State of the Smart Home?
So I’m browsing around the other day and came across an article over at Wareable. Haven’t ever been there but I’ll probably stop back by and check it out occasionally.
Anyway, the article is titled “The State of the Smart Home” and they attempt to give a brief history of home automation over the last 45 years. I say attempt because it was obviously written by someone who doesn’t know squat about Home Automation or smart home devices or just decided they didn’t have time to devote to it.. Now don’t get me wrong, later in the article there are some really good points about smart home devices and home control but there really isn’t much about HA. Of course you can’t really say much about the history of home automation in three short paragraphs, which is what the author has attempted to do.
Back in 1966, while everyone else was busy watching the World Cup and debating whether The Beatles’ Revolver was bonkers or brilliant, engineer Jim Sutherland was at home in Pittsburg, quietly creating his ‘Electronic Computing Home Operator’
…some other stuff….
It would be another 44 years before the designer of the iPod, Tony Fadell, took a similar step towards revolutionising home automation with his groundbreaking Nest Learning Thermostat. A wave of launches followed – Samsung announced its SmartThings ecosystem in 2012, though arguably its thunder was stolen by Philips’ Hue lighting system. Belkin’s WeMo app-controlled plug socket arrived at CES in 2013, and by 2014 any tech brand worth its salt was talking smart home, from LG with its HomeChat textable appliances to Apple and HomeKit.
44 years? Really?
I will say this. One thing the article mentioned is that it’s still a niche area and they are definitely correct about that, it’s just all the rest of it that’s wrong.
In 1975 the first widespread, general purpose Home Automation products were released. It was called X10 and for the most part it used electric wiring for controlling and also RF transmission. A lot of other types of control have come and gone in that time including ethernet control, RS-485, IR, Bluetooth, Zigbee (Wink, Hue, etc…), C-bus, Insteon (built upon X10), UPB, xPL, EnOcean and Z-wave, not to mention probably 20 other protocols that I can’t think of currently. I came late to the game and started getting into the hobby in early 2000.
X10 had it’s good and bad points. One thing I can say about it is that even though I have moved on to mostly Z-Wave devices and a smattering of quite a few other technologies I’m playing with, I still have several X10 modules that I purchased in 2000 and they still work just fine. 17 years. I doubt there’s anything I’ve purchased in the last five that will still be up and running in 2034. Maybe my X10 modules.
By 2012 there were supposedly over 1.5 million households that had HA systems installed. Yeah, that’s a niche but a pretty decent sized one.
Back in 2,000 I was using wireless technology, voice recognition, infrared and scheduling along with true home automation; devices and parts of the house that react to different things (motion, time, light, heat, etc.) I say true home automation because most of the products offered are really just home control, not automation.
The article says that 2017 is the year of Voice. I would agree 100% with that. While I have used VR and text to speech all along, it’s so much easier now. The Amazon Echo, and to a much lesser extent Google Home, are awesome and have helped to turn my system into something that the whole family wants to use. The Wife Approval Factor (WAF) has gone through the roof with Alexa.
I think what really bugged me about the article was that it (and most of the other ones I’ve now read there) is about gadgets. There’s really nothing about making your home a true “smart home”. Having a smart home isn’t about having to use 20 different apps on your phone in order to control everything. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t ever have to take your phone out of your pocket unless you just want to (or are accessing it remotely). Not only that but most of the products they talk about force you to rely on the cloud. What happens to all of your gadgets and apps when your Internet connection goes down? Mine keeps humming right along, minus a few non-necessary items (Alexa, Wemo Mr Coffee, etc).