Introduction To Home Automation

The phrase “smart house” is subjective.  Unless you live in a cabin in the woods, we all use some form of home automation these days.  Home automation is what YOU make of it.   For example, things can be smart even if they cannot be controlled by your phone while you’re away on vacation.  I consider anything that makes day-to-day tasks easier a part of home automation. The first air conditioner was created in 1902.  I imagine that would be a pretty smart device for that time period.

You didn’t come here for me to ramble about what the definition of a “smart home” is.  I do want to open your mind as to what you should consider smart. To get the best results, you need to understand the technologies that exist and how to implement them.

With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about control and how you will interact in a narrow view of home automation.  Specifically, let’s look at some of the popular inputs and outputs that we have access to.

Here are a few inputs:

  • Fixed Settings (Timers/Temperature settings)
  • Touch
  • Sensors (temperature, water, open/close, motion, GPS)
  • Voice
  • Radio/Infared
  • The internet
  • IFTTT (If this then that) – One action causing another action.

Here are some outputs:

  • Light control
  • Thermostat
  • Displays (Cell phone/ Tv / Computer Monitor)
  • Doors (open/close/locking)
  • Sound/Music
  • The internet (goes back to displays or used for logging)
  • Anything that uses electricity (yes, all of them).

When I first created this list I thought, “wow, that is it?”.  Unfortunately, the list doesn’t get much longer.  We are still in the infancy of home automation.  In the future, computers will anticipate movement or changes and do things for us.  Until then, we need to provide some type of input.  Our outputs are currently limited by our inputs.

You can connect the dots using different protocols.  Take the output of lights for example.  I have lights that are controlled by timers, buttons/switches, open/close sensors, motion sensors, voice and through inputs of other programs and actions.

Below are some of the protocols, or different methods for inputs to communicate with outputs.

  • The internet/Wi-Fi
  • RF (radio frequency; proprietary radio frequencies)
  • IR (infrared)
  • Zigbee (technically radio)
  • Zwave (technically radio)
  • X10 (technically radio)

The goal of the home automation section is to help you with connecting the dots for what you need and the outputs you want to control.  Simplify what you need and conquer.


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