Anyone who knows me knows how much I love gadgets. From Media Servers to lighting control and talking alarm panels I have always been one to play around with technology. I even look back to when I decided to get into the Alarm Industry, I was 20 years old and interested in Robotics… Why? Because it seemed cool to have a machine do stuff for you. So why Alarms? Well, the Security Alarm Installation course information was on the reverse side of the Robotics brochure. At the time, I had no idea Security Alarm Systems would lead to Home Automation and Distributed Audio but I did find myself playing around with Relays and timers to make my own versions of Security and Lighting integration. (In the “Early days”…. I’m only 40 and I’m sounding more like my parents every day, not really a bad thing.)
Now back to the topic at hand… The iPad and how it has opened up a whole new market in the Home Automation, Distributed Audio and Security marketplace. To start off, I will talk a little about the history of Home Automation.
Home Automation is not really a new concept, Automating Building functions has long been the mainstay of the HVAC and Production facility industries. Using electronics to perform various routine tasks by way of motors, relays, switches and photo beams is really not all to much different from the Modern Home Automation systems. Of course, installing a production facility grade automation system into the average home would be financially unfeasible for most, so the Home Automation industry relied on consumer grade powerline lighting control systems such as X-10.
Anyone familiar with X-10 and the various other earlier versions of Line Carrier technology will know of the inherent weaknesses of the technology. Basically, the premise behind Line Carrier Technology was sending coded information down the powerline to control specialized light switches and modules. This way, lighting could be controlled without the need to run any additional wiring. Sounds great right? well not really. The problem with the old Line Carrier technology was the limitation in the number of codes combined with a lack of stability and sources of outside interference. Simply put, with the old technology, your lights may turn on completely on their own, or they may not turn on at all. Back DIY home automation then, the only other option would be to install low voltage relay’s and run additional wiring in the home or install a high end building automation system which would not be financially feasible for the average new home construction and pretty much a non-option in a retro-fit situation.
Nowadays, new versions of lighting control such as UPB (A digital version of the original Powerline technology), Radio Ra, Lutron and many others offer various ways of automating your lighting. Even Canadian Security Alarm Manufacturer, Paradox has jumped into the Automation market with Shmuel and Gang’s recent creation, the Paradox Imperial Security Alarm System. Much like building automation systems, the Paradox Imperial Security Alarm/Automation System relies on Low Voltage Communication Bus modules to control electrical devices in your home. When combined with a Security Alarm System which can monitor activity in certain rooms, The Paradox Imperial Controller ends up being sort of a Green Machine in that it conserves energy by controlling your home lighting based on if you are at home, on vacation or even in the room in question.
Other systems, such as HAI, Elk and Colorado V-Net go one step further by integrating temperature control and Audio / Video Distribution into the equation (Control 4 also has a touch screen Automation system, however I prefer the more professional grade systems such as HAI, Elk, Colorado VNet, and Paradox Imperial – as the price point is generally better and they are usually built better.) So not only can your security alarm system protect your home from intruders, a properly integrated system can also control your lighting, temperature, Video Surveillance, Multi-room Audio, Garage door, hot tub and more through one interface allowing these systems to work together in “Seamless harmony.”
So what about the iPad, you ask. Well, the most expensive part to many home automation systems is the Touch Screen Keypads. Although you do not need to have a touch screen keypad to control your Home Automation system, depending in your system, standard keypads, telephone, smart phones, PDA’s, universal remotes and your Home PC are some of the ways you can control and customize your Home Automation System. The problem with some of these, though, is accessibility. Having to walk over to your keypad or computer often takes away from the convenience offered by Automating your Home.