Computer controlled lights, appliances and doors were once the things science fiction writers used to dream up. Shows like Star Trek revealed to us glimpses of what people thought the future would be like: doors that opened automatically, lights that turned on and off on command and always having the perfect temperature in a room. Today, many of us carry tiny computers (Smartphones) in our pockets and we use them daily to communicate with people. Similarly, we can also use them to communicate with our home.
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), technology is boldly going where it has never gone before. Over 20+ years ago it began with systems like X10, and as the years passed by, it progressed into several different protocols like Z Wave and a few others. Basically these devices such as switches, motion sensors and plug-in modules communicate with your Smartphone and one another to allow remote control of almost anything. Now, many large companies including Apple, Google and Phillips, to name a few, have started offering home automation products. You can also browse and purchase these smart devices at most big box stores.
There are a couple of different options with home automation. The first are Stand Alone Devices. These are typically light bulbs or thermostats with a wireless receiver that can be controlled via a Smartphone app. The benefit to this type of device is cost. There is no controller to buy and setup makes it very cost effective. However when that light bulb fails, it must be replaced. The second is Controller Based Devices. These devices all communicate with a central hub which must be purchased and set up. This is much more expensive to do, however, it allows for additional control. With a controller you can create a scene. A scene is a series of events that occur together when certain conditions occur. This uses IFTT (If This, Then That) technology and logic to decide what happens.
Picture this: You are driving home from work after a long day. When you get in your driveway your Smart Home unlocks your front door and if it’s after sunset, it also turns on your exterior lights and your vestibule light. All this happens with no action on your part. Another example would be: You have
just finished dinner and it’s time to watch a movie with your family. You pull out your smart phone and use your app to press watch movie. The controller then closes the blinds in the room, turns on the TV, stereo and Blu-ray player. It also dims the lights to 50% in the family room – all at the touch of a button.
I admit to being a bit of a technology enthusiast. I am fascinated by being able to manipulate my physical home environment on command. I started my home automation project a few years ago. My current setup includes a front door lock, remote control of my alarm system, control of my two garage doors, thermostat, smoke/CO detectors, 3 security cameras and almost every light switch in my house. Any of these devices can be controlled while off site from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection and a Smartphone, tablet or computer. My system is set to automatically do certain functions for me. When I leave the house my door will automatically lock (in case I forgot). If I set my alarm as I’m leaving, the system will automatically turn off all interior lights throughout the house, as well as telling my thermostat to go in to away mode.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more developed and connected appliances become the norm for many people, these scenarios will become even more comprehensive. There are no limits to your imagination. Sounds like science fiction, but it is reality. Does this all sound fascinating or terrifying? Captain Kirk (or Picard) would be smiling 😀