Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What is Home Automation (HA)?

I've been puzzled as to how to properly answer this question for years. I know what HA means to me as I use it in my home. But how do you explain it to someone that has no idea what HA is? Well the folks on Wikipedia have done a very good job of explaining HA and I've expanded it a bit further. Here's my definition:

Home Automation (or Domotics) is automation specific to the requirements of private residences. It applies techniques for the comfort, security, entertainment and communications needs of it's residents. In simplest terms it is control and monitoring of devices and information.

I define private residences as a house, condominium, town home (row house) or apartment. It does not include things like a hotel room or suite. I should probably change residents to residents and guests. I think I've include all the major topics in the above paragraph with information falling under communications. Here are some examples:

  • Lighting and appliance control
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Energy/Resource management
  • security and access control (SAC)
    • Doors and windows control and monitoring
    • fire alarm (FA), fire, life, and safety (FLS)
    • CO alarm
    • Flood/Water Alarm
    • Thunderstorm/Tornado/Weather warning
  • communications (voice and data)
  • Entertainment control
  • information processing

All of this material will be posted to my web site and to a work in progress for Mr. House called Complete Home Control with Mr. House. Since I just put together a presentation for the a few Linux User Groups I've gotten more interested in putting some more work into the above 'ebook' (for lack ! of a bet ter term).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood ...

So I've fixed the problem causing my HA to stop working. I remove the power strip and everything started working again. The book is out and doing pretty well (about 6K copies sold in it's first year). With all the new stuff going on I'd have to say that there needs to be a second edition. :-) But before writing anything new I'm getting busy with MH code. I want my Insteon support working so I can start replacing the X10 modules with Insteon modules. Unfortunately the Insteon module causes the X10 signal to attenuate (get weaker) and the X10 module no longer works as reliably as it did before (did I just use X10 and reliable in the same sentence?). Another device called the XTB may solve some of those problems (the XTB boost the X10 signal), we'll see.

So the Mr. House folks have been busy again. Jason Sharpee has the Insteon PLM (not a serial or USB PLC) working with Mr. House under Linux. Another user has confirmed that it works under Windows. He previously added support for UPB so Mr. House now supports X10, KNX (aka EIB), UPB and the Insteon Protocols. Jason also found information on a Leviton RS232 Z-Wave interface. Looks like Mr. House can support anything given the chance. :-) The serial devices tend work work with any OS as a serial port is a standard they all support. The USB is a different beast. I have several drivers for Linux that support the CM15A, the CM19A, the Labjack and the Insteon USB PLC. I hope to have support for these devices working soon. Right now I've added the Insteon Serial and USB PLC to Mr. House but only as far as that it receives X10 and passes it correctly to Mr. House. Insteon isn't working yet as I have to figure a few things. Once I've added the support for the ! Insteon USB PLC other USB devices should fall into place. It's my understanding that the BSD folks have a generic USB driver that does the same thing as my Linux drivers so they may be able to take advantage of that. As far as Windows goes, well I'm not sure how to solve that problem. There are ways it's just not been done yet with Mr. House. Expect to see the CM15A and CM19A also properly supported by Mr. House, at least for Linux.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Of Linux, protocols and interfaces.

It's been an interesting week. Misterhouse now has support for basic Insteon control (equivalent to that of X10) and it's had UPB support for a while. Jason Sharpee (author of the UPB and Insteon_PLM modules, thank you Jason) also found a Z-Wave interface that uses the serial port (no special drivers) and the documentation to communicate with it! Leviton has a RS232 Z-Wave interface called Leviton RZC0P-1LW - Vizia-RF Plug-In RS-232 Interface for PC's/Automation Controllers (careful it's a store, it's the only picture I could find). Now while X10's products product have a bad reputation for their quality, Leviton does not. I did a quick search of the Leviton site and they have a number of Vizia (their Z-Wave line of products) for lights, appliances, and fans (yes motor speed control). So it looks like HA is really starting to take off. With all the information available it's only a matter of time before Linux can support them. I'm especially happy to see Linux not being left out of access to Z-Wave products. I'm also happy to see plenty of alternatives to X10. No more almost working most of the time (that has a very low SAF).