Wired: Controlling My Family’s Smart Home Is Driving Us Mad

The author is right on the large number of closed eco systems. Matter may solve it but it is too early to say. We in the OH crowd actively avoids it, but this is not the case for regular consumer. What the author misses is the flakiness of the wireless devices. Just yesterday, one of my ZWave Levitron switches that controls a bathroom fan went off the network. I had to re-connect it again, which bumps the id numbers, which then leads to a change in the .item file. My wife can’t fix this. This is just the nature of wireless systems & devices, and I don’t think it will improve anytime soon.


Hey, i commented this over on Reddit. I have a different view from you, though the flakiness that you mention is a valid point.
I read this and what I see is a corporate email, bought and paid to be written as a sign of “impending doom” (smart homes are almost a disaster waiting to happen). But, our lords and masters and on the case, and Matter (tm?) will save us.
So continue buying devices from different companies, that don’t mesh together (purposefully build like this from the ground up by the each vendor), buying stuff without researching if it will work well together (buying Wi-Fi devices without checking the Wi-Fi quality), because it’s totally fine. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

There was no hint of “hey maybe devices won’t get upgraded” or “maybe it’s a good idea to check this and this point”.
You know what I mean? Just a blind acceptance of the current situation (“ my oh my, how to deal with my friends turning off the light switches when I have smart bulbs!” ) instead of “hey you’re doing it wrong”.
(Doesn’t have to be written like that or course but, most of the complaints have little merit today, honestly.)

Anyway, here’s to future improvements of course… guess I’m just a bit jaded nowadays.

I had a different take from the article. It’s all focused on control, not automation. And control of a smart home is always going to be a nightmare. If step 1 to turn on a light is to unlock your phone or shout across the room to a smart speaker, that’s a home automation failure. Sometimes it can’t be helped but it’s not automation.

And without a hub like openHAB which can cut across the many many “silos of excellence” that make up the smart home environment all but the very simplest of automation is not possible.

But ultimately, a well working smart home needs to be designed. The writer of that article didn’t design their smart home, they just went out and willy nilly installed stuff and then he is unhappy that they don’t work well together, is brittle, and hard for guests to use. Matter isn’t going to solve that. And by the term “designed” I mean that deliberate choices are made taking into consideration all the end users and how they will interact with it.

Over all, at least in the commercial space, the smart home is at the stage as home theater systems were back in the days of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Either you had one remote for the TV, another for the sound, one for the DVD player and maybe another one for the cable/satelite TV box. Or you had one of these monstrosities:


and a three page set of instructions to explain to the babysitter how to turn on the TV and change the channel. “First turn on the TV by pressing TV and then the power button. Then turn on the stereo by pressing aux and the power button. If the stereo doesn’t say BD123 hit input until it says BD567. …”

Today with streaming devices, sound bars and CEC all we need is a single very simple remote

It’s simple and intuitive enough for even a guest to use and everything is controllable from this one remote.

With a central hub and a “designed” smart home we can start to approach this simplification. But it’s going to take more than Matter to help the average end users achieve this. Simplicity is hard. But it will help some.

As for the wireless concerns I’ve two comments:

  1. For the majority of people, wireless is the only option. Either they’re renters or in existing homes where running new wires is not feasible nor affordable. And in some parts of the world (e.g. North America) the number of wired technologies available is pretty small.

  2. I think the flakiness of wireless technology is overstated for the majority of people out there. Are there people who have problems due to interference or the like? Yes, but that is in no way guaranteed nor is it necessarily even common. The specific problem you experienced @yfaway, is definitely something that’s a problem for Zwave (though in the nearly ten years I’ve been using Zwave I’ve never had to do anything like that, it’s unclear how common something like that might be) but it’s not universal to all wireless technologies. You wouldn’t have to do that to a WiFi nor a Zigbee device (and presumably Matter based on what I know about it) because these don’t use the concept of “nodes”. And even with wired technologies, I wouldn’t have my wife open up the circuit box and reseat a KNX control module on a DIN rail either. That doesn’t mean there is something fundamentally wrong with using the wired KNX technology per se. It all depends on what you design for and what trade offs are made in that design (e.g. because of the light switch problem, ban the use of smart bulbs).


I really enjoyed your comparison with the remotes of old. Nice! But yeah matter isn’t a silver bullet. We still need to plan, think and consider exactly how to proceed with certain implementations. In 3 years time I expect to see a similar post bragging about matter v3 ( zigbee bring v 1) and how it’s going to fix everything.

I started on Z-Wave because I didn’t want the devices hackable over WiFi. For me the most annoying thing is having to replace what were expensive supposed to be high quality devices that I have to replace just out of warranty. And the times when commands get delayed or lost for no apparent reason.

See? That’s just misinformation. You can hack devices on zigbee.
Leave your network open for adoption and you can get in.
Get a sniffer and you can sniff it out.
Just like Wi-Fi, if you put your mind to it you can hack everything.
Get me physical access to your server and I’ll reset the admin password and get to your data.
Give me enough time and I’ll crack your Wi-Fi/zigbee / whatever network.
Line of sight and I’ll hack your google homes.
If you want to justify Zwave say that it’s because you get more data out of it. Which compared with zigbee you do.
Want to disse Wi-Fi? Complain about energy use.
But saying “oh you can hack Wi-Fi” well duh. Get me a pi and a sonoff stick and I’ll sniff your zigbee network left and right. I could probably bring it down with deauther too.

