Home automation has been around for years, but the programs are expensive and hard to set up and use.

They need an integration builder, and also then, installation frequently causes a complex, confusing system which either does not work directly or that nobody can work out how to utilize. These programs also generally charge thousands of dollars or for fancy systems, thousands of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why so complicated and expensive? As there are so many components that go into a house automation program. First you have to decide what things to control: home entertainment, security, heating and cooling appliances and lighting. Then you have to decide on a platform. Decisions have to be made about what the interfaces will be — including remote controls, touch tablets or proprietary keypads — and what the connectivity is going to be, like wireless, wired or a mix. And finally, everything has to be connected and programmed with some nontrivial, custom-written applications.

Of course, expensive and complicated custom-installed house automation systems will always exist. Nevertheless, the future promises a lot better: simple, inexpensive home automation products to the masses.


The Nest Learning Thermostat

Clunky, proprietary and complicated home automation solutions will be superseded during the next few years by low-cost, smart, easy-to-use and programmable goods.

Instead of needing custom programming, programs will learn. Instead of utilizing proprietary user interfaces such as keypads or special tablets, they will rather use smart-phone programs and voice commands. They will use standard link interfaces, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

And rather than a smart core commanding dumb appliances by a centralized computer hub, the devices themselves will have all the intelligence they need, thus eliminating the need for a hub.

An excellent first illustration of the future of all home automation is your Nest thermostat. Nest installs in your wall just like any additional thermostat (although it looks way cooler) but uses sensors, algorithms, machine learning and cloud computing to determine what you want. It looks at the time, the temperature, the day of the week along with other factors. It notices what time you get up, go to work and come home, what temperature you would like and when you prefer it.

It’s smart configurations for when you are away. And you can override the automatic controls with an app on your phone.

If Nest supported voice command, it might be an ideal illustration of what’s coming for the whole future of home automation. One by one, home entertainment systems, washer-dryers, heaters, air heaters, lighting, colors and much more will become available with intellect, accurate automation, wireless connectivity and mobile phone control.

The whole home automation scene will evolve from being a technical pursuit to being a capability which accompanies the electrically powered materials you buy for your home.

WeMo Home Electronics Controllers – $49.99

Yes someday everything electrical will also have a digital mind and a wireless link, controllable from your cell phone. And do not think the consumer electronics business will wait for the appliances and home entertainment market.

A firm called Belkin, which creates a variety of small, inexpensive electronics accessories, recently announced a line of home automation products beneath the WeMo brand. In a nutshell, WeMo products comprise all the electronics which appliances of the future is going to have. They feature tiny computers and motion sensors, and have wireless connectivity. You plug them in to outlets, then plug in lamps, audio players etc. into the WeMo unit.

All the WeMo goods do is turn things on or off. But this can happen from motion, on a timer or controlled in the cell phone.

You can also use a favorite online service called IFTTT (which stands for “if this then that”), which enables you to get creative with control. As an example, you can use it to turn on your TV if CNN’s Twitter feed uses the words “breaking news” or have a thousand other imaginative customizations that can incorporate “occasions” on Facebook, email, the phone, weather programs and others.

Best of all, it is inexpensive and simple to use. As soon as you’ve paid for your hardware — every connected wall plug is roughly $50, and every motion-sensor ones is roughly $100 — you are finished paying. The program and the IFTTT service are all free, and no contractor, service provider or programmer is needed.

SmartThings Bundle – $174

A little company called SmartThings is raising cash on Kickstarter.

The SmartThings product line includes an program, a heart, a cloud assistance, a development environment (for software makers to create applications) and most interestingly, a “maker’s toolkit” that enables engineering-minded folks to “hack” their apparatus, connecting a wireless smart chip to everyday things which were never designed to be controllable by phone.

Inevitably, some hobbyists will use the toolkit to personalize their own appliances. However, others are going to use it to invent goods, which can be marketed to other SmartThings customers.

The organization plans to market a vast selection of sensors, such as motion sensors, moisture sensors and so forth, which can be employed by the system to determine what’s happening and empower a specific action. By way of example, a very simple sensor on the door combined with motion sensors can tell the system nobody is home, tripping a shutoff of all lights and cooling and heating appliances, and setting the security alarm.

Ubi – $189

Another Kickstarter project, the Ubi, is a very simple box that plugs directly into a socket. It is an Internet-connected minicomputer that listens for voice commands. By plugging these into many rooms in your house, you can control home appliances, send email and perform Internet searches by simply talking.

Like the inventors of SmartThings, the creators of Ubi intend to create a “platform” upon which other companies can invent and build features and functions.

And, needless to say, that the Ubi is going to be usable with SmartThings devices, enabling voice command management of appliances connected to the SmartThings system.

More: Switch On the Phone-Controlled Home

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