Help - The full picture of my automation plan..What's missing or How to complete it?


New Member
I moved into my new one bedroom apartment recently.  I've also been a fan of automation and come from an IT tech background.  However, in terms of automation, i’m kind of new.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading in order to understand how it works and all, the connectivity…etc.
I live in the United Arab Emirates, thought you should know as somethings won’t work here without power conversion as the voltage here is 220v.
I’m doing this because I enjoy technology.  I know, it’s an expense hobby :)
I want to do the following:
- Control all my equipment via a Harmony remote for now and my iPhone/iPad, and maybe voice in the future (Let's see how Apple plans to introduce home automation they announced this week).
- I want to be able to control it over the Internet as well.
- Create scenes and scenarios (e.g. at 7 a.m., open all my shades/blinds).  Maybe also later on do this “When i walk into my home, and send voice command to switch on the project and set the input to be my Plex”.
- Don’t like the clatter and mess of too many cables, so i’m planning to use the least amount of cables, and that’s why i decided to buy few of the products below.
“The Product / IR/RF/RS232 / Description”
1.) Intel NUC / IR / (which is a windows OS, with Plex Media Theather), will be used for Plex only.
2.) A Browsing Computer / No IR / (which i mainly use and mostly used system).
3.) ISP STB receiver / IR /
4.) Samsung 46’’ TV / IR
5.) Epson 8350 Projector / IR & RS232
Both displays are in the living room, as i like to watch TV while i browse on the projector.
- What I purchased and waiting for it to be delivered this week:
  -- Philips Hue (GU10 starter Kit) with 7 additional bulbs, so a total of 10 bulbs and the gateway/hub.
  -- iRobot Roomba 880.
  -- Quirky spotter (got it to test it, no plan on how I will use it yet).
  -- DVDO Matrix6 HDMI switch
  -- DVDO Air3 (To connect my project to the DVD Matrix6 wirelessly, as I don’t want to pull a long HDMI cable from projector which is on the opposite side of my rack).
In my "to buy" list:
 -- Sonos audio system (will start with Playbar and add subwoofer and additional speakers later).  I'm not an audiophile, but I still need a good sound effect.  The Sonos will be used for my projector.  The DVDO matrix switch has optical audio out which will be connected to the Playbar.
 — Motorized blinds (deciding between Somfy or Douglas Hunter at the moment).  Somfy is widely available in my region, so I might go for this week.  Somfy uses RF.
There is no single way of doing a home automation, and i think many of you will suggest that i shouldn’t have done this and that.  I’m open to your feedback, no harm in learning more or understanding how you would have done it.
So now, putting it all together and making it work will be the exciting thing.
First of all, I believe that using an iPhone as a remote won’t be practical at all, a physical remote must always be there.  That’s why, I want to be able to use my iPhone and my harmony remote, and a later stage, I will add voice capability.
After hours of reading, I’m learning how this whole thing works.  You guys are more experienced than me, so your assistance is greatly appreciated.
There must be a central controller that connects and communicates with all the devices.  Since not all the devices have common protocols (IR, RF, RS232), I must buy components that converts the commands sent.
What controller do you recommend? Same goes to the converting of the commands devices, which ones? Am I missing some other things that I might need to achieve my goals of this project?
Am i on the right track? Correct me If I’m wrong or missing anything.
Thanks all.
Forgot my bedroom, basically in the bedroom, i will have motorized blinds as well.  Thats all, but I'll need to connect it to the full system as well.
Welcome to the forum!
Integration of devices and technologies is the most challenging aspect of home automation. It is easier to first choose the functions that you like to automate, then decide on controller which can support these functions, and finally to get the devices that this controller supports. It is possible to automate AV equipment using IR, but it is not going to be as reliable as using RS232. Even then, you'll have to find a "plugin" for each device or write your own.
Given the devices you have listed, you may want to check Homeseer software or MiCasa Vera for your controller, but customization will be needed for some of the devices.
