If Home Assistant had hardware developers, what should they make that doesn't already exist?

This probably won’t go anywhere… I’m curious what things people want to do, but the hardware isn’t really available to put together to solve the problem.

I’m thinking this could be an idea depot - an open-ended, possibly never-ending, discussion. Every now and then, someone does a custom board for themselves. Perhaps it’s a shield, or perhaps it’s a complete ESP or Pi based design. What if, with minor modifications, they could also solve someone else’s missing hardware issue also - either by adding just one more footprint on the PCB for a small device, or another connector, or ???

Or maybe at some point, someone takes a number of the ideas ideas and builds one board to solve them all.

And for anyone thinking of doing a hardware design, I’m an electrical engineer and happy to help review design ideas, identify parts, review schematics and layout, etc (in its own thread please. Let’s keep this one for higher level discussions).

To put some bounds on this, I think it’d be best to mostly exclude ideas that are already possible with separate devices/boards and a few jumper wires, unless it just becomes unwieldy. There are just too many possibilities.

And before anyone mentions them, yes, it’d be nice to have Home Assistant light bulbs, doorbells, switches, etc. But seems to me that most of those would be better served by working with an existing manufacturer and customizing it (OEM / ODM model).

A motor for existing blinds. I know there’s some DIY ones and a (very expensive!) zigbee one, but a simple clip on device that pulls strings shouldn’t be as hard to source at a reasonable price as it currently is.

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Cooker Hoods (no not the whole thing)

Okay, So I just changed my cooker hood, the old one was ‘okay’ but just a little dinged and dirty (with grease) in the cracks and crevices and when you took it apart to clean I found even more.
I thought ‘great I can replace it and get a smart hood’ (the wife is always leaving the light on and pretty much the same with the fan, but it would also be useful to turn the fan on if the kitchen needed extra ventilating).
So I bought a light dimmer and a switch and I experimented on the old hood.
I fitted the dimmer so that the ‘hood switch’ fed a relay which provided volt free contacts to the dimmer.
the fan had various speeds (4 speed varient for mine) these operated by feeding mains voltage to different windings on the motor providing the different speeds. So each speed output fed a diode which then all fed into the switch (mains voltage this time so no relay required on the input) and the input worked okay on half-wave rectified input.Because of the diodes the live on one does not backfeed (up one diode and down the others, its a bridge/block) then the individual feeds (before the diodes) were fed into a 4 pole relay, out the other side and into the motor as before.
Okay so when the fan was turned off by HA, you’d have to turn the switch off manually, then back on again (and HA would then reset the switch, but I could live with that)
Everything worked great, I was chuffed …

Then the new hood arrived, I went to fit the same mod’s to find : -

  1. The lights operated on a 6v dc circuit (worse, they were 3v bulbs in series)
  2. The motor feed is a single cable (multi-core) but double sheathed with an additional heat protection sleeve and built into a small channel that I couldn’t get at.

I was gutted !

So I think “a smart kit for cooker hoods” coming in Z-Wave / Zigbee or ESPhome (etc. depending on market demand) flavours and the hoods could then be marked “Compatible With” Or like TV controls we just have a website noting compatible models. The manufacturers would soon get the hint.

(I’m now just waiting for the bulbs to go so I can gut it and rebuild)

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Toilet!

“Hey Google, wipe my…”. Ok, that needs a google integration too.
But you could use the slider in lovelace to control the arm, or just build an automation.

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While a complete packaged product isn’t out of bounds to list here, I was really more thinking this could be a repo for smaller things that DIY’ers need to finish out a project.

That was purely a joke :slight_smile:

When I started I looked for generic I/O boards with Ethernet, a processor I could flash (Atmega), opto-isolated inputs and generic outputs. Didn’t find anything. Ended up making my own.

Two versions so far:


Trying to gauge interest on the 2nd version to determine whether it is worth producing for sale.

Few people seem to care much about Ethernet though, most just use WiFi (and experience the associated problems :wink: )

I’ve actually been eyeballing a few ESP devices with Ethernet (mainly for easy of use to use ESPHome), but it seems like you either get a tiny board with few spare leftover I/O’s, or you have to get an overly big expensive one. So I’ve kinda backed away from that on my wishlist.

