In April I will give a lecture on “from monitoring to automation to surveillance”. In my opinion we - as a free and open source community for smart home - are close to losing the fight against the propietary IoT and industrial products.
My idea is to talk about fear and anger. For this I need some interesting sources that give YOU the belief to do the right thing by choosing openHAB as your preferred software for your smart home. Please leave your stories & sources in this thread. I remember the (old) stories about children’s toys with built-in microphones, companies leaving the market (and their cloud servers at the same time). In a few weeks / months the rollout of smart meter gateways in Germany will start. But maybe you have other stories to tell.
Some background about my humble opinion why we (foss) communities will lose.
In our early days (10 years ago) it was a revolution to come up with an on premise solution. But we are not convenient. We are not “up to date” (because in most cases we have to reverse engeneering protocolls and features). We are lazy (because we do that in our spare time). We do not have answers for our users in buzzwords (eg. machine learning, smart, what is the right product …). We don’t primarily support foss on premise solutions like mycraft as a replacement for apple, google or amazon speech recognition. We have no marketing power.
Although Smart in Smart Home is a relevant topic. We have almost 100k users in our forum. Maybe 500k up to 1000k installations. But what? We are not organized. We have no lobby. We have no clear approach to be relevant. We have no face to the user. That’s ok, because we are an open source software community. We can try to form a close alliance with the other foss smart home systems. IMHO we have to.
But that is another (maybe relevant) topic for other talks.
If you want to share (sad) stories about the smart home thing, please leave a comment.
I wish I had a sad story or some principled stand about using FOSS, but for me it comes down to capability vs. cost, keeping in mind my time is party of the cost so a FOSS solution could very easily cost way more than a commercial option.
I got started with home automation because the controllers for my garage door opener stopped working and the openers were too old to replace them. So I followed an Adafruit tutorial and hacked together something using an RPi and a relay (still in use btw). This was in 2013 I think.
Shortly thereafter I decided to do some more automation so I got a Zwave controller an a couple of outlets. I started with HomeGenie but I don’t remember exactly why I was dissatisfied with it. I think I was worried about the fact that it seemed to be a one man operation and I couldn’t see it moving forward very fast, but I honestly don’t remember. Maybe I had stability issues. But something caused my to go looking. IIRC Wink and SmartThings and Vera were just coming out or just becoming popular at that time but I wanted to not lose the $40 investment in that ZWave controller so went looking for a FOSS option. I found openHAB and have never looked back.
For me it isn’t about whether or not something is FOSS or not. I’m too selfish and practical for that. For my needs openHAB does everything I need and more so I’ve no reason to go looking elsewhere. When it comes time for me to add to my home automation, the priorities usually are in the following order:
cost, and my time is part of the cost, a FOSS solution can potentially cost far more than a commercial option
integration with technologies/ecosystems that I’m already a part of
local storage and local control.
So, why do I use Google Assistant instead of something like Mycroft? Because Mycroft will cost me more (in time) and Google Assistant can do more and integrates more with stuff I already have. And that makes me part of the problem instead of part of the solution I’m sure. But at least it supports your initial premise.
So why do I use OH instead of a commercial offering? It’s simply a better product over all. It wins out in all but the first criteria above. And at this point I’ve spent enough time learning and helping people with OH that I can get anything set up in OH faster than it would take me to learn even the simplest of commercial offerings so even with 1 it wins out.
I’m a practical person. For me, OH is the practical choice. Sadly, for many that won’t be the case and a commercial option that provides less freedom or less capabilities but cost less in time or integrates with the stuff you already own better will win out. And with companies like Google and Amazon throwing their weight around, that may mean that FOSS ends up losing out over all sadly. But FOSS is much harder to kill than a commercial offering. As long as there is one person using it, it lives on. I don’t think that FOSS will ever truly lose to the big companies. But I don’t ever see it winning. Companies like Google and Amazon have other stuff they can leverage to make their home automation offerings more attractive (see 3. from above).
I have been using open source for many years. A little over a year ago I got an echo dot and an amazon plug for my birthday from one of my sons. I am not too interested in the spying echo dot but I started to look into what could be done with the plug and started looking at some home automation as a hobby.
I initially looked at OH then and realized it was complex and a bit of an organizational mess. Although I looked some on the forum I did not ask any questions. I chose Home Assistant and got frustrated with their lack of support for my Z-Wave devices without customizing after every upgrade. I took another look at openHAB and Chris Jackson helped me get my devices working I was so thankful I spent 4 months auditing and improving our device database.
I do not use a commercial product because there are very few if any that do not push for vendor lock in.
Basically my story is the same as @rlkoshak it is Opensource because it is cheaper to get good intergration/control between multiple pieces of hardware that are good value for money.
Almost got burned last year by Logitech closing down an API on their harmony hubs and interestingly it was the multiple opensource projects that placed heavy pressure on the company to not close it down. The opensource community can make a difference by placing pressure on the big guys as youtube reviews are often done by Opensource users.