I recall that a year or two ago there was a bit of rumor in commercial landscape about IP-BLiS. Yet, in case of blis it was even more obvious, the domain specific associations joined forces to … promote usage of IP networks for building automation. :slight_smile: Not mentioning how they going to improve cross compatibility of their own standards or how the union of all of them could nicely work together.

On consumer end things are a bit different, cause you can have whole building automation on one “bus” or system, but I think it will be more and more rare. The cloud first approach avoided in commercial spaces is clearly getting stronger and stronger in consumer market. While you can design a lot of things upfront, you can make a cable/radio signal to each and every corner of a house, you will still end up with a smart mole (read as “speaker”) which will want wifi. Which will bring its own semantics and not understand any of “bus” systems you invested ton of money in. Which will be open in a way that you can bring more data to it, but not necessarily utilize its data in any useful way. Openness in terms of corporate business is different than openness in a software/open source landscape.

When someone promise you that it will solve all your problems always ask what problems it will leave to you instead.

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Quoting for visibility.

I don’t really have hope I can’t be hacked, but the odds that a random person driving by will even see my Zwave is much less than if it was all WiFi.

That makes no sense.
You just said the equivalent of “if I can see it, then it’s unsafe.”
Which is the opposite of “it it’s hidden, then it’s safe.”.
I hope you recognize this quote:
“Security by obfuscation” and understand what I mean…

What I said was I figure it’s less likely that a random person driving down my street will be prepared to hack a Zwave network.

I agree with you on automation; that’s also how I designed my system. People don’t quite realize that voice control via Google, Siri or Alexa is just a crux. There is a level above that: full automation!

On the wireless side of things. I’ve also had problem with Zigbee devices, mainly dues to range. WiFi devices have its particular problem: networking! Now, this might not happen often to regular users, but a mis-configured network dues to various reasons (e.g. DHCP, overlap IP) will throw a wrench at these WiFi-based sensors.

This is such an important point I almost think something needs to be put in the docs to this effect.

I don’t really have an ‘interface’ for my system. I fiddle with the new UI because it’s fun, but I don’t use it to control the house. The house does everything itself! If you have to intervene then that is NOT automation. I’ve spent countless hours figuring out how to get openHAB to do something that I could have easily just said ‘Alexa turn on the…’

Or smart! A voice command is just another button.
A button is an actionable interface. This can be a switch, in the form of a clickable object, or a touchscreen/pad, or a voice command. All of them require you to act.
A home with devices connected to a network is not a smart home. That’s a connected home.
The moment the home starts acting on rules, then it becomes smart, because it no longer depends on the user.

I sorta agree but we have no general home automation docs section yet.
And it’s incredibly difficult to find the right scope and tone in giving generalized advice to consumers that have a misconception on this and that would need to revise their pov and invest more of their time - or money to pay someone experienced to do it for them.
(several threads on the forum speak for themselves.)
Any idea, any docs PR proposal is very much welcome.

Instead of general, why not specific?
Have a list of prominent forum users describe their own thought process.
Not like “this is how you do it” but more like “these are different ways of doing it”.

Because if we are honest, I’d you look at YouTube videos about smart Homes, it’s very clear where the problem lies…

Most of us long timers have posted this in various threads over the years. Unfortunately they are probably hard to find because they tend to be replies to other threads. And they often devolve into philosophical debates.

If you search for “Mitch Hedberg” you’ll find a lot of mine because the overriding philosophy that drives my home automation comes from a Mitch Hedberg joke.

You should never seen an escalator out of order sign. Escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.

The point is if the automation part fails, the device is still fit for purpose, just less convenient. Build escalators instead of elevators in your home automation. As a result the home will be more intuitive to use for guests and should OH fail it’s not the end of the world, taking the pressure off to fix it in your own time instead of being under the gun.

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Totally right. And your comment is on mark:

Exactly right, hard to find. There is no central place of “research” like the docs, for this topic, so people (who dislike reading anyway) are less prone to finding it.

This is a sensitive topic, I recognize, but an important one to tackle.

Edit: I like this Mitch Hedberg guy :smiley:

Yes exactly.
Same as the batteries are dead in the remote what do you do?
either you get up and go to the cabinet or store and find replacement batteries.
Walk to the device and manually change the channel or volume (or tell your child/spouse to get up and change it turn it off or on for you…)
or just sit and watch what you have currently selected.
But the definition and perception of a smart home is a very subjective topic.
I say this because any home that has a thermostat would meet the smart home definition whether that thermostat is for A/c or refrigerator or a hot water heater heck really even a simple light that is controlled by a photocell or motion sensor. Each of those take an automated action based on a rule.
A smarter home is a home where many devices that have automated actions can be overridden and controlled by a different device’s rules.
I still recall in my days as a TV repair shop owner getting the phone calls from customers who were in a panic because the universal remote quit working and they could not set up the VCR to record their show I would ask them do you still have the original remote that came with the VCR ? the customer would get very quiet and say yea it is under the coffee table why? I would reply well use that instead.so actually another automated smart device. Rules to turn on at this time and switch to this channel start recording and when a rule defining a time is met stop recording and then turn off.
It is all perspective the way I see it.
One other thought to contemplate is would making a home more energy efficient also be considered making it a smarter home?..

This is exactly my philosophy. Home automation is what integrates devices together, not what makes them work. All my lights have physical switches in the room. The blinds have remotes. The alarm has a keypad. Possibly the only exceptions are the heating system and the battery inverter which are controlled by their respective apps.

The main reason for this is that if I mess up some configuration and OpenHAB stops working, I don’t have to walk round the house in the dark.