From the infinite to home automation. Wow that feels like a long journey…

Infinite. Undefined. Unbounded. Unending. The best parental argument after “because I said so” stops working. Infinite yes. Infinite no. Bent around itself infinity never stops. It just goes.

It seems a simple concept. yet, peering into the night sky and wondering, it is a massive concept. One that goes beyond our eyesight. Beyond even what Hubble can see. Beyond the great observatories of Hawaii’s sight. Infinite stretches far beyond the number of devices that will be deployed in the next five years. It makes the number 50 billion seem trite. Tiny. Did you by accident leave off a few zeros? You know 50 billion zeros short?

Anyway, enough wandering the pursuit of the infinite and let’s focus instead on the art of the possible. Today, we have a small problem. Not huge, but small. The problem is in the commercial world and has to do with integration. It is not today, easy to purchase one device that can connect to every home automation system. That is the concrete pylon that is delaying full automation in homes today. Bridging the gap between what is and what could be, at the same time speaking all the different home automation dialects, isn’t an easy thing to do, today. One of the reasons that NIST has been working on the Cyber Physical Systems standards is the reality of integration. Where IoT represents, as the graphic shows devices connected via the cloud to another device CPS expands that.

Building on the concepts IT is familiar with. Centralization and control (or command and control) of devices. But sadly the commercial world is behind and ahead. Behind in that there are competing standards. This isn’t the first time (Betamax and VHS or HDDVD and Blu-Ray to name a couple) that we have this problem. I have 60 laser disks and 15 HDDVD disks. Occasionally I like to watch them. I still can, because I have an automation layer that is separate from the various playback devices and integrates them.

My automation partner actually created two distinct automation projects. One was connecting all my audio and video sources to the Sonos system. Not in one room, not in two rooms but in any room I put a Sonos speaker. Any room with a Sonos. Record player in every room of the house? No problem. Tape? Mini-disc, CD? No problem. The integration layers exist within the Control4 system. It also integrates home security video and did for awhile integrate the temperature (heating and cooling) of the house.

First off, most people aren’t going to be integrating as many sources as I have. I am a gadget person and a video person. So the integrations points I have are probably beyond the pale all told. But all of us have point of integration. The image of IoT presented is that beautiful picture of remote devices connected via the cloud. What however in the cloud is actually doing the integration? Canary is a very nice video security system, but today it doesn’t do anything other than Canary end points. Integration has to happen somewhere in the automation structure.

That’s why all those competing home standards are bad. Hard to automate when everyone is pulling in a different direction. Without the consistent cloud to cloud communication, we end up with islands of automation that require integration between the islands and sadly they all speak a different language.

Home automation is coming very soon. You know it is here when you buy a light bulb and on the box it says “plug me in and I will connect with your automation system.” Some are early to the party and doing it now. Some devices are not ready and require a system that is smart enough to do the automation for you. The advantage is someday the home will be the automater. Today, those of us slogging through the automation trench get the title Home Automater!

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Home Automater…