When I’m dead

A bit morbid, sorry about that. But I’m currently building a house for me and my family and including lots of smart home stuff.
There’s a chance that I might die someday and if I do, my wife and children probably won’t know what to do when anything goes wrong, even if I try to write some kind of troubleshooting manual.

Maybe the forum could have a section for widows who need help either fixing something, adding/removing things, or removing the system.


Good point.

Not to forget for those who will leave forever: each smarthome is a highly individual system. Best practice is to do really good documentation, at least: which hardware is used (and the amount), where to get replacement (same stock…) passwords and keys…

In question of openHAB, there may be some parts that are more or less self-explanatory, but some general information comes in handy, when figuring out what’re all the rules about.

A bit morbid, yes. Having a plan for such is very good.
IMHO a new thread by a person that needs help because of such a reason will find enough help on this forum even without a dedicated section.

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I see that in the same way as ‘the other’ digital heritage…

the key thing is, even if you document everything pretty good, either they have the interest on their own, or they need somebody who has an idea about it.
At least and as already mentioned above, documenting your home / env / etc is prio1. What after somebody’s pass away will rlly happen, is the other thing.

Thanks for all the comments.

I think that any widow should get special treatment. Although the community is great, there is no way that my wife is ever going to follow instructions to SSH into a server and restart a Docker container, or add a zigbee device in deCONZ and create a new item with properties etc in OpenHAB, or re-authenticate a Google API. Ever.

I think that what I was suggesting is that there is a special section for widows.
I know it’s not general policy for people to do actual work for people here. But I would argue that widows should be an exception.

If I die, I would like someone to either come to my house to uninstall everything in a sensible way, or to log in remotely to fix or change something for my wife/children.
Either as a paid service (I don’t think my wife would have an issue paying someone a few 100 € to do something). Or I could leave a donation to the OpenHAB foundation before I die to get my wife a few free fixes.

It probably hasn’t come up much, or at all yet, but I suspect the OpenHAB demographic is mostly men who are due to die in the next 20-60 years. This could be a good opportunity to look to the future.
Maybe we should have a list of people willing to help so that there’s someone ready to help. Or as a way to offset our donation. I’ll be the first to sign up as a widow-helper.

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I think any section of the forum qualifies. I’m not sure we need to create a special category. Everyone here is happy to help, no matter the reason.

But I’m a strong advocate for building home automations such that even if everything breaks openHAB wise, the home will still operate in the traditional “dumb” fashion. The instructions I’ve given my wife amount to:

  1. Turn off the computers in my office. (that’s where openHAB runs)
  2. Unplug the cable modem from the little black computer with ridges and plug it straight into the wifi gateway (removes AdAware and OPNsense from the network)
  3. Use the router app on her phone to change the gateway from AP mode to routing mode.

Everything else can remain in place because they still work in the old traditional way. I have no expectation that she will have the ability and more importantly the interest in keeping the automation up herself.

Maybe when my son gets older it’ll be a different story.

That wouldn’t be legally allowed by the OH Foundation and German law given the way the foundation is set up. They cannot offer “fixes” in exchange for donations or they risk losing their non-profit status.

On this point I completely agree. And I fully expect that most of us here would bend over backwards to help in the best ways we can. However, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that or even to demand it.

And frankly, the only proper thing to do in such a case is to remove the home automation. It can never be sustainable under these circumstances. And there are a ton of things you can do right now to make that easier, quick and relatively painless.

It’s come up quite a bit actually.

It’s one of the many reasons why I advocate for:

  • push the smarts to the edge as much as possible, autonomous devices are still fit for purpose even when OH is gone
  • build escalators, not elevators (when an escalator is broken, it can still be used like stairs), in other words design to fail gracefully
  • have a documented plan in place to back out/disable what cannot be maintained.

I agree with everything you said, and I will do my best with docs etc.
However, I’d still like a little more peace of mind. How about this - I’m looking for a “death buddy”. Who ever dies last helps the other one. Feel free to PM me anyone.

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*Preferably someone younger and healthier than I am :rofl:

Being in IT for decades only has proven one thing: Resistance is futile, things are moving very fast.

So the ideal world where everything you built will run forever after you are gone is a fairy tale and it might be worth to let go of things you built over the years before nobody (even you) is able to handle it anymore.
In the end it might be a question of how you setup your stuff so it can easily be dismantled later.
Nevertheless I might be proven wrong by time, so I tend to document things whenever I implement them.

