Announcing a crowdfunded openHAB based central

Dear openHAB community,

Today, I’d like to announce an openHAB based crowdfunding campaign that we, a group of three openHAB enthusiasts are currently preparing.

We have been enthusiastic openHAB users for several years now. Two of us are software engineers and joined the foundation last year, shortly after the fantastic Smart Home Day in Ludwigsburg. We are familiar with technology and have set up an extremely functional openHAB environment. What we recognized is, that many friends and family had a “WOW" effect when we showed them how many different types of devices from different vendors we are able to control in our homes using openHAB. They like the functionality but are not able to do the setup themselves.

We want to make the start of openHAB easier for those people. That’s why we finally created OMNI Q - “The one device to control them all” :wink:

It’s basically a pre-installed openHAB system in a nice housing and selected extension sticks. The idea is to offer something that enables anyone to immediately start using openHAB. We are convinced by the idea of making openHAB available for people who don’t have a technical background. Now we would like to find out, if this idea also convinces other people – and especially you as the openHAB community. We are just founding a company – called Dancing Bee – and are preparing a Kickstarter campaign.

If you like the idea, please let us know by giving our Facebook page a like, by subscribing to our newsletter or by visiting us on Twitter and Instagram. All links can also be found on our OMNI Q teaser page.

Of course, any comments and questions in the OpenHAB community forum are very welcome and much appreciated!

Cheers,
Ando, Metin & Tim

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Think the idea is great. You are basically creating a smart home hub of sorts. Great luck on your campaign!

I am interested in seeing your UI as compared to other products. I believe that this is what is required to make it a win. I see openhab as three primary parts. Hardware setup, initial software setup, maintenance.

Your product solves 2 of the 3. I know openhab has a great UI, but there are still many questions by users. I fear that the command line is still required at the present moment and that would not be appealing to some users. So I am curious to see how you work to solve this last issue for the novice user. I have subscribed to your newsletter and look forward to watching.

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Thank you very much for your feedback! And thanks also for your good wishes!

You’re definitely making a valid point with regard to the UI. While openHAB is great in terms of support for an amazing multitude of smart home devices, we too think that the available UI is not suitable enough for the non-technical user. Even technical users struggle with it in the beginning (speaking of myself).

Our plan is to provide a better UI, especially with regard to the setup of new devices. We’ve started working on this, but due to our limited resources, we decided to get the hardware started now to first find out, if there is interest in such a solution out there. The software we provide will be prepared for frequent updates and improvements to eventually become the software we dream of. So while the first release may not yet contain everything we dream of, we’ll continue to deliver updates to reach that goal.

Of course, in the end, it depends on the crowdfunding result. If we merely reach the minimum goal that is necessary to produce the hardware, it’s the plan to start with that. If we make better than that, we should be able to deliver the UI improvements earlier.

You can help us reach our goal by spreading the word. If you want to see our project come true, please share our links.

Thanks
Metin

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I think this is great idea. OpenHab is amazing, but agree the UI is confusing to begin with. PaperUI goes a long way to solving this and HabPanel is awesome too. I tighter integration between the two could be good, and I guess adding new Widgets for HabPanel is a good place to start. I also think having a better grouping UI for PaperUI would help too.

As a beginner (my first month) with a solid technical background I’ve found OpenHab fairly easy to get started with, and I haven’t had to do any coding, apart from custom widgets on HabPanel to display things just the way I want them. I feel like having a bigger and more tightly vendor-specific set of widgets would be very good and make it easier for non-technical people to create their panel interfaces.

Are there any channels that I can look at to get more involved in this - you say you are tight on resources - can you post where interested people can see a list of open issues or stories that might need some support.

Apologies if this is all written elsewhere - like I say, I’m new to this and there’s a lot of content on the community pages and main site :slight_smile:

Question to think of, on this new Ui since the openhab is open source. Would the new ui then be required to be released?

I don’t know the answer merely asking the question.

I like to see initiatives like this.

And while I like to see the hardware side of the problem addressed, to truly have a turn-key type system I think attention needs to be paid to the software side as well. In particular the systems administration side. Have you given any thought into creating an OH software appliance? I’m thinking of systems like Kodi, psSense, DD-WRT, OpenMediaVault, etc where they ship as a whole OS and provide a web based interface to do pretty much all the administration you could need to do. It’s a really hard problem but somewhat easier if you have control over both the hardware and the software.

The average non-technical users isn’t going to know what ssh is, let alone know how to log in and configure some Linux subsystem. This is definitely one of the weaknesses of OH right now.

No. the Eclipse License does not require the release of the source code. Furthermore, since the UI’s interface with OH itself is through a REST API, there is enough separation that even more “stick” licenses like GPL 3 would probably not transfer to the UI they would create.

Of course, I’m not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.

