Most manufacturers are looking to Cloud-based services to provide the processing power their Smart Home hub needs. This is due to the fact that a Cloud is more convenient to work with; you don’t need to program your devices.
Secondly, it can handle more complex data that your Smart Home devices can’t handle. It is as powerful as a computer, doing all the processing for your less powerful smart devices.
Smart Home Hubs Without a Cloud
Are smart home hubs without a Cloud possible? Absolutely, yes, and it is worthwhile. The Cloud has its shortcomings, the biggest being its inability to maintain privacy and security. Your supposed confidential data travels from the device to the Cloud putting the system at risk of being hacked.
In addition to this, should the company Cloud that drives your smart home technology shut down, your device will stop working. It also relies on the internet and will be weak when the internet is weak.
So to alleviate these possible risks, you can choose to embrace a home automation hub without a Cloud solution.
How to Set Up a Smart Home Hub without a Cloud
With the locally-controlled smart homes, no data will leave your home and therefore, you are assured of privacy. Moreover, your device keeps working even if the manufacturer quits; you also won’t have problems if the internet goes down.
However, setting up a home automation hub without a Cloud is not a walk in the park. It requires some effort and time. Further, when switching to it, you need to buy new components, ditch the Voice Assistants and learn new rules.
But it is more beneficial in the long run, so it can be worth it. Here are the steps you need to take when setting up a locally-controlled hub.
Establishing the Automation Hub
1. Start with a Locally Controlled Hub.
Some smart home devices offer hubs with a small amount of local control but still access the internet when it comes to processing some features. It is prudent to start with an entirely locally controlled hub.
An example of such is Hubitat.
With this device, any automation runs at a local level and is capable of running almost everything offline. But during setup, an internet connection is required.
Setting up a hub will depend on the hub you have decided on. Taking Hubitat for example, all you need to do is to plug an Ethernet cable into your router and connect the power cable. Internet will be required here to set up the software.
2. Set up the software
Next, open a browser by a computer that uses the same router that the device is connected to. You can create an account or log in using the account you used while purchasing the device. Click on the register and follow the instructions on the screen.
The information that appears on the screen includes: naming the device, providing your location among others. Your location will be used to obtain data that is useful in home automation, such as sunrise, sunset, time and local weather data.
3. Pair Smart Home Devices
Z-Wave and ZigBee are similar in operation. The only difference, which is of less significance anyway, is that Z-Wave seems to broadcast at a longer range. When you are using it, you need to put it farther apart.
With ZigBee, distance is not an issue; it creates a larger mesh network, so no problem even if you have a lot of them. The process of pairing Z-wave and ZigBee involves entering the device’s pairing mode and initiating the hub’s discovery mode. This is usually done by pressing a button or combination of buttons on the device.
Once the hub’s web interface has displayed all the Z-wave and ZigBee devices discovered within the hub’s range, you just need to name them.
4. Choose Compatible Equipment
A Smart Home Hub is a central device that provides other various Smart Home devices a platform that enables them to work together. Building a Home hub requires adding compatible Smart home products.
For example, Hubitat works with 42 brands: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Cree, Osram, Ecobee are among them. What you should do is to research and know the brands that are compatible with the Hub you want to set.
5. Set sensors to detect your home
This is one of the most expensive and challenging parts of this project. To start with, you will need a variety of motion, water, contact, and temperature sensors. You should expect to purchase more than one of each if you plan to automate your entire home.
You can start with any sensor depending on your needs, but I would recommend that you add kits that include door and window sensors along with motion sensors.
Motion sensors will be required as a security sensor so it is very vital. Some sensors are multipurpose and you can set them both as your entry door protector and a garage tilt door sensor to protect your tools.
6. Stop using voice assistants
Voice assistants are incredibly convenient when it comes to controlling your smart home. However, all these viable voice assistants use the Cloud at some level.
What you say can end up on a company server. The aim here is to ditch relying on the Cloud for processing, so voice assistants should be avoided.
