Encyclopedia

Smart Home(Home Automation)

 

Home automation (also called domotics or Smart Home) is the residential extension of "building automation". It is automation of the home, housework or household activity. Home automation may include centralized control of lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), appliances, and other systems, to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security. Home automation for the elderly and disabled can provide increased quality of life for persons who might otherwise require caregivers or institutional care.

The popularity of home automation has been increasing greatly in recent years due to much higher affordability and simplicity though smartphone and tablet connectivity. The concept of the "Internet of Things" has tied in closely with the popularization of home automation.

A home automation system integrates electrical devices in a house with each other. The techniques employed in home automation include those in building automation as well as the control of domestic activities, such as home entertainment systems, houseplant and yard watering, pet feeding, changing the ambiance "scenes" for different events (such as dinners or parties), and the use of domestic robots. Devices may be connected through a computer network to allow control by a personal computer, and may allow remote access from the internet. Through the integration of information technologies with the home environment, systems and appliances are able tocommunicate in an integrated manner which results in convenience, energy efficiency, and safety benefits.

Automated homes of the future have been staple exhibits for World's Fairs and popular backgrounds in science fiction. However, problems with complexity, competition between vendors, multiple incompatible standards, and the resulting expense have limited the penetration of home automation to homes of the wealthy, or ambitious hobbyists. Possibly the first "home computer" was an experimental home automation system in 1966.

Overview and benefits

Home automation refers to the use of computer and information technology to control home appliances and features (such as windows or lighting). Systems can range from simple remote control of lighting through to complex computer/micro-controller based networks with varying degrees of intelligence and automation. Home automation is adopted for reasons of ease, security and energy efficiency.

In modern construction in industrialized nations, most homes have been wired for electrical power, telephones, TV outlets (cable or antenna), and a doorbell. Many household tasks were automated by the development of specialized appliances. For instance, automatic washing machines were developed to reduce the manual labor of cleaning clothes, and water heaters reduced the labor necessary for bathing.

Other traditional household tasks, like food preservation and preparation have been automated in large extent by moving them into factory settings, with the development of pre-made, pre-packaged foods, and in some countries, such as the United States, increased reliance on commercial food preparation services, such as fast foodrestaurants. Volume production and the factory setting allows forms of automation that would be impractical or too costly in a home setting. Standardized foods enable possible further automation of handling the food within the home.

The use of gaseous or liquid fuels, and later the use of electricity enabled increased automation in heating, reducing the labor necessary to manually refuel heaters andstoves. Development of thermostats allowed more automated control of heating, and later cooling.

As the number of controllable devices in the home rises, interconnection and communication becomes a useful and desirable feature. For example, a furnace can send an alert message when it needs cleaning, or a refrigerator when it needs service. Rooms will become "intelligent" and will send signals to the controller when someone enters. If no one is supposed to be home and the alarm system is set, the system could call the owner, or the neighbors, or an emergency number.

In simple installations, domotics may be as straightforward as turning on the lights when a person enters the room. In advanced installations, rooms can sense not only the presence of a person inside but know who that person is and perhaps set appropriate lighting, temperature, music levels or television channels, taking into account the day of the week, the time of day, and other factors.

Other automated tasks may include setting the HVAC to an energy saving setting when the house is unoccupied, and restoring the normal setting when an occupant is about to return. More sophisticated systems can maintain an inventory of products, recording their usage through bar codes, or an RFID tag, and prepare a shopping list or even automatically order replacements.

Home automation can also provide a remote interface to home appliances or the automation system itself, via telephone line, wireless transmission or the internet, to provide control and monitoring via a smartphone or web browser.

An example of remote monitoring in home automation could be triggered when a smoke detector detects a fire or smoke condition, causing all lights in the house to blink to alert any occupants of the house to the possible emergency. If the house is equipped with a home theater, a home automation system can shut down all audio and video components to avoid distractions, or make an audible announcement. The system could also call the home owner on their mobile phone to alert them, or call the fire department or alarm monitoring company.

In terms of lighting control, it is possible to save energy when installing various products. Simple functions such as motion sensors and detectors integrated into a relatively simple home automation system can save hours of wasted energy in both residential and commercial applications. For example imagine an auto on/off at night time in all major city office buildings, say after 10pm. When no motion is detected, lights shut down, and the owner could save kilowatts of wasted overnight energy. Similar controls on HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning )in buildings could save even more energy.

