Edit: We've edited the article to provide a more accurate understanding of Home Assistant
The Nest Home Hub, formerly known as the Google Home Hub when we reviewed it last Fall, is a popular smart home gadget that doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. Sure, it’s the best digital photo frame on the market thanks to its intelligent color changing and dimming screen, and it makes a pretty decent music speaker or YouTube viewer in the kitchen, but those cover the extent of what most users ever actually use the Home Hub for.
While there’s some smart home functionality built into the Nest Home Hub via a pull-down menu, it’s not the most useful interface in the world and, often times, it’s just easier to ask Google to do something instead of touching it. Home Assistant Cast adds quite a bit more functionality to your Nest Home Hub by giving users the ability to cast Home Assistant's interface to it with full touch functionality. Home Assistant is a free open-source product that helps visualize your connected life into easy-to-see tiles.
Installing Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi is the easiest way to get going, but Home Assistant supports many other platforms as well. This server collects information from smart devices you set up within it and displays them through an interface known as Lovelace, which can be accessed through a browser on any device. It's not always ideal to pull up a browser tab just to interface with this powerful tool, so developers have been working on a way to get it working on a screen that's always on and waiting for you to use: the Nest Home Hub.
This new functionality will be made available to folks in the near future. Folks who are already familiar with the Home Assistant Lovelace interface will feel right at home here. Pun intended. Head on over to the Home Assistant website to get an idea of what to expect from the service, and check out the video below to see the developer demoing it on the Nest Home Hub.
My personal favorite part about the interface above is the ability to make a floorplan map of your home and place your gadgets on that map. Since everything is clickable, you can simply touch things like lightbulbs to toggle them on and off, or tap a camera to see its live feed immediately. It feels like the smart home interface we’ve always wanted, and it’s going to be more easily accessible on smart displays like the Nest Home Hub.
Home Assistant takes a little bit of work to set up, so it's not quite as click-and-go as folks may be used to on other services. That floorplan, in particular, takes a fair amount of work as well. The work is certainly worth it, but just don't go in expecting to have a grand design in 5 minutes.
Home Assistant is designed to be used at home on a local network, but if you'd like the functionality of being able to access it from anywhere, Nabu Casa is what you're looking for. Acting as a way to interface with your own Home Assistant setup, Nabu Casa delivers remote connectivity and Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa integration through its service. The service costs $5 per month, but you can start a free trial to get it going and make sure it fits your needs before diving fully into the payment model.
The developer of Home Assistant Case confirmed with us on Reddit that it will work with other smart displays, like the Lenovo Smart Display, so long as the display in question has Google Cast support.