07 Jul A Primer to Home Automated Design
For many people, the future just won’t arrive until they get themselves some robots. We’re not talking about the vacuum cleaner\miniature bumper car that leaves strange crisscrossing patterns all over the nape of your carpet. We mean honest-to-goodness domestic cyber-slaves that do our bidding while still being smart enough to figure out how to do our bidding. You know, like R2-D2, but without the independent streak. But while the walking servant-bot of the future may still be a little ways off (the army fairly recently figured out how to make one stand up and navigate difficult terrain), the virtual minion has already made a splash in society. If you own an iPhone, then chances are you already depend—at least a little bit—on SIRI. But to really feel like a king, you need something that can do more than find restaurants or help you hide dead bodies, you need to fully automate your home, allowing it to control your lights, climate, entertainment, and even cooking all at the touch of a button. Here are the three steps you’ll need to take to turn your home into giant, electronic butler you’ve always wanted.
Have a plan
There are different levels of home automation. Do you want something that will take care of your entire garden and record your favorite TV shows, or do you need something that will intelligently respond to your every verbal command? Once you’ve defined the limitations of what you want your home to be able to do (you should probably stop short of giving it your power of attorney), you need to choose a home automation standard. This means that you’ll have to select a single protocol through which all of your various devices and software will be communicating. X10 is a relatively inexpensive—yet serviceable—choice. Higher bandwidth options such as Insteon, Zigbee, and HAI (not to be confused with HAL, the murderous computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey) are also available. Whatever you chose, just know that you’re going to be committed to your decision for a long time; the different standards use different communication methods and are not compatible.
Pick your brain
Well, not your brain, your home’s brain, actually. You’re going to need to decide what the control center of your entire home is going to be. And while it’s possible to tie everything back into your desktop computer, or even your phone, you have to realize that, much like a living brain, you’re house’s brain will need to be always running. So if your computer powers off to install updates, your house is going to power off as well. For this reason, many home automation enthusiasts opt to use a server. Once you’ve decided upon the hardware, you then get to choose your software. Again, you’ll have many competing options. Do some research into specific types, and find something that allows you to control your home, without requiring a doctorate in computer sciences (unless you have a doctorate in computer sciences, in which case, go nuts). Once you’ve got your hardware, software, and devices, you’ll be ready to start automating like a virtual-boss.
Now that you’ve settled on the specifics, it’s time to get everything installed. Unfortunately, this can become a big hassle really fast. So pace yourself, and start off small. Maybe begin by just focusing on installing the modules for your lighting system. That way, if there’s a problem, you’ll only have to deal with the one system instead of a dozen different ones. Don’t rush yourself. Another option would be to buy a home security package from a service like Frontpoint. They allow you to choose components that will play well with each other and ensure your DIY security system will work.
Once you get one system running the way you want it, you can move onto the next. It may take a while, but you’ll be more likely to finish your project than if you try to do it all at once and get so confused and discouraged that you punt the server right through your smart window. Alternately, there are companies that will take care of the entire installation for you. Of course, if you go that route, you won’t be able to ineffectually shout “But I created you!’ when your home inevitably rebels against your despotic rule. Just food for thought.
Note – We recently reviewed Frontpoint as an excellent home security provider in many cities in Texas. You can see our review of Frontpoint in Austin, Texas here.