Home Automation Business vs. Evolution to the Network Business

Home Automation is still geek-oriented. Benefits are not really visible. Nevertheless to me, there is very high business potential e.g. in the fields of metering, energy management or alarming while Cloud solutions and APIs might be the key for developing home automation. This blog entry is a personal comparison of the home automation business evolution with the network business.

20 years ago we had the TDM (Time-division multiplexing business) without embedded IT functionalities. At that time all IT functions had to be specifically developed. With the arrival of broadband services, network suppliers have provided dedicated IT solution which were technology dependent (ATM, DSL).

In 2000, a rationalization from network management has started with a logical network management layering. This basically means that a network element is treated independently from the hardware or software protocol.

Around 2010 this rationalization was extended to service. The reason for this was: IP. All management systems are talking IP now. The major pains in Home Automation solutions today are the multiplicity from hardware and software protocols related to single supplier use cases. If you have a look at today’s ads or at the CES 2015, you’ll see one device, one protocol and one use case again.

Since a couple of years we are seeing new home automation boxes entering the market. Those home automation device manager abstract the hardware and software and provide an agnostic device library. I have been looking at these new boxes for a while (as I didn’t want to spend so much time anymore on legacy home automation solution, PLC etc). You can read a summary on principle box suppliers here.

I made the step, I gave up on PLC customized solution and started with a commercial solution – Zodianet Zibase:

150122_zibase

My decision criteria was my existing device setup:

  • Somfy Shutters (RTS based)
  • Oregen scientific sensor (reuse from a weather station)

But also couple of personal requirements:

  • Device Prices: less than 25 CHF an actor (thanks to Chacon DIO)
  • Easy device setup: less than 5 minutes setup a device
  • Wife expectation: parallel usage (manual as today or automated) and transparency
  • Zwave and EnOcean: support (current and new trendy coming protocols)
  • Energy consumption: less that 5 w
  • Native APP support
  • Scenario support
  • API support

Those two last points were keys to me as the scenario allows interaction between the devices. In a couple of minutes I can easily add and modify a scenario to include, exclude devices, conditions and values. Last but not least, this box has a REST API which allows a software integration. I might integrate to http://www.openhab.org/ (some guys are working here on a binding).

Below is a sample of easy use cases I have configured:

Shutters opening closure
Zibase provides an off the shelf trigger for the sunrise which triggers the shutters

Humidity control
Having kids playing in the bath and warm showers generates humidity in the bathroom. I set up an air extractor switched by Oregon humidity sensor values.

Missing switch
I missed a switch to turn on/off light in the living room. I bought a regular switch and connected a DIO command module (3v battery powered).

150122_3_all

Security
I installed indoor/outdoor sensors sending iOS notification and lot more (confident ..).

Garden watering
I installed some valves for garden watering for summer time.

And here’s a bench of ideas in the pipe:

  • Transform this previously mentioned switch to smart switch (several atmosphere reading, eating, listening 1 2 3 push ..)
  • Heating system control
  • “Welcome home” scenarios based on iPhone GPS position
  • Water leak sensor for the basement

I hope that I can help and inspire some people to make the step and contribute to the smart living democratization. Do you have any inputs or further ideas for me? Leave me a comment.