But I do know that one of the reasons why the base of OH was spun off into Eclipse Smarthome was to enable the creation of commercial products built upon the open source base with OH being the reference implementation.

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I’m Andreas (most people call me Ando) and I’m part of the project which @metin mentioned. Thank you for the valuable feedback and for sharing your thoughts, @Thedannymullen, @DavidRWB and @rlkoshak.

I totally agree on what you are saying. I use openHAB since years now because it’s a great solution with an active community. While supporting other people, I recognized that it’s still not that easy to get started.

Things already improved a lot with new and valuable tools (e.g. Home Builder, VS Code Extension etc.) and things like flushable images (e.g. openHABian). Maybe that’s one of the reasons @DavidRWB got off to a good start. But I think it still doesn’t attract non technical users. There is still too much base setup (buy hardware, get and flush the image, select extension sticks etc.) and configuration (select bindings, setup Sitemap, configure HABPanel etc.).

The main goal of the first OMNI Q version is keeping the base setup away from the users (similar to what @Thedannymullen wrote). We believe that this will inspire even more people to use openHAB. It will most likely attract people with a basic technical understanding and the motivation to build something really smart in their home.

Nevertheless we have the clear vision (which maybe many of you - and if I understood it right also @rlkoshak - share) that normal users will have a really smart home which is based on openHAB. We are part of the openHAB community and OMNI Q is based on openHAB. Therefore many things we do will be open sourced too. Not necessarily because of legal aspects (if any exist) but rather because of our personal conviction. But there will be of course the question of how to handle it in total. That’s why I don’t want to rule out the possibility that some things won’t be open sourced.

Please let us know if you have more questions. We’ll try to answer them :slight_smile:

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I know exactly what you mean here. The cocky cheap local competitors who never invest a penny on development. I am facing them myself, thats why I can’t make everything open so quickly. One of the reasons I was pushing for Apache License when contributing to ESH/OH core, it is a way to keep us regional firms ahead of other regional firms. The EPL destroys that, my lawyers told me and I trust them.

I am not here to bash you, but to advice you. Do you provide warranty? When you distribute something for a non-zero value, you are in radar of monetary and judiciary trolls. I would suggest stay off radar as much as possible. The idea of thrill of a million facebook likes or a 100 likes here is totally different than the reality of surviving amongst a stiff competition. The forum here is mostly hobby group. They don’t loose anything if system fails, they don’t face prosecution. We do.

I am not saying hobbyists produce bad code but when you enter in monetary system with that code, you better be sure it works, for weeks. months, years.

If you develop new addons, or a new UI or any new module you are not obliged to open source it according to the EPL. Only if you improve/add features to existing modules the existing code base you need to open source it. I think if you want to have added value as a commercial product you need develop your own modules/UI anyway. Because, as others have mentioned, the current openHAB is not for really easy to use if you are not familiar with a command line and therefor difficult to commercialize. And you don’t need to open source those modules. So I do not see why the EPL should be a show stopper with building a commercial product.
Regarding stability of the core system. I don’t see why it’s bad you have to return fixes made. It’s in everybody’s interest those fixes go back to the core.

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FYI, not sure about software but hardware may fall under the obsoleteness law, meaning you will have to provide replacements for a minimum 10 years, unless commercial is different than industrial.

Even I believed what you said. But the thing is lets say I contribute something in EPL, lets say wake on lan binding, and tomorrow I want to make money out of tricky feature like custom magic packet, it becomes very hard for me to prove in courts that I was the one who created the original work and the EPL branch of that work is “just a branch”. The courts assume that I picked up EPL code, modified it for premium features and I must disclose my source. You see, I am the original developer, but I am still getting the bad fame and “being an ass” card from courts here.

If you follow the Eclipse, Eclipse Smarthome, and OH process, every PR requires a “signed off by MyRealName: MyRealEmail@address.com” and it requires signing the intellectual property rights of the software over to the Eclipse Foundation.

So if you merged your deleted WOL binding into the core, you wouldn’t own it anymore anyway. But we would have full documentation of the fact that the code was signed over to the Eclipse Foundation by Ganesh.

If you have some tricky feature that you’ve implemented on top of Eclipse Licensed code and have kept that code private then it’s a simple matter of comparing the open source code with the closed source code to see where you added to it. If your source code is open sourced, then there is nothing in the Eclipse Licence preventing a competitor from using the same code you signed the IP over to the Eclipse Foundation in their own products.

And if you are worried about being sued, well, you don’t own the contributed code and the Eclipse Foundation offers it with no warranty or liability.

So I don’t understand this scenario. Maybe the laws in India are incompatible with open source software development.

I don’t think this is true: https://www.eclipse.org/legal/ECA.php

This ECA, and the license(s) associated with the particular Eclipse Foundation projects You are contributing to, provides a license to Your Contributions to the Eclipse Foundation and downstream consumers, but You still own Your Contributions, and except for the licenses provided for in this ECA, You reserve all right, title and interest in Your Contributions.