Another story which interests me is at the below link. After the Australian owned TV station aired the story at the below link the Chinese government banned the website that showed the story from the Chinese version of the internet.
The ban has implications that are not obvious at first. Both companies are the biggest selling and they are not able to participate in ONVIF anymore due to data exports to their companies no longer allowed.
I’m not a fan of portraying"open-source versus commercial" as a competition. I don’t see why one has to be better than the other, or why there have to be winners and losers. They’re just different approaches with different costs, benefits, and appeals. I may run openHAB, but commercial entities had a hand in the manufacture of all of the electronic devices that I use for and with it. I’m not one to do business with a company by my own choice while complaining about how terrible they are.
I think that if home automation is going to move forward, it’ll be due in large part to for-profit companies investing time and effort to make it accessible and easy to use by the general public. And I think we, as an open-source community, will benefit from that happening. We’ll be able to take advantage of some of the hardware/software solutions those companies implement, but on our own terms.
I’m not sure why anyone would choose to be fearful or angry about home automation. If that’s the case, I think they should just choose not to use it and spend more time being happy.
This might be the root of why I don’t share your perspective. I’m not at all motivated by openHAB being open source, so I don’t perceive this as an open-source software community. I’m here for the home automation, and if SmartThings worked better for me I’d be there instead. So, my participation in this community shouldn’t be taken as an indicator that I am a champion of free and open-source software.
If your premise is “from monitoring to automation to surveillance,” then I think your lecture could be about understanding the risks associated with home automation and acting appropriately. Don’t buy products/services from companies that you don’t trust. Read the terms and conditions before accepting them. Understand that when companies get in the door, it’s likely because you opened it for them.
If more people accepted responsibility for their actions, there would be less fear and anger.
I remember that DDos on Finnish thermostats a while back. While this mostly is about security to affect all, commercial and FOSS deployments, another main issue is the attractiveness of commercial cloud server farms.
They bundle attack targets, and are more susceptible to be a target because of their commercial nature.
myopenhab is probably a far less attractive target (at least I hope so) because DIY hobbyists like us are more aware of risks, mitigations and what they’re doing than COTS buyers are. And not rich enough to be held for ransom (that at least I’m sure of :-))
For me the reason were rather simple. Commercial software is a choice. And when you have made that choice, you have chosen the path of the company. No matter what needs and wishes you may have, you can be sure, the company will not support it, unless they see a profit in it.
Since this is home automation, there are so many different needs and wishes that one commercial produkt cant handle all of them. This means, like almost everything else, you´ll have to make compromises one way or another. If (when) I have to make compromises, I see no reason to pay it for in a commercial product. (it makes no sense paying for compromises).
Commercial products are not as open and flexible as open source. There is a financial reason for this. A commercial product needs to be in control. If they´re not, then, they can not ask for the money.
I chose OH mainly because of its support for devices, and specially the devices which I had at the time, (mainly my IHC system). If OH didn´t had this, then I would have dumped it before I even started it. I knew it would be a time-killer thing. It is complex as hell, and there is a stiff learning curve from day one. And one would probably never reach the top. When any chose such a system, they´re often prepared for the consequences. When choosing a commercial product, often the user will think its a lot more simple, and maybe never see the missing flexibility and features.
For me, it’s quite simple.
I have a collection of commercial things like programmable room thermostats, timers, heating programmers, programmable light switches, wireless dimmers etc., etc.
None, with the exception of one manufacturer (Horstmann) work - they have gone AWOL, or are too fiddly to use, lose correct time, fail, are expensive, unrepairable, don’t work together etc.
If that’s the best that Honeywell, Drayton, Siemens, Theben/Timeguard, Lightwave etc. can offer, then I’m better off going down the DIY route.
I have an XBee network monitoring temperatures and utility meters. I also use 1-Wire for some difficult locations.
I’ve dabbled with ESP modules from Adafruit and the like, but I’m not a great coder (Arduino mainly) and don’t have the hours in the days to learn new coding languages.
At the moment, I’m compromising with Sonoff modules, combining them to make things like programmable thermostats, but using eWelink.
They work well, dead easy to program and monitor.
But one thing is for certain, I will never buy another device from the companies above, and I won’t be lining the pockets of Nest, Hive, Philips etc. either
I am worried about the move to data as the new gold and companies and governments acquiring more data every day, inching closer to surveillance states.
I use OpenHAB precisely because it keeps all data local and I can use it to make all the commercial hardware I have to keep working local.
Personally I’m more worried about the ideas of using long range networks (e.g. 5g, lora) in home automation/IoT devices, as they have a hard requirement on the cloud to function.
The current devices still need to have a local gateway to connect to the cloud, so you can modify that to connect to openHAB instead. This will be much harder if you don’t own the gateway the devices use to connect to the internet anymore.