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Home Automation December 7, 2012

Posted by 3562pittena in Mobility.
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Introduction

The term automation is used to describe tasks typically done by humans that are done automatically. Applying this to homes means taking tasks done around the home and automating them. This includes things like temperature control and security. A few examples of uses for home automation would be to turn on and off lights on a schedule. This would make it appear as if you are home, even when you are not. Also, you could check if doors or windows are open remotely. This would be nice to ensure your home is safe when on vacation or at the office. It could also be used to turn up or down the thermostat when you are away from home. [1]

There are a few benefits to automating things at home. The user can control things from remote locations like turning the temperature down on the thermostat after leaving for vacation. Also, automating tasks like this allows for some tasks to be scheduled (like a programmable thermostat).

A few examples of uses for home automation would be to turn on and off lights on a schedule. This would make it appear as if you are home, even when you are not. Also, you could check if doors or windows are open remotely. This would be nice to ensure your home is safe when on vacation or at the office. It could also be used to turn up or down the thermostat when you are away from home. It is also nice to centralize all of this control through your home computer.

Home Automation Tasks

Typical home automation tasks include things like temperature control, light control and general home security. [2] These types of home automation tasks can be done through security companies like ADT and typically have a monthly fee associated with them. [3]

There are many home automation tasks that don’t seem to be offered, currently, that I feel could be included with a simple package like this. Proximity sensors for windows and doors (may or may not be included with the “security” package) could be included. Also optional could be sensors like smoke detectors or gas/carbon monoxide detectors. These could prove useful in detecting when bad things are happening. You could also include controls for electronic devices like an audio/visual system. Also, electronic shades could be controlled by the same system. An electronic sprinkler system could also be tied into the same system and given the same benefits.

Design of System

In order for this system to be successful, it has to have an architecture that is modular, has a central base station and is easy to integrate (See Figure 1).

System Architecture

Figure 1 – System Architecure

The system needs to be modular in order to accommodate for the specific needs of each person. One family may not need any window sensors because they live on the second floor of an apartment building and aren’t worried about windows open/closed. They also may not need a sprinkler system controller. Each component must be modular in order to ensure the success of the system.

There must be a central base station in order to accommodate for the modular design. There must be one central point of contact that all the modular components communicate with. This device could fairly easily be a home PC. A home PC is a good central base station because it could be easily configured for an application like this. Also, most people already have one that they leave on all the time. This central base station would need to be used like a server in order to allow for external communication (remote control).

If this system is going to have a modular design with a central base station, it must be easy to integrate. If the average Joe cannot open the modular sensors and easily connect it up with the central base station, the user will get frustrated and not use the product. Having the home computer as the base station allows for easily customizable descriptions of sensors. It also only displays information from reporting sensors and leaves out non-existent information (sensors not connected).

Designing the system in this way creates a few perks. Having the central base station allows for the user to easily schedule any control. It also creates a simplified, common interface for the scheduling system. Having the central base station also would allow for features like sensor alert levels. This would allow the user to set a level at which they would like to be alerted. After smoke is detected or the gas/CO levels go above a certain level, an email could be sent to the user. Also, alerts could be created for any other sensors (windows, doors, etc). Then the user could decide on what to do with these alerts once they get them (call the authorities, do nothing).

Benefits of new system

Some of the benefits of this type of system would be the price and ease of use. Most current companies that create systems like this charge a monthly service fee. This type of a system would be free to the user. The initial cost of the sensors and base station is the total cost of the system. Having a system like this that is easy to use and install means users will not be driven away by its interface. The modular interface also is a benefit of the system.

Conclusion

In conclusion, having a system architected like Figure 1 would allow for an easily integrated, modular design. This would be beneficial because the current way companies sell these systems are service oriented and often include a monthly fee. This modular design creates a consistent interface to all the sensors and controls.

Resources:

[1] Smart Schedules. Alarm.com. Online. http://www.alarm.com/productservices/homeautomation/smart-schedules.aspx

[2] Home Automation. Vivint.com. Online. http://www.vivint.com/en/solutions/packages/home-automation

[3] ADT Pulse. ADT. Online. http://www.adtpulse.com/

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