For the Beginner or Hobbyist
The age of DIY home automation is no longer just for the serious electronics hobbyist. Affordable home automation today is a very doable do-it-yourself project for almost anyone. DIY systems often require some degree of configuration, but today’s setup software removes most of the pain from the process. And for those who don’t want to bother or still find the setup intimidating, many of these systems can also be installed by custom electronics (CE) pros.
A startup called G2i, for example, is enlisting CE pros to install home control and mobile connectivity systems similar to the ones offered by ADT, Comcast and others; like those systems, you’ll pay a monthly fee.
Many affordable automation systems today use plug-in modules to control lamps and devices around your home. Door and window sensors are offered for security, IP (Internet-connected) cameras for surveillance, and wireless or connected thermostats for climate control. These components often communicate with a hub or bridge that is connected to your home’s Internet router, allowing you to control the system and program events, such as lights turning on and off at certain times, from a secure web page. Also available are light switches, smart and connected power outlets, electronic door locks, garage door openers, even exterior roller shutters. And yes, virtually all of these systems today make it easy to control your home via a smartphone or tablet.
Communication among the networked components in your home can take place via wireless radio frequency technologies like Wi-Fi and short-range Bluetooth, wireless mesh networks like Z-Wave and ZigBee, and over a home’s existing electrical wiring. Networking systems with a home’s coaxial cable—yes, the same cable used to connect your TV—is possible as well via Wi3’s WipNet products. And with the addition of Global Caché’s iTach devices, you can convert a Wi-Fi signal to infrared (IR) or bridge between other communications protocols to control devices.
Wireless Z-Wave is used predominantly in these systems and has 700 interoperable products. However, be sure to check what Z-Wave products are compatible with the system you choose to use. Many companies provide lists on their web sites.
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Check out this slide show for great options in affordable home automation solutions.
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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