This is a much-needed discussion. Though wireless communication is all the rage in IoT, there still is need for some hardwired interfaces. Most existing appliances and other household devices that aren’t already automatend often can be controlled by simple relay contact closures or by sensing the closures of their own contacts. Examples are garage door operators, doorbell buttons and bells, and HVAC equipment. Instead of a module that occupies yet another AC power outlet that has RF communications, all that is needed for this “contact I/O” is a board in the structured wiring cabinet that contains all my central automation equipment to which I can run some low voltage wires from my utility room for example.

This contact I/O board would plug into an automation server computer with USB or Ethernet. I would have a companion Home Assistant integration and alternatively use MQTT. It would have multiple units of the following I/Os with all the necessary terminal blocks and electrical protection:

  • Dry relay contact outputs of 12 or 24 VDC to directly switch devices or drive higher power/voltage relays.
  • 5 - 12 VDC digital outputs to drive electronic inputs. Possibly the same signals that drive the relay coils above.
  • 5 - 12 VDC digital inputs. Configurable as wet or dry with voltage supply and pull-up resistors.
  • Analog voltage input for reading sensors would also be nice.

The sensor that I would most like to connect to the analog input of this board is an outdoor temperature sensor that I would like to use in operating my heating and cooling system. No Z-Wave or Zigbee temperature sensors I’ve seen are rugged enough for continuous outdoor exposure and their batteries can’t operate over the full range of outdoor temperature. The solution is to wire an outdoor temperature sensor to an indoor electronics module, which might be a product separate from the general I/O board. Many users do not want to pay for a full weather station. I have a Davis VantageVue station to which I recently added a LAN connection but I have yet to get it to talk to Home Assistant.

A home automation system becomes really powerful when it adds security to the typical lighting and HVAC as I have done with a DSC Power Series security panel.

Hardwired security best done as dedicated subsystem

  • To provide standard device interfaces & 12 VDC power
  • Meet standards & certifications require specific logic & sequencing
  • Must respond quickly & reliably

DSC Power Series is a popular DIY security panel, but I have my complaints:

  • RS-232 and Ethernet interfaces available when USB and Wi-Fi are more useful
  • Integrations available for Home Assistant, openHAB, HomeSeer are good but not complete
  • Complicated by many options that few DIYers will ever use

Need a simplified, certified security panel meant to be a component of an automation system but there are big challenges to making a new security panel

  • Fire/smoke alarms require expensive certification process by likes of NFPA, UL, CSA
  • Maker may be liable for failing to detect a fire
  • Example: Konnected DIY wired to Wi-Fi/PoE security interface scrupulously disavows smoke detectors
  • May only be feasible for an established security company. They now want to sell proprietary wireless systems instead.

I want a rain sensor outsite my house…

I’m sure I could find some, but do you have some particular outdoor sensors in mind?

As for Ethernet (wired): since I last posted here, I found a couple of LAN8720 designs which interface to an ESP32 that I’m considering supporting in my design when I finally get to it (hopefully by this spring).

The bottom of this page contains a list of known ESP32’s designs with integrated Ethernet: https://esphome.io/components/ethernet.html

Thanks for pointing me to the ESPHome project and its Home Assistant integration. That may provide all I need in the way of software support for my general or contact I/O board. An ESP32 with Ethernet appears to be a great starting point for the hardware. There are plenty of relay output boards, often with optical isolation, that could be jumpered to the ESP for dry contact outputs. That leaves building a custom board to provide the digital inputs, analog inputs, and analog outputs with all of the appropriate ESD protection, overload protection, pullup devices, configuration jumpers, and terminal blocks. But it still might be even more convenient, especially for nontechnical users, to put all of these relays and other I/O devices on a single board into which the Ethernet ESP32 board would plug.

The challenge with an outdoor temperature sensor is not with the sensor itself or even with its electrical interface, rather it is all about mechanical design and encapsulation. It cannot simply be a bare circuit board. It must stand up to years of moisture condensation, ice formation, temperature cycling, dirt accumulation, and spider webs without corroding, cracking, delaminating, or forming leakage current paths. It might even be enclosed in a vented solar heat shield though I think I will get an accurate enough reading by placing it under the north eave of my house. An RTD (resistive temperature device) or temperature sensor IC contained in a stainless steel cylinder sealed to a weathertight cable is the typical format that would work.

depends on your hemisphere :slight_smile: