Cover of the Aug/Sept 2001 issue of Home Automation Magazine.
Few of us can afford a butler. Fortunately electronics and technology can compensate for this by allowing us to remote control many devices in our home. However, home automation does not mean just being able to control your home's appliances from a distance, but also includes intelligence in the system to better serve our needs.
The first requirement is communication among the various subsystems. In my system, this is mainly performed by a communication standard by a company known as 'X-10'; its protocol is known by that same name. In addition, I have a EIA/RS485 network running to my various computer systems for higher bandwidth data. The second requirement is a system controller that can 'tie in' all the system components and make them work harmoniously. This is met by a X86 class desktop running a custom program.
This centralized system can control almost all of the lights in my home, a few appliances, the garden irrigation, some window treatments, the Audio/Video system, the security system, and the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning). I can communicate with the central computer by using keypads throughout the house, any phone in the world (including those inside the home), any browser over the internet, and from my wrist watch. A webcam (with integral pan/tilt) allows me to see what is happening with nothing but a web browser.
My main controller (the PC) communicates with smaller nodes on a
pair EIA/RS485 network. Each node performs a particular communication
control function, and is based on the PIC microcontroller by Microchip.
You may wonder why I chose to build my own system. In addition to being
less expensive, it also allowed me to learn a great deal about micros
GUI programming. Both of these areas have benefitted my professional
This home automation system was featured in the:
Jan/Feb 1999 issue of Home Automator Magazine
and the Aug/Sept 2001 issue of Home Automation Magazine
and the Fall 2004 Book "Smart Home Hacks" by O'Reilly Publications
Perform a search for a keyword on www.edcheung.com
Here are the components of my system:
- The central controller and user interface. Previous controller software.
- The communication network
- The X-10 and IR node
- The phone and voice node
- The Thermostat nodes.
- The weather node and rain collector
- Power Line monitor
- Water meter monitor
- Water Heater monitor
- The security node and Smoke Detector
- Web to X-10 Interface
- XTB-IIR X-10 Signal Transmit Booster and other ways to improve signal quality
- Web TV Server
- The Motorized Web Cam
- The Backup Electrical Generator
- DSL (Full time broadband Internet) connection
- The motorized window treatments
- The garden irrigation system
- The Whole-House Audio/Video system and CCTV cameras
- The Infra Red relay
- The No hum fan controller
- The Central vacuum system
- My wrist watch controller
- The telephone system
- The wiring system and computer network
- The PCS Scenemaster Lighting Controller
- The Firecracker Protocol
- The PIC Web Servers
- The Real-Time Radon Monitor
- Heated Bathroom Seat
- Water Intrusion Alarm
- How to dim an appliance module
- An idea on how to get continuous live data on a Web client
- Modifying a wall switch for local dimming and adding a neutral connection.
- X-10 Schematics and repairs
- Protocol document for X-10 RF products
- Replacing batteries on Motorola
- The Improved Wall Switch Project