Learning Rule Machine Engines
Now that you have established the hub, you should be able to make it work for you. A rule machine engine is very useful in creating tasks for your Smart Home devices, more so when creating complex tasks.
When it comes to automating your home, there are several Apps that can be used. The most powerful of all being a Rule machine. Perfecting it needs a lot of practice because it is robust; you will have to do a considerable amount of tinkering and testing.
To use this App, you have to install it to the hub. Once installed, you can create a rule by simply launching the rule machine App from the App page and select ‘Create New Rule’. This will give an option to define a Trigger, Rule, Triggered Rule or Actions.
These are the basic building blocks for your home automation. The automation engine will run when a certain event occurs like when the front door opens, when you close your floor fan, etc.
Creating triggers will require that you first select trigger events, actions, and restrictions. For example, if the back door closes, you can choose to have this trigger turn off the floor fan but only after sunset.
Here, back door closing is the trigger event, turning off the floor fan is the action and restriction is that it should only be done after sunset.
You can also select multiple trigger events, multiple actions, and multiple restrictions for every trigger-based automation defined.
Rules watch certain conditions and run different actions depending on whether or not the conditions are met. Take the condition in our above example: the back door closes.
Select a course of action if the condition is met like “turn off the floor fan”. Then select the course of action if the condition is not met; if the back door is not closed, turn the living room light on. Then you need to set your restriction such as setting the rule to run only after 6 pm.
The whole thing will check: is the back door closed? If yes, turn off the floor fan; if no, turn the living room light on, but only after 6 pm. This is an example of a simple rule. You can create rules that are more complex; you can delay action, set multiple conditions, control different devices and do much more.
These are rules that only evaluate the condition when the trigger event occurs. In our example, our trigger event is whether the back door is opened or closed. This is what the rule is constantly checking as described above. But if you turn the rule to Trigger Rule, it will only check the door condition like when there is a motion on your doorstep.
For example, when someone walks towards the back door when it is open, the living room light will turn on. When they approach the door when it is closed, the floor fan will turn off. If there are no approaches to your door, both floor fan and living room light will remain in their original condition.
Actions actually don’t do conditioning themselves, but rather create a set of defined actions that you can easily add to Trigger, Rule and Trigger Rule. This is how you can assign tasks to your Smart Home hub and let it do the work for you.
Rule machine is great especially when you want to create a complex task with your Smart Home. However, it is not the only automation machine; there are also Apps and you can install to tackle simple tasks.
3 of the most common Apps that work with Hubitat include:
- Hubitat Simple Light: A simple lighting App that allows you to control your Smart Lights while still being able to create complex Triggers. You can choose the lights to control, the Trigger event that turns them on or off, and the restrictions.
- Mode Manager: This enables you to easily customize your modes. It usually comes pre-installed with popular modes such as Away mode, Home mode, and Sleep mode. In some Hubs that do not have a mobile App, this mode relies on Triggers to activate modes. You can use mode as a restriction to Triggers, Rules, or Trigger Rules.
- Safety Monitor: If you want to customize security alerts, this is the automation engine to go for. There are a lot of sensors that can trigger alerts: motion sensor, glass break sensor, and contact sensor just to mention but a few. You just have to choose which one will trigger an alert and how you want to be alerted. For instance, the alert can be through a text message if motion is detected inside your home.
Which Apps can you Load onto your Smart Home Hub?
There are endless possibilities when it comes to the Apps you can load onto your hub. All you need to do is to browse, read, and learn the App that suits you.
Alongside Hubitat Hub which has been mentioned several times in this article, there are other SmartHome Hubs that can be set to process data locally. Some are hybrid while some do local processing entirely. Some common ones in our modern markets include:
The Hubitat (Amazon link) is capable of running almost everything offline. This is the only major difference between it and the SmartThings hub. Regarding customization they are similar. It communicates or works with a variety of smart home devices.
