Home automation part 3 (expanding parts 1 and 2)

I’ve been talking the past couple of days about building a Smart Home. The first article introduced what I thought were the first few projects to consider and a few more I’ve added.

· Door locks

· Video Doorbell

· Lights

· Garage Doors

· Nest or other connected smoke detectors

· Connected thermostat

My second article talked about the considerations around do I plug or do I charge? This focusing more on two critical decision points.

· Decision point 1: Do I need a clock in the device or will it connect to my central time service in my smart home?

· Decision point 2: How much power does it consume in a day, week or month? I.e. should I plug it in or can it run for a long time on a battery?

· Decision point 3: Can I easily change the battery? If I can’t then I need to put a rechargeable battery in the device. That way it only has to be changed one every couple of years.

clip_image002The intent of these articles is to introduce some of the concepts of the Smart Home and of home automation in an easy to consume format. There are a number of other things however that need to be considered. The first is the reality of power. If you build a smart home, you need to strongly consider an energy source. Solar is the quick and dirty way to solve the energy problem. It is a little pricey now but it does represent a very solid first home automation project once you’ve got the base four up and running.

clip_image004Adding batteries that store the power releases you from the grid but it also prevents the cacophony that is beep a paluza. Where every device with a battery that goes off-line because you don’t have power starts to warn you that in fact it doesn’t have power. That of course is the risk of the smart home and of IoT implementations. Today they like to announce they don’t have power. Disconnect a NEST smoke detector and it actually announces to you “the power is disconnected.” It’s funny the first time, but when you have more than one connected device it quickly becomes a cacophony.

clip_image006There are many options for low cost solar power including Solar City. They will install your system and then bill you a monthly usage fee. That usage fee is fixed at a rate lower than you are paying the power company today and they can cover the vast majority of your power needs with a single roof mounted system.

Now the next pain point. There are a number of protocols you can consider and unfortunately just as many gateways. Therein lies the rub sadly because while they all support the protocol they don’t all support each other. You could as the song suggests throw your hands in the air and dance like you do not care. The problem is that what you select now is going to be a component of your automation structure. Based on that you will have it in your home for at least two years. You could, two years hence be throwing your hands up in the air in utter despair. All those hubs. All those connections. That do NOT TALK TO EACH OTHER. They all support an interrupted version of the protocol and they don’t operate together. This is where you have to take a long look at the many products on the market and make some hard decisions.

Advice on the decisions? Coming tomorrow…


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.

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