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How Does It Work?

home automation

An Introduction to Home Automation

What is Home Automation?

How Does Home Automation Work?

Home Automation Benefits:
Save Energy
Increased Home Security
Added Convenience
Improved Home comfort

Videos & Examples

You do not have to understand any of this to use or own a home automation system. The following is for those of you who like to understand how things work. If this is not you we suggest skipping this section click here to keep reading about what Home Automation can do for you. Go to the next section

How Does Home Automation Work?

Home Automation usually is comprised of 4 main parts:

  1. Main Controller
  2. Interfaces
  3. Sensors
  4. Control methods
  • Main Automation Controller

    controllerThe Main controller is usually a computer of some sort, although many times it does not look like a computer at all. There are some systems that do use an actual home computer but these are usually not as reliable. The advantage to having a separate controller is it's focus is only on all of the Home Automation tasks.

    The controller we use hooks up to your home network and can access the Internet.
  • Interfaces (Touch Panels, Keypads, Remotes, and Mobile Devices, Internet)

    An Interface is the way you interact with the Home A
    automation controller. There are many types of interfaces.

    touch panelTouch Panels: This can range from hardwired 4" screens to larger screens like 10" touch screens that you could carry around your house, and set in a docking station to recharge when you are done using it.

    6 button keypadKeypads: This can be a 2, 3, or 6 button device that mounts on your wall in a foot print the same size as a light switch. These buttons can be programed to have different functions, we can even program them to control different things when they are pressed twice instead of once.

    remote controlRemote Control: Most of us are familiar with remote controls, in this case the visual side of the interface is displayed on your TV screen and you use the remote control to interact with it. Some remote controls also have a small LCD screen on them so you actually use that remote without the TV on to still turn lights and other things on and off.

    iphoneMobile Devices: The most popular of these is of course the i-pod. Yes you can even use your i-pod's touch screen to operate your home automation system. Wouldn't it be nice to be upstairs and pull out your i-phone and turn off all the lights in your house with the press of a buttonright before you go to bed?

    globeInternet: As we mentioned your controller is most likely hooked up to your home network and also the Internet, this means that you will be able to access your home automation system when you are on the road. Turn lights off, turn the heat up before you come home, and view web cams in your house. Can you imagine ways in which this would be helpful?
  • Sensors

    door sensorSensors are things that can tell that something is in a current state. You may have a contact sensor on a door or window, this can tell the controller if that door is open or closed. Another type of sensor is a motion sensor this will detect if and when motion occurs. this for example could be used to tell the controller to turn lights on in a room when motion occurs, this way you don't have to turn the lights on your self, they just come on for you.

    motion sensorThere are many other types of sensors, such as occupancy, light, temperature, moisture etc. The main point of these sensors it to tell the controller a specific situation is occurring. What is really cool is many of these controllers are becoming wireless.

  • Control Methods

    Perhaps this section should be entitled communication. We now have a controller, interfaces to interact with the controller, and sensors that tell the controller what things are occurring in the house but how does the controller then turn on a light or open a window shade?

    That is a great question. Controllers can communicate and control the many differnet parts of a Home Automation System in a variety of ways. Some of these are IP (Internet Protocol sp), WiFi, Zig-bee, IR, Serial Data, and Relays (for motorization)

    iptcpIP/TCP: This is obviously used when you are interacting with your controller over the Internet, but it also used to allow communication between your controller and wired touch panels, contacts, security systems, thermostats etc. It is a standard based way of communicating that use very common cabling, which is nice because that means many new houses are often being wired with it, and it is affordable for wiring if you are constructing a new home or doing remodeling.

    wifiWiFi: If use a laptop, you know what wifi is. Wi-Fi is a great option when you can not get Ethernet wiring to locations. It is a fairly good medium for streaming music to different locations in the house,and will allow large bits of information to be passed back and forth with no wires. It is always best if you can get a wire to the location you are trying to control, but sometimes this is not possible or would be cost prohibitive.

    zigbeeZig-bee: Zig-bee is a new form of wireless communication. It is also a standard based protocol which means it is reliable. Zig-bee allows for 2 way communication of devices but can only transmit very small bits of information, so the controller can say light off, then the light responds to the controller, OK, the light is off. This is great because it is reliable, it means when you tell a light to turn off it will be turned off.

    The other nice thing about Zig-bee is it is a mesh network. This means every device that has Zig-bee in it makes the network stronger. When one device is trying to communicate to another 100 ft away it goes through many different devices to get there. If for some reason one device is unplugged or down, the signal reroutes itself until it reaches it's destination. Of course the device than sends a message back saying that the command was executed.

    infrared beamIR (infrared): If you've used a hand held remote before you know what infrared is. It is a little beam of light that is used to send commands one way. Usually though controllers use an IR router which will have small wires that carry the signal to a little light emitter that sits on top of the devices sensor (such as a stereo). Many new devices are being designed with little mini plugs that look like a jack for headphones so you do not have to have an emitter you can just connect a wire to the back and it will transmit the signals in a similar fashion

    serial data portSerial Data: This is a connection that most people are not familiar with it usually looks like a port on a computer. The advantage to using this type of communication over IR is it can be two way, and it does not rely on light transmission it is pure transmission of digital commands. This type of port is also starting to be found on some of the higher end home electronics. It is only used to send commands back and forth, it does not carry as much information as say IP or WiFi.

    Relays: Relays are used to send electricity to start motorized devices. Common uses for these are open and closing shades, Lowering a projection screen, raising a TV etc. Anything that requires a motor usually will require a relay to be automated.

Making It Work, Programming Your System

We now have all of the mechanics of a home automation system. The only thing left is the programming. This is where the human nature side of your system comes to life.

Drawing from our experience of working with customers and the conversations we have with you about how you live and work in your house, we program your system to do the things you want done. It all sounds kind of complicated but to the end user it means touching a button on a remote or pressing a button on a touch panel to do the task you want done.

silver logoAre your wheels spinning? Are you dreaming of something you'd like automated? We love challenges and to get creative ,please post some project ideas in our home automation forum or email them to us, We'll let you know if it's something we can do.


save energyContinue on to the next section: Saving Energy with a Home Automation System




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