It connects to these devices via IP or Wi-Fi, so some of the smart home devices require the internet to work with it. However, for total local access, you need to connect it to Z-wave or ZigBee devices. Simply plug in a Z-wave or a ZigBee stick into the hub to enable it to connect with the devices.
What it can do offline: run all rule-based automation, manual smart home control, and Geofencing.
What it can’t do offline: some rules and triggers can only run when there is an internet connection, like those that require an App to connect to Hubitat. For example, Google Assistants and Alexa. Notifications will not work without an internet connection.
SmartThings like Samsung SmartThing Hub (Amazon) can process locally or via the Cloud. For example, it will require an internet connection to control the Nest thermostat. This operation is impossible when the internet strength is low or when there is no internet at all.
This hub, however, can run some preconfigured automation locally whenever there is a problem with the internet. It can run some scenes known as Smart Apps without the aid of the internet. The Smart Apps can be stored on the SmartThing Hub.
However, there are limitations in its local operation: The smart Apps that can be configured to work locally are Smart Home monitor and Smart light only.
Once there is an internet connection such that the hub affects both local and Cloud devices, you cannot run Smart Apps locally. Plus a locally-run Smart App won’t be triggered by mode change. For instance, when you set your Smart thing to home mode, your Smart light App won’t work.
The Mixtile (Amazon link) doesn’t necessarily need the Cloud to work. It has high processing power and has the power to store and activate the home automation scene.
Although its ability to understand is limited, it can listen to basic voice commands. For this reason, it can perform basic functions like turning on a light.
A good thing about Mextile is that once your phone is connected to the router, you will be able to control Mextile remotely. This will be possible even when there is no internet connection.
Just like Mextile, nCubeBase processes everything locally; no data goes to the Cloud. All you need to do is to create an automation scene, rule or schedule. It has a built-in storage device where whatever you manage to create will be saved.
Vera Smart Home Control (Amazon link) helps you control your Smart Home even during a blackout. It has a battery and cellular functionality. This means that if you have a battery-powered Smart Home, then you can set the device. Even when there is a blackout, you are guaranteed control over your Smart Home Security System.
Vera has three Smart Home controllers with varying features. These three devices (VeraEdge, VeraSource, and VeraPlus) work with Z-wave and a 3G wireless connection.
These components help it to process information locally. As long as you have the smart Z-Wave, Vera is capable of giving you full access to your Smart Home even when there is a blackout or Wi-Fi goes down.
Oomi Camera and Smart Home Hub
This offers Cloud data processing but can do processing locally as well, so you can be in control even without the Cloud. However, this does work “smarter” with the Cloud.
Disadvantages of Cloud-Powered Smart Homes
Manufacturers don’t need to program the Smart Home Devices to analyze complex data; instead, they simply upload processing algorithms to “space”. These devices transfer data to the Cloud which does all the heavy work for them.
Using the Cloud to provide processing power is, therefore, very convenient. However, Cloud-based processing has shortcomings that can warrant a switch to locally controlled Smart Home Hubs.
Privacy and security
With Cloud processing, you have to give up some privacy. This is one of the biggest problems with this method of processing.
Your data, including those you consider as confidential, travel from your device to the Cloud. This even includes videos of your home security cameras, data about when you leave home and when you come back that is sent from your Smart Clock, and even your home address set in your Smart Home Hub.
Though you will be assured by the company that the data is encrypted, there is no way to ensure that it is Hack-proof. Though manufacturers do claim that they use this information to improve the system, in some cases they do sell your anonymized data.
This privacy problem has been compounded even more by the adaption of voice assistants. The voice data is transmitted to the Cloud and often remains stored permanently on the manufacturing server. Therefore, the privacy of Cloud-based data should be a consideration.
Device inoperable due to company closure
The device will not work if the company that drives your Smart Home closes up or quit its operation on the Smart Home category. This had happened to Smart Home Hubs like Lowe’s Iris and Revolv hubs. Though, nowadays, companies do announce when they are about to close down.
