Monday, March 17, 2014

Home automation

I like gadgets, it kinda comes with the job. I've always been fascinated by home automation systems but also recognised that firstly, they were very expensive, and secondly were almost instantly obsolete. Until very recently home automation systems would require lots of complex wiring throughout the house, clunky control panels and bulky remotes and, to be honest, rather like bling but for houses. The fact that any system would become obsolete so fast was a particular problem, since a house is built to last for generations. However, this is changing with the advent of wireless systems and I've decided to take the plunge. I'll be reporting on what I install and the experience as the system progresses.
   
The first purchase is a Piper from Black Sumac. This is essentially a security camera with extra functionality. Its fish eye video camera can be activated by its built in motion sensor or microphone. It's controlled via an iPhone or Android app and I can watch its live video feed on my iPhone from anywhere. Different security levels can be set depending on whether we're just asleep in the front of the house, at work or away on a holiday. Security alerts can be sent to our phones and to a trusted circle of friends who may be asked to check on the property. Piper uses an open source wireless protocol, called Z-Wave, that can control light switches, thermostats, door and window sensors, door locks, and other devices. Rules can be created to trigger various actions; for example, if a door sensor reports that it has been opened, Piper can sound its 120db siren, turn on the lights and start recording video to the cloud. Alternatively, if the room's temperature falls below a threshold a thermostat can be activated. Piper monitors outdoor and indoor temperatures, humidity, light levels, and ambient sound levels. Piper was easy to install and set up and has operated faultlessly for a couple of weeks without any reboots. It is though very much a work in progress, with some important functionality not available yet, such as downloading video clips from the cloud. It also currently interacts with a very limited range of Z-Wave products. The makers of Piper however say that lots more functionality and interoperability is in the pipeline.