistant now comes in a ready-to-use box


Home Assistant, the smart home automation platform that is both powerful and pungent, is finally making its way to the mainstream. Nabu Casa, the company behind the free and open source software, has launched Home Assistant Amber, its first out-of-the-box hub that can run Home Assistant software out of the box. Unlike previous methods of using Home Assistant, there is minimal programming required and there is no need to create your own computer when you have the Amber.

Debut on the crowdfunding platform for creators Crowd supply this week, the $ 149 box is designed for beginners and experienced HA fans alike. Shipment is slated for June 2022, provided the fundraising goal of $ 140,000 is met (roughly one-third of the way at time of publication).

Home Assistant Amber is designed to be scalable by the user, which will aid in the future in the rapidly changing smart home space.
Image: Nabu Casa

The brain of the device is a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 (CM4), and an integrated Silicon Labs module powers the Zigbee 3.0 connection, the main Home Assistant communication protocol.

With Zigbee on board, you can connect popular home automation products like Philips Hue bulbs and Ikea smart blinds directly to the Amber hub (no need to use their own bridges), then control them in the Home Assistant software on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

The Silicon Labs chip also supports OpenThread, and she says it’s working to make it compatible with Matter, the open standard with a mission to simplify the smart home.

The Amber hub comes pre-assembled in a custom case with a Raspberry Pi 4 (CM4) compute module and heat sink for quiet operation.
Image: Nabu Casa

Z-Wave compatibility can be added with a Z-Wave USB stick or through a connection to a third-party hub like Vera or SmartThings. The Amber hub also has an M.2 expansion port so you can plug in an SSD hard drive for more storage, among other expansion capabilities.

Notably, there is no built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and the internet connection is via gigabit Ethernet. Home Assistant founder Paulus Schoutsen explains that this is because they “don’t want people to have the idea of ​​connecting their smart home’s brain over Wi-Fi. It needs a connection. reliable. The full specifications from the Amber line with other Raspberry Pi 4-based systems, although there is no video output to plug in a display – you do all maintenance and setup through the Home Assistant mobile or desktop apps.

The main attraction of Home Assistant is its local control (the ability to access your devices even when the Internet is down); its secure cloud offering focused on confidentiality; and that it is completely platform independent. There are over a thousand compatible devices and integrations, many of which are not supported by other popular platforms like Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, or Amazon’s Alexa. (A complete list of devices is published on the Home assistant website).

The Amber hub can be controlled by the Home Assistant app on a smartphone.
Image: Nabu Casa

As an open source project (with over 8,000 contributors on GitHub this year alone), Home Assistant’s capabilities are literally endless. However, they require a steeper learning curve than most people. Get ready to do some light coding to get your lights on.

The eight-year-old platform is incredibly powerful and can do more than most mainstream options currently on offer. The standard automations for lowering your thermostat and locking your doors at night are there, but it can also track power consumption, power output (if you have solar power or similar) and offer a sustainability score. for your home to help keep you on track.

To catch an Amber Home Assistant, you have to be one of the top 500 backers, as the company has only secured components for so many units due to the current global shortage. There is also the option of an amber kit which you can assemble yourself and which has the added capability of Power over Ethernet. However, these do not ship with the CM4 and are not as user friendly.

The campaign ends on October 27, 2021, with production scheduled to begin in six months and units to ship on June 30, 2022.

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