Sunday, September 20, 2009

The future of home automation ;-)

I found this on Slashdot and found it to be quite funny (it was also rated funny). The original quotes (under IPv6 Adoption Will Grow With Smart Grid Adoption, Hopes Cisco) were part of an IPv6 discussion. It seems that anything to do with the smart grid and home automation is now a hot topic as every company is getting into it. But these two comments seem to sum up the times quit well:

by sexconker

I can't wait to DDoS your fridge, then call you up (over VoIP) and ask you if your fridge is running.

by geekoid (135745)

Why don't you just subscribe to his fridge's twitter feed?

One of the things being talked about with IPv6 (other than the addressing issues that it resolves) is it's security. Of course if the home automation industry doesn't include the security from the start IPv6's security features are just a mute point. Another interesting thing is that it seems that where ever smart grids are discussed the topic of home automation comes up. Seems it is the dawning of home automation for the masses. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Smart Grids

Well I finally found something that does a halfway decent job of explaining the benefits of smart girds, smart homes and smart appliances. The Discovery Channel has a rather interesting video called: Smart Grids Make Fridges Smarter. The way it's presented is that the electric company tells your appliance something (what is this something?) and then something else (the appliance, so central home controller maybe) decides when to perform certain tasks. The video's example is excellent, the Frig's defrost cycle. Let's face it you wouldn't want it to run during the most expensive time of the day. Why spend that money unwisely?

I still have questions such as if they can tell our appliances when to 'save money' couldn't they also make a mistake and tell them it's okay to run when it's not the cheapest rate? Mistakes happen and I want to make sure I'm not the one at a financial loss for this. And more importantly, how would we know? Heck would we even care? A great too many people use their PC without proper tools to secure it. They just want it to work and not be bothered with monitoring security. At the same time they don't want to pay the extra cost for an IT department to administer their PCs. This is one of the many problems with automation. It's also an opportunity, a single source to manage, administer and secure the entire network including home PCs.

As a bit of bonus I found this Discovery video: Future homes get smarter. It's a Korean home that's been automated. I actually find it humorous. Why would anyone want to spend the money on electricity (something that won't be getting cheaper in the future) on the 'electronic paintings' on the wall. Also the RF ID tag on the bottom of the plate is just stupid. I doubt it will last very long in the dishwasher. How do you write the information to the plate and why would I want to? By the time I put the food on the plate I've already decided what I'm making. Finally the Frig meme (the Frige lets you know what's in there) is an overworked item on the home automation presentations. For a long time (take a look here at my Nov. 2000 Linux Journal article : Embedded Linux and Home Automation. Why get up from the couch to see what's in the Frig when you can see it all in 1080i HD TV? ;-). Marc Fluery has railed against the HA marketing of nifty geek toys. Marc has suggested marketing the luxury benefits of HA. I agree to a point but things like the 'electronic paintings' are a bit much.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Lots of stuff

I just completed writing the initial Java/Groovy package to access the Elexol Ether IO24. I'll post the relevant information and code on my Getherio24 page when it's ready. At the moment there's a lot of code and Javadocs I need to work through. I know about the Perl EtherIO24 module written by Chris Luke, which means I can easily integrate that into Misterhouse. My Groovy project is meant for something else. Since I'm learning to program in Groovy (and relearning Java) I decided to write it in that language (yes both :-) ). Technically this will be my first project written in Java/Groovy. I'm really trying to get a better grasp of OOP. I've seen how well it works with Perl, which is not really an OO language, and decided I needed to learn more about OOP.

Last week I came across an article on the Schlage Link, a lock that you can unlock with your key, phone, computer ... you get the idea. For $12/month you can get the service which allows you to monitor and remotely access the lock. According to the web site you can use Z-Wave modules to turn on your lights, control your thermostats and access a camera. This sounds more like geek marketing (see what's in your frig, turn on lights from anywhere in the world). I do have to wonder about this (security, compatibility?) and I really don't like the $12/month for the service. If I had more Z-Wave I could probably figure out how to make it work without Schlage's service. I also found a, not so nice, review of the Link system here Schlage Link Review -- Watch out! (Feb09), here Schlage Link 2 months later questionable advertising? (Mar09), here Schlage link bridge and web portal 5 months later (May09), Zwave logo, branding and compatibility, what is it mean (Aug09). Note, that a there are a couple of common posters to these threads. The short of it is that there seems to be limitations with the Schlage system, they don't seem to live up to the extra features of their advertisements (such as working with the Trane thermostat and lamp modules) and there are questions about Z-Wave interoperability. Odd it seems that Schlage is not putting a lot of effort into this, here's an article on Engadget from Sept. 2008 - Schlage Link Web Controlled Z-wave Door Locks Priced Right Out Of Consideration. Seems I'm not the only one with questions.

Wow has the smart grid taken off. I see the term used by everyone. I don't know what it is but everyone's got it (this sounds like one of those 'them' things). I doubt anyone can really tell me what the technology is (again, security?). In my opinion it is today's marketing meme for a way to charge you for your information. I'm certain that this is just a new way to generate revenue. So it's $10 a month for your electric usage, $10 a month for gas, $10 a month for water, $10 for my frig, $10 for my radio, $10 for my TV (hey wait that's already $150 a month :-/ ), $10/month ad infinitum. I think I'm beginning to see a pattern here and I'm being nickeled and dimed. Hey marketing folks, this ain't gonna work! ...

Update: I downloaded the Discovery Channel's iPhone App to my iPod and one of the videos they had explained the Smart Grid finally! I think it's a great short video (thanks Discovery). I think I'll post another blog on the subject.