3 Reasons to create your own voice assistant

Be in control of your privacy. Learn a lot about home automation and always have a cool side project/pet project to talk about. Choose the simplest gadget for each need and avoid spending a lot of money.

While exploring the possibilities of home automation I decided that a lot of systems had either too many functions, with matching prices, severe privacy concerns, or limited options for interoperability. Together with my preference for DIY projects this led me to start my own build, with OpenHAB as base platform.

1. Avoid the privacy concerns linked to commercial products

Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, they all have had their incidents of eavesdropping and privacy issues. Due to these concerns privacy protection is regularly improved. But relying on a single provider, connecting everything to the same platform means an issue will have greater impact.

Creating your own solutions provides great security by obscurity. Normally a frowned upon strategy, but in this case a quick win, imho.

2. Learn a lot about home automation

Learn what makes a home automation system work. Which protocols are best suited for which solution. What is the difference between a rule and a scene? How do sensors work?

How can you use this sensor data to optimize the comfort in your home? Does it make sense to just make everything switch wirelessly from the couch or would it make more sense to automate things, creating reaction to events? Learn how to use a wide range of already connected devices, each probably using their own protocol. And always have a cool side project/pet project to talk about during interviews, coffee breaks, etc.


3. Have maximum flexibility in protocols & vendors

By not sticking to a specific vendor you gain a lot of freedom. You decide which devices you use and which protocols you use to connect them. A simple, cheap light switch using RF 433MHz (Klikaanklikuit) can easily be triggered by a WiFi connected IR motion detector. Control a Google Chromecast over WiFi and the tv it is connected to via infrared. Mains power switching components with proper CE approval can be combined with cheap low voltage sensors from AliExpress.

By building your own solution, based on open source software and affordable hardware you get to decide on each bit of your home automation setup.


Next steps

So much for the why, in a next post I will continue with the how

  1. Setup the raspberry pi
  2. Add Home Automation devices
  3. Setup voice command device (Google Voice AIY)
  4. Connect the dots

Who am I?

My name is Arjen Hulshof. I’m a senior software engineer and consultant working for Techspire in the Netherlands. I started out as Systems and Network Administrator and have been developing for 15 years, mainly in Java. I love to learn and tinker with new things.

Do you think you have what it takes to work with us? At Techspire we’re looking for people who love technology as much as we do, and are looking to push themselves to expand their knowledge. Also, we love beer.

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