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Home automation or domotics is building automation for a home, called a smart home or smart house. It involves the control and automation of lighting, heating (such as smart thermostats), ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and security, as well as home appliances such as washer/dryers, ovens or refrigerators/freezers. Wi-Fi is often used for remote monitoring and control. Home devices, when remotely monitored and controlled via the Internet, are an important constituent of the Internet of Things. Modern systems generally consist of switches and sensors connected to a central hub sometimes called a "gateway" from which the system is controlled with a user interface that is interacted either with a wall-mounted terminal, mobile phone software, tablet computer or a web interface, often but not always via Internet cloud services.
While there are many competing vendors, there are very few worldwide accepted industry standards and the smart home space is heavily fragmented. Popular communications protocol for products include X10, Ethernet, RS-485, 6LoWPAN, Bluetooth LE (BLE), ZigBee and Z-Wave, or other proprietary protocols all of which are incompatible with each other. Manufacturers often prevent independent implementations by withholding documentation and by litigation.
The home automation market was worth US$5.77 billion in 2013, predicted to reach a market value of US$12.81 billion by the year 2020.
Early home automation began with labor-saving machines. Self-contained electric or gas powered home appliances became viable in the 1900s with the introduction of electric power distribution and led to the introduction of washing machines (1904), water heaters (1889), refrigerators, sewing machines, dishwashers, and clothes dryers.
In 1975, the first general purpose home automation network technology, X10, was developed. It is a communication protocol for electronic devices. It primarily uses electric power transmission wiring for signalling and control, where the signals involve brief radio frequency bursts of digital data, and remains the most widely available. By 1978, X10 products included a 16 channel command console, a lamp module, and an appliance module. Soon after came the wall switch module and the first X10 timer.
By 2012, in the United States, according to ABI Research, 1.5 million home automation systems were installed.
According to Li et al. (2016) there are three generations of home automation:
- First generation: wireless technology with proxy server, e.g. Zigbee automation;
- Second generation: artificial intelligence controls electrical devices, e.g. Amazon Echo;
- Third generation: robot buddy who interacts with humans, e.g. Robot Rovio, Roomba.
Applications and technologies
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC): it is possible to have remote control of all home energy monitors over the internet incorporating a simple and friendly user interface.
- Lighting control system
- Occupancy-aware control system: it is possible to sense the occupancy of the home using smart meters and environmental sensors like CO sensors, which can be integrated into the building automation system to trigger automatic responses for energy efficiency and building comfort applications.
- Appliance control and integration with the smart grid and a smart meter, taking advantage, for instance, of high solar panel output in the middle of the day to run washing machines.
- Security: a household security system integrated with a home automation system can provide additional services such as remote surveillance of security cameras over the Internet, or central locking of all perimeter doors and windows.
- Leak detection, smoke and CO detectors
- Indoor positioning systems
- Home automation for the elderly and disabled
- Pet Care, for example tracking the pets movements and controlling access rights
In a review of home automation devices, Consumer Reports found two main concerns for consumers:
- A WiFi network connected to the internet can be vulnerable to hacking.
- Technology is still in its infancy, and consumers could invest in a system that becomes abandonware. In 2014, Google bought the company selling the Revolv Hub home automation system, integrated it with Nest and in 2016 shut down the servers Revolv Hub depended on, rendering the hardware useless.
Microsoft Research found in 2011, that home automation could involve high cost of ownership, inflexibility of interconnected devices, and poor manageability.
Historically systems have been sold as complete systems where the consumer relies on one vendor for the entire system including the hardware, the communications protocol, the central hub, and the user interface. However, there are now open source software systems which can be used with proprietary hardware.
There are a wide variety of technology platforms, or protocols, on which a smart home can be built. Each one is, essentially, its own language. Each language speaks to the various connected devices and instructs them to perform a function.