I use an iPod Touch as a dedicated remote. It will make your life much easier if you only use one remote technology. You might supplement with the hard button remote for your most frequently used device but leave all the complex stuff to the Touch.
I've been pretty happy using Roomie Remote for my A/V control with a Touch/iPhone/iPad. You do need to buy some additional kit to talk to non-IP devices via IR/RS-232. I use a Global Caché iTachIP2IR to talk IR. You can get one that talks RS-232 as well. Roomie has an agent that runs on OS X which is useful to backup/restore configurations and to keep multiple remotes synced. Nice to have if you have an OS X available already but not really worth getting a Mac Mini just to do Roomie Remote.
One of the things you have to decide is to the extent you want to integrate disparate technologies into a single interface. If you want a single interface that does everything, that's substantially more complex to build and maintain than just running multiple apps (I have a folder on my iOS device with 9 different HA apps that I use). Not having to jump between apps would be nice but it's a lot easier to implement than a single interface. The apps are Roomie, Sprinkler Ace, Remote, Haiku, iCam, Nest, SmartThings, CamViewer, and Kumostat if you are interested. The separate app approach can make it difficult to impossible to integrate event handling across apps. For example, there's not an easy way to use occupancy information in Haiku to limit alerts from SmartThings to times I am not home. I initially went the integrated route first with HomeSeer and then Elve but the advantage wasn't worth the work and the limitations. Plus, the app approach makes it much easier to add and change out things when new stuff comes along.
There are guys around that have built very cool stuff using products like CharmedQuark but it's a serious commitment. You just have to decide what's going to work best for you. If you go with an integrated controller, you need to make sure that you stick to the gear that is supported by your controller. Very frustrating to buy something and find out that only a different version is supported or that the functionality you were planning to use isn't supported. Lots of the latest, interesting stuff doesn't have open API's so close to impossible to integrate.
AFAIK, the Quirky Spotter isn't currently available.
Good luck!
thanks picta and tannibil for all the information.
I plan to take the challenge for the single controller to control all.  I want to integrate only what I listed, i dont have a sprinkler system and neither will install any cameras.
I know it's difficult, but why?  First of all, to achieve my goal, I have to turn them all into IP so I can manage them over the WAN.  In order to do so, i'll need those IP2IR and similar for other protocols. right?
Then about the central controller, which ones are available to me?
so what will happen, is when i'm away from home, I press a button, that command will go over the network to the central controller, that will eventually translate into the associated command (either IR, RF, RS232...etc.).  and the device will respond to the command.
Its very important that I will be able to use speech in the future.
I have a MacBook Pro...
I honestly see it very simple when everything is translated into IP.
HiSoC8Y said:
I plan to take the challenge for the single controller to control all.  I want to integrate only what I listed, i dont have a sprinkler system and neither will install any cameras.
I know it's difficult, but why?  First of all, to achieve my goal, I have to turn them all into IP so I can manage them over the WAN.  In order to do so, i'll need those IP2IR and similar for other protocols. right?
There are many reasons why it is difficult to automate using IR or RF, let me give you one. When you press a button on your remote to turn the device on, and it doesn't, you just press it again. This is because you can "see" the status of the device and act accordingly. Majority of IR controlled devices do not have a separate command for "power on" and "power off", its a toggle. So you need a way to detect the status of your device and that alone makes things more difficult as most devices do not have status reporting. Otherwise you may think that you've turned your devices off when on vacation, only to come back and find them being on for the entire time. For that reason and others the IR based controllers are not popular in home automation and very few are available. Converting IR to IP is not going to fix the problem.
If you also constrain yourself to a Mac, you'll get even less choices for available automation software. Indigo is one of the most popular for Mac users. You can also take a look at iRule, this is just an IP based controller(or remote), not an automation controller, but it does allow control of IR via IP.
You can still get what you like to have, but be prepared to do a lot of research and write your own software to achieve your goals.