Friday, September 10, 2004

So what is Home Automation?

Ever try to nail jello to the wall, difficult eh? Well defining home Automation (HA) is just like that. The first thing that comes to mind is lights and X10 (Warning: X10 has annoying pop-ups, -unders and whatever else). Controlling electrical appliances (on/off) is not hard with X10, though it has it's annoying quirks. Next you might include alarm/security systems, follow that by irrigation, just to name a few. So far we're controlling and monitoring physical devices. Next we start monitoring the temperature of rooms and outside our home, using Dallas Onewire/iButtons temperature probes, maybe get a weather report. Now what do we do with this information? Well can then use this information to control the heating/cooling in a home. Decide if we should open windows or use HVAC system. With the weather report we can have a program decide if the irrigation system should run now or later. BTW, I use MisterHouse and I can do all of this, and more.

OK, is a telephone answering machine HA? What if we expand it to include VoIP services and a PC based PBX (see Asterisk) for the home? Hmm ... What about Tivo or ReplayTV TV services? What about router monitoring and management (like corporation have)? All these things can be part of HA and yes I am wondering, "How far is too far?".

My opinion on the subject is that, "yes all these things are part of HA and that HA is more about control and monitoring of our environment around us". At some point companies are going to offer us services that allow us to do these things or, worse yet, have them done for us. If others do for us then it's Big Brother, if they offer us products that allow us to set and forget then that would be OK. Of course we currently use the compute as an appliance and we have have plenty of Zombie SPAM machines in use. Some real thought will need to done here before we can have HA for the masses. For now it will more likely be the realm of the Do-It-Yourself people and the wealthy who have it custom built for themselves.


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