5 Local Control Alternatives to Popular Smart Home Products

Local control smart home products have many advantages over cloud control, which has some downsides. Three important advantages are:

  1. You can keep controlling them even when your Internet service is down or you have some other type of outage.
  2. You don’t have to worry about the cloud service shutting down and your devices no longer working at all (if they don’t modify your device to no longer work locally). This has happened many, many, many times.
  3. You have more control over your privacy. You don’t have to send data to big companies every time you turn a light bulb on.

Unfortunately, some of the most popular smart home products are cloud control only. In this article, I’ll give you a few local control alternatives to popular cloud smart home products.

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Cloud controlled smart doorbells alternatives (Ring, Nest Hello)

The Ring Video Doorbells and Nest Hello are great products but are dependent on the cloud (and cloud fees) to get their full functionality. For example, without the $30/year (and per device) Ring Protect basic subscription, you can’t record video. This means you can’t view past recordings, you can’t view who was at your door in the past, and you can’t share and save videos with your Ring Video Doorbell. The Nest Hello loses out on recording video as well without its subscription plans. You also miss out on custom alerts and face recognition.

Another downside of these popular video doorbells is that they don’t support the local recording of video, at least, not officially. Even after you pay for a subscription, all of your videos are recorded in the cloud. If you are inclined, you can hack your way to getting them to record locally.

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I like recording my video locally, for privacy and control reasons. What are some good local control alternatives for video doorbells? Below are a few. Keep in mind, they may require Internet access to use the app or to configure. But they all can function to some degree (recording video locally for example) without the cloud.

  • LaView video doorbells, like the Halo One and DB5.
  • The Hikvision DS-HD1 and its clones, like the aforementioned LaView Halo One, the EZVIZ DB1, and the RCA HSDB2A.
  • Doorbird – They make various video doorbells that all support local recording, but they do require the cloud to function.

A more DIY local control smart video doorbell alternative…

You can also do something like setting up a camera and using network video recording software (NVR) like BlueIris or Zoneminder (I use Zoneminder). You can combine these with a smart doorbell (nonvideo, like Aeotec Wireless Doorbell or Xiaomi Aqara Smart Switch) and some automation that takes a picture or video whenever the doorbell is pressed. More about local control cameras in the next section.

Cloud controlled smart cameras alternatives (Ring Cameras, Nest Cameras)

The situation with smart security cameras is very similar to smart video doorbells. Ring and Nest cameras natively support recording to the cloud and have to be hacked to record locally. Luckily there are a lot of cameras that you can use with an NVR that don’t require the cloud, or even an Internet connection. In fact, I block my cameras for reaching the Internet because I don’t want them compromised and for privacy. Here are some options that allow local recording and/or don’t rely on the cloud:

  • Wyze Cams – The Wyze Cam, the Wyze Cam Pan can both record locally to an SD card, and can be hacked to send their recordings to an NVR. They also have a price that is tough to beat!
  • SV3C, Dericam, Amcrest, and other RTSP capable cameras don’t need the cloud, or even an Internet connection to function at all. These have become my go-to Zoneminder cameras, indoor and outdoor. I own the SV3C 1080P HD Two Way Audio Camera and the Dericam 1080P Pan/Tilt Camera and I’ve been pretty happy with them. They also make PoE-compatible cameras if you have a PoE set up.
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Cloud controlled smart plugs alternatives (Amazon Smart Plug, GoSund)

Why should a smart plug need a cloud connection to function? It’s nice to be able to integrate smart plugs with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it might be nice to control them over the Internet. But should I have to connect them to the cloud to control them? Smart plugs like the GoSund and the Amazon Smart Plug require cloud connections out of the box. But you have plenty of inexpensive alternatives if you want local control:

  • Wemo Mini Smart Plug. This smart plug works on the cloud, but there are plenty of APIs to control these locally that you can download and play with.
  • Kasa (TP-Link) Smart Plug – Like the Wemo, this one is cloud controlled but can also be controlled locally (and set to local only control) and has plenty of publically available APIs for local control. I own one.
  • Shelly Plug US – This one is locally controllable in many ways and is currently my go-to smart plug for cost and functionality reasons (it supports power monitoring).
  • Z-Wave and Zigbee smart plugs – These are locally controlled, but you need a smart home hub with Z-Wave or Zigbee radio to control them. They tend to be more expensive than Wi-Fi smart plugs. I’ve owned Aeotec smart plugs for years and they have been rock-solid reliable.
  • Flash Tasmota onto many popular smart plugs. This will give you local control and many smart plugs out there unofficially support flashing, like the aforementioned GoSund smart plugs, Sonoff Smart plugs, and pretty much any smart plug controllable by the Smart Life or Tuya apps.

Cloud controlled smart switch alternatives (Ecobee Smart Switch, Meross, TreatlifeGoSund)

Smart switches have many of the same major players as smart plugs. You can get popular cloud-only options like the ecobee Switch+, GoSund, Treatlife, and even the Brilliant Smart Home Control switch. Or, you can get switches that support local control like the ones from Kasa and Wemo. You can also use a Shelly relay as a smart switch, and there are many Zwave and Zigbee options out there. I can’t forget about Tasmota flashable options like the Sonoff Basic.

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And if you are looking for a locally-controlled dimmer, I can’t speak highly enough about the Shelly Dimmer 2.

Cloud controlled LED strips and strings alternatives (Phillips Hue LightStrip Plus, Govee, Twinkly)

I think LED decorations around the home are the best things since sliced bread. I’ve written not one, not two, not three, but four articles about how to install LEDs around the home. Popular cloud-controlled products include the Phillips Hue LightStrip Plus, Govee, and Twinkly.

LIFX Z makes strip lights that are locally controllable via their LAN API. Another option for great results is to use WLED and inexpensive LED strips and strings. You can learn how this turned out for me in this LED summary article. Here’s a taste:

Bonus: Cloud-Controlled Smart Bulbs

Philips Hue bulbs are probably the most popular smart bulbs out there. With good reason, they look great, are easy to set up, and are reliable. But the standard option is to pair them with the Philips Hue Bridge, which is cloud-controlled. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to use the Hue Bridge. Newer Hue Bulbs also use Bluetooth, meaning you don’t need the Hub at all, not even to set them up. However, even older bulbs use the Zigbee standard. If you already have a smart home hub that supports Zigbee, that’s all you need.

Alternatively, LIFX, Kasa, Shelly, and a whole host of Tasmota-capable smart bulbs can be controlled without the cloud or an Internet connection; you just have to flash them with the Tasmota firmware.

Final Thoughts

Cloud control is great, but the ability to control smart home products locally is really useful. What happens when a cloud company goes under? Or pulls the plug on a cloud-based API that you’ve used to integrate with your other smart home devices? What about when you want privacy? Well, if you get products that can be locally controlled you don’t have to worry about any of these things.

One way to ensure you are using local control is to look into buying a Matter-capable device.

What are some popular locally controlled products that you like? What products do you wish had a local control option? Let me know here or on Twitter!

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5 Local Control Alternatives to Popular Smart Home Products

by HomeTechHacker time to read: 6 min