A smart home is a wonderful thing - your home learns your habits, watches out for intruders, and even sends you alerts when things don’t go according to plan.
That’s the main thing, your smart home communicates with you remotely.
When your devices in your home talk to you remotely all the time, you want to make sure you can see everything they’re saying. Proprietary software can sometimes make that impossible. That’s why you need to look into an open source home automation system.
Now, open source may sound scary if you don’t work with code for a living, but honestly, open source smart home systems aren’t that much different from proprietary system and they're usually significantly cheaper to get set up!
Trustworthy and powerful communication protocols like Z-Wave or Zigbee still work with an open source system, and the hubs that work with open source smart home software are also competitively priced. In fact, they may even be cheaper in the long run because you can optimize your system more easily.
Let’s look at some of the best open source hubs out there.
Open Source Home Automation Systems
One of the main reasons people want an open source home automation system is that they come across a function they’d like to program [on propriety systems] without the ability to program it.
There can also be glitches and problems when you have a home automation system that’s made up of devices from a variety of manufacturers. Each vendor integrates their device pretty well with most Z-Wave hubs, but when multiple different devices try to work together, things can occasionally go awry (even if they’re all speaking the same language).
Your smart home hub can help, but sometimes the controller can’t get all of your devices in line. The best way to be able to make your system seamlessly work together is to choose an open source home automation system, but just like with device vendors, there’s more than one to choose from.
Here’s some of our favorites and how they might best fit different users.
Open Home Automation Bus
Called OpenHAB, this software is designed to work with a variety of vendors on any device that can run a JVM (because it’s written in Java). Its purpose is to let all your home automation devices talk to each other with a minimum of fuss.
OpenHAB delivers with a powerful rule engine and seamless user interfaces for a variety of platforms, and it’s one of the best known and most loved by the open source community because of its ease of use.
This smart home system also has a large community of loyal supporters who users can connect with to solve problems or share ideas, which is precisely the point of open source software in the first place!
OpenHAB is ideal for a midrange user who has some experience with software but may not know so much about home automation.
This open source home automation system is also built to integrate various different devices from different vendors. Domoticz is built in HTML5 so it’s accessible on both Linux and Windows machines, as well as Android or iOS mobile devices.
It offers the same notifications as any proprietary smart home software, and it supports a huge amount of home automation devices from switches to sensors of all types. It has a great auto learning feature as well that makes installation a snap.
The website features an active update and plugin section with a ton of third party add-ons that increase the functionality even more. This open source software is also designed to run light and use very little power.
Domoticz is great for a user who’s maybe not so familiar with software coding but understands how a home automation system works and wants to tweak their system.
The OpenMotics system is unique among open source home automation systems because it features both hardware modules and open source software. The hardware modules are wired directly into your fuse box and each have specific functions in the system from receiving environmental input to coordinating devices.
These modules use the open source software to communicate with you about your home, and you can program everything using the software on whatever device you wish. They have a Wiki that allow you to learn everything about the software and share your thoughts, and you can also design and create your own custom hardware because that’s open source too! The sky really is the limit with OpenMotics' open source home automation.
Techie users will benefit from OpenMotics, but it can also be great for newbies to the home automation world because it uses hardware to get you started.
This open source home automation platform runs on Python 3, and it features easy-to-use user interfaces for all mobile devices. Home Assistant pairs with a ton of vendors, including some of the most popular.
You can integrate with a wide range of products from different brands, including Vera, Nest, Google, Netgear, Belkin WeMo, IFTT, and even Arduino devices. A great feature of Home Assistant is that it doesn’t store all your private information on the cloud, so you can rest assured that everything is locked down and safe. They also have a lively community, so you can find the help you need - anytime!
Users with experience writing code will probably appreciate all of Home Assistant’s features, but the wide range of devices supported make it great for relative newbies as well.
Where Can I Download Open Source Software?
Short answer? GitHub. GitHub is the source for the best open source software on the internet. If you’re looking to custom build your system and integrate all kinds of devices with an open source code, you can find your software by searching GitHub for home automation software.
The coolest thing about a smart home can also be the biggest flaw: that remote access. While remote access and the email alerts work to create the full Internet of Things experience, this wireless communication can also be a major weakness in security, especially when all this communication is hidden behind proprietary software.
The only way to really know what’s going on inside your home automation system is to look at the code, and you can only do that with open source. Good luck and happy tinkering.
If you need devices to populate your smart home, make sure to check out our comprehensive list with reviews.