Sunday, August 02, 2009

Government mandating home automation? What are you nuts!

Smarthouse (Australia) has a rather interesting article titled: Should Automation Systems Be Compulsory?. Actually it's meant for Australia but I can easily see someone trying to push this here (the USA) or elsewhere in the world. Yes I'm not a big fan of government intervention (except under extreme conditions). I tried to post my comments to their article but that failed. First let me say that I need to keep this short so I'll skip over bits and pieces. Yes I gave it some thought but with each added comment, rebuttal and defense this entry grew to be quite unreadable.

While I agree with the premise of the article (better control, better efficiency/conservation) I have my doubts on the outcome. Just take a look at the Energy Star program for the programmable thermostats that the government helped establish. In the last year the US government pulled the Energy Star rating from programmable thermostats. Turns out they're difficult to use and not flexible enough for the end user. Yes HA can help if the HA is flexible enough! The problems with a government mandated HA program are enormous! First is that I have my doubts about anything put forth by the industry that is about to be served (can you say lobby?). This sounds a lot like a self interest article by a member of the industry. Of course I'm posting this as a self interest piece. I don't want to suddenly be locked out of the HA market. After all I am working with the OpenRemote folks on brings the disparate systems together under the central control of OpenRemote. The next problem is open and compatible standards, really the industry has none. Company A's equipment can't be use with Company B's. And neither will share an interface so something like OpenRemote can connect the two. Next is cost, while a wall switch costs a dollar or two the automated version costs 50 to 100 times that. I'm sure that there would be a provision for loans, maybe grants. But what limitations will be attached to those grants. Will I be able to only purchase from certain vendors (those who probably lobbied the hardest)?

Like our autos, it seems obvious that we are heading towards more computer control. But at this time being locked into a single vendor solution is not a good option and political solutions (i.e. government setting automation standards) never works. In addition there are problems with the HA industry that need to be resolved. IMO, mandating home automation would be a very bad idea. The efficiencies and conservation just don't justify the initial cost and the return on investment at this time. Hopefully soon it will. I'm very much pro-home automation I'm just not thrilled about government mandates forcing it down my throat. Such measures are in the interest of the industry and not of the consumer. The HA industry is not mature enough, flexible enough or open enough.