Home Automation may sound futuristic (and maybe even a little daunting). But don’t let that stop you from embracing it.
Smart homes are just that: smart.
Today’s technology cleverly merges your family’s lifestyle with networks that control your TVs, security systems and appliances. But still – the term “home automation” has a lot of us scratching our heads. What exactly is home automation and when did smart home technology first appear?
BIRTH OF AN INDUSTRY
Many people first heard of Home Automation…in a Saturday morning cartoon.
If you were born before 1990, you’ll remember the animated TV show, The Jetsons. George and Jane Jetson lived in a futuristic smart home complete with flat screen TVs that slide into the ceiling, conveyor belt walkways, automatic tooth brushes and — our favorite — a cooking device called the “Foodarackacycle.” (A nifty appliance that produced meals instantaneously with the push of a button.) The series was set in the year 2062, 100 years into the future from the show’s debut.
That year seems like a long way off, and yet, home automation technology is already available! Smart home technology was created in 1974 when a company in Scotland called Pico Electronics, Ltd. unveiled X10. This technology enabled compatible electronic products to talk to each other over existing electrical wires in the home.
Since then, the technology has evolved and we now have several different smart home technological platforms that can control our homes wirelessly. The technology is actually pretty fascinating. Here’s how it works…
THE NUTS & BOLTS
Two of the most popular home automation systems are “mesh networks,” which use source routing algorithms to determine the fastest routes for the messages to be transmitted from the system controller to the components. One system uses specific codes that the components recognize, once sent by the system controller. The controller determines how the messages are to be carried out, and by which components.
Alternatively, the other mesh network sends commands out from the controller via radio waves. The radio waves zig zag across your home looking for the best route to the components. Once the commands are received by the components, they act and carry out the requested commands.
There’s also a dual mesh network, called Insteon, which uses both the electrical wires in the home and wireless platforms. If the system cannot send out a message over one platform due to interference, Insteon will automatically switch to the other for distribution. Instead of routing messages like the other types of platforms, Insteon broadcasts messages to all system components until the command is received and completed.
One important tip – compatibility is key! When you’re choosing home automation technology, keep in mind that you cannot connect system controllers that speak one language with components that interpret another.
As more families welcome home automation into their homes, smart home technology will continue to develop. So make sure you stay tuned to homedepot.com for all your home automation needs.
Meanwhile, we’ll all be awaiting the arrival of the Jetson-style aerocars to fly us around. Knowing The Home Depot, we’ll have them in stock shortly. (Fingers crossed!)