When I first started reporting on home automation, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around why anyone would want to go through the rigors of having a system installed into a home. It was a huge, complicated project that often required tedious programming and laborious wire fishing. At that time it was common for custom electronics (CE) professionals to camp out at clients’ homes to meet their installation deadlines. While the end result was usually wonderful, getting there was a battle both for the CE pro and the homeowner.
I’m singing a different tune today, though (so are CE pros and homeowners), as the complications and hardships involved with installing a home automation systems have been minimized dramatically. Systems have also become easier to use, more flexible and adaptable, and less problematic. If you’ve every considered having your home automated, here are some of the most attractive features you’ll find in most systems today:
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1. Programming Wizards
Custom electronics professionals who used to painstakingly write code to get systems to work can now just point and click their way through the configuration process. Make no mistake, it’s still a job that requires the knowledge and skills of a pro, but thanks to code that’s been preloaded into systems by the manufacturers, CE pros can design and install home automation systems in a few days instead of several weeks.
It’s okay to start off small, because now it’s relatively easy to add new features and components to a core automation system whenever you need them or have the money. This ease of expansion can be attributed largely to software that’s simpler to program, as well as systems that now utilize wireless technology instead of cabling to communicate (see #3).
3. Wireless Options
Cabling will never go away completely, but there’s a lot less of it to deal with due to the availability of many reliable wireless home automation systems. Systems can go into existing residences, where it may be difficult to fish wire behind walls, which ultimately minimizes installation time and labor.
4. Remote Access
No matter how carefully you plan, there are going to be things you’ll want to change about your automation system after it’s been installed. Many tweaks now can be handled remotely from a CE pro’s computer or mobile device. This precludes the need to schedule and onsite visit, saving time and money for both you and your CE pro.
5. iPad Integration
I never was a fan of big touchpanels mounted to walls. If the touchpael took up more space than a couple of dimmer switches, personally, I’d rather not have it glaring at me from across the room. Today, you don’t need touchpanels at all, as most of your interaction with a home automation system can be done from the screen of an iPad (as well as an iPhone and other mobile devices).
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