January 19, 2012
| by Steven Castle
Somfy System’s TaHomA (Total Home Automation) system that combines wireless control of motorized shades, lighting and thermostats, is now available to consumers. You may have read about TaHomA here before—we’ve followed it through its development—but at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, Somfy showed off its new iPad and iPhone apps, as well as a surveillance camera due in the second quarter.
TaHomA controls what Somfy has referred to as an “energy triangle” between window shading, lighting, and heating and cooling. This means that adjusting one of those three systems can affect another. For example, raise the shades and it helps warm a room in winter climates to save on heating bills, while possibly eliminating the need for lighting in the space. Lower the shades and you can cool a room and turn off the lights. The system uses Somfy’s wireless RTS communication protocol and Z-Wave wireless mesh networking technology.
Steve Iommi, business development manager at Somfy Systems, says a TaHomA suite with a couple of blinds, a lamp module, TaHomA processor and device that bridges Somfy’s RTS technology with Z-Wave can be installed for under $2,000, making it a fairly affordable level of home automation and energy efficiency.
The web-based graphical interface, called the Live View Dashboard, shows programmed scenes and various rooms, which you can click on to control individual devices in each room such as lights, shades and thermostats. You can also make changes to scenes, add devices and create schedules. The new iPad app shows an identical user interface, while the iPhone app is a scaled down, more menu-based version, sans the dashboard’s sleeker graphics.
Also new is a Home Occupancy setting, which monitors motion sensors installed throughout the home to make sure that when the home is unoccupied, lighting, thermostats and motorized window coverings are adjusted to energy-efficient levels.
The surveillance camera shown at CES is still development, according to Iommi, but it can allow you to see the kids in the afternoon or what the dog is doing remotely. The company will be looking at which surveillance camera it will employ in the system, he says.
In TaHomA, Somfy’s motorized shades work in conjunction with Cooper and Leviton Z-Wave light switches, as well as touchpads from Evolve Guest Controls, which caters to the hospitality/hotel market. Thermostats are based on those from RCS Technology.
Most scenes for now are scheduled via a timer, though there are automatic sunrise and sunset options. More sophisticated automation of window treatments using solar sensors, for example, may come later. Somfy is also working toward integrating the TaHomA with a security system so scenes or events can be enacted based on the security status, such as an “Away” mode.
“We’re selling this as a motorized window [treatment] automation first, [with lighting, thermostats, cameras added on]” Iommi says. “And you can build this into more of an energy-saving solution.”
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates