I jumped on the SmartThings bandwagon during the Black Friday sales, upgrading my girlfriend’s home from a Wink v1 and doing a greenfield deployment of ST + smart bulbs for my house. We have a mix of Cree, IKEA, Hue, and Sengled bulbs. We have Alexa devices in every room and I deployed some Xiaomi buttons at my house.
The Xiaomi button handler attached to a virtual toggle button hasn’t been great and the latency is awful. There are the occasional Alexa outages to contend with. And the ST cloud outages have been a giant frustration, especially with this last one dragging out long enough to impact everyone in our households.
I don’t want to leave SmartThings, for the same reasons I chose it in the first place – ease of use, fantastic development environment, and the wonderful community. What I need is a way to maintain local control of our smart bulbs.
What I found was deconz and the RaspBee / ConBee. The latest builds provide a Hue-compatible API. It supports ZLL. It has native support for IKEA’s inexpensive remotes and sensors. Best of all with the IKEA remotes, it programs them such that they can directly control the bulbs without directly pairing them yourself – they keep working with my deconz system powered off, even with my ZHA-only bulbs (tho for ZHA they seem a bit less reliable, experimenting with building a separate ZHA-only network is on my future todo list).
It does have some caveats: The deconz web UI isn’t as slick as others, tho they’re working on a better UI called Phoscon. It doesn’t have much native automation support but that’s really the purpose of keeping SmartThings around. There’s no phone / tablet app but for light control it works with anything that supports the Hue local API. Support for RGB bulbs that don’t use the Hue-style color scheme (ie: Sengled color bulbs) is poor and some things which use the Hue API (including SmartThings) won’t recognize them at all. Ironically, the official Hue iOS app works with my Sengled colors via deconz just fine.
My setup is now ZigBee Devices -> RaspBee / deconz -> ST -> Alexa. My next step will be to link Alexa directly to deconz so that Alexa will keep working in the event of an ST outage, the only gotcha there is that Alexa doesn’t support color with the local Hue API so there’s some configuration headache involved – basically, disable the non-color ST devices in Alexa since she can fully control those without ST, and with the color bulbs doing some name mangling with the duplicated devices so we have normal control of color via ST when everything’s working but can still do on/off when it’s not.
A killer side benefit to this setup: I am now free to play with other Hue-compatible automation controllers without the risk of breaking things. Breakage sucks.
There’s also a somewhat related project called diyHue which provides a more complete Hue emulator that also works with many WiFi bulbs, can make IKEA remotes appear as Hue remotes, and can aggregate additional Hue-compatible hubs. It supports deconz, tho due to deconz now implementing Hue API / SSDP natively it needs to run from a separate IP or have SSDP disabled.
This isn’t a complete solution for keeping every type of home automation device operating when the Cloud / Internet fails, but it will keep the lighting control working and right now that’s the most important factor for keeping my households happy. Well, maybe the Plex server is slightly more important…