The term “Home Automation” encompasses many different areas including Lighting, Heating / Aircon (HVAC), Energy Management, Security / CCTV, AV Distribution and Entertainment.
There are a multitude of Home Automation systems available, from budget plugin modules that are easily retro-fitted into existing properties, to professionally designed bespoke installations that require a CI (customer installer or integrator) and structured wiring at time of build.
Here at combat IT we have been taking an in depth look at this subject and are currently preparing to setup our first test home, Code name: Project Venus.
The intention is to have a fully automated system capable of controlling everything in the house from the lighting, the hot water, central heating to the home cinema, appliances and security systems, all controlled via voice, computer and smart phones.
There are many brands and suppliers to chose from, two of the brands we have been looking into is Belkin WeMo and Insteon.
WeMo is a brand new range of home automation modules from Belkin. They offer simple plug and play appliance control and provide scheduling and remote operation from inside and outside the home with a free iOS App. In conjunction with the Cloud service they can also be triggered from emails, SMS text messages as well as be scheduled to come on at sunset etc.
Insteon is a range of hardware home automation modules ideal for retro-fitting to any home. Insteon’s inventors SmartLabs describe it a “Dual Band” system as every command gets transmitted over both RF and Power Line. This built-in redundancy is designed to ensure your commands get through. The RF side of things is a proprietary Mesh Network where every module receives and re-transmits signals to maximise range and reduce dead spots. On the Power Line side Modules are also capable of sending X10 commands so you can control any legacy devices you may have. All of Insteon’s latest modules support status requests.
For the security side of the system we have been looking at a brand called Comfort.
The Comfort system from Cytech is one of the most popular smart home security panels around. As well as featuring If/Then/Else logic, one of it’s strengths is its ability to integrate with a wide range of other home automation systems via one of its “UCM’ boards. These hardware interfaces allow – for example – your security PIR to detect movement and then turn on your C-Bus controlled lighting in response . They support other standards like RS232, RS485, Ethernet, C-Bus, Crestron, KNX, Z-Wave, Velbus and GSM. Recently Cytech have released a cut-down version of their system, the ‘Logic Engine’ which acts as a stand alone HA controller for customers that don’t require the security features.
There are quite a few options for software but as we are looking for voice control, Harmony may be the winner.
Harmony is Windows home automation software developed by UK based Domia Lifestyle. Around since 2002, this PC software supports X10, ByeBye Standby, C-Bus, Dupline, 1-Wire and Rako. Modules are available for Web and Touchsceen interfaces as well as CCTV and voice control.
There is a great deal more to chose from and a lot more work to be done before we do our first demo, but if you want to know more then check out this handy website for news and information from the home automation industry: http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/
Meanwhile watch this space, when we have got things up and running we will be posting a demo video showing you the kinds of things we can do!