Home & Office

Move over, Alexa and HomeKit: A new Assistant is here to open source your smart home

Home Assistant gets a boost from the Open Home Foundation, a nonprofit meant to ensure that smart home projects remain open and accessible to everyone.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Home Assistant logo
Maria Diaz/ZDNET/Home Assistant

It's no secret that the smart home world is dominated by Big Tech, with Amazon's Alexa leading the charge, closely followed by Google Home and Apple HomeKit. These popular automation systems aren't as open as many smart home users would want, however, as evidenced by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) developing Matter, a more open smart home standard. 

This is how Home Assistant was born: an open-source smart home system that gives tech enthusiasts full control of their IoT devices. Home Assistant founder Paulus Schoutsen over the weekend launched the Open Home Foundation, a nonprofit organization meant to combat surveillance capitalism and ensure that smart home projects remain open and accessible to everyone.

Also: The best wireless video doorbell for Ring fans is 20% off right now

"I want to make it clear what our intentions are to the world: That we're driven by a higher goal than money," Schoutsen said in the announcement sent to ZDNET. "And that we are not for sale."

The Open Home Foundation will oversee and manage more than 240 smart home projects, including home automation systems. Some of the projects include Home Assistant, ESPHome, and ZigPy. Like Home Assistant, the foundation will evolve and adapt in response to users' interests and changes in the smart home industry.

Home Assistant is a smart home system like Google Home, Alexa, and HomeKit, whereas Matter is a connectivity standard for the smart home. Google Home, Alexa, and HomeKit all support Matter devices, just as they support Bluetooth and Zigbee devices.  

Aside from allowing community influence and a promise to remain open and respect user privacy, the foundation emphasizes sustainability, supporting the development of eco-friendly smart home solutions.

Also: My favorite new smart home accessory is unexpected and full of useful features

Widely known by smart home enthusiasts, Home Assistant is typically the preferred home automation system for tech-savvy users who don't mind tinkering to set up their system just right. Since Home Assistant is an open-source platform, its users aren't forced into using proprietary systems or products.

Users can run the platform on a Raspberry Pi or on any other computer of their choice, letting them modify and customize their smart home without being locked into a specific ecosystem.

Also: The Echo Show 8 is the best smart display and speaker combo and it's only $105

"Part of the reason we're creating the Open Home Foundation is that Home Assistant and our other projects were kind of floating in space without any formal home," added Schoutsen, who also co-founded Nabu Casa in 2018. 

Nabu Casa, an inaugural Open Home Foundation partner, is a smart home company that has supported open-source projects since its launch. Smart home users who are privacy-conscious or looking for open-source solutions can use Nabu Casa or Home Assistant knowing they're governed by an organization that respects personal data protection. 

Also: I tried a window-cleaning robot and things went surprisingly well

The Open Home Foundation plans to represent user interests in developing industry standards like Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Matter.  "We're trying to leave a positive legacy behind us," Schoutsen said. "And this is the next chapter in that journey."

The inaugural board for the Open Home Foundation includes its creators -- Paulus Schoutsen, Guy Sie, Pascal Vizeli, and J. Nick Koston. 

Editorial standards