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Open source smart home platform gains Ubuntu snap packages

Feb 9, 2017 — by Eric Brown 4,176 views

Canonical has released a Snap package mechanism for running Ubuntu apps under the openHAB smart home stack, complete with Azul’s Zulu Embedded Java Runtime.

Canonical’s snap package management mechanism can now run on the open source, Java-driven openHAB home automation framework, enabling easier deployment and secure updating of Ubuntu apps. Last June, Canonical spun off the secure Ubuntu snap format from its container-like Snappy Ubuntu Core IoT distribution, proposing it as an open source, universal package management solution for all Linux distributions. For now, however, it essentially provides an easy, secure way to download, run, and maintain Ubuntu apps packaged under snap.

The technology enables a one-click download and install from the Ubuntu Appstore LINK, says Canonical. By adding snap packaging within the openHAB smart home stack, developers can more easily build, test, and distribute smart home services, says the Ubuntu project sponsor.

openHAB 2.0
(click image to enlarge)

Snaps are securely confined, read-only, tamper-proof application images, that are digitally signed to ensure integrity. Update controls allow app publishers and device vendors to validate updates across the ecosystem before they are applied. Snaps are also transactional, so failures are automatically rolled back.


Also joining the collaboration between Canonical and the openHAB Foundation is Azul Systems, which is packaging its Azul’s Zulu Embedded Java Runtime with the openHAB snap. With this combined offering, openHAB, which requires a Java Runtime to be installed, can be easily packaged and distributed as a single application without click thru licenses, says Canonical. Because openHAB uses the content interface feature of snaps, the application and the Java Runtime can be automatically and individually updated via the Ubuntu App store.

The JVM-based openHAB 2.0 is one of the most popular and comprehensive of the many Linux-compatible open source smart home IoT frameworks now available for free download. In many ways, the cross-platform stack mimics the capabilities of commercial smart home hub frameworks like Wink or Samsung’s SmartThings, most of which — except for Apple HomeKit — run Linux.

Nextcloud Box

openHAB differs from such solutions in several ways: its Java Runtime requirement, its fully open source licensing, and its software-only deployment. In other words, you bring your own hub, which can be a desktop computer, a Raspberry Pi, or many other embedded devices, including the already Ubuntu Core based Nextcloud Box.

The openHAB software can be used to control, automate, and complement smart home networks. It supports a wide variety of smart home protocols and technologies, “which lets consumers mix and match the IoT devices they want,” says Canonical. The Java orientation gives openHAB a strong foundation of applications and developers, while its open source nature helps to avoid future vendor lock-in, and the risk that the platform could quickly disappear.

Home Base

openHAB 2.0 arrives with better hacker board support

On Jan, 23, the project released openHAB 2.0, the first release based on Eclipse SmartHome. This should make it easier to integrate with other platforms build on Eclipse SmartHome, such as Deutsche Telekom’s QIVICOM smart home platform, which uses a Linux-based QIVICOM home base hub.

openHAB Version 2.0 offers simpler setup and configuration for less technical users, and provides better support for low-end embedded hardware such as the Raspberry Pi 3 and Pine A64 boards. There is also a new UI, an improved binding architecture, and new bindings for services and devices including IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, and Amazon Echo. The release came a month after the openHAB Foundation released an early version of myopenHAB, a free “instance” of the openHAB Cloud service.

“With openHAB we have established a universal smart home integration platform, which is vendor-neutral and fully open towards integration with any existing smart home devices and services out there,” stated Kai Kreuzer, president of the openHAB Foundation. “Our partnership with Ubuntu and Azul makes it simple to quickly setup openHAB in a secure way, without losing the ability for more technically advanced people to create and fine-tune their own applications.”

Further information

Canonical’s Ubuntu snap mechanism with Azul’s Zulu Embedded are now available with openHAB 2.0, which is downloadable here.

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