Gavin Campbell with Home Assistant’s Local Voice AI, mmWave Sensors, Zigbee vs. Z-Wave, 3D Printing and Smart Lawn Watering – HGG588

Gavin Campbell joins me this week as we talk about how Home Assistant introduces a local voice assistant with wake words. Gavin is enthusiastic about mmWave sensors, Aqara FP2, which can detect people, even when stationary. Zigbee vs. Z-Wave gets a mention as Gavin upgrades to the Zooz ZST39 Z-Wave 800 controller. 3D printing is a recent interest, used for creating smart shutter controllers. Gavin’s year-long experiment with smart lawn watering is summarized, along with enhancements to his pool using temperature and water level sensors. All that and a quick update on CEDIA. Thanks for listening!

Full show notes, transcriptions (available on request), audio and video at

Join Jim Collison / @jcollison for show #588 of Home Gadget Geeks, brought to you by the Average Guy Network.


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Show Segments:

  • Tech gadgets, news, and reviews with guests.[0:00]
    • Jim Collison welcomes Gavin Campbell to Home Gadget Geeks, discussing tech gadgets and news.
  • Home automation and integrations with companies like Mazda.[1:52]
    • Speaker 2 discusses home assistant, an open-source smart home hub, and its integrations with various devices and services.
    • Speaker 2 expresses concern about companies like Mazda potentially taking away functionality from users who rely on home assistant integrations.
  • Home assistants and voice control technology.[5:00]
    • Speaker 2 discusses the benefits of home assistants, including local control and privacy, and mentions the development of a new voice assistant that runs locally.
    • Speaker 2 and Jim Collison discuss the potential uses of voice assistants, such as controlling devices and asking questions like “Is the back door open?” or “What’s the temperature in the pool?”.
    • Speaker 2 explains that the new AI assistant, Jarvis, is built into home assistant and available to everyone, but voice control requires a hardware device like a Raspberry Pi or M5 stack.
    • Speaker 2 details how the voice satellites work, streaming audio to home assistant for wake word detection and processing, and can be low-power devices.
  • Using voice assistants for traffic updates and home automation.[10:20]
    • Jim Collison is considering using a microphone on a touchscreen computer to control home devices, but is unsure if it’s worth it due to the device’s limited power.
    • Speaker 2 is interested in using voice control for various tasks, including checking the weather and traffic, but wants to ensure it works well and provides useful information.
    • Jim Collison wants a proactive assistant to provide traffic updates during his commute, rather than relying on him to remember to ask.
    • Speaker 2 suggests using a home assistant with integration capabilities to automate the process of providing traffic updates.
  • Using millimeter wave sensors for home automation.[14:27]
    • Speaker 2 is impressed with millimeter wave sensors, which can detect people in a room without them moving or making noise.
    • Speaker 2 has set up the sensors in their family room and office to automate tasks based on where they sit or move around.
    • Speaker 2 explains that fall detection requires mounting the sensor on the ceiling, while regular detection is best done on a wall at a specific height.
    • The sensor can detect falls by monitoring speed and distance, and it may trip if the person falls too fast or goes too far.
    • Everything is a popular home automation sensor that uses PIR and millimeter wave technology for faster and more accurate motion detection.
  • Smart home devices and their uses.[20:37]
    • Speaker 2 mentions they ordered multiple devices to use in different rooms, including the garage, and are looking forward to using them for various applications.
    • Speaker 2 and Jim Collison discuss the potential for the devices to be smarter in terms of proximity, such as using the device closest to the voice or body to answer.
    • Jim Collison is frustrated with the microphone on his Echo device in the kitchen, which is not responding to his commands.
    • Collison and a guest discuss the challenges of using smart home devices and the importance of having the right tool for the right job.
  • Smart faucets and home automation.[26:06]
    • Jim Collison fixes a clogged faucet by removing a small filter basket filled with debris.
    • Speaker 2 seeks smart home devices with specific temperature control for hand washing wine glasses.
  • Smart faucets and their potential applications.[29:37]
    • Smart faucet users envision features like temperature control, measuring cup integration, and kitchen robotics.
    • Collison and another speaker discuss various home appliances, including dishwashers, air conditioners, and furnaces, and their advancements in quiet operation.
  • ZigBee and Z wave smart home technologies.[32:46]
    • Jim Collison plans to reinstall mixing units and use flex tubing for wiring, while Speaker 2 recommends using both ZigBee and Z wave communication standards in smart home systems.
    • Speaker 2 recommends using both ZigBee and Z wave networks in a smart home system to have more device options and avoid limitations.
    • Speaker 2 has a mix of ZigBee and Z wave devices in their home, with Z wave devices used for switches and ZigBee devices scattered throughout the house for mesh coverage.
    • Speaker 2 discusses their experience with various home automation technologies, including ZigBee, Z wave, and matter.
    • Speaker 2 prefers to use individual controllers for each technology to avoid losing all of their devices in case of a failure.
  • Home automation, Z-wave devices, and 3D printing.[39:47]
    • Jim Collison is a fan of Habitat and its devices, but he finds their dashboards to be lacking and uses Home Assistant instead.
    • Speaker 2 recommends using Home Assistant instead of Habitat due to its better integration with other devices and easier control.
    • Speaker 2 is interested in 3D printing and recently purchased a Prusa 3D printer after searching for a more affordable option on Kijiji and Facebook marketplace.
    • Speaker 2 had issues with the C7 Z-wave chip in their home assistant and returned to the 500 series chip, but is now considering the C8 chip with long-range capabilities.
  • 3D printing and cost savings.[44:25]
    • Speaker 2 purchased a pre-assembled MK3 3D printer for $600 Canadian, finding it to be a great little printer with no problems.
    • Speaker 2 designs and prints custom car mounts for their iPhone, saving $100 compared to buying new mounts.
    • Speaker 2 mentions the community around 3D printing and how they can design and print their own plans, but notes that printer-specific G code may not be compatible across different printer models.
  • DIY tech projects and 3D printing.[48:49]
    • Jim Collison and Unknown Speaker discuss the ease of using 3D printing technology for everyday objects, with Unknown Speaker expressing frustration at the lack of time to learn how to use it.
    • Speaker 2 shares their experience of teaching themselves 3D printing and emphasizes the importance of time and learning in using the technology effectively.
    • Jim Collison reflects on his past enthusiasm for troubleshooting and building PCs, now finding it too time-consuming and preferring pre-configured solutions.
    • Speaker 2 shares their experience of using a 3D printer to print a new nozzle for their leaf blower, finding it a useful and practical application.
  • 3D printing and smart lawn watering.[53:18]
    • Jim and Speaker 2 discuss 3D printing, with Speaker 2 expressing optimism about its potential for mainstream use despite current limitations.
    • Collison tried various soil moisture sensors but found only one worked well, saving water over the year.
    • The speaker has a rat ratul system set up to water their lawn, but found it to be inaccurate.
    • The speaker uses a home assistant to calculate moisture values and automatically water their lawn based on specific zones, resulting in less water usage and a greener lawn.
  • Water sensors and their limitations.[58:53]
    • Speaker 2 discusses their experience with the GeoJobs water sensor, praising its flat design but expressing concerns about the subscription model and lack of integration with home automation systems.
    • Speaker 2 mentions the sensor’s ability to measure moisture at different depths and the importance of integration with home automation systems for optimal use.
  • Lawn care, irrigation, and gardening challenges.[1:02:00]
    • Speaker 2 discusses their lawn care struggles during a drought, including overwatering and underwatering, and their desire for a product like GeoDrop to help with watering.
    • Speaker 2 mentions that GeoDrop is still in beta but hopes it will be available soon at a good price point.
    • Jim Collison is concerned about his neighbor’s irrigation system heading into his yard and flower beds, so he’s moved some flowers to create slots for next year’s irrigation.
    • Tony mentions that his cold weather grass is starting to grow and green up nicely.
  • Pool temperature monitoring and heating costs.[1:07:09]
    • Speaker 2 added a second pool temperature device to measure temperature changes throughout the pool, finding that readings were consistent regardless of location.
    • Speaker 2 also installed a pool level monitor that notifies them when the water level drops too low, preventing damage to the pump.
    • Jim Collison and Speaker 2 discuss the cost of pool heaters in Florida, with Speaker 2 estimating a range of $1,000 to $1,600 for a heater.
    • Speaker 2 mentions that the cost can vary depending on the size of the pool and the gas rates in the area.
  • Pool heating options and CEDIA conference.[1:12:28]
    • Jim Collison discusses his experience with a solar heater for his above-ground pool, mentioning its effectiveness in heating the water and the potential benefits of using a solar cover to retain heat.
    • Speaker 2 shares their experience with a solar heating system, which uses a dome-shaped structure with piping to heat water through the power of the sun.
  • Outdoor TVs and their cost.[1:15:05]
    • Speaker 2 discusses a large outdoor TV that folds up and can be installed in various locations, with a price tag of $200,000-$500,000.
    • The group ponders the use case for such an expensive TV, with suggestions including pool sides, outdoor living areas, and wow factor.
    • Jim Collison is hesitant to leave his outdoor TV unattended due to concerns about theft, but Speaker 2 suggests using a hardshell case with a lock to protect the investment.
    • Speaker 2 demonstrates a case with heating and moisture protection, and Jim Collison expresses interest in purchasing one for his outdoor TV.
  • Home automation, solar panels, and technology.[1:21:03]
    • Jim Collison and Gavin Sebring discuss the shift from pro to DIY home automation, with cheaper DIY options and companies like Smart Rent and Detach Solar coming in for interviews.
    • Jim Collison discusses the longevity of solar panels and LED lights, mentioning that they may not last as long as expected.
    • Ed Sullivan will join the show on November 9th to share his experience using technology, including solar generators, to power an outdoor event.


