When I was growing up in Phoenix, one of my favorite vacations was a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim. I will never forget the GE Carousel of Progress ride. A sit down show in which the building rotated the audience around a series of stages. The stages showed how technology would improve our day-to-day routines over the years. It has been over 50 years since I used that E-ticket and I’m still influenced by what I saw there.
I will concentrate on units that for the most part can be installed by the homeowner and have little or no reoccurring cost. Homeseer, Vera, SmartThings, Iris, Wink, Revolv, and Piper are just a few of the automation controllers available today. Another consideration is the communication standard the control unit uses, and it will have more than one. Currently X10, Universal Powerline Bus (UPB) Insteon, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Wifi, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are used. Read up on the specifications for each and if you have devices in your home already (thermostat?) to make sure your automation controller can access the device. Now the important part – logic. I am talking about the brains of the controller, and more importantly, where the brain lives. Some of the above controllers have their brains housed on company servers. One had a server outage for 3 days, who had the smart home then? Some use an app to control the unit and all the devices; a dead battery on your phone or tablet could mean a dead house. And be careful about monthly or reoccurring cost. How long will that “lifetime access” to a company’s server last? One of the above controllers was bought by a bigger company within 6 months of product launch, let’s hope the new company honors the lifetime commitment.
Want to customize what happens at sunset? Turn on the porch light, turn on light over kitchen sink to 50%, close the garage door, and feed the dog. You may be happy today with the pre-defined programming that comes with your controller, but what about next year? Can you access and program the controller via your own home network? Lots of questions when integrating an automation system into your home.
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