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Home Automation

Automating your home with UPB

Jan 14 2011 08:00 AM | in Home Automation

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to order a bunch of switches for my house, and was trying to decide the best way to go. I had 8 switches in my last house that were Simply-Automated, so I wanted to stick with those for consistent look/feel. I noticed though, from talking to people and reading posts, that there was misinformation out there.
I decided that, now that I'm 2/3rds of the way through a 60+ device install, I'd share what I know and the things I've learned in the process about the Simply-Automated line and different configuration and programming options you may encounter.

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ZigBee 101

Sep 01 2009 09:00 AM | Dan (electron) in Home Automation

Editor's Note: ZigBee Alliance logoAllen Nogee (an active CT member, using the nick ano) has written a great article for CocoonTech about the current state of ZigBee, specifically focusing on home automation, explaining what it is all about.  Hopefully this will clear up some confusion, and make you guys as excited as I am about the potential of ZigBee.  If there are any questions you don't see answered, please post them in the discussion thread, which will be linked at the bottom of this article within minutes of the article going live.


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The Ultimate List of iPhone Home Automation Applications

May 07 2009 12:31 PM | Dan (electron) in Home Automation

iPhone photo

This list has been replaced with the new 'iOS, iPhone, iPod, iPad home automation and home security apps' list!

In case you haven't noticed yet, the iPhone is sticking around, and is turning into a pretty popular platform to develop applications for. Thanks to the combination of its support for WiFi, 3G, and a great looking touch screen, it was only a given that companies would try to turn this phone into a very powerful 'remote'. In the few months the phone has been available for sale, many companies have started working on applications to connect to a home automation system. While many of them are still in development, I thought it is time to start compiling a list of applications, which are available now, focus on home automation, and were specifically written for the iPhone. This means that the software has to be a native application, or a very well designed web application which has the standard iPhone interface look and feel.

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6 ways of monitoring who is at home

Nov 23 2008 02:18 PM | Dan (electron) in Home Automation

Being able to monitor who is at home has been a very sought after feature in the home automation community. This has nothing to do with 'spying' on other household members, but is all about being able to provide more automation, by basically having the house recognize you. There are many reasons why you would want this, I'll list a few below as food for thought:
  • Play your new voicemail when arriving at home.
  • Turn on your favorite TV channel or radio station when arriving at home.
  • Configure your PBX to forward certain calls to your cell phone when leaving the house.
  • Forward Caller-ID information when someone calls, but you aren't at home.
  • Monitor your elderly (grand) parents if they go out once in a while. Knowing they are safe at home is a big relief, without forcing them to 'check in'.
  • Forward the front door security camera picture whenever someone rings the doorbell, and you aren't at home.
  • Forward important TTS announcements such as medication reminders, appointment reminders and more to your cell phone.
  • Automatically arm the security system when all people have left.
  • Arrange for certain lighting and heating/cooling scenarios based on occupancy.

There are so many other things I can think of, but hopefully this list will inspire you. Obviously, some ideas are meant for people living alone, while others are meant for people living with others in the same house.

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Analog to Digital converters explained

Oct 31 2005 10:05 AM | Dan (electron) in Home Automation

Home automation systems that are a step beyond your basic "X-10" light control usually consist of a mechanism for controlling and monitoring digital input and output modules. These systems may include an Ocelot with SECU16(I) and/or RLY8-XA expansion units, Caddx Security Systems, Elk M1 Gold Systems, JDS Stargate and others. Their basic functionality of simple, digital inputs and outputs serves most automation and security purposes.

What happens when you want to expand your automation system to include custom measurements such as temperature, water softener salt level indicator, distance measurement, weight measurements, etc...? You could use a "canned" system to measure temperature for instance but what if you want something more versatile? Well one answer would be to have a monitoring system that incorporated a way to measure "analog" inputs via an analog to digital converter.  This way you could now directly measure these items with your automation system.

This Guide will describe basic analog to digital converter principles. Its intent is to introduce this topic and also describe how one would go about the necessary calculations needed for general home automation purposes. I would like to thank Guy Lavoie for kindly reviewing this Guide as his efforts made this a greatly improved article.

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An introduction to xAP, part I

Mar 07 2005 07:34 AM | Dan (electron) in Home Automation

The Rationale

When we start out in HA we are excited to be able to control anything with some degree of automation. The simple things were exciting and made us lust for more. The typical route is the X10 ActiveHome that segways into Homeseer, MisterHome, or other PC-based automation engine. These provide more head room for growth and many possibilities that had not existed before.

The natural tendency is to pile on more and more goodies. While the incremental additions are not significant, the accumulation of these tends to slow the overall system down. Even worse the system tends to become fragile and dependability wanes. When that first goodie was added it worked great. Now with n goodies installed it takes some serious thought if adding the n+1th is worth the risk.

The desire for continued automation exists, but just as ActiveHome reached its practical limit, the central-HA-brain, also can reach its practical limit. While there may still be a Master of the household, the days of shared responsibility are upon us.

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An introduction to xAP, part II

Mar 07 2005 07:34 AM | Dan (electron) in Home Automation

So, How is xAP Used

Let us now go back to the opening scenario where X10 is used to control a light based upon the commands provided by a motion sensor. It does not make sense to turn a light on during the day just because there is motion. One solution is to configure the motion sensor to only provide the command when it is dark. This works for the light, but the indication of motion is still desired at all times of the day by the computer so it can do other things that are dependent upon motion in that area. The typical solution is to allow the motion sensor to transmit motion indication at all times, but to transmit it to the computer rather than to the light switch. The computer will first determine if it is dark and if so then it will send the command to the light switch.

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An introduction to the INSTEON world

Jan 05 2005 08:46 PM | Dan (electron) in Home Automation

Smarthome, the world’s leading integrated provider of electronic home improvement products, has introduced a new wireless home-control network technology called Insteon™ (pron. “instee-on”), offering a radio frequency (RF) network with integrated powerline communications for the first time. Insteon is designed to become the de facto standard in affordably delivering a secure, reliable and fast connection between automated home devices for lighting, security, entertainment systems, appliances, climate and more in the home.

How will Smarthome’s new Insteon technology be used?

Insteon will allow users to automatically and/or remotely control a myriad of functions in their homes, from lighting scenes to temperature control to wireless security cameras, as well as “mission-critical” functions such as remotely filling the swimming pool and locking doors. Insteon may also be incorporated into washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) devices, garage door openers, audio and visual devices, and more.

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