RPi + Home Assistant + BroadLink Hub: Low Cost Home Automation
Adrian Biffen, Senior Partner
Please Note: This article series is NOT about the Google Assistant system.
The Raspberry Pi® is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that uses an HDMI computer monitor or TV, and a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a very capable device that enables people of all ages to explore computing and to learn how to program.
If you install the powerful Home Assistant home automation system (HASS), you will turn it into a very effective, low cost home automation system. Add our BroadLink® RF-IR Blaster and you'll be able to directly control our roller shade motors and window openers.
A Brief History of the Pi
The Raspberry Pi was designed as an educational assistance tool by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK in 2008, and it took the computing world by storm, selling over 2 million units in the first 2 years, instead of the 10k units they were expecting.
It has now evolved into the RPi 3 Model B, with built-in Wifi (which worked out of the box) and Bluetooth 4 Low Energy (BLE).
As a home automation hub, using the Home Assistant program, it does not depend on the cloud for operation, something we feel is a very important consideration for security and reliability.
First Boot With the Pi
A few years ago we were amazed when we loaded the Noobs operating system installer onto the micro SD card, plugged in our HDMI 12 ft projector screen, and booted up the Pi for a first look.
We selected the Raspbian Operating System, and after installing this automatically, it booted straight into a GUI (Graphical User Interface) at a superb resolution of 1080P, complete with email program, browser, office suite, programming tools, text editor and a whole host of other features and programs.
If you are a casual user of a laptop or desktop machine, this baby is a very suitable replacement, just as a general purpose computer. If you don't own a computer, the Pi would work just fine as your entry point into the world of computing.
The Pi as a Home Automation Controller
Our main interest was in applying the Pi as a home automation controller, running Home Assistant, written in Python 3, with BroadLink support.
The Home Assistant software application sets up the Pi as a web server on your local network, and you can access it with any browser on any device in your home, or from anywhere on the Internet (if you decide you want remote capability).
The home automation software runs in the background and you can still use it as a functional desktop for browsing, email, etc. while the automation system is running.
See how you can integrate our BroadLink products with the Home Assistant system on the Raspberry Pi in Part 2 of this article series.
Buy The HA-RFIRW-5V RF-IR Blaster Hub In Our Online Store
In the meantime, we have the excellent BroadLink phone apps that are very capable, and they may very well be all you need (they work stand-alone, the RPi is not needed). This will give you direct control over our blind motors and window openers.
If you are interested, you can purchase these products in our DIY online automation store.
So why our interest in the Home Assistant/Raspberry Pi? Mainly to add interfacing for systems like Alexa, or anything else you might want to run in your home. HASS supports over 500 devices, and new ones are constantly being added! It has a very active developer community, with a very helpful user forum, and a very large community.
Please see Part 2 here: Configuring Home Assistant to Capture RF and IR Remote Controls