Archive for December, 2014

OpenHAB Redux

Posted: December 16, 2014 in HA, Hacking and playing, Hardware
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I had previously looked at OpenHAB when we were playing with some concepts but because the capabilities we wanted weren’t available out of the box, we went with some that did. It’s use at home was also originally limited by the lack of Z-Wave support.

The latest version of OpenHAB (1.6.0) was using the same Open Z-Wave (OZW) libraries that Domoticz had ben using so well. It also had full support for native mqtt and for the MQTTitude geo tracking app. This meant I could use it to read the EvoHome data as well as location tracking data from the excellent OwnTracks apps. Bonus points for Sonos, XBMC, RXFCom, Hue and a host of other systems that I either have or want. OpenHAB basically works by including libraries or bindings that allow it to talk to specific devices or protocols. If I want to talk to Sonos devices, I include the Sonos binding, tell the system where the various Sonos players are and what to call them and then I can interact with those devices directly.

With that in mind I started to dig around some more. My initial thoughts weren’t good, you have to script everything. There is no concept of adding a device by some means of auto-discovery, you literally have to tell the system what everything is. Once you get past that hurdle, the next one is the creation of a ‘sitemap’ that is the basis of the interfaces the system generates. Again, there’s no pretty interface like the Fibaro or Domoticz platform, this is basic jQuery mobile wrapped in a framework. I should add that there are excellent Android and iOS apps for the OpenHAB platform, but they still just render the sitemap you define.

I admit that I have struggled with the platform. While the demo and examples in the Wiki are all good, it seemed that the minute I tried to do something it went wrong. As the platform appears to reload on any submitted change to the items, rules, sitemap or persistence, this gets a little bit frustrating on a RPi that takes a while to get going. As the system is Java OSGi based, the error messages that appear either on screen or in the logs are ‘obscure’ unless you are an experienced Java dev.

After a couple of days playing I had something that worked – GeoTracking was working, EvoHome setpoint and recorded temperature data was being logged and shown on the system. I was now in a position to start thinking about moving the z-wave controller and sensors I had in Domoticz across to OpenHAB. It was then that I had the first eureka moment.

Over at the Vera forums, people had been discussing OpenHAB and several had written a binding for the MiOS system that all Vera devices use. Suddenly I didn’t need a Z-Wave USB controller plugged into my RPi and configured; I can tell OpenHAB to talk directly to the Vera. Vera with it’s better antenna and auto-device inclusion, simple timers and scenes. Every single one of which was now available via OpenHAB.

The Vera still turns on the lamps in my daughter’s room every morning, but now OpenHAB knows that they are on. I can control all of the Vera functionality in the same ways I did before, but any changes are reflected in OpenHAB immediately. It still controls all my 433 devices via the RFXCom USB device as well.

And that was the second eureka moment. The reason I started to get frustrated with the Vera was the pain of setting up complex rules around devices or events. Yet with Vera doing the basic work of managing the Z-Wave devices, the complex rules could be written in OpenHAB and the command to do something sent to the Vera to execute. OpenHAB was the brain while the Vera was the muscle.

OpenHAB has always been designed to be the main bus system for a domestic HA system – OpenHAB means Open Home Automation Bus, but I have been so busy looking at the one device to rule them all mentality, that I missed the sheer significance of this platform and what it could mean for my projects.

Once the dust had settled from that particular moment of D’oh the third and final eureka moment arrived. It didn’t matter that the interface that got generated by OpenHAB looked rubbish (sorry OpenHAB devs, but yuck, really, yuck) because I DON’T HAVE TO USE IT. I use the official Sonos app to control the music and OpenHAB knows it’s in use. If I turn on my lounge XBMC device, OpenHAB knows and if there are issues, OpenHAB will route the alerts to XBMC for display on my TV as well as my phone.

The flashy integrated control of my devices – Sonos, XBMC, Satellite box, amp, lighting, heating and security can all be done somewhere else – OpenRemote, Roomie, DemoPad. So that’s the next project……

HA Adventures

Posted: December 16, 2014 in HA, Hacking and playing
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So the foray into other HA platforms continues. I wrote in November that I was playing with Domoticz. I eventually bought a new Aeon Labs Z-Stick, excluded a couple of sensors and a switch from my Veralite and built up a small Z-Wave system controlled by the Domoticz platform running on a RPi.

Loved the system, clean but usable interface, didn’t seem to struggle running on the RPi. Lots of updates, so obviously still actively developed and the ‘blocky language’ allowed me to build some fairly complex queries and rules without resorting to Lua. I have to say that I came very close to moving everything off of the Veralite and across on to the RPi.

I then managed to throw myself a curveball. EvoHome.

I also wrote about us installing this new heating system and while loitering around various forums I saw that people had managed to persuade their EvoHome systems to spit out the temperature data via simple scripts.

A bit of a play later and I had some JSON with the reported temperatures for every room in the house direct from EvoHome. Niiiice!

The trouble was that I couldn’t figure out how to get the info back into Domoticz. To be honest I didn’t even bother with the Veralite – that just wasn’t going to happen. I hoped that I could create a virtual object or some kind mapping that would allow for the live temperature data to be integrated into the platform. I couldn’t figure out a way to do it without seriously re-writing blocks of the Domoticz source code. I even tried to go around the problem by pushing the data into my Mosquitto MQTT broker on the same device and then trying to access it from there. While I could see the data, I had no way to get it into the system where it could be used.

While I’m struggling and failing with this particular scenario at home, I’ve been asked to get involved with a discussion about Automated Homes at work. Now I should stress this was without doubt the most painful professional experience of my life – a bunch of “creatives” and “strategists” trying to discuss HA…. and having absolutely sweet bugger all idea of what it is. They obviously have watched Iron Man and decided that J.A.R.V.I.S. was doable on a RPi and wouldn’t it be just fabulous to do it. To be fair, this was almost the same group that I had to help with “gaming” the week before (the second most painful professional experience, although it was the first until this week). That particular meeting started with me having to explain the difference between a console and a PC as a gaming platform, why the XBox (360 & One) weren’t PCs and that Amazon TV wasn’t quite the same as a PS4….. Suffice to say it went downhill from there…..

Anyway, rant aside, one thing I did end up doing as an “action” from that meeting was to compile a list of HA platforms for them to examine (which they will ignore… and then they’ll probably send someone to the US to look at what is available over there, buy a Wink hub and wonder why it doesn’t work anyway…. ). Sorry, you can tell I’m a bit jaded by this whole fiasco.

Bottom line, I ended up looking at the OpenHAB platform again.

EvoHome

Posted: December 16, 2014 in HA
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I’ve been busy…. and things have moved on.
We’ve recently installed a Honeywell EvoHome heating system and apart from a few niggles it has been brilliant. It is amazing how much of a difference you can feel as you walk around the house. Not running the heating upstairs during the day and vice-versa will hopefully save me money in he long term.
The system is expensive…. but it cost me roughly the same amount to install as I spent on gas last year. If I can save even 20% a year, I’ll pay it off in 5 years… and that assumes the gas prices won’t increase. And we all know how likely that is!
More information on the system here and reviews here. Plenty of other reviews are available as well.