Home Automation, what do you recommend?

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Not sure if this is a better fit for here or Off Topic.  Please move if this is the wrong forum.

 

Anyway, we're doing a large remodel on a 50 year old house, and I'm wondering what the current best choices are for Home Automation - mostly re lighting and outlet control, but also want to learn what other goodies are possible.  My current state of knowledge is X-10, which I'd guess is many generations obsolete.  Thanks.

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I use CRESTRON.  I have been programming the gear for ten years, but you have to be a certified/registered dealer/programmer/provider in order to get the software to do the work.

 

There is also Lutron, and Control4 as well.  I like Control 4 for the price/performance.

 

Jim

I would rather attempt something great and fail, than attempt nothing and succeed - Fortune Cookie

 

"The critical shortage here is not stuff, but time." - Johan Ekdahl

 

"Step N is required before you can do step N+1!" - ka7ehk

 

"If you want a career with a known path - become an undertaker. Dead people don't sue!" - Kartman

"Why is there a "Highway to Hell" and only a "Stairway to Heaven"? A prediction of the expected traffic load?"  - Lee "theusch"

 

Speak sweetly. It makes your words easier to digest when at a later date you have to eat them ;-)  - Source Unknown

Please Read: Code-of-Conduct

Atmel Studio6.2/AS7, DipTrace, Quartus, MPLAB, RSLogix user

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You're spoilt for choice. Do you want to talk to Siri,Alexa or the Google equiv to turn things on or off? The downside with these is if the interwebs aren't working, then you're stuck. For me, the simplicity of just tuning a switch on or off seems hard to beat.

 

There's also plenty of wireless gadgets like the Philips Hue that just seem ripe for hacking. Kidde have some wireless smoke detectors that talk to each other that seems to have no security - hack the protocol and you could cause some mayhem. So I'm suspicious of wireless gadgets at the moment.

 

The like of NEST for heater control sounds good to me - there's savings to be had, but having other companies harvest my data for their own benefit and that they can sell causes me a level of concern, but then again, Google harvest just about everything anyways.

 

The local home improvement show has been pushing Alexa devices lately. Do you really want voice control of your shower? I can understand voice control of the front gate as you'd be driving and can use voice to request the gate to open. Brings back memories of 2001 A space odyssey! "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that!"

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I blame Iron Man -- everybody wants to be Tony Stark!

 

--Mike

 

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For me, the simplicity of just tuning a switch on or off seems hard to beat.

 

with the addition of finger driven dimmers for lights......

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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As I have a couple of Echo Dots (Alexa) I recently got bulbs and sockets that are compatible with her. So I chose TP-Link equipment (because I'd had good experiences with TP-Link Powerline adapters in the past)

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There are a gazillion different options for home automation nowaday's.

There is however not much standardisation and interoperability.

Which means that if you choose for some manufacturer's system, your mostly stuck with that manufacturer, although some other companies try to integrate phone software with hardware from different manufacurers.

"If this then that" comes to mind, but it is cloud based, and I will never put my head into the mist.

Stuff like Alexa or Google microphones in my house are completely unacceptable, If I see such a thing when I'm visiting somebody it is probably enough reason to stand up and walk away.

No thank you please.

 

For me an Open Source solution will be the only acceptable path.

Some of the Open Source solutions probably have support for the widest range of existing hardware, because lots of people contibute to reverse engineer communication protocols to integrate the gadgets they like into the software.

Open Source solutions tend to have a little linux PC ( Beaglebone, Cubieboard, Odroid, Olimex A20, etc) as the hart of the system which runs the server software.

 

Criticism and controversies
Home automation suffers from platform fragmentation and lack of technical standards[25][26][27][28][29][30]
a situation where the variety of home automation devices, in terms of both hardware variations and differences
in the software running on them, makes the task of developing applications that work consistently between
different inconsistent technology ecosystems hard.[31] Customers may be hesitant to bet their IoT future on
proprietary software or hardware devices that use proprietary protocols that may fade or become difficult to
customize and interconnect.[32]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_automation

 

There are also some standards. There's Zigbee and Z-wave for wireless.

I've written some software for AVR's on an RS485 network, and a daemon for a linux box several years ago (see my site) but it is not well maintained and still buggy.

For a wired (RS485) solution modbus seems to be the best option.

 

And of course a lot of stuff is WiFi based.

Normal  Regular price for a single WiFi controlled switch is somewhere between EUR 40 and EUR 60, but an exception to that are the sOnOff switches.

