Traditionally, home automation has been for the uber-rich. The widespread adoption of wireless and power line technologies, such as X10, UPB, Insteon, Z-wave, Zigbeee, etc. has dramatically reduced the physical cost of installation. It’s no longer necessary to fish cables through existing walls for retrofit installations and thousands of dollars can be saved in cabling costs on new installations. Audio can now be streamed wirelessly with products for technologies like AirPlay, and products such as Sonos and SqueezeBox make it easy and reasonably affordable to implement multi-zone audio. Blu-ray quality video has the potential to go the same route with Wireless Gigabit (WiGig).
Below are a several Home Automation products that are either free or cost a few hundred dollars. With these products and compatible hardware, any computer-savvy individual can install a Home Automation system.
- HomeSeer – http://homeseer.com
- HouseLinc – http://www.insteon.net
- Indigo – http://www.perceptiveautomation.com/indigo/index.html
- mControl – http://www.embeddedautomation.com/products/mcontrol.asp
- VeraLite – http://micasaverde.com/vera-lite.php
- Freedomatic – http://freedomotic.com/content/learn-more-about-freedomotic
- ThinkEssentials – http://www.controlthink.com/thinkessentials
Even though these products have been available for quite some time, they’ve only appealed to a very small percentage of the population. This is typically because there’s still a perception that Home Automation still costs a fortune, or people simply aren’t aware to the products and the technologies.
Things are about to change. There are several categories of product that are going to take Home Automation mainstream:
- z-wave locks (e.g. Black and Decker, Kwikset, Schlage)
- Wireless thermostats (e.g. RCS, Trane, Wayne Dalton, 2Gig, Evolve)
- Wireless security systems (e.g. 2gig, iControl, Honeywell)
Even Lowes is getting in on the act by selling AlertMe’s Home Automation product under the Iris brand.
Security and cable companies are all jumping in with both feet too. There are a couple of reasons for this: increasing the average revenue per user (ARPU) and reducing subscriber churn. New services from cable and security companies include:
When ads for such products start to appear on prime time TV, you can be sure that change is afoot. While the above products are sold as kits, they all contain full automation controllers with support for zigbee or z-wave. One of the things about Home Automation is that it’s very addictive. Once you get started, it snowballs. So while an initial investment may have been a wireless security system with a few bells and whistles, for many users, it will rapidly evolve into a full Home Automation system.
Besides product offerings, changes in the industry are having a positive effect. One of the most notable was a second chip manufacturer being licensed to manufacture z-wave chips last year (press release). Any time a manufacturer only has a single source for components there is a huge risk, so adding a second source not only increases competition and reduces cost, but mitigates risk for equipment manufacturers.