The web page is an episode of the Home Gadget Geeks podcast, hosted by Jim Collison. The guest for this episode is Gavin Campbell, a home automation enthusiast and co-host of the podcast. The episode covers various topics related to home automation, such as:

  • Local voice AI: Gavin shares his experience with using Rhasspy, an open source, fully offline voice assistant toolkit. He explains how he set up his own voice commands and integrated them with Home Assistant, a popular open source home automation platform. He also compares Rhasspy with other voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
  • MMWave sensors: Gavin talks about his experiments with using mmWave sensors, which are radar-based sensors that can detect motion, distance, and speed. He demonstrates how he used them to create smart lighting and security scenarios in his home.
  • Zigbee vs Z-Wave: Gavin discusses the pros and cons of Zigbee and Z-Wave, two of the most common wireless protocols for home automation devices. He explains the differences between them in terms of compatibility, reliability, security, and battery life. He also gives some tips on how to choose the best protocol for your needs.
  • 3D printing: Gavin shows some of the 3D printed projects he has done, such as a custom case for his Raspberry Pi, a wall mount for his tablet, and a bracket for his mmWave sensor. He also shares some resources and advice on how to get started with 3D printing.
  • Smart lawn watering: Gavin reveals how he automated his lawn watering system using a smart sprinkler controller from Rachio. He describes how he configured the controller to adjust the watering schedule based on weather data, soil moisture, and plant type. He also mentions some of the benefits and challenges of using a smart sprinkler controller.

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