My COMPLETELY Rethought Voice Assistant Plans for the New House

Hi, all!

A few of you have helped me here and there over the last year as I’ve been planning the details around the tech in my new house.

A big “The House Home Assistant is Building” post is in the works but we’re talking tablet panels instead of light switches in every room, all Hue bulbs, over 100 Aoetec multi-sensors, powered shades, Unifi networking hardware, his and her smart mirrors in the master bath, over a dozen cameras, etc., etc., etc, all powered by HA. My last count for CAT6 drops was 250 (lots of PoE!). Hosting it all on a powerful NUC (or two) with a list of docker containers as long as my arm. The geek in me can barely sleep thinking about it all. And it’s been a blast setting up a small test area in my home. Not surprising to this group, I’m sure, my priorities are local control, privacy, future-proofing, and all the other values embodied in HA.

Super duper exciting, with one big issue: voice. Until VERY recently, I believed that the best option for voice control was to stick a Google Home Mini in every ceiling. Nothing about that says local control, privacy, future proofing, or anything else. But what’s a guy to do?

Then I read about Ada and Almond. Then I read about Rhasspy. Then I installed Rhasspy. And now I see the future. I see a manageable voice setup where I’m in complete control, the hardware is disconnected from the software, and I can make smart choices now (when the walls are still open!) that allow me to upgrade into the reasonable future.

I have about 6 months (June 2020) before I have to commit to the hard details (we just broke ground and it’s a big build) but, specifically, based on the information I have available right now, it looks like this to me:

  • ReSpeaker 6-Mic Circular Array + Raspberry Pi (PoE) in every room/area (36 will make every square foot of the house easily in range to a microphone)
  • Ceiling mounts for each ReSpeaker+Pi
  • Dedicated NUC for Rhasspy and other voice related Docker containers
  • Node-RED for all voice automations
  • TTS output on the closest tablet panel to the voice input (I plan on using HACC for the display which I see becoming something really amazing)

Here are the issues I see right now:

  • Rhasspy does not yet support more than one mic (and I need 36!), but there is a ticket in for this improvement (thanks @synesthesiam)
  • There is no ceiling mount for a ReSpeaker+Pi combo
  • HACC is still in its infancy and I don’t believe there is, as of yet, a roadmap for supporting TTS output

I see the single-satellite issue with Rhasspy being solved in the near future.
I have no ideas for a ceiling mount outside of 3D printing my own (big learning curve there).
I need to buy the HACC guy a LOT of coffees.

Anyone else see any additional holes in this plan? Any advice for improvement?



Sounds like you will outgrow the hue platform before you get started. You can only have 50 devices max on a hue hub. If you have 36 rooms/areas I think your house will need more than that.

For the audio/tablet thing I would look at fully kiosk browser and TileBoard rather than HACC. Harder to config, but much much more extensible and in my personal experience smoother too.

You can do acoustically transparent panels that you can paint to mount your devices behind in the wall (wall is easier than going into attic or having insulation come down on you each time) or ceiling, but you will still need to access them from time to time. Don’t forget that bit.

If I were you I would keep on with the plan to get wire to every location you can think of that might possibly be needed and then later on you can worry about what software you will use.

I would also say put light switches in. What happens when the tablets don’t work, your NUC dies or your switch dies or??? Then you are stuck in the dark!!! Plus resale value. How will an inspector even pass the build for occupancy if they can’t turn on lights?

If I were you I would keep on with the plan to get wire to every location you can think of that might possibly be needed and then later on you can worry about what hardware/software you will use.

Lots of options here and it sounds like you need another year to plan!
Good Luck!

Don’t forget the guest factor as well. Guests shouldn’t need a 30 minute training course to turn on the lights so they don’t trip on the way to the bathroom.

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Thanks for the thoughtful feedback!

Fortunately, HA supports multiple Hue hubs. Tested all of this out as well. So long as I have groups of lights I want to behave together exactly on the same hub, I’m good.

I haven’t looked at TileBoard as closely (just read about it) but I like the potential of HACC more. Of course that means nothing at all not being the developer myself but like all things HA, I can go back and forth so long as the physical setup is supported either way, which it is.

I’ll look into those panels! I have very little experience with this.

I’m not overly concerned about needing to access them so frequently that the ceiling access is an issue. I’m more concerned with performance. I’m assuming ceiling mounting them is better from that perspective vs wall mounting, no? (anyone know for sure?


I’m not too concerned about the “not working” part. The NUC or tablets “dying” seems unlikely, not least of which because everything will be on battery backup and the data will all be redundant.