What I will leave behind for the family when it comes to technology (or the one buying the house as downsizing might become appropriate before crossing the bridge):

Everything we do is a process and every process might be important or not. To understand a system it is highly critical that you know the reasons why things have been done and how they relate to each other.
So this is where I start to give an introduction for the less technical reader giving an overview.

A prioritised list of processes that run automated or support you.

  1. Name
  2. Purpose
  3. Criticality (1 = “Must run” … 5 = “Can be dropped it without any impact”)
  4. Dependencies (Other process)

Then things will get more technical.

Graphical system landscape from a box / network perspective.

  1. annotating devices with location, model, technology (e.g. network protocol), an indicator how “critical” or “close” it is to the core functionality of the whole house.
  2. Annotating connections with technology used (knx, zigbee, zwave, modbus …)

A list of all the devices shown in the graphical overview with detailed information about how they are configured

  1. Network addresses, NodeIDs or or similar stuff and names to identify it
  2. Where it that piece located?
  3. Details on hardware, vendor and configuration (e.g. parameters set)
  4. Credentials / How to access
  5. Backups, e.g. a replacement SD card or USB stick when it comes to my Raspberries.

A list of external service dependencies (e.g. Cloud services)

  1. How to access (Keys, credentials, URLs)

A dependency list, showing which process requires which resources (which devices, network, services…).

And do not forget to give access to your mail account and/or use a specific mail account that is only used for automation purposes . Can everybody remember all the accounts you created to get certain integrations running ? In case a password reset is required this is crucial.
Providing a password safe and the corresponding password manager might be a good idea as well.

Always good: Label your physical items. Ever looked into the central cabinet of your house and wondered what all this stuff is for and (the easy part) which fuse is for what? Now think about somebody having to figure out for things you put into ceilings or walls. Guess you get it. (One more point for knx,you can arrange the project similar to the building and / or topological structure and assign the devices so you can easily identify them.)

In the end I hope this will allow someone to decide where to look into and strip it down to the very basic functionality required.

As I’m running the house on a knx backbone shutting down OH or anything else might lead to minor inconveniences like

  • Some (not all) tablet access no longer being available,
  • zigBee lights (I have them for non critical stuff only)
  • ZWave thermostats not working (Simply replace them by a standard one and things are fine)
  • Monitoring data only I am interested in is gone

But the core functionality to live in the house is completely available in the ETS project ( and a PDF export, just in case). That is something every skilled electrician can work with and as such future proof.

What I see extremely critical is mixing multiple (maybe exotic) devices and technologies without a strong backbone. To keep this alive is already a challenge when being mentally at the top.

When it come to openHAB honestly I’m a bit scared about the documentation topic, especially when it comes to coding - there are so many places you are able and required to code things.
My tendency is that I will split up my OH installation into 2-3 instances, split criterium will be the criticality of the processes running on them. Idea is to document “instance 1” with the important core stuff well, “instance 2” (well nice, but we can live without it) a bit and leave out “Instance 3” ( The stuff only I did care about like metering or fancy party lights). Only “Instance 1” will required a closer look, everything else can simply be shut down.
This will make it easier to maintain and drop complexity. Time will tell if this will be feasible, but to me it sounds like a plan I want to evaluate.

Start early is key when it comes to build your digital heritage.
Not only the “final” situation should be considered - the problems arise earlier than you expect them.
Getting older makes your eyes weak, your fingers start to shiver and things you did without any hesitation begin to challenge your brain. Do we all still remember the reasons why and how we implemented all our stuff after it was running fine for x years? Guess not, at least I don’t.

So maybe a controlled strip down over the years might be an option to consider strongly. Makes live (and death) easier for everybody.


Amazing. I can see you’ve thought about this before.
A lot of things to consider.
It would be great to have a template of some kind for a master document like you and others describe. It feels like writing this down would take as much time as building the smarthome itself. ie forever

I wonder if ChatGPT could do it?

I totally agree on this and think it is a good idea, even more, a must have that there is a widow section. A widow deserves special treatment and should not be pushed in any of these technical forums. I really disagree on that.
We are a great community here so let’s help widows as a community.

Heh, I have the same background as you.
Whatever documentation I leave is probably worthless unless whoever comes after me knows these tech in order of probalibility :
Zigbee: reusable pr. factory-reset component.
Z-wave: not quite as reusable as zigbee, but somehow reusable.
ESP82xx/ESP32: complete e-waste.

I didn’t read this whole thread or search but I remember very recently (last month or two) someone asking a question in this forum, saying they were logged on using their spouse’s account, and had just one question. The spouse hadn’t pasted, but he was ill and unable to help. Although I didn’t have an answer, someone else answered the question in less then one hour. The OP replied that the problem was solved and thanked the community for such a quick reply.
I’m with Rich, this is an awesome community and I’m pretty sure anybody asking for help with a system would get very special assistance.
We have users that are blind
I remember one guy setting up a system because he had be diagnosed with a progressive ambulatory disease and hoped it would help him later when he would be unable to get around.
Not only that but because this is an international community, it is really 24 hours a day
even holidays (because geeks)


Very relevant. I’m approaching 80 years old and I know that one day someone will be able to exist despite all my inventions. Poor them.
I have a few ground rules to prevent the worst problems.
First of all – there must be a physical contact for all lamps and devices on my system. This means that I mostly use zigbee dimmers and switches that have a wire to a push button so they will work even when my openhab server and zigbee gateway etc. is thrown out. Until then, everything can be controlled via OpenHAB and Google Home voice command. When I’m gone, my wife will have to make peace with Miss Google or kick her out. The only price is that she has to operate the light with push buttons.
I make a sharp distinction between fixed installations (which must be able to operate the house) and home automation (which must be removable without leaving the users in the dark).
This also means that things like Phillips Hue are not accepted. It does not meet my requirement for wired push buttons.
Furthermore, it must be possible to get someone to take over the house sometime in the future, without having to redo the entire installation.
The goal is not to be able to preserve my inventions forever, but to be able to live with the house without the conveniences that my inventions bring to everyday life.


Hi there, good point. But not when you die but also (more realistic for current users) what if you sell your house as “smart home” controlling al the integrated devices like solar, battery storage, consumption monitoring and management, present detections and lighting control, accès control, etc. I even use openhab to control our EV-charger for load balancing.

Dit new users (and myself) it could be very useful being able to generate a “relationship map” being able to see graphical Naples relations (things, items, groups, rules, etc).

Also in my opinion openhab is not really a multi user platform and user management is very very limited.

This is one of the reasons I’m really considering moving to a platform like Homey (pro). Its more accessible for “regular” users.

Yes, I agree this is also important. It could add massive value to your home if it were transferable.
Maybe switching to an Apple Home or Google/Alexa system entirely would be the simplest option for new owners who couldn’t manage openhab. Would retain a lot control (lights on/off etc), but would lose a lot of the real smart bits. You would lose any custom integrations or automations that these systems could never replicate. They would essentially have to rebuild the smart home, but at least most things could be compatible with the addition of a few hubs, apps on your phone, and Matter for example.

Yes. I was considering copying the Schnieder and SPAN systems that does this in a very expensive proprietary kind of way. To manage how much can be switched on when on battery power etc.

I use the IKEA Trådfri for lighting and SONOS. I have choosen to use 3D printet inlets for the IKEA on/off and sommer switches, and the Sonos is controlled by my wife using the SONOS app. I have deliberately choosen that my Home can be controlled by the dedicated apps as well as physical stuff, and I can turn off my OH server, and all that would achieve is more manual things my wife has to do, however by controls she already uses.

Design your systems to be able to offline and still individually be controlled through other basic ways.

I thought about this as well when we build our home and thus I decided to split the “Smarthome” architecture. I chose KNX as the infrastructure and thus basic functions like light on/off, shutters, heating will work regardless OH is running or not. KNX has intelligence in the actors/sensors and doesn’t require a central server. It is a standard which is supported by many companies so there is no vendor login. Drawback is: The configuration software is not free (for a normal project with more than 20 devices) and the actors and sensors are more expensive than competitive products.

A KNX project can be maintained by many local electricians. It is also a standard evolving since the 90s (called EIB before) and surprisingly it is still backward compatible. So on this side there is a high chance that is can be maintained in the future.

The higher level functions like mobile app and web-interface, sonos speakers, mail reports etc. are done in OH.

I provide KNX programming services and in a couple of projects I used OH for visualization because it is simply better than the commercial KNX products available.
But there I have the same problem customers are asking: What if you are not there any more?
So I wish that more OH users would also provide commercial OH programming services.

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