History

Home automation has been a feature of science fiction writing for many years, but has only become practical since the early 20th Century following the widespread introduction of electricity into the home, and the rapid advancement of information technology. Early remote control devices began to emerge in the late 1800s. For example, Nikola Tesla patented an idea for the remote control of vessels and vehicles in 1898.

The emergence of electrical home appliances began between 1915 and 1920; the decline in domestic servants meant that households needed cheap, mechanical replacements. Domestic electricity supply, however, was still in its infancy - meaning this luxury was afforded only the more affluent households.

Ideas similar to modern home automation systems originated during the World's Fairs of the 1930s. Fairs in Chicago (1934), New York (1939) and (1964–65), depicted electrified and automated homes. In 1966 Jim Sutherland, an engineer working for Westinghouse Electric, developed a home automation system called "ECHO IV"; this was a private project and never commercialized. The first "wired homes" were built by American hobbyists during the 1960s, but were limited by the technology of the times. The term "smart house" was first coined by the American Association of Housebuilders in 1984.

With the invention of the microcontroller, the cost of electronic control fell rapidly. Remote and intelligent control technologies were adopted by the building services industry and appliance manufacturers worldwide, as they offer the end user easily accessible and/or greater control of their products.

During the 1990s home automation rose to prominence. By the end of the decade, domotics was commonly used to describe any system in which informatics and telematicswere combined to support activities in the home. The phrase appears to be a portmanteau word formed from domus (Latin, meaning house) and informatics, and therefore refers specifically to the application of computer and robot technologies to domestic appliances.

Despite interest in home automation, by the end of the 1990s there was not a widespread uptake - with such systems still considered the domain of hobbyists or the rich. The lack of a single, simplified, protocol and high cost of entry has put off consumers.

System elements

Elements of a home automation system include sensors (such as temperature, daylight, or motion detection), controllers (such as a general-purpose personal computer or a dedicated automation controller) and actuators, such as motorized valves, light switches, motors, and others. One or more human-machine interface devices are required, so that the residents of the home can interact with the system for monitoring and control; this may be a specialized terminal or, increasingly, may be an application running on a smart phone or tablet computer. Devices may communicate over dedicated wiring, or over a wired network, or wirelessly using one or more protocols. Building automation networks developed for institutional or commercial buildings may be adapted to control in individual residences. A centralized controller can be used, or multiple intelligent devices can be distributed around the home.

Networks

There have been many attempts to standardize the forms of hardware, electronic and communication interfaces needed to construct a home automation system. Some standards use additional communication and control wiring, some embed signals in the existing power circuit of the house, some use radio frequency (RF) signals, and some use a combination of several methods. Control wiring is hardest to retrofit into an existing house. Some appliances include a USB port that is used for control and connection to a domotics network. Protocol bridges translate information from one standard to another, e.g., from X10 to European Installation Bus.

Tasks

HVAC

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) solutions can include temperature and humidity control, and more commonly in Europe, fresh air, heating and natural cooling. Home automation solutions are varied and could include an internet-controlled thermostat, by allowing the homeowner to control the building's heating and air conditioning systems remotely, or it could be linked to windows to allow automated opening and closing to allow hot air out and cool air in to allow for cooling of thethermal mass of the house structure. Many systems are designed to not only provide convenience but to also allow for better energy efficiency.

Lighting

Lighting control systems can be used to control household electric lights. Examples include:

  • Extinguish all the lights of the house at a predetermined time and date range
  • Use of motion detectors to automatically extinguish the lights in a room after occupants have left and turn on the lights if occupants enter a room
  • Turn the light on or off with the use of a remote wireless device
  • Control the brightness of the lights according to the level of ambient light available, or other criteria
  • Change the ambient colour of a room via the lights used or by using RGB LEDs (mood control)

Natural lighting control involves controlling window shades, LCD shades, draperies and awnings.

Audio-visual

This category includes audio and video switching and distribution. Multiple audio or video sources can be selected and distributed to one or more rooms and can be linked with lighting and blinds to provide mood settings.

Shading

Automatic control of blinds and curtains can be used for:

  • Presence simulation
  • Privacy
  • Temperature control

Security

Control and integration of security systems and also the potential for central locking of all perimeter doors and windows.