I have up on resale value a long time ago due to other things like the price point and location, as well other aspects of the home.

The inspector issue is real. :slight_smile: Already checked with all of that. There will be light switches but there will be less of them and out of the way. Think: local breaker.

I would simply wire the lights normally and the light switches in the normal positions however join the wires together (essentially closing the switch) and leave them in the wall at each switch location (insulated of course) but with no actual light switch there. This way the light is permanently ON but you can always mount the light switches later and wire them in if you choose or when selling the house. Simply cut the hole in the wall at the wiring location and mount (and terminate) the switch.

not this

Since you already plan for a Pi + ReSpeaker in every room, you can just as easily install Rhasspy on every Pi as well.
Downside is you have to configure everything, upside is that you can configure room specific.
The latter most probably leading to simpler settings and better accuracy.
You could just say “turn on the light” in every room instead of “turn on the light in the bathroom”. It is possible with sats as well, but that will mean a lot more programming on logic which sat is being activated

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You mentioned POE and RPI. Every blog post I read said that the POE HAT is not stable. Which really is a shame for anyone with a Unifi setup =(

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Dont really need the poe hat.,searchweb201602_0,searchweb201603_0,ppcSwitch_0&algo_pvid=d0dfacc7-d0ca-4bea-bbd5-1109237f9a8c&algo_expid=d0dfacc7-d0ca-4bea-bbd5-1109237f9a8c-1

i use these for all my rasp pi installs


I’ve done user interviews with most of my extended family. Seriously. Plus, with the density of sensors and other automations, the panels likely won’t get a ton of use unless you want to use them for other reasons. Also, the plan is to make the panel UI very contextually aware. So, for example, in a “Guest Mode”, the whole thing could turn into nothing but a touch screen on/off switch.

Have you built in default behaviour for failure cases? e.g. partial power failure, internet failure, component failure, and (the big one) YOU failure - i.e. what happens if you aren’t around to keep all of this working?

All of my HA has augmented manual controls rather than replace them. e.g. I would never remove physical light switches but rather find ways to parallel their behaviour.

Case example (I was using Domoticz at the time but the principle is the same). three years ago, the SSD in the Pi that ran Domoticz failed when I was away on business and unable to do anything about it. All the lights worked (physical switches), the radiator thermostats worked (physical controls). The only things that failed were the various automations that switched lights on at dusk etc.

This will be an interesting challenge! Once Rhasspy has been broken up into services, it may be easier to run multiple instances of it on your NUC (probably via Docker). You’ll definitely want wakeword detection happening on the Pi’s themselves, since 36 simultaneous audio streams would probably be a bit much.

Keep me informed of your progress; I’d love to hear how it goes :slight_smile:

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Hey Tim,

one other i wanted to mention to you (as i’m currently using it) is
Its very flexible in the way how you can speak to it. Its not about specific phrases you have to teach it but it can really understand your sentences based on how you train it.

its also completely locally and one advantage (for me) is that you can split up recording and processing. F.e. i use raspberry zeros with ReSpeaker Pi-Hats on top which only do voice activation and then send the recording to my home server for processing. Its really flexible and easy to set up.

It uses MQTT and i’m using Node-Red to trigger my automations.

Did you read this?

Don’t use consumer hardware like a NUC if you are going all in. Invest in a real server chassis (ie. ThinkServer) with hot swappable drives, redundant power supplies, redundant RAM, etc. Then run everything in the most universal environment possible which is best for you. VMs dedicated to one or two tasks, or containers, or a combination of both. Run two UPSs, one for each power supply. And you might want to consider using an enterprise grade PoE switch with redundant power supplies as well. Or just keep a spare switch pre-configured. And without saying, use enterprise grade WiFi.

Nice device. Do they have a rpi4 version with usb c (and I think higher power needed?)

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uhrg =(

well, hello, here i am, looking for an alternative.

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I just started exchanging heosy for sonos. The first will come tomorrow. Why !!!

Have you looked into centralizing the switching capability into one or two power locations and using HA to control them? Check out a series of videos from Super House that shows how he implemented his home wiring.

What is heosy?

i agree on the other comments about the NUC, for such an amazing and integral system you dont want to be swapping hardware or containers in downtime.

At least, if cost is concern check out a couple of Dell Power Edge R710, or R620. You get redundancy all around, for sure vmware. For switch, i would end up with Cisco C3560 48P poe, excellent switch for its price with all features you need for L2/L3. I like Unifi, you can make the controller another vm.

The only other thing of concern is the lack of manual controls for when something happens, and it will.

You’re going to have one of the most amazing smart homes, with lots of others envy! Great job!!!