Home Automation technologies have remained out of reach of the mainstream consumers for a long time. The high cost and custom installer requirements have restricted them to high end homes. The multitude of technologies in this space has also been detrimental to the adoption rate. However, the rise of smartphones and tablets has suddenly brought about a big shift in the landscape.

Wi-Fi networks have become ubiquitous in almost every home now. Smart device manufacturers have realized the advantages of integrating Wi-Fi instead of ZigBee or Z-Wave in their products. Some aspects such as power consumption, range and, to some extent, cost are still not optimal with Wi-Fi. However, with silicon vendors becoming active in this market segment and work progressing well on the 802.11ah front, these will be addressed soon.

In home automation terminology, 'scenes' refer to the linking of devices in intelligent ways based on events. Simple device-based control using a mobile app opens the door. But, one also needs a central device which can perform the orchestration. This makes it necessary for specialized HA protocols to have dedicated controllers. In a pure Wi-Fi based system, I can see this orchestration running as an app on the router. For example, Netgear allows third-party developers to write apps for their routers using Java and post them in the Genie marketplace. If the HA devices have open APIs and developer documentation, creation of scenes in a pure Wi-Fi based system will probably not require a dedicated controller.

What does all this mean for the average consumer? The most important takeaway is that home automation products, particularly Wi-Fi based ones, will see an uptick in adoption. This will, in turn, fuel the development of more innovative HA devices. This will be a boon for consumers who already have a HA system in place. What about users who are starting afresh? It is very important to not get tied down with a closed system. Products such as Nest and Belkin WeMo may boast of excellent industrial design and a great feature set. However, unless they open up the APIs and access for third parties to create a common custom home automation interface, they can't be recommended. Products such as those from Radio Thermostat and Visible Energy may not have great industrial design or the marketing budget that others have. However, we can recommend them without reservations for their feature set (including the well-documented APIs for developers).

A host of Wi-Fi enabled HA products and concepts have already started capturing the attention of the consumers. Coupled with the rapid rise in Wi-Fi based home automation, the talk of an 'Internet of Things' will soon become a mainstream reality.

 

Miscellaneous Wi-Fi-Based Home Automation Devices
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  • AshuJoshi - Thursday, October 04, 2012 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    Very extensive article and well covered. A few thoughts, and I think you or your readers have already touched upon this:

    1. Bluetooth LE / 4.0 - is pretty important as well. One because many medical devices have adopted BT, and not Zigbee or ZWave or WiFi.

    2. ZWave is very popular BUT my concern is that it is controlled by one company.

    3. SEP 2.0 is going to be a very important move forward especially because it will work with WiFi, HPAV, and Zigbee.

    4. Kickstarter - I noticed that you picked some projects. I think there are three segments to Home Automation - DIY, Luxury and NOW Managed (as provided by the likes of Comcast). Luxury traditionally belonged to the likes of Creston but Control4 is playing a major disruptor now. For the DIY segment - Kickstarter has changed the world. Here is my post on the # of projects on Kickstarter for HA - http://bit.ly/Q02Mk2

    5. Service Providers are getting very active in this space - Comcast, Rogers, AT&T, DT etc.
    Reply
  • AshuJoshi - Thursday, October 04, 2012 - link

    WiFi appears to be a popular choice for powered appliances and as the article talks about Semiconductor providers such as Marvell are providing compelling solutions. The challenge is that every implementation especially if it is from a different semi partner - its implementation in SW is different. That is there is no standard or specification to discover devices on WiFi - each implementation could be different. I am contrasting this with Zigbee because Zigbee has a well-defined protocol on how devices are discovered and controlled by category (Zigbee has its own terminology for all of this). Reply
  • davegravy - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    Lots of talk about hardware, and a bit of discussion about controllers and host software, but there isn't a lot of software out there that's provides a bridge between all the different protocols and the central brain/logic essential to the smart home.

    I've been using LinuxMCE (free, open-source) and have been following their development for the past while. Not yet for the technically faint of heart, but there ARE device templates for a large number of different protocols (Z-wave, Insteon, KNX, RS232, IR, X10, various ethernet devices, etc) allowing you to control pretty much any type of HA device. It also controls media and VOIP telecom in your house. The end result is a fully integrated solution between all devices in your home.

    Example: Someone rings the door bell. Your porch light turns on (if it is after sundown), your IP cam turns on, its video feed is forwarded to your mobile phone, and (if it knows you are home because your security system is not armed, or by other logic) to the various TVs around your house after powering them on. The video is also recorded to your server. If you were watching TV during this event, it pauses your feed and to show you the front door IP cam.

    The possibilities are truly endless with this software, and I have to give it a plug here.
    Reply
  • ntspam - Friday, October 05, 2012 - link

    I was really hoping that google putting its software creating talent behind home automation was finally going to kick this market mainstream. What a disappointment. Reply
  • jed22281 - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    These guys have been ahead of the curve in this area for 4yrs+ now:
    http://openremote.org/display/HOME/OpenRemote
    Truly open, ubiquitous, Home Automation solutions, shame they didn't get a mention.
    Reply
  • taltamir - Sunday, October 07, 2012 - link

    WiFi controlled lights, thermostat, and power... now your home can be hacked in ways that holliwood only dreamed of. Reply
  • geraldt - Friday, October 12, 2012 - link

    Nice article on one of my obsessions. I so want WiFi to be the household communications protocol (actually TcpIp with any mix of wireless, wired CAT5, powerline Ethernet etc. that may be appropriate depending on the devices and controllers).

    I want a ubiquitous open standard that is well understood. I want two-way comm. I want sufficient bandwidth for video. I want security. I want all my current and future smart devices (desktop, tablet, smart phone, Raspberry Pi, robots, etc.) to be able to participate. I want that common infrastructure so I can incrementally add devices from various manufacturers. I also want the option of writing my own code in smart controllers e.g. PC.

    One point the article kind of makes is that common comm protocol is not enough, you need a higher level API for each device that is well documented.

    p.s. I think the technology in the new Kindle Paperwhite (touch, front lit, very low power, wifi) could be packaged into a great HA and AV remote. No video is a drawback for some applications like answering the door but still pictures at 1 fps might be fine.  
    Reply
  • xSaintSinnerx - Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - link

    Maybe I'm mistaken but few years ago Microsoft was talking about getting involved in HA business. I believe Gates was talking about it too. MS could easily create standard for HA Wi-Fi and become leader on the market with hardware and software in Windows RT or 8 environment.

    can you imagine possibilities ... BSoD on your thermostat.
    Reply
  • Nomzam - Thursday, November 08, 2012 - link

    Yeah the idea and performance are best but there is a security risk of internet.
    <a href="http://www.squidoo.com/iport-launchport-inductive-... Automation</a>
    Reply
  • space31 - Wednesday, August 07, 2013 - link

    Some new web remonte power hère : http://www.wifipower.fr Reply

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