What is Home Automation?
Home automation systems have the ability to interface with systems and appliances in the home. Residences that contain such technology are also called Smart Homes. These systems and appliances can also interact with the environment on their own by using microprocessors or computers to determine an action based on a given scenario.
In its simplest form these scenarios could include turning the lights on at a certain time or sending an alarm to an outside service. A more complex scenario may include detecting water leakage, controlling the thermostat and temperature or independently controlling the lighting in each room.
Furthermore, with the advances in home automation technology including wireless installations it's much easier for the average homeowner to purchase and install automated appliances and systems in the home themselves making technology that was once only available to the wealthy available to everyone.
These systems can be monitored or controlled by PC's or even an iPad or Android device from just about from anywhere on the planet. Monitoring or receiving an alert from your home while on vacation is common place today.
The main benefits of home automation are convenience, security and monetary savings. Imagine being able to control the temperature, your home video or audio system or turning the lights on or off from your bed. How about having a pot of freshly brewed coffee waiting to help you greet the day?
A Smart Home can control security cameras and keep an eye on your home while you're away or sleeping. These cameras can be equipped with motion detection and are able to capture and save images for later viewing. These systems display real time video for the homeowner that can be viewed remotely by cell phone or other wireless devices.
Home automation will save energy resulting in savings on the utility bill. Temperatures can be maintained to within one degree. Heating and cooling schedules can be set year round for the most efficient operation.
One of the basics concepts of home automation is that there needs to be a way for the devices in the home to communicate with the user and each other. To this extent Home Automation protocols were standardized and as usual there are several standards.
In general home automation protocols fall into two categories hardwired or radio frequency (RF). Hardwired would normally be connected to home wiring in some manner and radio frequency would be by airwaves. Listed below are some of the more prevalent protocols.
X-10 is the least expensive and oldest protocol it was introduced in the 1970s. X-10 uses home wiring lines to control devices. X-10 was later adapted to use RF as well. X-10 has its problems; it's slow and has limited functionality and is prone to interference. It's been surpassed by newer technology available today.
HomePlug Power Alliance
HomePlug Power Alliance uses home wiring to communicate within home devices. Although it uses power lines to communicate with its devices it doesn't suffer the problems of the X-10 protocol
Insteon uses house wiring and RF which operates in the900 MHz range to communicate with its devices. Insteon is backwards compatible with X-10 devices as well. This is a good choice for those with X-10 devices wishing to upgrade to the newer protocol.
Wi-Fi uses wireless RF technology exclusively to communicate with devices.
Z-Wave uses RF that operated in the 900MHz range. It uses a proprietary interface for its devices which means that it will only work with certain devices.
ZigBee also uses RF technology to communicate with devices. It has the advantage of using less power than Wi-Fi. It also has a higher bandwidth than Z-Wave and its Open Source meaning outside sources can develop a number of devices to work with this protocol.
The in home devices that use these protocols also fall into different categories. They may be monitoring devices, controlling devices or a combination of the two. A monitoring device may just read a meter. A controlling device could turn lights on or off and a combination device could monitor temperature and turn a thermostat on or off.
Home automation is designed to make your home more efficient and secure. The savings from a home that can efficiently maintain a comfortable climate in a cost effective manner can be substantial. The piece of mind that can come from a built in security system is an enormous benefit of home automation. The automation of a home gives the owner more free time to enjoy the convenience and benefits of a home that takes care of itself.
Home automation is an exciting new frontier. It can make life easier for the whole family. The technology has made it easier than ever for a homeowner to add this technology to their current home.