Ever since watching the 1977 movie Demon Seed as a kid I wanted an automated home. Now I am well on my way. I already have security cameras that I can view remotely on me cell or PC, but until recently no remote control over electrical appliances or lights etc. Enter X-10.
X-10 works by sending signals to various units over the mains wiring in your home, it also utilises RF. You can purchase various RF transmitters such as a KR22 keyfob unit. When you press a button on the remote it sends a command via RF to a transceiver unit (TM13). This unit converts it to an X-10 signal which is sent over the mains.
Each X-10 system can be part of a ‘House Code’ from A~P (i.e. 16 unique House Codes), each House code can accommodate 16 devices. So in one home you could have up to 256 X-10 units. I’m not sure how far these signals propagate outside your home to interfere/be interfered from other X-10 users. However with all the possible address combinations and I would imagine low use of this technology you should be safe from collisions with a neighbours system.
With other X-10 units that plug into mains sockets, ceiling rose or micro units that nest inside the mains outlet, modules for lights and motors for blinds & curtains etc you can remotely control devices from anywhere in your home. These could be coupled up to solenoids/maglocks/door actuators/valves or anything you can imagine.
This is all pretty cool but a bit of overkill, after all, how BIG is your home? The system truly comes into it’s own when used with one of the computer interface units. Unlike the ‘Enviramod’ as seen in Demon Seed which was a minibar sized unit that got it’s commands via an huge floppy disk, and I do mean floppy, the 2009 version is about the size of a pregnant remote and has a solid state NOVRAM to store it’s commands. It will also run autonomously if it loses it’s link with the PC.
The ‘Enviramod’ unit is programmed from a PC and you can set timers for turning lights on/off (or dim them) or any electrical device. The true strength of the unit though is in it’s macros.
You can set up a macro to do the following; If a command to turn the media centre on is received then it turns on the Media Centre & Projector, lower projector screen, Lower blinds in living room and if it’s after dusk (it knows when dusk and dawn is) wait 30 seconds (time for media centre to power up) then dim all lights in living room. When you turn the media centre off, if it’s still dark it can turn the lights back on etc.
You can also have inputs from motion sensors hooked into the system so if it detects movement in the house and the temperature is less than 20’c then it turns the central heating on. If no movement for 30mins; then heating turns off. So heating only operates when you are home and it’s cold. The lights/appliances can also work off a similar logic of course.
All this automation can catch you out. One night whilst playing ‘Modern Warfare 2’ in the heat of battle the power was cut to my PC, Amp & monitors. It was then that I realised it was 3am and that’s the time the house powers down the PC if I had accidental left it on. Guess I need a motion sensor in my office, or not stay up playing games.
Now all this smart automation MAY also help reduce heating/electrical costs, however there is the offset to be taken into account by all these X-10 units. Each unit you plug in is on all the time and is using power, not massive amounts but add them all together over time and I would not be surprised if the electrical cost of running this system wipes out any savings from smart lighting/heating etc. However that was not the prime consideration for embarking on this project, that would be the cool factor of a smart home, one that Proteus would be proud.
Proteus was the organic self aware computer from Demon Seed took control of the professors home over the company WAN. Today I can control my home over the internet. To be honest this function is hardly ever needed as the macros take care of most things.
Obviously the combinations of sensors, devices & macros are practically endless and as you build these macros the system starts to take on a life of it’s own. Hopefully not to the extent of the 1977 Demon Seed, my cat seemed pretty worried after she saw this film and my contemporary equivalent.
However I think hearing the words, “When will you let me out of this box?” booming from my PC and the domestic version of Judgement Day ensuing is unlikely, especially as I have no intention on building a robotic arm onto an electric wheelchair. Hum, eying my Roomba now, it looks pretty bored sitting on it’s dock waiting for dust to form. Cue T2 music…