The Sonoff S20 is a switch made for a wall socket and can be bought for around EUR 12.

https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?SearchText=sonoff+s20

The Sonoff Basic has screw connectors and is meant to be built into appliances and can be bought for < EUR 5.

https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?SearchText=sonoff+basic

 

Both these Sonoff devices are based on the ESP8266. The Chinese (mist based) software seems to be pretty crappy from what I have heared, but the ESP8266 and these Sonoff devices are very popular in the hacker and hobby world and there is lots of firmware available to be put in these gadgeds.

(But beware, the power supply is not isolated from mains, so be carefull when reprogramming (Use a separate 3V3 supply while programming).

If you want to toy with the ESP8266, then throw in some Wemos D1 Mini's. These cost next to nothing, and are breadboard compatible and are a great way to get aquianted with the ESP8266.

https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?SearchText=Wemos+D1+Mini

The H801 is a sub EUR10 gadget with also an ESP8266 and is a quite nicely built 5 channel light dimmer for LED strips (5x DTU35N06 transistor)

https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?SearchText=H801

 

A big disadvantage of the ESP8266 platform is that most knowledge is reverse engineered. There is no datasheet of the ESP8266, just a 30 page summary of this 266MHz microcontroller with built in Wi-Fi USART, SPI, Timers, and all the usual stuff. It has been made compatible with "arduino" if that is your thing.

 

For (linux) software OpenHAB, MQTT and Node Red are probably worth checking out. There are also multiple books available which can help with setting up home automation projects with Linux and other Open Source software.

Doing magic with a USD 7 Logic Analyser: https://www.avrfreaks.net/comment/2421756#comment-2421756

Bunch of old projects with AVR's: http://www.hoevendesign.com

Last Edited: Thu. Sep 27, 2018 - 09:21 AM
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X-10 was awful!  The more units you have, the more signal loss and less reliable it became!   

If your a mac user take a look at Insteon based systems and Indigo as your base server, it has a lot of basic functions built in and is user expandable.

I've been using mine for over 10 years now, but as stated above, you have lots of choices (like do you really want Amazon to listen and record all the sounds in your house 24x7?)

 

Pick something and start enjoying the benefits, expand as funds are available!  smiley

 

Jim

 

Click Link: Get Free Stock: Retire early! PM for strategy

share.robinhood.com/jamesc3274
get $5 free gold/silver https://www.onegold.com/join/713...

 

 

 

 

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"Stuff like Alexa or Google microphones in my house are completely unacceptable, If I see such a thing when I'm visiting somebody it is probably enough reason to stand up and walk away.

No thank you please."

 

Curious as to why?

 

Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs stable.

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John_A_Brown wrote:

"Stuff like Alexa or Google microphones in my house are completely unacceptable, If I see such a thing when I'm visiting somebody it is probably enough reason to stand up and walk away.

No thank you please."

 

Curious as to why?

 

+1

 

Jim

I would rather attempt something great and fail, than attempt nothing and succeed - Fortune Cookie

 

"The critical shortage here is not stuff, but time." - Johan Ekdahl

 

"Step N is required before you can do step N+1!" - ka7ehk

 

"If you want a career with a known path - become an undertaker. Dead people don't sue!" - Kartman

"Why is there a "Highway to Hell" and only a "Stairway to Heaven"? A prediction of the expected traffic load?"  - Lee "theusch"

 

Speak sweetly. It makes your words easier to digest when at a later date you have to eat them ;-)  - Source Unknown

Please Read: Code-of-Conduct

Atmel Studio6.2/AS7, DipTrace, Quartus, MPLAB, RSLogix user

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Paulvdh wrote:
Stuff like Alexa or Google microphones in my house are completely unacceptable, If I see such a thing when I'm visiting somebody it is probably enough reason to stand up and walk away. No thank you please.
To me such devices are a strong indication of a total disregard of respect for the most basic privacy rules. Those devices are for naive peope who assume those devices only do what they are supposed to do. Just like typing your passwords on a wireless keyboard without andy (decent) encryption. Here in The Netherlands a few years ago there was a big fuss about the Mifare chips. Those were intended for getting some coffe from a dispenser or something, but they ended up in public transportation where the whole system got hacked and collapsed within a year or so of it's introduction. Pacemakers and Insulin pumps without a decent form of encryption is also a disaster waiting to happen.

People who design such stuff are not worthy of the title of engineer (in my opinion) and the would would be better of if they had a job cleaning toilets or something else harmless.

But if you wish you may also call it paranoia.

A bit of paranoia is good for self preservation.

 



 

Doing magic with a USD 7 Logic Analyser: https://www.avrfreaks.net/comment/2421756#comment-2421756

Bunch of old projects with AVR's: http://www.hoevendesign.com

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BIIIIG problem if your wife or daughter's name is Alexa......

