Home Automation is a term used to describe the working together of all household amenities and appliances. For example, a centrally-controlled LCD panel can have the capability to control everything from heating, air conditioning, security systems, audio systems, video systems, lighting, kitchen appliances, and home theatre installations. A diagram of a home automation system is shown below.
The household activities are automated by the development of special appliances such as water heaters to reduce the time taken to boil water for bathing and automatic washing machines to reduce manual labour of washing clothes. In developed countries, homes are wired for electrical power, doorbell, TV outlets, and telephones. The different application includes when a person enters the room, the light turns on. In advanced technology, the room can sense the presence of the person and who the person is.
Taking into account the day of the week, time of the day and other such factors it can also set apt lighting, temperature levels, television channels or music levels. In the case of a smoke detector when fire or smoke is detected, the lights in the entire house begin to blink to alert the resident to the probable fire. In case of a home theatre, the home automation system can avoid distraction and lock the audio and video components and can also make an announcement. The home automation system can also dial up the house owner on their mobile phone to alert them or call any alarm monitoring company.
Fig. 1: A Represenatation Image Of Typical Home Automation System
It is essential that the different controllable appliances be interconnected and communicate with each other. The basic aim of Home automation is to control or monitor signals from different appliances, or basic services. A smart phone or web browser can be used to control or monitor the home automation system.
The household activities such as food preservation and preparation is automated with the movement of pre packaged food or pre-made food. Automation of handling the food in the home is possible to only standardized products.
The use of electricity facilitated the automation in heating which trim down the manual toil to gas stoves and fuel heaters. The growth of thermostats enables automated control of heating and cooling at a later stage.
Other automated activity includes the air conditioner set to an energy saving setting when the house is vacant and get back to the normal setting when the resident is about to return home. The classy system preserve a list of products, records the usage through bar codes or an RFID tag and replaces the order automatically.
Computers, wireless transmitters, cell phones, and touch screens controls different features of home automation such as:
Fig. 2: An Overview Of Home Automartion Features
1. Security – With home automation, the lights of the car are turned on in order to help you to walk in the dark. In case the alarm goes off, the authorities can be alerted and a message can be sent to your cell phone by the system.
2. Thermostat – This is programmed to run the central heating and cooling system as per our own required settings. For example, air conditioner is set to an energy saving setting when the house is vacant and sets back to the normal setting when the resident is about to return home.
3. Drapes – With the help of the home automation system, the drapes of the room can be opened and closed during the night time.
4. Lighting – This can be set as per our own required settings for dim and bright light.
5. Audio/Video – The home automation system can turn on the stereo and play music or can also turn on the television to any channel.
6. Lawn sprinklers – The sprinkler system can be activated as per the schedule settings.
7. Vacuuming – Robotic vacuum cleaners automatically glides over the carpet to help you keep the house neat and tidy.
Since the market is flooded with home automation systems and device manufacturers, it is difficult to make a choice that suits your needs and also available at a reasonable rate. Below are the types of home automation system.
1. Individual Control devices – These devices were introduced in the market during the early years. Unlike the central control system, there is an independent control for each of the devices like AC, heater, etc. These devices are user friendly and very handy.
2. Distributed Control Systems – The important characteristic of this type of systems is emergency shut-down. These devices also include features such as hardware and software components launched by SCADA for better automatic control over the devices reducing the interaction with human. This helps you to alter the control parameters.
3. Centrally Controlled Systems – These systems are programmed via computers in order to handle all kinds of functions on appliances like heaters, AC’s, doors, refrigerators, windows, cooking systems, etc. Despite you are at home or outside. Via telephone or internet, you can be connected to control system from office. In case things over the control parameters are forgotten, one can still be safe and timely on these controls with the help of computerized control.
The home automation system can work using computer software or control panel.
Larger-Scale Automation Systems Operate with Computer Software – As our homes are filled with a large number of appliances, it is tedious to memorize their working procedures and its accurate timings in order to work safely. Anyone of us would wish to have these appliances working in an automatic condition as these appliances are brought for our comfort and convenience.