Problems with the internet
Another problem with these devices is that they rely on the internet, meaning when the internet is disconnected, they go down in their operations as well. This leaves you unable to control many of your Smart Home devices such as a thermostat, smart clock, and smart light among others.
Limited control and flexibility
Depending on the particular service and device, Cloud users have limited control over their Smart Home devices. Most of these Cloud–reliant devices are programmed and respond automatically without your help.
They process data and do adjustments. Moreover, Cloud providers and management policies might impose a limit on what customers can do with their devices.
Cloud computing dependence policies
Differences in the Vendor system can sometimes make it impossible to migrate from one Cloud platform to the other. The migration may be complex as you will have to reconfigure your information to meet the requirement of the new hub.
This process is expensive as well, as you will have to purchase some of the additional requirements. Also, the process of migration could expose your data to additional security and privacy vulnerability.
Cloud computing costs
Cloud computing can cost you, even if the project is on a small scale or short term. It varies depending on the device, so the best thing is to assess and know the wallet-friendly ones.
Which Smart Home Security Devices don’t use the Cloud?
To be safe from all these problems with Cloud processing, a Smart Home Automation with no Cloud access is ideal. Apart from Smart Home Hubs, there are Smart Home cameras that can process or store data locally.
Here are some of the home security devices that don’t entirely depend on the Cloud for processing.
Home Security Cameras
However, when there is internet access, it uses the Cloud for processing. For example, when it records an unknown face, it records the footage and sends it to the Cloud for storage unless your internet is lost or too low.
Reolink Argus and Argus 2
These cameras can also work without relying on the Cloud. They have a micro SD card where data is stored and therefore doesn’t have to send data to the Cloud for storage. Another good thing with these cameras is that they are battery-powered, so they don’t rely on electric power.
This is an indoor security camera equipped with sensors like motion and sound sensors. It doesn’t require a Cloud to store data; once you have the SD card, it can store data locally. With the SD card installed, you can program it to record motion and sound manually.
Keep in mind that most of its features use the internet, and should there be an internet connection, it will send data to the Cloud for storage unless told otherwise. Secondly, the Companion Smartphone App doesn’t work with it when it is running data locally.
Also, you have to remove the SD card and run it on a computer if you want to watch the videos. And finally, you need to connect the device to Wi-Fi once you have inserted the SD card and set up the local processing features using the Wyze App.
This camera is characterized by both common security features and environmental monitoring features. It is capable of working continuously without the internet, power or both. It can draw power from an external source but should power fail, it has a battery backup that can last up to one and a half hours.
This camera has an internal memory of 8GB eMMC which it can use as its primary storage, so it doesn’t just have to rely on Cloud storage. If this internal memory is configured as backup storage, it can only store videos when the internet is weak.
Unlike WyzeCam, the storage is built-in. You will be able to watch the video on your computer but to watch recorded videos, you have to connect the device to the Wi-Fi.
Tend Secure Lynx Pro
It has facial recognition that can run locally for a limited number of times. Its local storage can only accommodate up to three hours of event recording, and it is not meant to run for an extended period of time.
This has a built-in SD card where it stores private identification data. It relies on the Cloud for processing, and, if for some reason its Cloud is hacked, your vital data will be safe on the SD card. This camera, however, doesn’t run facial recognition locally.
Other Home Security Devices
Devices that can operate without an internet connection apart from security cameras include:
- Abode Security for Smart Home Devices.
- Honeywell Camera Base Station (Honeywell equipped with cameras).
- Frontpoint Home Security
- Nest Secure –It controls some Smart Home devices and can communicate with its sensors even if you lose the internet and power.
For those who are concerned about the privacy, security, and safety of their data, a locally-controlled Smart Home Hub is the way to go. You can go for a hub that can be entirely controlled locally or hybrids that are Cloud-reliant while keeping some information at home and not in the Cloud.