Home, Smart Home

Although people are starting to take a better look at home automation (or domotics), there is still this idea that domotic are expensive, dispensable and a luxury. A mere toy, one that is quickly forgotten and seldomly used. And from what I’ve seen, they seem to be right.

Today, I’m starting to build my house. Being an electronics and telecommunications engineer it’s only natural that I’d like my home to have some kind of automation. I’ve asked around a bit, and from the proposals I saw, most people don’t get it. You should be building domotics from the users’ point of view, not from an engineer’s point of vue. It’s what’s really useful that should be implemented.

When we talk about home automation, most people think about automating lighting. Ok, so you can centrally (often through a kind of touch control on the wall) turn on/off every light in your house, or even dim them. What’s the *real* benefit in that? That’s something nice to have, but not amazing.

For me, a domotics system should be useful every day! By order of priority, it must:
* Protect me and my familly, and my belongings (by implementing a security system)
* Save money (by automatic energy saving)
* Save time (by doing things quicker, augmenting confort)

To comply with these requirements, these are some of the things the system should have, also by order of priority:

* A user-friendly, intuitive, distributed supervison and control system, based on touch screens with animated graphics.
* A data archiving system for energy and event analysis.
* A sofisticated alarm system. Several zones, several modes, motion detection, video recording.
* Automated window shutters.
* Automated entrance doors and gates.
* Climate control (temperature and forced ventilation).
* Energy monitoring (electric and thermic).
* Garden, Orchard, Horticulture and Greenhouse (hydroponics) irrigation and monitoring.
* House-wide speakers (for warnings and info).
* Daily-usage-appliances monitoring, to inform when long work cycles end (laundry, bread maker, oven, etc).
* Lighting control.

The order clearly shows it, lighting control really is the least important thing in my book. Unsurprisingly, the alarm system is the single most important thing in a smart home, and most people end up spending lots of money on (independent) security systems alone. So my ideia is to integrate all these into a very useful home automation system.

If you think about it, many pieces can be reused within the system. For example, the alarm’s motion sensors can be used to open doors and/or turn some lights on; the alarm lights and speakers can be used to warn about many other events; the alarm system can control the window shutters when securing the house; the climate control can also use the window shutters for efficiency, making the most of the Winter sun.

A system like this would be a natural part of my life, not a gimmick that quickly gets forgotten after the initial impact. But all this needs to be affordable, and most systems aren’t. 20000 Euro (that’s twenty thousand) for a system is NOT realistical these days. Things also need to be kept simple and standard. Proprietary buses and hardware is definitely not the way to go in my opinion (you simply get locked in). And finally, things need to be very dependable, and quickly amendable should a fault occur.

I’ll keep on searching for the perfect system. Meanwhile, I have my own ideias of how the basic system should be done… and some very advanced stuff too.

Stay tuned!