Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Where is the next big (little) think in home automation?

Child's drawing of a yellow house
At some point last millenium I had control over the heating and air condition for a reasonably sized building. There was a GUI or you could telnet into the machine it was running on. At last resort you could go up to the roof where there was a room full of bit switches that made a really satisfying clunk when you threw them (do people still throw switches or has that gone out of fashion).
The system wasn't very sophisticated, it basically knew if a room was supposed to be in use at that time or not and what temperature it was supposed to be if it was (or indeed wasn't).
There were sensors so it knew what the actual temperature was in each room and it could control valves to let hot water into radiators or cold water into HVAC units. What more could you want?
Well the thing is that as companies have tried to bring this sort of thing into the home they have given people systems that learn the times they are in the house and allowed control from anywhere in the world. This has often been done by pulling a lot of the control aspect of the products away from a computer that is attached to the the systems directly and into the cloud.
Which would be fine except that there have been a number of situations where this had lead to the same sort of security flaws as with the Internet of Things or the cloud services being turned off so the hardware in people's houses isn't smart any more.
You still see the 7-day all-in-one controller and thermostat unit, the only visual difference being that they now tend to be white instead of beige and just of a pain to program, although some of them are now wireless. But they still only tend to control one service. 
In boutique hotels and karaoke suites you get multi service automation, one touch button at the door turns everything on/off and puts it into moods, but these are just flipping relays and you can't say "I'll be back at 6:30, make it 22° and run a bath"
Who is taking the best bit of all three approaches, smart(ish do we need things to learn our habits, just tell them, or give them an ical feed), all the processing power in the house so it doesn't get bricked by the supplier going bust or being bought out, multi-service "lights, camera, action", and securely controllable from outside the house. Okay two of those may be contradictory, you need some remote reliance to get the message through but if that is all you lose when it breaks, or indeed if you could replace that service because it is documented not proprietary.
Where should I be looking for the friendly packaged control software in a box, with minimal secure external services, and a decent sized set of interfaces into other systems?


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