Home automation has always been present in one form or another. Whether it is in fiction, for example Ray Bradbury’s ‘There will come soft rains,’ to mainstream media ‘The Simpsons,’ there is enough evidence to show proof that it is a topic thoroughly fascinating. So how has home automation developed through the years? How have the mass commercialization of smartphones affected home automation? How have technological developments in the last decade impacted home automation? Read on to find out.
So what is home automation and how does it work?
In the 21st Century, home automation solutions and platforms connect multiple devices throughout the home, all controllable from a smartphone, tablet or built in the wall touchscreen interface. These devices allow control of energy usage, temperature, blinds, locks etc.
So where does it begin?
Home automation only seriously became viable after World War II and the distribution of electric power. Home appliances had been available for years before that, but it was only after electricity became a household tool that people began using them.
The first home automation system- in the modern sense of the term- was the X10, developed in 1975 by Pico Electronics. The X10 is a protocol that allows communication between electronic devices. It uses power line wiring to transfer brief radio frequency bursts.
While other home automation systems are available, it remains the more popular with millions of units sold worldwide and easy access to inexpensive components.
In the 1980’s the company released CP-290, a computer based interface. The interface runs on the Commodore 64, Macintosh, MS-DOS, MS-Windows, and Apple II.
After the 1990’s however, home automation has steadily been moving towards wireless communication.
The term Internet of Things was coined in 1999 to describe the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software and network connectivity that allows them to share and store data. The Internet of Things is often used when talking about home automation because the home automation of the last decade has been moving in this direction.
In 1998 ZigBee was conceived. ZigBee is a specification for a suite of high-level communication protocols used to create personal area networks. The ZigBee technology was designed to be less expensive than other wireless personal area networks (WPAN’s) such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
ZigBee was standardized in 2006 with a ‘cluster library.’ The library is a set of standardized commands divided into clusters under the headings ‘Smart Energy’ ‘Home automation,’ etc.
ZigBee applications include wireless light switches, energy management, heating and cooling services etc.
In 2005 Smartlabs Inc. produced Insteon. Insteon enables light switches, lights, thermostats, leak sensors, remote controls, motion sensors and other electronic devices to interoperate through power lines (building’s existing electrical wiring) or wirelessly (through radio frequency communication). It involves a dual-mesh technology in which all devices are peers and independently transmit and receive messages. When released, it was a harbinger of the new trends in home automation. No more remote controls or nitpicky hardware: wireless automation was here to stay.
While Insteon devices can function without a central controller, they can be made by a central controller to manage operations such as facilitating control through a smartphone or computer.
Today, home automation mostly relies on wireless communication. Controllers are no longer found in remotes but in applications on smartphones/tablets that can connect to the network.