Smart Home

Where time allows I enjoying exploring home automation and the concept of a "smart home".

My current approach is focussed more on data and data integration than it is on the underlying "smartness" of the home itself, which is admirably tackled by others

One of my projects for 2012 was to get the home "tweeting". This is all about exploring "machine to machine" communications and using services such as twitter as "cloud glue" to connect various services and intelligence together. 

That's my home automation twitter stream on the right.

It's reporting the following information automatically:

  • Temperature of our bumblebee nest
  • Warning messages about temperature
  • WeMo Status (this is a remote controlled switch)

Some other information is collected manually using an iPhone app, but then automatically reported and included into the stream, including:

  • reboots of our BT hub (a regular feature of trying to keep the WiFi and Broadband working)
  • Kick activity of Sargelet2.0 while he's growing in the womb!

I'm also considering adding my coffee consumption which is also already recorded on the daytum service.


Good question.

Most of my automation is actually "internal" - i.e. home lighting, heating, cctv etc. Most of that is automated using legacy X10.

Some may see the internet connectivity as frivolous, but "the internet of things" is already having a marked effect - with new data about the climate and its effects (for example) making new lines of research possible. actually my own "world's first tweeting bumblebees" is not dissimilar. 

But why would anyone want to know whether my lights are turning on or off? Of course, I do, and home security is usually the most obvious reason quoted. I can fully monitor and control aspects of my home from anywhere in the world.

But there's more to it than that. Take the WeMo,  for example. This simple plug-and-play device controls any electrical appliance. All its activity is tracked and can be used to trigger actions on the service. In fact this is how I generate tweets from the device.

Imagine, then, setting up a private twitter feed to track the activity of an elderly relative - being able to check that they've used the kettle at least a few times a day. Wherever you are in the world you can get an early warning that their behaviour pattern has changed. Of course, monitoring like this has been possible for many years - but has typically required a larger outlay for specialist technology, and has always been a "closed system". It's my belief that by "freeing the data" we open up many more exciting possibilities at much less cost. 

The key with all this is to be imaginative and think outside the box; so, the challenge is the get the systems working, get services "talking" to each other and then dream the art of the possible.

Above all, we are experimenting. Playing with ideas of the information age and pushing boundaries. Sometimes it's hard to predict what will come out of it - but something usually does.