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Open Home Foundation launches to defend privacy, choice in smart homes

Open Home Foundation launches to defend privacy, choice in smart homes
 

The Open Home Foundation has launched as a non-profit to support privacy, choice, and sustainability for smart homes. This will defend against surveillance capitalism, buyouts, and open-source projects becoming “abandonware,” organizers say.

The founders have transferred over 240 projects, standards, drivers, and libraries to the foundation including Home Assistant, ESPHome, Zigpy, Piper, and Improv Wi-Fi.

In partnership with Nabu Casa, a key funder that owns Home Assistant and ESPHome, the foundation collaborates on the development of open source projects. The overall aim of the foundation is to “have the resources to be an active political advocate,” it says in the announcement.

The group will educate the public, public servants, and private entities that offer smart home devices and services about the importance of open standards, open-source projects and data privacy.

Users should be able to control their data, and devices with cloud connection should still have a main functionality that works without the cloud. Devices should be interoperable and not require devices from specific manufacturers.

And users should be able to repurpose old devices beyond commercially-limited lifetimes as well as limit environmental impact by reducing waste.

Home Assistant first started 10 years ago after Paulus Schoutsen wrote lines of Python for his Philips Hue smart lights to gain control over a device he purchased. Thousands of volunteer contributors ended up turning that script into a smart home platform, creating an entire ecosystem of projects alongside it.

In 2018, Schoutsen, Ben Bangert, and Pascal Vizeli founded Nabu Casa as a for-profit entity to support the sustained development of Home Assistant. Nabu Casa also bought ESPHome with the same intentions. It joined organizations like the Connectivity Standards Alliance and Z-Wave Alliance in support of open standards like Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Matter.

In 2023, the smart home developers codified their ideals, which led to the launch of the Open Home Foundation. During the Foundation’s launch as part of the State of the Open Home 2024 event, the role of voice biometrics in identifying speakers, or at least differentiating between speakers in the same house, was discussed.

At this point, Home Assistant is known to have a steep learning curve, and onboarding devices can be complex. The smart home standard Matter has improved device interoperability and has facilitated easier onboarding.

The Home Assistant Green smart home hub will be sold on Amazon later this year, marking the first time the company will sell to consumers directly, Schoutsen told The Verge. The company will also launch the Home Assistant Connect dongles for the Zigbee and Z-Wave.

It will also expand its Home Assistant Works With program, which certifies products that work with the platform and will release a voice control hardware device that will run a smart home voice assistant.

It is also partnering with Nvidia to incorporate its large language model into the home automation platform and is looking at incorporating ChatGPT with Home Assistant.

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