Thursday, January 05, 2012

Open Source HA

I've decided not to do my Home Automation Presentation this year at the 2012 - Trenton Computer Festival as I'm still trying to deal with my new work load. I'm not very happy about it but I think I've learned enough over the last year to know that until I get a handle on my work load my spare time is reserved for eating and sleeping. It's gotten so bad that I've barely had time to code anything! I've managed a few quick Perl & shell scripts for work but that's pretty much it. That doesn't mean I haven't given a lot of thought to home automation, because I have. But I've come full circle and returned to resurrecting the HCS II. I've decided to go the Linux route as opposed to the FPGA route.

One of the issues I ran into with the Open Source HCS II was that even though some folks wanted to get involved they wanted more of the ready-made route. Building and programming these boards is a daunting task. Many were scared off by the thought of soldering, others the thought of the heavy embedded programming. Still others had little precious time to spare to their hobbies (now where have I heard that before? ;-) ). I need to somehow work around those limitations. Making easy entry into the HA market would allow people to become gradually involved. On that front, some really interesting developments have occured in the last few years to make that a reality. The most evident is the Arduino. The Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. A home is definitely an interative environment. For the central processing (Supervisory Controller) I'll use Linux on a small embedded board.

The good news is that the industry has stepped up to the challenge and there are plenty of Arduino like boards with enough bang-for-the-buck. I've picked up a few PIC32 Chipkit boards and intend to build a small Arduino like board based on the hacker friendly, 28 pin, PIC32 chips. Of course if I can't beat the price of the Pinguino PIC32 boards I'll just use them. I also know about the Leaflabs Maple. Like I said, interesting developments.


At 1/23/2012 4:29 PM, Blogger Harbinger said...

It's about time! ;) I was looking at your HCS II page a while back and wondering what happened to the plan of updating and/or modernizing. The big thing to have would be hardware compatibility with the HCS II add-on boards (like the voice synthesizer and PL-Link).

At 1/23/2012 5:37 PM, Blogger Neil Cherry said...

To heck in a dander on the PL-Link and X10. ;-) I want Z-Wave!

The Voice Link shouldn't be too hard to update. There are some really nice chips available. To be honest I know we can do a lot more than the current HCS II and bring to the system new services. The PIC32 chips look like they'll make nice comm-links and Chipkit/Arduino makes that even easier.

The hardware compatibility won't be a problem. The comm-link software is pretty easy to build. The add on boards for the HCS are a little more trouble but once we have the Linux SC running that shouldn't be a problem as we'll use different things to create speach (the modem part is a bit hard but we'll also have IP access then).

Let me get to work on requirements and the planning (I'm currently trying to figure out the board layout for the PIC32 base comm-links).

At 2/01/2012 10:16 AM, Blogger Harbinger said...

Z-Wave would be nice, I suppose...but how about Insteon? I have a lot of X10 modules in my home (from Smarthome) and, as they die, I've replaced them with SH's newer modules that also incorporate Insteon. I don't have anything that speaks Insteon, just the HCS, but have hoped that someday I'd have access to 2-way powerline communication so I could actually tell if a light or appliance were on. Adding web connectivity and control would be super, and something the HCS has sorely lacked.

At 2/01/2012 10:51 AM, Blogger Neil Cherry said...

It is possible (and likely, though I don't know when) that a new PL-Link can be built that uses the same format HCS commands but maps (at the commlink) the X10 device to another device (such as Insteon). This would allow the other HCS II to still support X10 and also support Insteon. The same could be done for UPB (X10 to UPB translator), Z-Wave or anything else (Commlinks are cool ;-) ).

I doubt that such a translator can be built into am Arduino Uno but a Mega or one of the Chipkits would be a good choice. I've got a couple of Chipkits I'm looking forward to using for such a purpose.

The GNU HCS will have the Linux box as the SC and support for modern protocols can more easily be added. It's part of the migration path. It can be added as a comm-link or a directly connected device.

At 12/19/2012 12:52 AM, Blogger ken gutenberg said...

It seems that you are really that busy, but I know that there are some company who are willing to set it up for a person like you who don't have time, but if you desire to set it on your own, well there's no problem, actually it is much better.

Audio Visual


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