March 26, 2023

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How to control your smart home without yelling at your stupid voice assistant

Zoom in / We don’t have to rely on huge obelisks to power the things we buy. We don’t have to learn their language. We can break free.

Bonnie Wang/Getty Images

For many people, an automated smart home is about the little things that add up to big amenities over time. Lights on when you walk into the hallway, thermostat downstairs adjustable from your upstairs bedroom, vacuum cleaner running while you’re at the grocery store—you do some prep work and your life just gets easier.

However, what most smart homes also include is a voice assistant, which is the exact opposite of quiet, unseen convenience. Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant: They ask you to know the names and structures of specific devices for commands, while often getting the simplest command startlingly wrong. And they are, of course, the always-listening corporate microphone that you allow inside your home.

There are ways to keep the smart home comfortable while cutting out the conversation. Some of them include your phone, some dedicated devices, but none of them include mentioning the name of the device. Here is an overview of the best options available.

DIY controller

Part of my Home Assistant panel, as seen from the browser.
Zoom in / Part of my Home Assistant panel, as seen from the browser.

Kevin Purdy

home assistant

Home Assistant is a self-hosted web page that allows you to control almost any device using keys and numbers. It’s much more than that, but it doesn’t have to look like it. Home Assistant is more work to set up than the big tech companies’ home control apps, but it’s infinitely configurable. You decide which controls to show and don’t show (and in what order) and set up automations that don’t require every device app to be installed on your phone. With select devices, you can also choose to manage everything locally, not connected to the cloud.

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Most enthusiasts run Home Assistant from the Raspberry Pi. given the current of the device lossIt’s good that the Home Assistant works too other devices. Home Assistant also creates a dedicated Pi-based box, Yellow home helperalthough it is always on a back order for several months.

Once Home Assistant is installed and connected to your devices, you will be able to access your devices through phones, tablets, computers, or a pinned screen. You’ll also have easy ways to access it from your Android and iOS phone — more on that in a bit.

Hubitat, with a coffee mug and an apple for measure.
Zoom in / Hubitat, with a coffee mug and an apple for measure.

Hubitat and HomeSeer

If you don’t like Home Assistant or would rather have a premium piece of hardware to manage your smart home, hubitat And humser Notable alternatives. Both tend to focus their support on devices that communicate over the Zigbee and Z-Wave radio protocols. Recently, Home Assistant has had a more active community development. But both projects offer the same kind of web-based local control for all of your devices, only with perhaps more robust local control.