The automation protocol transport has involved direct wire connectivity, powerline (UPB) and wireless hybrid and wireless.
|Bluetooth Mesh||RF||1 000 000 bit/s||Bluetooth mesh models include Light and Sensor application layers, designed for building automation use.|
|C-Bus||Dedicated cable, RF (radio frequency)||3500 bit/s||C-Bus is a communications protocol based on a seven layer OSI model for home and building automation that can handle cable lengths up to 1000 meter using Cat.5 cable.|
|DECT||RF||more-equal than 64000 bit/s||1880 MHz to 1930 MHz|
|EnOcean||RF||9 600 bit/s||902 MHz in North America|
|Insteon||PLC, RF||Instantaneous: 13 165 bit/s, sustained: 2 880 bit/s||A family of X10-compatible lighting and home control products from SmartLabs Inc. that use both 915 MHz RF and powerline to transmit signals. All Insteon devices are repeaters of Insteon signals, which means the more devices installed in the home, the better the wireless network performs. Insteon devices accept and receive signals from X10 devices, but do not repeat them.|
|KNX||PLC, RF, twisted pair, infrared, Ethernet||9 600 bit/s||Standardized by internationally (ISO/IEC), Canada (CSA-ISO), Europe (CENELEC/CEN), China (GB/T)|
|SCS||twisted pair||9600 bit/s||Proprietary by bTicino. Upper protocol is OpenWebNet|
|Thread||RF||20 000 – 250 000 bit/s||Based on 6LowPAN with a networking protocol that is IPv6 addressable and it's aimed at the home automation environment.|
|Universal Powerline Bus||PLC||480 bit/s||Universal Powerline Bus: is a 2-way communications technology which enables control products to utilize existing powerlines for both residential and commercial applications.|
|X10||PLC, RF||20 bit/s||A remote control system for lamps and appliances from X10 Wireless Technology that uses the home's electrical system as the signaling network. The standard powerline system since it was developed in 1975 for many years, x10 transmitters and receivers are set to one of 256 low-voltage codes. The controller, which contains the switch and transmitter, is an external unit that plugs into any AC outlet, or it replaces the light switch on the wall. The receiver plugs into the AC outlet, and the lamp or appliance plugs into the receiver. When the switch is activated, it sends a signal into the electrical line that is picked up by the receiver, which turns on/off or dims the lights. Several lamps can be treated as one group by setting their receivers to the same code. RF is 310 MHz in North America and 433 MHz in Europe.|
|xPL||Ethernet||>10 000 000 bit/s||Transmits commands and status within a LAN. Some systems, such as the Squeezebox audio player are directly controlled through an Ethernet connection. Others require a computer to bridge the xPL messages to the equipment's hardware interface such as RS-232.|
|Zigbee||RF||20 000 – 250 000 bit/s||ZigBee PRO and ZigBee Remote Control (RF4CE), among other available ZigBee profiles, are based on the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol, which is an industry-standard wireless networking technology operating at 2.4 GHz targeting applications that require relatively infrequent data exchanges at low data-rates over a restricted area and within a 100 m range such as in a home or building. Additional radio frequencies used are 915 MHz (Americas and Australia) and 868 MHz (Europe).|
|Z-Wave||RF||100 000 bit/s||Z-Wave is a low-power RF communications technology that is primarily designed for home automation products. Frequencies used are 908.42 MHz North America, other countries use sub-1 GHz|
- PLC: Power line communication, communication using existing mains wiring
- RF: RF, transmission using a high frequency carrier
- Twisted pair: High speed signals using cables with twisted pairs to protect the signals
- Infrared: Optical communication using infrared light
- Ethernet: Well established standard for high capacity communications
Criticism and controversies
Home automation suffers from platform fragmentation and lack of technical standards a situation where the variety of home automation devices, in terms of both hardware variations and differences in the software running on them, makes the task of developing applications that work consistently between different inconsistent technology ecosystems hard. Customers may be hesitant to bet their IoT future on proprietary software or hardware devices that use proprietary protocols that may fade or become difficult to customize and interconnect.
The nature of home automation devices can also be a problem for security, since patches to bugs found in the core operating system often do not reach users of older and lower-price devices. One set of researchers say that the failure of vendors to support older devices with patches and updates leaves more than 87% of active devices vulnerable.
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