Master of Your Domain

WayneW

Senior Member
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE to be able to control the appliances in your home via a remote computer or even your Blackberry or cellphone?

While it might sound futuristic, the technology is available now. Turning on the lights, cranking up the A/C and even shutting the window blinds can now all be done with a mere click of the mouse.

"Home automation," as the geeks call it (translation: using gadgets to remotely control pretty much anything with a plug), has actually been around since the '70s, says Sam Lucero, senior analyst at ABI Research, a market research firm specializing in technology. Most devices never made it to the mainstream, diverging into sophisticated toys for the wealthy, and cheap, unreliable gadgets for the home-tinkerer. (Remember The Clapper?) That said, you're probably already automated to some extent — think programmable thermostats.

What's new here is a web-integrated setup. Here's how it works: Software on your computer links to your existing home automation hardware (more on that below). Using the web, you can send instructions to your computer and, in turn, that hardware. What this means in practical terms is that you can crank up the air conditioning just before you arrive home or turn off a forgotten appliance even from your Internet-enabled PDA. As long as it's wired, anything is possible.
read the full article at http://www.smartmoney.com/dealoftheday/ind...?story=20060717
 

WayneW

Senior Member
Wiring Up
Setting up your home for remote automation can be tricky, says Stuart Lipoff of IP Action Partners, a private technology-consulting firm. You'll need both hardware and software to get the job done. Just how much it will cost will depend on how many devices you want to wire up — you could spend as little as $200 for basic software and a kit to control a few lights or appliances. Or you might spend $40,000 or more for a high-tech system — incorporating just about everything, with new wiring and professional installation.

Here's how to get started:

Part 1: Hardware
Home automation hardware consists of components that are controlled, and those that do the controlling, says Lipoff. For the former, most appliances need is to be plugged into a so-called control point, which in turn fits into your existing outlets. (Other appliances, such as your thermostat and wall light switches, may need to be replaced with special automated models.)

How you send commands is up to you. You might purchase a remote control, set up a control panel on your wall, or let your computer handle the task by attaching a USB interface. Devices and controllers send signals to each other through a network, using wireless technology or your home's existing wiring.

When it comes to hardware, there are plenty of choices out there (even Radio Shack has its own line). But most products conform to the standards of one of the three big names — Insteon, X10 and Z-Wave. (A fourth, Zigbee, is slated for release later this year.) To figure out which is best for you, consider these factors:

Compatibility
While software programs work with several kinds of hardware, you can't use, say, an Insteon remote to manipulate a Z-Wave dimmer switch. (The exception: Insteon products are compatible with those from X10, one of the original home-automation technologies.)

Cost
If you're planning on automating a number of devices, the costs can quickly add up. Compare costs for the components you'll need. The differences can be substantial. A Z-Wave plug-in module, for example, costs $44.99, while Insteon's version is $29.99.

Ease of installation
While some devices are plug-'n-play, others aren't so simple. "There are a lot of components only an electrician would install," says John Dodge, editor of Electronic Business magazine. Dodge recently installed systems from Insteon and Z-Wave in his home to gauge their ease of use. The result? Even this handy guy had a little trouble. "Automation is still the domain of gadget freaks and handy homeowners," he says. "Most consumers are going to need a little help."

Many contractors specialize in installing home-automation systems. The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association and the Consumer Electronics Association both keep databases of certified installers.

Part 2: Software
Once you have hardware, the software component is much easier to select. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Put safety first
"Your system is only as secure as your network," cautions Cindy Davis, editor in chief of Electronic House magazine. So if you're hoping for remote access of your security system, make sure you have every precaution in place — firewalls, passwords, etc.

Analyze computer power
To control your home remotely, generally, you'll need to keep your computer on. (The software lets you log into an online site, forming a temporary bridge between your home computer and any other — or your PDA or cellphone.) However, some programs enable you to get around that. Active Home Pro, for example, can save instructions in a USB computer interface, so any programs you've specified (say, turn on lights at sunset) will continue to run.

Assess your needs
While it's cool to set up one button that simultaneously turns on the kitchen lights and starts up the coffee machine, it's not very practical. Avoid the lure of wiring absolutely everything — the resulting system would be mind-boggling to control, not to mention pricey. "Home automation should be easy to use for everyone in the house," says Davis.

Ready to Take the Plunge?
Here are some software programs to check out:
Active Home Pro
$49.95, X10
Program works with X10-compatible hardware from more than 20 companies. Use "My House Online" option ($49.95) to access and control your home from any computer.
Home Control Assistant Plus
$79.99, SmartHome.com
Try before you buy with a free 30-day trial. Program works with more than a dozen X10 compatible products. Remote access can be done via the web on a computer, PDA, or cellphone.
Home Seer
$199.95, Home Seer Technologies
Program works with hardware compatible with Insteon, Z-Wave and X10. Remote access can be done via the web on a computer, PDA, or cellphone. You can also set up your system to respond to voice commands issued over the phone.
Thinking Home
$34.99, SmartHome.com
One of the few programs designed for Mac computers, this program works with X10 devices. Remote access can be done via the web on a computer, PDA, or cellphone.

By Kelli B. Grant Published: July 17, 2006
 

Steve

Senior Member
When it comes to hardware, there are plenty of choices out there (even Radio Shack has its own line). But most products conform to the standards of one of the three big names — Insteon, X10 and Z-Wave. (A fourth, Zigbee, is slated for release later this year.) To figure out which is best for you, consider these factors:

I think an email to Kelli P. Grant is in order to ask why UPB was left out of this list?

Edit: Done
 

smee

Senior Member
I thing Smartlabs/Smarthome must be sending out a lot of press releases - or a lot of people are reading the same one. This recent "flood" of stories all read like they are written from press releases and are not researched articles. I've stopped reading them, so I may be wrong. But they read like the "articles" you get in free industry trade journals.

If they are written from press releases there is absolutely no reason to expect them to cover all options. And there's no way a real, well researched article could be as short as the ones we are seeing recently.
 

WayneW

Senior Member
smee said:
I thing Smartlabs/Smarthome must be sending out a lot of press releases - or a lot of people are reading the same one.
Maybe they are, I don't know. Maybe HA is finally approaching mainstream? I simply post what shows up in my inbox via multiple methods. If I get stuff featuring HA of any brand, we try to post it. Smee, I don't think you were attacking the poster (me), so don't worry about that. But maybe we can all agree that Smarthome's publicity machine beats all the competitors combined? And in a lot of peoples minds, the most popular choice is the right choice.
 

smee

Senior Member
I certainly didn't mean any attack. This just happened to be the most recent post. And, I read the posts - I just don't follow the links.

I think that Smarthome is probably really cranking up the publicity. Maybe they are just following Apple's lead - Ipod anyone?
 

toymaster458

Active Member
Steve said:
I think an email to Kelli P. Grant is in order to ask why UPB was left out of this list?

Edit: Done
I just did the same regarding UPB, more apple to apple software options and providing readers with resources to follow-up with.
 
Top