Home automation and Raspberry PI

As you probably know, if you have read some of my writings on this blog, the little Raspberry Pi mini-computer is one of my favourite platforms for everything to do with home automation and the smart home.

The Raspberry Pi's price and versatility make it ideal for a wide range of applications.

But, let's take it slowly...

What is Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a very inexpensive small computer, ideal for use in home automation applications. 35€ (although we'll get to that later) and it's powerful enough for much more than you can imagine.

Moreover, it consumes very little energy (around 5 watts at full output), making it ideal for leaving it on permanently without ever turning it off (which is normal in home automation systems, logically). In addition, it has no fan, so it is silent 100%ideal for being on 24×7.

Well, yes, but you ask me, my friend:

What is a Raspberry Pi for?

Well, among many other things, you can use a Raspberry Pi to:

  • Domotic controller (yes, this is what we are going to talk about here).
  • Multimedia device for watch films in high definitionlistening to music, etc.
  • System of video surveillance
  • Switchboard
  • Desktop PC alternative

And you, Mariete, what uses do you have for the Raspberry Pi for home automation?

I have several Raspberry Pi's running permanently at home, they have been on for years, and some of the things I have done with them are as follows:

  • I have the weather stationwhich you can see hereworking on one of them. As the weather station needs very little power, I have used a Raspberry Pi 2, a rather old model, but it has plenty of capacity. I use that spare capacity to use it also as a remote USB port server with VirtualHereThis way there is no need to run cables from the alarm and 433 Mhz receiver to the Windows 10 virtual machine where HomeSeer is running (and who actually uses those devices remotely).
  • There is a Raspberry Pi 3 running Node network and MQTT server. It is a mainstay of the house and its reliability is beyond doubt. Sometimes it is months in continuous operation on a permanent basisIt does not lack power for the work it does. Nor is it lacking in power for the work it does.
  • For the InfluxDB databasewhere all the historical information from all the sensors in the house is stored (and there are quite a few of them!), I use another Raspberry Pi 3. infrared MQTT and a few other things.

I also have a couple of other Raspberries that I use for testing, tinkering or replacements.

And, are there several versions of Raspberry Pi?

OK, I see you've been paying attention to the previous paragraph, where I said that I use several versions of Raspberry Pi.

Yes, there are quite a few different versions, because the manufacturer keeps bringing out new models for a short time, but basically the ones you can find on the market (in the order in which they seem most interesting to me):

Raspberry Pi 3
Raspberry Pi 3

Raspberry Pi 3

Although it's not the latest model, it's the one I use for most things. 
I think it is the right price/performance ratio.
It has wifi, Bluetooth, 4 USB 2.0 slots, Ethernet 100Mb
Launched in 2015.

Raspberry Pi Zero
Raspberry Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero

It is much smaller and less powerful than the rest of Raspberry Pi. It doesn't have Ethernet or USB, but it does have Wifi and Bluetooth. It has Mini-HDMI output.

An interesting concept, and it was intended to cost about $US5 (yes, less than 5 €!). The reality is that it is selling for considerably more and, unless it is for something very particular, I don't think it is worth buying at the moment.

Announced in June 2019

Raspberry Pi 4

Raspberry Pi 4

The last (for now) of the sisters

An important quantum leap. It is almost a PC in a minimal size.

Dual Micro-HDMI output with 4K support

There are versions with different amounts of RAM. The 4GB RAM version is sufficient for the uses we are talking about here.

So, how much does a Raspberry Pi cost?

Well, it depends...

Raspberry Pi, as such, is cheap. Its manufacturer, the Raspberry Foundation, conceived it to universalise computing around the world, including in many underdeveloped countries where they could not afford even the cheapest of computers.

The initial model, back in 2012, was released for $25. Subsequent versions have greatly improved their hardware with very little increase in price. The new version 4 has a base price of around 35 dollars.

Keep in mind that this is the price of the board, to have a complete system you would have to add: power supply, Micro-SD card, case, HDMI cable and, in this case, yes, a fan is recommended. 

I've picked out a couple of kits from Amazon, one for the Raspberry 3 and another for the Raspberry 4They have everything you need, so you don't have to worry about looking for individual components. They are sellers with hundreds of very positive reviews. Amazon's Choice and very fast Prime shipping.

