Tag Archives: home automation

Episode 91 — Home Automation

homeautomationThis episode of The Engineering Commons finds the guys discussing the technologies, toys, and tribulations associated with wiring one’s home to the internet.

  • Carmen is holding off on constructing his own JARVIS (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) personal assistant until he can construct it using nothing but solder and transistor-transistor logic (TTL).
  • Fermilab’s Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) project is cited by Brian when the subject of underground tunnels arises.
  • Neutrino oscillation is a quantum mechanical phenomenon in which a neutrino’s flavor (electron, muon or tau) varies as the neutrino moves through space.
  • Home automation underwent a sea change when the Nest thermostat was introduced, according to Brian.
  • Pushing the buttons on early TV remotes (specifically the Zenith Space Commander models) caused aluminum rods to be mechanically struck, thereby producing ultrasonic tones the television tuner could detect. (YouTube video)
  • We discover why VHF band TV channels go from 2 to 13; and thus why we no longer find Channel 1 on our television sets.
  • Carmen seems to recall a “documentary” called The Flintstones chronicling the use of dinosaurs to remotely change TV channels.
  • A sound-activated switch, called The Clapper, first appeared on the market in 1986. TV ads for the device included a “catchy” jingle.
  • Brian remembers Clapper ads running in series with TV ads for Life Alert, a service that would contact emergency services on behalf of it’s (usually elderly) clients.
  • Based on the recommendation of a friend, and not having any other reference to guide his decision, Brian started his home automation efforts using the Insteon ecosystem.
  • One early home networking protocol still in use is X10, which transmits information across power lines.
  • Split-phase electric power systems, common in the US, cause potential communication difficulties for X10 networks, as signals may not propagate between the two live legs emerging from the transformer secondary (output).
  • Although it once received a great deal of hype, the technology of supplying broadband over power lines (BPL) never really took off.
  • One means for transmitting digital data over telephone lines is digital subscriber loop, or DSL.
  • Microchip has recently introduced new products for communicating via the LoRaWAN protocol.
  • WiFi allows broadband communication over a substantial distance, but requires a great deal of power.
  • A low-power version of Bluetooth is known as Bluetooth LE, or Bluetooth Smart.
  • Smart home automation hubs allow devices of differing communication protocols to work together under the direction of a single controller.
  • ZigBee and Z-Wave are networking protocols used for controlling home automation devices.
  • We ponder the home automation technologies used in Bill Gates’ mansion, which is wired with 52 miles of fiber optic cable.
  • ZigBee has recently announced a new standard, ZigBee 3.0, that is intended to unify the various “flavors” of ZigBee networking technology.
  • The Amazon Echo can be used to control home automation devices with voice commands.
  • A recent episode of the This is Only a Test podcast discussed the Amazon Echo.

Thanks to Kristin Sloan for the photo titled “August 01, 2015 at 11:29AM.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.