Who would have thought? From the telegraph machine to cell phones; candles to lighting devices; and, televisions to personal computers to Internet access anywhere in the World. The point…we’ve come a long way, baby; but, so what? Home Automation is not the future, it is here and now.

We’re living in a world today where technology changes by the minute and trying to keep up with it can turn even the youngest person’s hair to shades of gray in a hurry. So just imagine how confusing home automation can be to a homeowner when he/she is having trouble just keeping up with the latest software for the PC and all that is available on the Internet. This can all be demystified through education: educating the consumer that home automation and remote control of the home is available and affordable now; educating dealers/installers, builders/developers and architects on intelligent technologies available and how to implement these into new and existing homes.

Let’s face it. If you’re building a new home, the sky’s the limit; that is, if you can afford it. But today’s mainstream consumers don’t always want to start over and build a new home, but find it more fitting to continue to live in their present homes and add on, modify and/or retrofit them as they move closer to retirement. In today’s society, people are living longer, are generally healthier and want to live their lives in the fashion to which they have become accustomed. An important question to ask is how can home automation help them do this.”

Take this scenario:

“Good Morning” — It’s 7:00 a.m. and you are gently awaked as a switch near the bed labeled “Good Morning” slowly turns on the lights in the master bedroom and then turns the TV on to your favorite news program. You look over to the TV screen to see a picture-in-a-picture box displaying your morning’s agenda. What a pleasant way to be awakened. As the lights turn on in the master bath, the shower starts, and fifteen minutes later, the coffee maker in the kitchen starts brewing your favorite coffee, Swiss almond mocha. And so the story continues…

“Getting Ready” — You travel down the stairs to the kitchen, your security system senses you have left the room and sends the news broadcast downstairs to the kitchen TV and changes the programming from your local news program to the Wall Street Journal so you can read it over breakfast and get a head start on your business day. And so the story continues…

“‘Run’ Some Errands — Suddenly you remember a bill you need to pay today. Using the TV remote, you change channels to the bank channel, send the payment and transfer money to your checking account to cover the cost. Just then the doorbell rings, you change channels again to the outside security camera and discover the caller is from the remodeling crew that you hired the week before from the on-line yellow pages. You let them in by pressing the security code on the remote. And so the story goes…

“Off to Work” – When you leave the house to head off to work, the security system tells the lights to turn off, closes the drapes and sets back the thermostat. The system also turns everything back on when you return. And so the story goes…

“Home Sweet Home Again” – You check for phone messages on your TV set and notice that the meter company left a message saying they had recorded your current electricity usage through the phone lines by using their new utility monitoring software. The second message is from your refrigerator stating that it wasn’t cooling properly and would like permission to call the service technician for a check-up. And so…

“Good Night” – As you climb into bed, you remember to push the switch that turns off all the lights, closes the drapes and double-locks the doors before settling down to a good night’s sleep.

What technology allows the above to actually happen, in real time? CEBus® Standard and Home Plug and Play™ Specification. CEBus® is an open international standard (EIA-600) for controlling devices over different media. The CEBus® protocol allows developers to control any aspect of a device by creating a software model of the device using what is known as the Common Application Language (CAL). Seven media are covered by the CEBus® Standard: power line, radio frequency (RF), infrared (IR), coax, twisted pair, fiber optics and audio/video. The Home Plug and Play™ specification brings the notion of ease to the consumer and helps manufacturers design products that will allow any individual to add, at their own pace, networked devices from different manufacturers to improve quality of living. Home Plug and Play™ specification lists “product – to-product” interoperability specifications for products that will run over home control networks. This is done through application contexts that describe how the different attributes of a device or service (e.g., volume, channel, or temperature) are controlled. Interoperability is defined along three axis: communication, application, and scenario interoperability. The Home Plug and Play™ Specification is available at www.cebus.org . CIC, Inc, is a trade organization dedicated to the successful market development and application of interoperable home automation, home networking and home security products.

The current priority of CIC members is to provide the industry and homeowner with CEBus® products using power line technology because it allows retrofitting of home automation products via the home’s existing power lines. Every CEBus® compatible device in a home network is also capable of communicating with every other device via the power lines. Homeowners benefit by the use of CEBus® and Home Plug and Play™ because their homes can be retrofitted with an integrated network of smart products on a step-by-step basis, using the existing wiring, leaving no unsightly “wall warts” and in a cost-effective manner. Dealers and Installers benefit by having smart products available for existing home markets. Manufacturers benefit because the CEBus® Standard is a non-proprietary protocol based upon an independent standard (EIA 600) and does not tie the manufacturer to an obscure, propriety technology. Instead it uses a well-documented technology that is widely accepted. CEBus® also specifics context and object classes covering every known market segment, such as lighting, security, home entertainment, environmental control. Builders/Developers/Architects benefit from this technology by associating their business with cutting-edge technology and future proofing their homes. With CEBus® and Home Plug and Play™ products, everyone wins.

The Next Step – Home Control via Remote

The future is actually here, now. Some CIC members have product available where you can actually control the blinds, lights, thermostat and security system in your home from a remote location such as a personal computer in your office hooked to the Internet or via your cell phone. Energy management systems are available whereby the utility company and its service provider connect to the home via a residential gateway to obtain automated meter readings, remotely collect power consumption data, trouble shoot appliances, provide community messaging, consolidate utility bills (electric, gas and water) and much more. Other uses of remote home control are monitoring a day care provider or elderly family member who has some medical or mental problems; and, monitoring latchkey children’s activities after school.

Don’t think of home automation and remote control devices as something beyond the realm of possibility. The future is now and it is time you get automated – it’s easier (and more cost-effective) than you think. And, choose CEBus products because CEBus is quicker and more reliable over the power lines than other traditional protocols and it affords more bandwidth so valuable information can be sent over the power lines, not just a simple on/off commands.

Contact the following CIC members via their websites to obtain the latest product information:

Cutler-Hammer – www.cutlerhammer.eaton.com/apc
Domosys Corporation – www.domosys.com
Electronic Design Technology – www.eldetec.com
Emerald Gateway International – www.emeraldgateway.com
EPRI – www.epri.com
Smart LLC – www.ge-smart.com
Smart AMERICA – www.smart-america.com