Understanding Control Systems and Home Automation

(4 Sep 2015)

They might have been a little overzealous in the 1930's to think that in 50 years hence we'd be wing-walking on spacecraft without the shackles of breathing apparatus. But while this may remain a film industry-inspired pipe dream for now (and I will be first in line for an in-house transporter, a la Star Trek), a home automation control system is a more tangible step towards this long idealised "future". We're surrounded by smart devices already, but it's the linking of these devices together that makes for a magical experience.

Home automation is the automatic and electronic control of household features, activity and appliances. The concept brings together hardware, communication and electronic interfaces which work to integrate electrical devices together in the home. But that's a mouthful of long words. In effect, every 'system' in a house - the lighting, blinds, heating, door entry, multi room audio and video - can be controlled and synchronised from a single platform, or operating system. They can then be articulated in such a way as to create specific events and environments.

Imagine this: it's 07:00 am. Your favourite radio station drifts through the bedroom speakers. Lights gradually brighten. Shades slowly rise and your coffee maker brews a fresh pot. Perhaps you're heading out for the day - all the doors lock, the lights turn off and the security system is armed. All you had to do was press a button to orchestrate it all. Or it's movie night, the doorbell rings and someone is in the home cinema; the film is paused and the doorbell is played through the speakers. But if they're not alone in the house, as detected by sensors or if "do not disturb" has been activated, the movie is not interrupted and someone else in the home is left to attend to the guests.

Maybe it isn't light sabres, humanoid robots or a 'replicator' able to create a plate of roast beef and potatoes while at warp speed. But, if it's the little things that count, then using your control system to turn the heating up, get the kettle on and unlock the front door for you after a long, hard day of work will be little touches of magic in your every day.

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