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Home Automation & Smart Homes

on January 22, 2016

Home automation made easyIt’s been a dream of science fiction since the early 20th century: a self-maintaining home.  A place where every system, maintenance, repair, and cleaning is handled by the home itself without direct necessary input.  While that dream is still a long way off, we have made great strides in bringing domestic automation to the general public.

While the core elements of any smart home lie in the electrical system, robotic vacuum cleaners, in-home wireless networks, personal computing, and even ambient environment control are all part of the earliest steps towards total home automation.  So what’s available today if you want the finest in robotic (or domotic) living quarters?

Communication

The first thing you’ll need is widespread communication.  This used to be achieved with large electrical panels, relays, logic controllers, and switch boards.  Now you can achieve all of it through a single computer interface and a few wireless routing hubs.  Wireless communication has existed the late 1800s, with network communication establishing itself in the late 1900s.  Wireless interfaces remove the extensive cabling needed to maintain device-to-device communication in the home.

Physical cables, specifically fiber optic cables, offer the highest bandwidth and the fastest communication available.  It’s worth considering a professional installation of communication and data cables for an automated home.  Any high-quantity data benefits from faster communication.  Emergency services (for cameras) or transmission of entertainment to a screen from a server, will both benefit from the fast speed provided by physical cables over wireless communication.

Devices

There’s no point in running data and electrical wires throughout your home if they aren’t connected to anything.  Everything needs a purpose in a smart home, which means you need two specific kinds of devices throughout.  Controls (or sensors) and applications.  Without sensors, your home won’t know how to respond to active environments.  Without applications, it won’t have anything to do with the data it gets from the sensors.

Controls: Many of these are very simple and even common in everyday life.  Motion sensors are great for controlling lighting, smart thermostats help to regulate temperature and environment based on time and day, and electronic timers can help schedule regular processes like lights (or even recording broadcasts you don’t want to miss).  When you need a manual interface control, making sure the remote is always with you is most important.  Many smart devices are capable of being operated over the internet or a local networking, making a networked phone (which is usually on your person) an ideal controller.

Devices: These are all of the things controlled by information from the sensors.  From your front door or garage door to the entertainment center in the den.  Everything in the home gets a signal or a control command from somewhere.  Even voice commands are possible with the right sensors in place.  Of course, the most common (and simplest) smart home automation consist of automatic vacuuming by robots, light dimming and control, and temperature regulation from smart thermostats.

Master Control Programs

The last step of any home automation system is the control computer.  As stated previously, this used to be expensive because it was a large panel of complicated switch boards, microcomputers, relays, and mechanical inputs.  Now, you can run everything in a home – every camera, light bulb, network, and entertainment station – from a single desktop computer, hidden away in a closet.  You can even interface with that same computer using a phone or personal laptop; allowing control from a remote vacation.

We are indeed in the future.  A few wires, some new installations your existing electrical system by professionals, and a little forethought are all that’s needed to move any home into that same future.


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