2012
04.24

I’ve had a bit of a fascination lately with the idea of the smart home. Regular readers of this blog might recall my desire to turn my home into a giant iPhone, complete with Siri-like functionality.

Such thoughts were, after all, a bit tongue-in-cheek playing off the notion that I wasn’t quite convinced some of the product makers or retailers quite had it right. I had no intentions of building my own smart home, but I have to say that a recent book has lent a bit of inspiration my way with the idea of what can be built from the ground up around home automation.

“Programming Your Home” is a fun look at how the modern day tinkerer can automate portions of his or her home using things like Arduino (an open source prototyping platform), Android, and a computer. Connected World readers might be familiar with the book’s author Mike Riley, who penned a few columns for us around the idea of ‘tinkering’ with technology in order to build some pretty cool projects.

In the book Rikey takes you through eight unique projects that he says are aimed at improving home utility and leisure-time efficiencies, each incorporating inexpensive sensors, actuators, and microcontrollers. It’s a DIY guide to building things like a Web-enabled light switch, an Android-based doorlock, and even some voice control for your home, to name a few.

Sure, it’s a fun read but what I most enjoyed about it was the way in which Riley sprinkles in some thoughts and insight around the current market for home automation and the way in which this market might take shape in the coming years.

In particular, in the chapter called ‘Future Designs’ Riley says, “Like any passionate technologist, I enjoy imagining futuristic visions of plausible technology scenarios. Yet the pragmatic developer in me knows such visions don’t happen overnight. They require incremental steps in a number of related areas. But at some point, all those incremental services, discoveries, and technologies converge and create inflection points that forever alter the course of history.”

I have to agree. And as anyone that follows technology knows, we are in the midst of a major inflection point where things like cloud-computing, mobile devices, and sensors, just to name a few, are converging to help the market create some pretty powerful solutions.

It won’t, however, happen overnight. In the book, Riley addresses Google’s Android@Home initiative, and how it hasn’t quite taken off with tremendous fervor. But as he suggests (and I agree) it will, at the very least, force primary competitors like Microsoft and Apple to take notice. He even hints at what it would be like if Siri-like functionality made its way into some home automation services, like television control. Perhaps my iPhone home dream isn’t too far off after all.

I must say though that for how great it sounds to be able to build up some home automation from scratch, there are still some pretty good connected-device makers out there delivering cool stuff for the home. You have your Motorola Mobility’s of the world, following its acquisition of 4Home, doing interesting things in the world of home control. ADT is a heavy hitter in the home security game, and its ADT Pulse product for security is very cool indeed. Talk about convergence of technology—ADT does some good things with Web and mobile technologies with this product.

Then you even have some tried and true home product makers trying their hand at automation. Craftsman, of all companies, is talking smart home with its AssureLink series of garage-door openers. The company has some big plans even beyond this line.

I have spoken at length with all three companies—Motorola Mobility, ADT, and Craftsman—about their thoughts on the future of the smart home; things like future plans, ideas for what it will take to get consumers on board, and just how viable this whole idea is and what parts need to be in play. After all, these three companies will be speaking on the ‘Welcome Home’ panel at our conference, June 11-13.

The panel will get to heart of topics like defining what truly is home automation, what can all be truly connected in the home, what it will take for mass consumer adoption to occur, how new companies entering the space are helping drive down costs, and where we are at with regards to standards.

So with the ultimate idea of build vs. buy when it comes to the smart home, I thought what better way to tie both worlds together and give attendees a view from both sides then to have Riley lead the group. So check out the book on Riley’s Website and then come to the conference.

Personally I cannot wait to see how it all transpires, and I am sure you won’t want to miss it either. I’d say we will all become privy to a pretty balanced discussion after this panel and come away feeling fired up about what’s next for the smart home.

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