Unexpected Home Control on July 4

Columnist Ben Hardy discovers that fireworks and barbecues serve as unusual catalysts for home control.

Hawking HomeRemote

The Hawking HomeRemote is one of many cost-effective control options that can keep tabs on a home while fireworks fly.

About a month ago I wrote a post about the Hawking HomeRemote home control system from Hawking Technologies. The HomeRemote is a Z-Wave-friendly software and device package used to set up a relatively cheap PC-based home control system. While looking for personal accounts from folks who have tried the system, I came across Felisa Yang’s report for Crave, one of the many gadget blogs out there in Web 2.0. Her account is definitely worth a read, as she walks us through her set-up of the system.

What stood out for me was the relative ease of system setup, and the practical uses Yang found for the system. Both brought me back to two incidents from the day before, as I was relaxing at a BBQ and waiting for fireworks to go off. I was chatting with some friends about the world of home automation, and they all shared the opinion that the technology seemed slow to make its way into the average home. I hesitated to agree, but mostly because my own personal exposure was to folks who already were neck-deep in the technology. The truth was, these were intelligent people living good lives who had not found a use or a need for home automation or home control. Why was that?

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The other incident happened later in the evening, after the group of us walked back from the fireworks to the scene of the BBQ. The whole of the town had crowded to the waterfront to view the display, and it was commented that “if ever there was a time to commit a crime in this town, now is it.” It was true — every city police officer was on sight, and most houses and apartments west of the waterfront were left vacant and vulnerable. Upon our return to our friend’s apartment we discovered that the lights in the upstairs apartment where on, though it was understood that the neighbors were not home. Maybe they weren’t home, but had left the lights on to deter would-be thieves. I was struck by how quickly everyone assumed the upstairs apartment was currently occupied, simply because a few lights were on.

Well there it was: The easiest pitch for the inclusion of home control into one’s home. Home or not, the lights were convincing, and surely an effective deterrent. A system like the HomeRemote that could be set to initiate a lighting “scene” at a certain time or activated by cell phone has never been less expensive or easier to install or enjoy. I seized the opportunity to enlighten our little crew of Independence Day celebrators on how cheaply they, too, might deter thieves, save electricity, impress guests, and live with a little more peace of mind, thanks to the world of home automation.

Ben HardyBetween watching re-runs of the “The Jetsons” and convincing his Insteon and Z-Wave controls to get along, Ben Hardy is immersed in the world of home automation, home control, and home networking.


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