With Home Automation, the consumer can select and watch cameras live from an Internet source to their home or business. Security cameras can be controlled, allowing the user to observe activity around a house or business right from a Monitor or touch panel. Security systems can include motion sensors that will detect any kind of unauthorized movement and notify the user through the security system or via cell phone. This category also includes control and distribution of security cameras (seesurveillance).

  • Intrusion Detection
    • Motion sensors
    • Magnetic contact sensors for doors / windows
    • Glass break detectors
    • Pressure sensors
  • Presence Simulation
  • Detection of fire, gas leaks and water leaks (see fire alarm and gas alarm)
  • Medical alert / teleassistance.
  • Precise and safe blind control

Intercoms

An intercom system allows communication via a microphone and loud speaker between multiple rooms. Integration of the intercom to the telephone, or of the video door entry system to the television set, allowing the residents to view the door camera automatically.

Domestic robotics (domotics)

See also: Domestic robot

Journalist Bruno de Latour coined the term domotic in 1984. Domotic has been recently introduced in vocabulary as a composite word of Latin word domus andinformatics, or a contraction of domestic robotics, and it refers to intelligent houses meaning the use of the automation technologies and computer science applied to the home.

The Spanish Domótica, French Domotique, Italian Domotica, Portuguese Domótica and a number of other words in other languages also derive from Latin word domus and "Robotic...", "Informatic..." or "Automatic...".

Domotics includes completely automated systems that control entertainment, heating, broadband, lighting and security from one of many types of digital computer control devices, panels and mobile handset. Domotics is used to improve the quality of life increasing comfort, security and the same time obtaining costs and energy savings. The term covers a range of applications:

  • Domotics is the discipline that investigates how to realize an intelligent home environment.
  • Digital Home as a spectrum of services including home automation, multimedia, telecommunications, e-commerce, etc. through wired and wireless networks
  • Household devices, appliances, entertainment centers, temperature and lighting control units, that behave intelligently
  • Control and scheduling of Robotic vacuum cleaner.
  • Under the domotics umbrella fall home security systems, whole-house audio or video systems, lights, gates and household LAN
  • Domotics and home automation means that systems talk to each other so that the result is convenience, energy efficiency, and safety
  • Control of home robots, using if necessary domotic electric beacon.
  • Home robot communication (i.e. using WiFi) with the domotic network and other home robots.
  • Home assistive technologies

Other systems

A homemade Internet-enabled cat feeder.

Using special hardware, almost any household appliance can be monitored and controlled automatically or remotely, including:

  • Coffeemaker or tea maker (such as the Teasmade)
  • Garage door
  • Plant watering
  • Pool pump(s) and heater, hot tub and spa
  • Pet feeding and watering
  • Sump Pump

Well and Booster Pump Automation.

Costs

An automated home can be a very simple grouping of controls, or it can be heavily automated where any appliance that is plugged into electrical power is remotely controlled. Costs mainly include equipment, components, furniture, and custom installation.

Ongoing costs include electricity to run the control systems, maintenance costs for the control and networking systems, including troubleshooting, and eventual cost of upgrading as standards change. Increased complexity may also increase maintenance costs for networked devices. Cloud-based services supporting an installation may also entail fees for setup and/or usage.

Learning to use a complex system effectively may take significant time and training.

Control system security may be difficult and costly to maintain, especially if the control system extends beyond the home, for instance by wireless or by connection to the internet or other networks.

Smart Grid

Home automation technologies are viewed as integral additions to the Smart grid. The ability to control lighting, appliances, HVAC as well as Smart Grid applications (load shedding, demand response, real-time power usage and price reporting) will become vital as Smart Grid initiatives are rolled out. Green Automation is the term coined to describe energy management strategies in home automation when data from smart grids is combined with home automation systems to use resources at either their lowest prices or highest availability, taking advantage, for instance, of high solar panel output in the middle of the day to automatically run washing machines.

Organizations

  • CEDIA
  • CENELEC
  • Continental Automated Buildings Association
  • Digital Living Network Alliance
  • Living Tomorrow
  • MIT AgeLab
  • SIMO TCI

Comparison of popular protocols

ProtocolPower LineRadio-FrequencyOpen Source?Needs Neutral Wire?
Insteon yes yes yes Usually
UPB yes no no no
X10 yes yes yes no
Z-Wave no yes no no