Home Assistant is free and open source home automation software that allows you to control and interact with smart home gadgets. You can install the software on a single-board computer or in a virtual machine on a Windows, Mac, or Linux PC.
But soon there may be another option: the Home Assistant team is running a crowdfunding campaign for a purpose-built, customizable smart home hub called Home Assistant Amber. It’s up for pre-order through Crowd Supply and scheduled to ship at the end of June, 2022.
Home Assistant Amber is powered by a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, which connects to a carrier board with an M.2 expansion slot that can be used for storage, an AI accelerator card, or other add-ons.
The board also has a Zigbee module for talking to your smart home devices, and it’s compatible with the upcoming Matter smart home standard. Other features include two USB 2.0 Type-A ports, a USB 2.0 Type-C port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a Gigabit Ethernet port with support for PoE (Power over Ethernet), allowing you to power the device and connect it to your home network with single Ethernet cable.
You can also use a DC power jack to connect a 12V/2A power supply.
There’s also a real-time clock with a CR2032 battery backup, red, green, and yellow status LEDs, a red push button that can perform a factory reset, and a blue button that will do… something else. The developers are still working on that.
The Home Assistant Amber will be available with a custom heat sink designed for the system and a 4.8″ x 4.8″ x 1.4″ transparent plastic enclosure.
A pledge of $149 will reserve a complete kit with the carrier board, enclosure, and a Raspberry Pi CM4 with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage. Or you can pay $99 for an Amber Kit that ships without a Compute Module if you already have one and/or want to choose your own version (Raspberry Pi makes models with up to 8GB of RAM and 32GB of storage).
So to recap, you can choose your own memory and storage configuration, use the M.2 slot to add hardware, and use open source Home Assistant software to connect to a wide range of devices and services, set your own routines, monitor your device info, and more.
Don’t give a hoot about smart home automation, but think the kit looks kind of cool anyway? It also supports just about any other software that runs on a Raspberry Pi. So if you’d rather run the Debian-based Raspberry Pi OS instead of Home Assistant OS, you can do that.
That said, there’s a pretty long lead time on this crowdfunding project – place an order today and you’re unlikely to receive anything until at least next summer. And that’s only if everything goes according to plan.
The developers acknowledge that the global chip shortage may impact their ability to deliver. But they’ve already ordered and paid for enough components to manufacture about 4,500 devices (2,000 Amber Kits with a power supply, 2,000 with PoE, and 400 complete kits).