Home automation (hereafter referred to as HA) refers to the mechanization and automatic control of various residential activities. It typically provides for centralized control of electrical appliances (such as air conditioners, lighting and security systems and even the home theater). In addition to the comfort and convenience factor, energy efficiency also receives a boost.

The integration of various electrical devices in the household has been a challenge because of the absence of a cheap, open and standardized communication protocol between them. Due to this reason, HA systems have typically come with a hefty price tag and the need for a professional CI (custom installer / integrator) to set up. Consumers on a strict budget are slowly getting access to cheap home automation controllers for self installation, but considerable investment is still needed in terms of time and resources.

Image Credit: Home Automation Montreal

In this age of mobile computing, a wireless router exists in practically every home. Smartphones and tablets are natural devices to enable control of electrical devices. In such a situation, Wi-Fi becomes an easy avenue for self-installation of HA systems. We are in the midst of a sudden spurt in interest over home automation using Wi-Fi. Till recently, usage of Wi-Fi for HA purposes was considered to be akin to using a sledgehammer to drive a nail. While it could get the job done, it wasn't efficient in terms of power consumption or cost. However, as more and more electrical devices began to get connected to the local household IP network (Smart TVs are a prime example), control over the IP network (Ethernet / Wi-Fi) has garnered renewed interest.

The 'Internet of Things' has been a buzzword for an increasingly networked world where everything from the refrigerator to the lamp in the household would end up with an IP address. While this hasn't  become a reality yet, we are slowly, but surely, moving towards this vision. In this piece, we will first briefly explore the history of home automation technologies, followed by why we believe Wi-Fi is placed well towards becoming the next HA standard. A couple of sections will deal with some of the interesting products in the Wi-Fi home automation space.

Home Automation Technologies - A Brief History
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  • AshuJoshi - Thursday, October 04, 2012 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    Very extensive article and well covered. A few thoughts, and I think you or your readers have already touched upon this:

    1. Bluetooth LE / 4.0 - is pretty important as well. One because many medical devices have adopted BT, and not Zigbee or ZWave or WiFi.

    2. ZWave is very popular BUT my concern is that it is controlled by one company.

    3. SEP 2.0 is going to be a very important move forward especially because it will work with WiFi, HPAV, and Zigbee.

    4. Kickstarter - I noticed that you picked some projects. I think there are three segments to Home Automation - DIY, Luxury and NOW Managed (as provided by the likes of Comcast). Luxury traditionally belonged to the likes of Creston but Control4 is playing a major disruptor now. For the DIY segment - Kickstarter has changed the world. Here is my post on the # of projects on Kickstarter for HA - http://bit.ly/Q02Mk2

    5. Service Providers are getting very active in this space - Comcast, Rogers, AT&T, DT etc.
    Reply
  • AshuJoshi - Thursday, October 04, 2012 - link

    WiFi appears to be a popular choice for powered appliances and as the article talks about Semiconductor providers such as Marvell are providing compelling solutions. The challenge is that every implementation especially if it is from a different semi partner - its implementation in SW is different. That is there is no standard or specification to discover devices on WiFi - each implementation could be different. I am contrasting this with Zigbee because Zigbee has a well-defined protocol on how devices are discovered and controlled by category (Zigbee has its own terminology for all of this). Reply
  • davegravy - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    Lots of talk about hardware, and a bit of discussion about controllers and host software, but there isn't a lot of software out there that's provides a bridge between all the different protocols and the central brain/logic essential to the smart home.

    I've been using LinuxMCE (free, open-source) and have been following their development for the past while. Not yet for the technically faint of heart, but there ARE device templates for a large number of different protocols (Z-wave, Insteon, KNX, RS232, IR, X10, various ethernet devices, etc) allowing you to control pretty much any type of HA device. It also controls media and VOIP telecom in your house. The end result is a fully integrated solution between all devices in your home.

    Example: Someone rings the door bell. Your porch light turns on (if it is after sundown), your IP cam turns on, its video feed is forwarded to your mobile phone, and (if it knows you are home because your security system is not armed, or by other logic) to the various TVs around your house after powering them on. The video is also recorded to your server. If you were watching TV during this event, it pauses your feed and to show you the front door IP cam.

    The possibilities are truly endless with this software, and I have to give it a plug here.
    Reply
  • ntspam - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    I was really hoping that google putting its software creating talent behind home automation was finally going to kick this market mainstream. What a disappointment. Reply
  • jed22281 - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    These guys have been ahead of the curve in this area for 4yrs+ now:
    http://openremote.org/display/HOME/OpenRemote
    Truly open, ubiquitous, Home Automation solutions, shame they didn't get a mention.
    Reply
  • taltamir - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    WiFi controlled lights, thermostat, and power... now your home can be hacked in ways that holliwood only dreamed of. Reply
  • geraldt - Friday, October 12, 2012 - link

    Nice article on one of my obsessions. I so want WiFi to be the household communications protocol (actually TcpIp with any mix of wireless, wired CAT5, powerline Ethernet etc. that may be appropriate depending on the devices and controllers).

    I want a ubiquitous open standard that is well understood. I want two-way comm. I want sufficient bandwidth for video. I want security. I want all my current and future smart devices (desktop, tablet, smart phone, Raspberry Pi, robots, etc.) to be able to participate. I want that common infrastructure so I can incrementally add devices from various manufacturers. I also want the option of writing my own code in smart controllers e.g. PC.

    One point the article kind of makes is that common comm protocol is not enough, you need a higher level API for each device that is well documented.

    p.s. I think the technology in the new Kindle Paperwhite (touch, front lit, very low power, wifi) could be packaged into a great HA and AV remote. No video is a drawback for some applications like answering the door but still pictures at 1 fps might be fine.  
    Reply
  • xSaintSinnerx - Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - link

    Maybe I'm mistaken but few years ago Microsoft was talking about getting involved in HA business. I believe Gates was talking about it too. MS could easily create standard for HA Wi-Fi and become leader on the market with hardware and software in Windows RT or 8 environment.

    can you imagine possibilities ... BSoD on your thermostat.
    Reply
  • Nomzam - Thursday, November 08, 2012 - link

    Yeah the idea and performance are best but there is a security risk of internet.
    <a href="http://www.squidoo.com/iport-launchport-inductive-... Automation</a>
    Reply
  • space31 - Wednesday, August 07, 2013 - link

    Some new web remonte power hère : http://www.wifipower.fr Reply

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