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Monday, July 3, 2017

Visualizing the Smart Home. Using Home Assistant, Fire Tablets and FloorPlan.

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I’ve been running Home Assistant for my home automation for almost 3 years now.  The system has grow quite large and the User Interface was becoming pretty unwieldy and cumbersome.  For the longest time, I was able to shift most of the interface to voice using Amazon Alexa supported by an excellent HA component called emulated_hue.  This allowed us to interact with almost all of the HA objects using Alexa and the native Hue support.  “Alexa, Open the garage doors”, worked beautifully!  My philosophy when it comes to automating the house has always been to try to have the house anticipate what was needed without us even needing an interface.  The interfaces (voice or screen) should just be needed for occasional overrides.

The most recent security system I rolled has kind of changed a lot of that though.  Since all the windows and doors are now represented in the HA system, my lack of attention to the actual UI was now severely affecting the User Experience.   Having to scroll pages and pages of text items to find out if a window was opened or closed was not going to cut it anymore.  Voice helped (leave a window open for more than 5 minutes and Joanna comes in over the whole house surround system and let’s us know the situation and then also turns off the HVAC for us).

 

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All the info is there but it is just not a great user experience.  There had to be a better way!

Timing is everything and Petar Kozul had just released a great Home Assistant extension called FloorPlan.  Floorplan allowed Home Assistant users to create visual maps of their sensors and HA objects.  Named Floorplan but it could do so much more.  It’s just a framework to put up SVG images and then tie HA object IDs to them and on the fly change the images and data via CSS.  It was perfect.   And it resulted in THIS:
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This one screen gave me all the essential information I needed to see.  Date, time, weather (inside and outside temps), lights, switches and a few commonly used buttons for easy access.  And at a glance, it showed me all the windows and doors and Nest Protects in the house.  If they were RED, I would know they were left open or in the case of the Protects, OFFLINE.  It’s perfect!

 

My friend Steven helped me out with the visuals and the overall graphic design but thanks to the HA and Floorplan frameworks, the whole system will stay customizable as the needs of the house change.

Of course with the old alarm system now replaced, I had those ugly panels still on the wall (with the boring keypads).  Time to replace them with $50 Fire OS Tablets.  These 7 inch beauties can be wall mounted and are the perfect replacement for the ugly keypad artifacts.

I ended up using another great Open Sourced software called Wall Panel.  This allowed Fullscreen, MQTT support and a few other handy goodies to make this an awesome solution.

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Hardware parts List:

1 x FireOS tablet

1 x Wall Mount clips

1 x Recessed Outlet box

1x Magnetic tipped Micro USB cables
This allows us to just grab the tablet when we want to surf or do something without worrying about yanking the cords out.

 

Other software I used were Magic Plan to create the actual floor plan of the house, Inkscape for SVG editing and Atom for all text edits. 

 

Like all my Home Automation Projects, you can visit my repo for all the additional code and details.   Be sure to Star the repo if you want updates.

 

 My Github Repo

 

Happy Building

-Carlo

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