Sales
Melopero Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, CPU Quad Core 1,2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 64bit , 1GB RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth BLE, silver
  • Screen size 60 inches
  • Processor type Core 2 Quad
  • Dual Core VideoCore IV graphics co-processor
NinkBox Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4GB RAM+64GB Raspberry Pi 4B Upgraded Version of Raspberry pi 3b+, with HDMI, Power Supply 5V/3A with Switch, Fan Complete Accessories
  • 【Raspberry Pi 4 8GB RAM】The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B features the new processor , quad-core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 1.5GHz 64-bit processor, It offers groundbreaking increases in processor speed, multimedia,performance, memory and connectivity compared to Raspberry Pi 3 B.

The home automation software for Raspberry pi

We now have our Raspberry Pi. Now we need software to creating our smart home.

Please note that Raspberry Pi does not work with Windows (for the moment, and with nuances), but rather with LinuxIf you are not familiar with it, you will have to set it up by following the many videos and tutorials available on the Internet.

If you are using it to build your smart home, it is usual that, once they are up and running, no monitor or keyboard and mouse are left connected to them, they are from "...".install and forget".

Don't let the word Linux scare you. The truth is that it does if you choose the right option and follow a good tutorial, it won't be too difficult..

There are many existing home automation programs for Linux, both free and paid. Among them, I would highlight the following:

OpenHAB

It is an open source home automation programme.

One of OpenHab's great strengths is that it is totally independent of manufacturers and technologies. Almost certainly, if a platform is popular, it will be supported by OpenHAB.

It is developed in Java, so it is cross-platform and its architecture is completely modular.

It has a large community behind it that tirelessly supports and develops the platform to make it grow.

Its installation is very simple and its use, through its web interface, is also very easy.

Configuration is generally quite easy, but some things will have to be configured by editing text files, which may not be to everyone's liking.

In OpenHAB version 1 all configuration was done via text files. Now, with version 2, they are allowing more and more things to be configured from the web interface, but the 100% is still some time away from being available in this way. This means that, at least for some time, we will have to configure both via the web interface and via file editing, which makes it less user friendly.

OpenHAB is probably the most powerful and flexible of the three systems, but at the price of greater complexity.

As of June 2020, there were 386 addons published for integration with devices.

Domoticz

It is a very widespread home automation programme.

It is very light compared to OpenHAB and Home Assistant and offers a huge amount of functions.

Its installation is, in my opinion, slightly more complicated than that of OpenHAB and Home Assistant.

Most, but not all, of the configuration can be done via the web interface.

Domoticz allows you to do the basics in a very simple way. For more complex things the difficulty can increase.

One of the problems I find with Domoticz (maybe it's just me) is that it is not very successful in terms of number of users and community growth, so I have the feeling that it is lagging a bit behind.

As an extension of the previous point, this has meant that it does not cover as many technologies, manufacturers and devices as Home Assistant.

Home Assistant

It is the most recent of the three and is very easy to use.

It is developed in Python and is easily extendable through plugins.

Installation is also very simple. We only have to download the image of the SD card with its operating system, HassBian, and boot from it. In a few minutes our home automation controller will be up and running.

The configuration starts with a wizard that tries to discover the devices in the house that are already installed. If the wizard fails to discover and configure all the devices (which is very likely), some text files will have to be edited.

Home Assistant is, in my opinion, the easiest to set up, although it also seems to me to be the most rigid of the three.

It is updated very often and usually adds support for new things very quickly.

As of June 2020, there were 1611 add-ons published for integration with devices.

The best home automation programme, HomeSeer (for my taste)

In contrast to the three programmes seen above, HomeSeer is a commercial (paid) home automation programme.

Also unlike the other programmes, it is not only available for Linux, but can also be used on Windows.

It is possible that I am a bit influenced because is the programme I use for years (I bought my first licence about 20 years ago).

It has so many possibilities that I won't even be able to summarise them here, so I won't try. I will write an article about it one day.

Other home automation software

There are many other programs, but this is not the article to talk in detail about each of them. Some of them are Jeedom, OpenMotics, ioBroker, FHEM, Pimatic, PiDome, HomeGenie...

Raspberry Pi and home automation at a glance

Subscribe to the blog now, if you haven't already. I plan to write more articles specifically about using Raspberry Pi to create smart homes.

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