SCADA is a kind of software to enable automation process and care for these appliances. The installation can be done on a panel mounted micro-controller known as Programmable logical control (PLC) instead of desktop PC. An engineer can help you to install to set the operational parameters in the different procedures such as lighting time, TV to be switched on/off, water heater to be turned on/off, etc.
Smaller Installations operate using a single thermostat like Control Panel – Central controlling is not at all essential for smaller and less installations as they can be controlled individually by making use of a single thermostat. A thermostat is an analog device to calculate temperatures and trigger relays to activate under preset conditions such as heaters, AC, and refrigerators. Also limit switches, level sensors and proximity switches work in the exact way for doors, windows, water tanks, etc.
During the time when Greeks ruled, the ideas for automating tasks were into existence. Later during the Industrial Revolution, automation was developed. The steam powered machines launched by James Watt and improved by Richard Trevithick, Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen are a few examples of taking over the work from humans.
In the year 1725, the French investor Basile Bouchon designed an automated machine for drawloom. The instructions for the working of Bouchon loom were recorded in the form of holes on sheets of paper. With the help of these holes, the needles could guide the thread through the loom to make the cloth. The Bouchon method could be performed easily with the help of a pedal as compared to the manual process of weaving the cloth.
Latest Research and Key developments
As we realize the benefits of home automation system, the demand for these stuff increases. These devices are being produced by different manufacturers to work in conjunction with home automation. Based on the research, the various kinds of applications are as follows:
- Outdoor watering systems – Home owners have opted for home automation systems to water plants instead of using a hose to water them. With the help of the home automation system, the presence of the home owner is not essential. Latest developments have manufactured home automation systems where the home owners do not have to push a button or flip a switch to carry out the task.
- Pools and spas – Certain pools are automated to fill the poll with water when a person enters. This automation is possible only if the plumbing source is connected to the solenoid valve and moisture sensor. The homeowner needs to install switches in order to turn on/off these devices by using a home automation system. Spa controls have their own controls and control panels which makes it different from the pool controls.
- Anti-icing – The tool of anti-icing is being utilized for gutters, sidewalks, driveways, and roofs. The two technologies used with anti-icing system are electrical and hydronic.
- Electrical systems à for such devices a cable is interlaced back and forth below the surface which has to be free of ice.
- Hydronic systems à such devices use liquid anti-freeze is circulated inside the tubing. Some of these systems make use of heat from the hot water tank or independent boilers.
4. An electronic wall switch can connect the anti-icing controllers to the home automation system. This provides manual control and remote control to the consumers.
- Convergence – Merging television and personal computer technology, convergence can form a two way experience which is called as interactive TV. Interactive TV enables the home owners to search for any movie or watch any old television show. Via television, one can also shop with the help of electronic catalog. With the help of virtual body, homeowners use computer technology to check how the new clothes will actually look.
- VocalNet – New products enables voice communication through internet service. Inter-Tel has launched a product known as VocalNet. The telephone line is connected to internet through a server. This converts voice information into Internet protocol data packets which gets transmitted over the internet in real time. This results into reducing the bandwidth to transmit the voice data. It is important that the other end also sets up a VocalNet.
- C-Phone Home – C-Phone Corporation launched C-Phone Home to make video phone calls using the standard telephone lines. The product contains a camera, built-in modem, and a wireless remote control. A television is also part of it to present the sound and visual of the person who is called. In case a built-in microphone is in conjunction with the speaker of the television then a full-duplex speaker phone is formed.
- Speakercraft “Waveplane Technology” – Speakercraft has introduced a waveplane technology for improved sound dispersion. In the house, the audio should be installed either in monaural way from one side of the source or by installing two speakers in a tight area.
Problems being faced today
Home automation helps people to get things done conveniently. For example, it helps to turn on the microwave oven from the office laptop, remotely start vacuuming, etc. But from these tasks it is unclear that how materially it would improve one’s life.
Now the home automation systems are being developed by different manufacturers. This creates confusion in minds to select a home automation system for you.
The home automation systems are very expensive. Hardware is required as many homes appliances lack intelligence. Since most of the systems are customized, technicians are needed to install them.