Why Your Home Automation and IOT Shouldn’t be in the Cloud
Updated 3/12/17 – It was mentioned that the Nest Thermostat does not work without Internet connectivity. That’s not entirely true. The thermostat does continue to function as normal, it is the remote control features that won’t work without Internet.
Last week’s little “hiccup” with Amazon AWS servers and a large portion on the web basically going down because of it sucked for a lot of people. There were a lot of websites that were down and reports of people sitting in the dark because they couldn’t control their lighting, they had no access to their media, etc. First world problems, right? What about folks that couldn’t turn their heat on in the middle of winter and had pipes freeze? That’s a bigger deal. I don’t know if that actually happened but the outage did effect Nest thermostats. I’ve made this point before and the incident with AWS just goes to prove it.
Don’t get me wrong. I have an Echo and several Dots scattered throughout the house in addition to a single Google Home in my kitchen. I extensively use IFTTT and also have a couple of Wemo’s (one is my coffeemaker) and Hue lights. They are nice accessories in my overall system but the system isn’t dependent on them. They are just value added things.
My lights are all locally controlled as my Home Automation system is hosted on a PC in my basement, but a Raspberry Pi would work just as fine. It runs it’s own web server as well so I can access it locally on my phone if that’s how I want to do it. Most of the lights are normal bulbs as I use Z-Wave (and a few remaining X10) switches that can also be turned off and on manually. Wow, light switches you turn on with your hand? Whoulda thunk it.
I use HomeSeer Speaker on a couple of PCs and while it doesn’t work nearly as well as Alexa, if I really wanted to go back to local voice control I could. Even though the girls all use Pandora or Play Music, the same stuff that’s in my Play Music library is also hosted on my Amazon Account for redundancy and oh, by the way, I also keep a duplicate on my Home Automation server as well. The Echo and Dots work just fine as bluetooth speakers with or without Internet.
I considered for about five minutes getting a Nest Thermostat or Ecobee before I said fuck it and spent slightly LESS money for a Z-Wave Thermostat I purchased from the Homeseer store. It’s a win/win for me. Cheaper and not dependent on the Internet or the vagaries of a company going out of business or deciding to kill off support for their hardware.
My heat lamp in the chicken house turns off and on based on the outside temperature which I get, not from IFTTT or Internet based weather service, but from an Oregon Scientific temp sensor. I have a couple outside and two or three more scattered throughout the house so if one craps out I’m still good.
Worst case scenario, the PC in my basement bites the dust? I perform an automatic backup of it every single night onto my personal PC and another copy is kept offsite just in case it temporarily goes offline.
Bottom line is that while the “Internet of Things”, IFTTT, Stringify, Google Home and the rest of the stuff in the cloud are all cool, awesome addons to a system they should not form the basis of your HA system. The Wink Hub and other hubs that are dependent on the Internet should not be your only control over your HVAC, lighting, media, etc. Before you go investing in Smart Home stuff think about it and get what you pay for. If you don’t or can’t spend the money on something like Homeseer or Control4 that’s fine. There are plenty of open source options. They may take a little more work to set up and have slightly less support options but they are just as robust.