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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Paulvdh wrote:
Pacemakers and Insulin pumps without a decent form of encryption is also a disaster waiting to happen.
Security is an issue, so is safety (safety by reliability)

A US model pacemaker was having a major intermittent malfunction and ended up at USA FDA where one ran a static analyzer over the source code ... an inadvertent infinite loop was the cause.

Paulvdh wrote:
A bit of paranoia is good for self preservation.
A bit might be acceptable though better is not to have any paranoia at all (ie solve the issue)

...

Feelin' guilty, feelin' scared, hidden cameras everywhere
...

Paranoia, the destroyer.
...

- Ray Davies, The Kinks, Destroyer

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kinks/destroyer.html

 

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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but also want to learn what other goodies are possible.

One of my son's has Alexia, and he uses it all the time to turn his music on and off while he does his homework.

I also purchased him a couple of light bulbs for the basement, his man cave, which he can control with the system.

 

I recently purchased a small vacation home in South Carolina, (I live in Ohio, a 12 hour drive away).

 

I purchased a wireless alarm system for the place which is very cool.

I looked around and chose SimpliSafe.

Trivial to install, easy to add extra sensors or cameras, and in addition to calling the Alarm Center, I can check on the system status or camera ( s ) from my cell phone or PC.

It calls an alarm center as it is very expensive / difficult to set up a private residence to directly call the police.

I can recall drilling holes and running wires, etc., for the alarm system in my main house, what a hassle that was, and very poorly expandable!

 

I have also used X10 over the years.

I still use X10 for Christmas lights, candles in the windows, Christmas Tree, outside wreath, etc.

Trivial to turn them on/off, and not mission critical.

The HUGE improvement in X10 was when I put a capacitor across the two phases of the power line in the breaker box in the house.

Now the signal doesn't have to go to the transformer for the neighborhood, couple through the transformer, and make it back to the house in case the signal generator and the signal receiver are on separate phases.

 

JC 

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DocJC wrote:
The HUGE improvement in X10 was when I put a capacitor across the two phases of the power line in the breaker box in the house.
fyi, likewise though for a different reason (reduce dv/dt due to nearby lightning)

Delta Lightning Arrestors

Information

Surge Capacitor

http://deltala.com/info-how-surge-capacitors-work.php

 

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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Paulvdh wrote:

Paulvdh wrote:
Stuff like Alexa or Google microphones in my house are completely unacceptable, If I see such a thing when I'm visiting somebody it is probably enough reason to stand up and walk away. No thank you please.
To me such devices are a strong indication of a total disregard of respect for the most basic privacy rules. Those devices are for naive peope who assume those devices only do what they are supposed to do. Just like typing your passwords on a wireless keyboard without andy (decent) encryption. Here in The Netherlands a few years ago there was a big fuss about the Mifare chips. Those were intended for getting some coffe from a dispenser or something, but they ended up in public transportation where the whole system got hacked and collapsed within a year or so of it's introduction. Pacemakers and Insulin pumps without a decent form of encryption is also a disaster waiting to happen.

People who design such stuff are not worthy of the title of engineer (in my opinion) and the would would be better of if they had a job cleaning toilets or something else harmless.

But if you wish you may also call it paranoia.

A bit of paranoia is good for self preservation.

 

 

 



 

 

 

Well I guess I'm a naive person then.

I hold the view that if the Alexa device was listening to everything one says, contrary to the claims of Amazon, it would be fairly easy to demonstrate by examining the WiFi activity. But even if I'm wrong, anyone monitoring the conversations in my house would fairly rapidly fall into a deep sleep.

Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs stable.

Last Edited: Fri. Sep 28, 2018 - 08:44 AM
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I don't have any security concerns with the two Alexa I own - but then again I'm not paranoid blushcheeky

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clawson wrote:

I don't have any security concerns with the two Alexa I own - but then again I'm not paranoid blushcheeky

I'm sure Alan Partridge would say "Alexae".

 

Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs stable.

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I hold the view that if the Alexa device was listening to everything one says,

I have a feeling my wife's iPhone is listening to what we are saying around the house, she uses voice for SMS and Google maps.

 

Strangely enough a Facebook message will appear within hours on that subject...we don't talk about THAT of course within mic shot....

John Samperi

Ampertronics Pty. Ltd.

www.ampertronics.com.au

* Electronic Design * Custom Products * Contract Assembly

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js wrote:

I hold the view that if the Alexa device was listening to everything one says,

I have a feeling my wife's iPhone is listening to what we are saying around the house, she uses voice for SMS and Google maps.

 

Strangely enough a Facebook message will appear within hours on that subject...we don't talk about THAT of course within mic shot....


I have had this discussion with family members. There is usually a rational explanation.

Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs stable.