Kamis, 06 Oktober 2011

iPad And Android Home Automation | How It Can Be Done


Since getting your iPad or Android tablet have you wondered if there was a way to use it for home automation?  As it turns out, and thanks to a very valued reader, I learned that you can use your iPad to do this very thing. And it’s remarkable.
iPad And Android Home Automation

ipad home automation

It nearly sounds like something out of the future but these days technology is moving far faster than we ever dreamed of and quite frankly, it’s a great time to be alive and seeing it all take place.  One of the things I have wondered about since the iPad was announced was home automation.

I wondered if it would ever be possible to shut off your lights or lower your heat just using the tablet.  Now, the iPad or an Android tablet cannot do this alone as there really would be no way (yet) but there are some amazing systems you can actually begin to employ and the iPad will work right a long with them.  And it’s pretty remarkable.

A valued reader, Chris, has done this to his home and from what I hear – it’s pretty darn nice.  The setup includes the following:

    * Homeseer Software and System
    * Windows computer to design your iPad and Android app
    * iPad or Android Tablet

I am going to reprint his own story but let me just say that this can either be a hobby or an ambition.  Either way it is not cheap at the moment for an entire solution.  The good news is that you can start small with your own home automation product adding on piece by piece until you have it all done.  And while you are doing that, you can see the full benefits of using your iPad or Android tablet to control it.

Here, then is how Chris’ story.  You might also want to bookmark the Homeseer website to refer to as well.
The Software

The Homeseer Software which is the base for my system  has a native iOS app. Their HSTouch as its called module is 2 part. You have the designer (sadly only runs on windows)  and with that you design  the screens you want to use. Screens have buttons, labels etc that you assign actions to that can trigger events, operate devices, etc.

Then the second part is the client, of which there are clients for windows, for CE, for iOS , and for Android.

So you design your screen then load it to the client.  In my case im switching from a software package called “MainLobby” which was my original front end GUI to my Homeseer system over to the new HSTouch. MainLobby  is heavy in Flash so the only way for iOS to use mainlobby is through a web app.  Whereas HSTouch is native to iOS.

Software-wise to use the system with the native iPad app you need the Homeseer HS2 software for $219, then you need the HSTouch designer for $199  and then  the iOS plugin  for $40. That will get you started.

If you just wish to use the basic web interface then you don’t need the designer or the iOS plugin, but that would mean you are using the ipad browser to browse to seemingly archaic web interface pages.
The Hardware

Of course there is a LOT more to home automation than just the software that is run on the iPAD..  You have to also have the Hardware aspect of it..  Such as to control a thermostat  you have to buy an actual thermostat  that has a serial or ethernet port on it so it can be talked-to from the computer.

For lighting control  I installed all “Smarthome” dimmers  that support Insteon.  And then a ‘PLM’ which is the bridge device that connects to the USB port of my PC and communicates to the dimmers themselves..

My Burglar alarm panel has a serial port on it so that I can monitor the status of doors / windows / armed / disarmed. And even arm or disarm the system if I so choose remotely.

Hardware wise lets just say  you want to control a few lights and your thermostat.  For lighting you would want the smarthome PowerLinc modem (usb or serial) for $80  and then each light switch (nice handsome in wall decora)  is $46  each.  There are lots of choices for thermostats  but if you allow $250  for say a nice HAI or proliphix thermostat  that will get you a really nice unit that is robust and user friendly.

This can be a very expensive endeavor, but home automation systems can also save energy when done right. In my case I started out with the idea that my roomate and I would have thermostat wars when I built the new house. He rather never uses the A/C to sleeep  or sets it at 78  and I like to sleep at 70. In winter I like the heat hot in the daytime but cold at nigh, and the
result is a hybrid gas / electric zone system that saves 40% off the bill of identical houses in my neighborhood where they sparingly run their HVAC.

And me forgetting to turn off lights is bad. I’m worse than a teenage kid about leaving the basement, bathroom, or garage lights on.  My system shuts them off  when I forget.

There are open-source Home automation solutions as well..  And my guess is that iPAD apps will begin to pop up for others as time goes on.  It just so happens  that thus far in my opinion Hoeseer HSTouch is the best.

You can download the iOS client app “Homeseer touch” for free from the app store. It will allow you to connect to a demo server to play with a very basic interface that they include to get a feel, however the screens are completely designable.

The Homeseer website also does a very good job of explaining all of the things you will need from the most basic to the advanced.  But the end result is that you can literally control your home using your iPad or Android tablet and save on energy costs as well as have peace of mind.
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