Home Automation

Category: Gadgets

I'm looking for a home automation system that will let me control my lights and security system via the Internet. I like gadgets, but I'm not terribly technical. What do you suggest?

Home Automation Kits and Devices

Home automation was once the domain of geeky Popular Mechanics subscribers only. But today, you don't need to solder your own circuit boards to add "intelligence" and convenience to your home. Many popular home automation functions are now bundled into standalone appliances, or easily cobbled together from plug-and-play components.

The Internet can play a key role in a home automation system, allowing you to interact with electronic and electrical appliances in your home via email or a Web browser. A growing number of home automation apps are available for cell phones, iPads, and other wireless devices.

Home security systems are important home automation applications. Do-it-yourself kits, like the ones in my article Home Security Camera Systems are affordable and easily set up. Look for a system whose video cameras are activated by motion sensors and can be monitored from any browser via the Web.
Home Automation Systems

For under $100 you can buy a wireless home security system with 8 window/door sensors, a motion detector, one-click remote arming/disarming keys, and a voice dialer module. The dialer can be programmed to call up to four phone numbers, playing a different pre-recorded alert message to each. Pressing "0" lets you hear sounds in your home, cutting down on false alarms.

The Logitech Wilife Digital Video Detection System uses your home's electrical wiring to carry digital signals, so you don't need to run Ethernet cable or install another WiFi network. It can be set to email video clips to you or send them to a cell phone via MMS.

With a home security video system like this you can verify that a person at your front door is a delivery or repair person, disable an alarm system and open the door remotely, monitor what they do inside, and secure the home after they leave.

X10 Home Automation

The X10 communications standard is used in most home automation applications. X10 works over low-power wireless and wired (electrical powerline) connections, making it ideal for controlling electrical appliances all over the house. X10 monitors and controllers are compatible with lights, electric ranges, furnaces and air conditioners, water heaters, garage door openers, and many other household appliances. Software such as ActiveHome Pro gives you customizable control over everything.

Other communications standards used by home automation products include Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Insteon. Their common denominator is a "mesh" network architecture in which every node (i. e., switch or controller) on a network is both a receiver and transmitter of data signals. The more nodes on a mesh network the faster and more reliable it becomes. Zigbee is designed for both industrial and home applications; its devices tend to be rugged and pricey. Z-wave targets home automation and its modules are easier on the wallet as well as the installer's brain. Insteon is a proprietary standard of SmartHome.com; it's the lowest-priced of these X10 competitors.

Home automation kits allow the do-it-yourselfer to set up an effective (and fun) home automation system. Professional installation jobs are less costly with these out-of-the-box solutions. Home automation has definitely come of age.

Are you a home automation fan? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Home Automation"

Posted by:

Bob M.
17 Dec 2010

Saying home automation has come of age may be a bit of an overstatement. There are more alternatives than ever, and some of them may be robust and user friendly, but many are not. X10, for instance, is relatively ancient technology in this field -- and isn't generally considered very reliable. More flexible (programmable) and all inclusive products equal higher complexity and less user friendly. Limit your focus and start with small steps -- the learning curve won't be so steep that way, and you won't get stuck with something you aren't really satisfied with.

Posted by:

Home Automation System
23 Dec 2010

Thats the thing i would like to see as android app on a tablet. And i would like to have this at home. Thanks for information.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2011

Bob you mention "wireless home security system with 8 window/door sensors, a motion detector, one-click remote arming/disarming keys, and a voice dialer module" for under $100. The logitech Wilife systems don't seem to match this description, nor do any of the systems in your Home Security Camera Systems article. Could you provide an example or two or did I miss something? Thanks for all the great info!

EDITOR'S NOTE: There's a system like that currently on the X10.com website.

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