Mozilla may have put Firefox OS for smartphones on ice, but they didn’t just walk away from the operating system completely. They went looking for other places to put its code to good use. Smart homes seemed like a good fit.

What they cooked up was Things Gateway. It’s an open source home automation control solution built to run on the Raspberry Pi. Mozilla sees it as something that sits somewhere between a retail product like the Samsung SmartThings Hub, Amazon Echo or Google Home and a full-on DIY setup.

Who is Things Gateway for? It’s for people who want to simplify the operation of a house full of connected bulbs, switches, outlets, and sensors. Especially if they want to do it without being locked in to one company’s ecosystem. Things Gateway is a Mozilla project, after all. Transparency, openness and respect for user privacy are core concerns.

Today, Mozilla announced a major upgrade to Things Gateway. With the new version come a number of features that put it more in line with its retail competition.

For starters, Mozilla has added support for more kinds of connected devices. There’s also a new add-on system that makes integrating devices (and protocols) that aren’t yet supported easier. Want to lay your devices out visually? You can now upload a floor plan of your space and arrange all the things.

Things Gateway also now offers built-in if-this-then-that functionality. It doesn’t rely on IFTTT, however. Recipes are created and run right in the Things Gateway’s “rules engine” without any data passing through a third party’s system.

The same is partly true of Mozilla’s voice assistant. It responds to spoken commands the way Alexa, Google, or Siri would, but does it without transmitting any speech data any third parties. A Mozilla spokesperson assured me that “processing occurs on Mozilla servers using our own speech engines,” adding “the user’s voice never leaves Mozilla servers.”

Another great feature of Things Gateway is that you’re in control of the hardware it runs on. Mozilla recommends using a Raspberry Pi for an optimal experience, but you’re free to fire it up on a compatible board. You can even run it on a laptop or desktop (your set-top box, maybe?) if you want to. All you need is a USB dongle that can communicate with Zigbee or Z-Wave devices.

Mozilla’s goal with Things Gateway is to “take care of the complicated stuff so that you can focus on the fun stuff.” Today’s update delivers… provided, of course, you find things like home automation to be a good time.

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Lee Mathews

Computer tech, blogger, husband, father, and avid MSI U100 user.

3 replies on “Mozilla Offers a Slick New Way to Control Your Smart Home”

  1. There’s a Mozilla Things Gateway “How-To-Build” post here that explains a lot about where this stands toady:

    I think there’s a lot of work to do though; like clarifying how to dump the whole requirement for external signed (or even self-signed) certificates in truly secure statically addressed bastioned private networks, adding driver hooks for more than just Zigbee-like devices, etc.

    After all, the goal here IMO is to BREAK the Cloud snooping links associated with these IoT solutions – right Mozilla? (Quoting Mozilla: “A Private “Internet of Things”). Yeah maybe certificates and domains are needed for automatic updates from Mozilla, but that BREAKS the “Private” aspect of this solution IMO. I prefer to download an update image, understand/inspect it first, and manually deploy it locally myself if I think it is justified.

    Here’s the rather limited list of currently supported devices:

    I like what I see here from Mozilla. But let’s be realistic: Mozilla is NOT reliable for actually following through with new ideas and who knows how long it will be if and when they just decide to drop this project?

    Remember, it took Mozilla MORE THAN A YEAR to get to this point with this IoT initiative from Mozilla. I don’t want to wait another year before it truly is usable, extensible, and really PRIVATE. Allowing us to contribute to the project in an open way will help a lot in this area. But it seems the initiative is to corral control so this project is NOT hacker friendly, but non-technical user friendly. That’s a bad sign met/hinks. Time will tell…

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