Thats exactly the part that scares me and my firm. You people assume that when I give you formula that 2+2=4, you claim your copyright on it. My position is the formula that we gave you is a “just an open source branch” of that work. 2+2 might lead to 5 in certain scenarios, that we don’t want to open source. But here by contributing to EPL, we are being jeopardized of our own did, suddenly the eclipse foundation is claiming 2+2=4 is our idea, we own it, and all derivations of it must adhere to EPL. Thats unfair, we gave it to you in the first place.

Ok, I misunderstood. Thanks for the clarification.

No, when you open source code, you are giving everyone in the works the right to use your code in almost any way they see fit. That’s the Free part in Free and Open Source. If that scares you you shouldn’t release anything open source.

Anything that relations closed source remains fully under your control, with the EPL. If you use a license like GPL, then if your closed source depends on GPL code, it too must be released under GPL. EPL let’s you keep the closed source closed, even if it depends on EPL code.

Hi Metin, Ando & Tim,

Congrats on founding your company, it is great to see people being passionate about openHAB and even decide to do a living on it!

Let me just comment on a few things. I am not meaning to de-rail you in any way, but to make sure you are following the right tracks. Note that IANAL, so don’t take that as a legal advice, but rather seek professional legal assistance for questions that you might have to clarify.

Let me first point to this comment that I made a few years ago. In short, I see two ways of building a business wrt openHAB:

  1. “Around openHAB”: Provide pre-packaged versions, bundled with hardware, professional services (installation, setup, maintainance, etc). Effectively, you are not selling openHAB (or a product at all), but you are offering services for it.
  2. “On top of openHAB”: You build a product (software and/or hardware) that you are selling and for which you have to provide warranty, support, etc. and in which you are using code from openHAB. Most likely you will restrict the software, so that people are not able to do everything they read about here in the forum, because you wouldn’t be able to provide warranty & reliable support anymore.

So (1) is clearly about openHAB as a solution, so it is fine to use the “openHAB” name, refer to the discussion forum here for support and in general help to grow the community, because the efforts make openHAB accessible to a wider audience.

For (2), my clear advice (as mentioned in the linked comment) is to build a product based on Eclipse SmartHome (not calling it “based on openHAB”). The result will be a solution similar to openHAB, but still different to it - as you will have your own user-friendly setup UIs, a constrained set of supported add-ons, etc. As you can see here, there are already such offers on the market. Ideally, such solutions should contribute their improvements back, so that everyone else (including openHAB) benefits from it. As an example, the vast majority of the code of the Paper UI is a contribution from QIVICON in order to have the possibility to do setup&configuration through a UIs. Without this, openHAB would most likely still be fully driven through textual configurations only.

From what I understand, OMNI-Q falls into the (2) category. It thus does not directly address the openHAB community, but rather wants to build a customer base of non-technical users, which might be partially sourced from the openHAB community (so effectively removing them from openHAB, while keeping them in the “ESH-based solution” user group). It is a solution similar to, but not identical to openHAB. It would imho perfectly fit in the list of ESH solution references.

If you like, we can discuss this all over a beer at the next Smart Home Day in Ludwigsburg - I hope you are joining it as well and I’d love to see your hardware prototypes then :slight_smile: .

Regards,
Kai

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Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for your valuable contributions! I’d like to give you some insight about how we see it.

Of course, we have considered the open source and licensing questions before we decided to go openHAB. As we see it, there is no questions in that we put back any bugfixes and enhancements that we may make in the “core” of openHAB. However, when it comes to additional software, it is compliant with the license on one hand, but also necessary, on the other hand, for us to keep some of our code closed, at least for a while. This would probably apply to at least parts of the improved UI that we put on top of openHAB.

And yes, there is indeed a gazillion of legal requirements to be considered when offering a hardware device. For us (being software guys), this is the hardest part, but we decided to accept the challenge and go through it. If it was so easy, everyone would do it! :wink:

We are very proud and happy that the reception of our idea in this forum is so positive. Thank you, guys!

Metin

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Hi Kai,

Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, you are right, we want to go for (2), at least in the long run. However, to be honest, we’ve been discussing the differences between ESH and openHAB, and we thought we’d understand it, but I’m not 100% sure. As I see it, our initial approach is actually about openHAB.

We will definitely be there (by chance, our office is in Ludwigsburg) and would love to discuss with you and everyone who’s interested!

And yes, we’ll be excited to show our prototypes!

Cheers
Metin

David, thanks for the offer. At the very moment, I guess the best you can do is to contribute to openHAB which will help us as well.

We can start to amplify our development once we know if we got the order from the crowdfunding backers. Give us some two more months for this.

1 Like