Home Control Assistant Newsletter for April 17 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
A clarification
A few weeks back I wrote about how the Hubitat automation system supports voice assistants. I also said that I have built a connector between Hubitat and HCA. With that you could use a voice assistant and have Hubitat receive the command as to what to do and pass that on to HCA for action. This is like what we have today for Insteon. You use a voice assistant to control an Insteon device by having HCA do the work.

There have been quite a few emails to me on this topic and I want to try, again, to explain why this is important in the context of HCA going dark.

The most important fact to remember is this: When HCA “goes dark” and I am no longer here, HCA will still run on the Windows computer in your home. If you want, I expect that it will be usable for many years. Eventually Microsoft may change Windows so it will not run, but I really doubt that. The automation interfaces may fail, or they may be updated in some way that HCA can no longer work with them. But, in general if you want to keep using it, HCA will keep going year after year. Long after I’m gone.

When support for HCA ends, the HCA cloud will go away too. This means that what the HCA Cloud does now to allow device and program voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant, will stop working. In my message of a few weeks back I wrote how it is possible to use the voice control facilities that Hubitat has to get that voice control back. Let’s review that:

Existing system:
  • You talk to Alexa to control “Kitchen Light”
  • Alexa talks to the Amazon Cloud
  • The Amazon Cloud talks to the HCA Cloud
  • The HCA Cloud connects to your home HCA Server and tells it to turn on the “Kitchen Light”. The light goes on.
  • The parts of this that I maintain now are the HCA Cloud and HCAServer.exe

With Hubitat
  • You talk to Alexa to control “Kitchen Light”
  • Alexa talks to the Amazon Cloud
  • The Amazon Cloud talks to the Hubitat Cloud
  • The Hubitat Cloud talks to your in-home Hubitat
  • The in-home Hubitat talks to your HCA Server and tells it to turn on the “Kitchen Light”
  • The HCA Server turns the light ON

As you can see in the second case there is no HCA Cloud. There is only Hubitat and the HCAServer.exe application. As I said above it will keep working long after I’m gone. No HCA cloud – which will go away – is needed.

Like was done for Voice Assistant support in general, programs and devices are all treated the same. If you have a program that is only “started” or that has ON and OFF triggers, then it should be a Virtual HCA non-dim device. If the program can be controlled to a percentage, then it should be a Virtual HCA dimmable device.

I also received several questions about how to move devices from HCA control to Hubitat control. Again, an important fact to keep in mind is this: to the voice assistant a device is only controlled by a single service. This means that if Alexa uses HCA to control a device, it can’t be controlled by Hubitat and visa-versa. The voice assistant needs to know who to “talk to” to effect control.

Suppose you want to move that “Kitchen Light” control from HCA to Alexa. The first thing to do is to tell Alexa that HCA no longer controls it. Open the Voice Assistant configuration in HCA and mark it as no longer voice controlled. Then have the voice assistant discover devices. If the device isn’t removed from the assistant list of devices, you will have to remove it manually. Refer to the Getting Started Guides for help on this.

Then add the device into Hubitat control as my previous week’s message described. Then have the voice assistant discover again and it should be controlled through Hubitat.

Finally, I just want to say I am NOT a Hubitat expert. I know some but not a lot, and I don’t provide support for it. If you have questions about Hubitat please refer to the Hubitat support site. I did setup a discussion list for HCA Hubitat users, and you can join that – see below. But that’s just me trying to be helpful. I’m not here to spend my time supporting a product I didn’t develop or sell.

If you are using HCA with UPB devices and also use Google Assistant or Alexa for voice control of them, please drop me a note as there are some developments you may be interested in.
If you are using a version of HCA prior to version 17, you may have questions about the wisdom of upgrading to version 17 given the future of HCA. Here is something to consider:

The support policy for older HCA versions has been changed
 as I can no longer devote time to past version users. Support will only be available for HCA 17 users.

If you are on version 16 or earlier and want to continue using the cloud features and want to be assured that if you have a question that it gets answered, it is indeed time to upgrade.

HCA is fully operational for several more years so the update cost, spread out over that time, is very little. Knowing support is available when you need it is worth it.
Upgrade to HCA 17
Anyone who is using Hubitat with HCA – not SmartThings – please drop me a note as I would like to add you to a discussion list for those users. I have some Hubitat ideas that I would like to “kick around” and it would help to have a group of users who have experience with Hubitat. Please just send a note to the regular support address saying you would like to be added to that discussion list.
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