Home Automation and You

The main revenue source for the service providers, namely services, can be a set of dynamic, money-saving and convenience-rich offerings for homeowners to pick and choose from much the same way they select between long distance or cell phone carriers, or telephone service features (call waiting) today. Global deregulation of the utilities market is prompting utilities (power companies, telcos, etc.) to look for new and improved services that differentiate their offering from their competitors.

Building Trends

The 21st Century builder who offers his buyer the "Bells and Whistles" of this technological era can realize increased sales because of the competitive edge, not to mention customer satisfaction. When the consumer is happy he becomes a source of built-in publicity which is a positive marketing advantage. The average consumer enjoys systems that are: "user friendly," offer conveniences pertinent to their life style, perform reliably, add a certain prestige to their home, and will generate long term cost savings.

Ocelot Ladder Logic

Ladder logic takes some getting used-to when you start working with it, but once you know the rules and possible pitfalls to avoid, you will find that you can accomplish almost anything using a rather minimalist instruction set.

UK - Keychain Remote (KR19A)

The unit operates on the newer 433Mhz frequency. This seems to be the frequency that will be used in wireless modules for the foreseeable future. If you only have a few 418Mhz modules now might be the time to leave them and move on to the new supported frequency. On the other hand if you have a fair investment in 418Mhz then you might want to buy up some more items before stocks run out.

UK - Stick-On Wall Switch (SS13E)

At present there are no 2 or 3 gang replacement X10 wall switches on the market so the only way to convert a room that has one of these it to use this switch and go the wireless route. However this still leaves the often difficult problem of converting the circuits in the room to DIN Rail modules. Also, it would be nice to have singles and double switch versions available. All in all though another great new product from X10.

UK - Wireless X10 Transceiver Module (TM12)

This unit allows the retro-fit convenience that you know and love from X10 to be extended to places that don't have mains wiring. For example, place an eternal PIR at your gate and have a chime module sound inside when someone is entering your property. The TM12 opens up a whole new world of possibilities!


If you limit yourself to purchasing 220v X-10 modules, you can easily expect to spend three to four times as much on your system components alone. Worst, the most popular receivers are priced close to 5 times as much. With such a huge difference, you may be thinking that the 220v modules are superior in technology and features. Flatly, they are absolutely not. The only difference between the two types of modules is the value of a very few components inside the modules.

Wireless Networks

The cost of connecting PCs with radio waves instead of wires is now as low as $99 per system, and there are several technologies to choose from. But that's the problem - too many to choose from. Since a confused market doesn't buy, I'm dedicating this second HomeToys.com "mentor" article to positioning the three emerging wireless standards - Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11b, and HomeRF.

S3/Diamond HomeFree Phoneline - 10Mbps

10Mbps over phoneline is here! True, at about $65 per computer, it's about 3X the cost of a 10baseT NIC. But as long as you have a phone jack in the room where you want to put a computer, you don't have to worry about drilling holes, snaking cables through walls, or settling for lower speed than a 10baseT network. Laptop users, however, will have to wait to join the party until a PCMCIA or USB product is available. (NetGear has announced a USB product, but S3/Diamond has not.) So if you've been holding off networking your computers together because you didn't want to install CAT5 cabling, wait no longer! The HomeFree Phoneline 10Mbps kit will have you up and running in no time!

Comdex Survey

These are the results of a survey carried out at Comdex Fall 99. If you have Internet Explorer 5 you can view the results as a PowerPoint presentation by clicking here (Note: The presentation may cause problems with browsers other than IE5).

Digital I/O Primer

Digital I/O is useful in implementing many external sensors. Such things as magnetic door switches, water level switch, motion sensors, panic buttons, and macro select switches, all make good digital inputs. A digital output can control a roof vent fan, illuminate LED indicators, control the furnace (HVAC), disconnect the telephone ringer, or any other on/off type of application you can think of.

Futureproof Your Home

New types of devices have helped to change the thinking of home networking experts. Six years ago they said to put bedroom phone outlets by the bed and TV outlets across the room. But they didn't anticipate interactive program guides or NetTV devices that require both a phone and TV outlet. So today they put a phone outlet by every TV outlet. Still, no one can fully anticipate future wiring needs, and that's the message of this article.

Keyspan Digital Media Remote

Installation was a snap. Run the install software ... plug in the device when asked ... test and see that it worked ... which in my case it did. The remote itself is very small (fits into a shirt pocket) and it's buttons are pretty straight forward.

X-10 Controllers

X-10 is by its nature modular and incremental. However, changing a controller is usually more involved than simply adding more modules to the system. Often, the software must be replaced, and the controlling commands rewritten or revised for the new features. There's usually a different interface with new idiosyncrasies and learning curve. Therefore, for 'general-purpose' home automation, my suggestion is to avoid the under-achievers. Looking at what seems basic today for home-automation, a controller must be able to do two-way X-10.

A2D - Temp Sensors

Adding temperature sensors to your home automation system is fun and the first step toward automating and taking control of your HVAC system. The techniques presented here can also be used with good effect for virtually any analog input. It is very unusual for a sensor to produce an optimal output without any conditioning at all.

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