Feeds

The Hardware Hacker's Guide to Home Automation

Doctorin' the house

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

But what’s it for?

But whether you go for a long-established system with a wide range of plugs, sockets, dimmers, switches and a controller, or something newer, one thing soon becomes abundantly clear: home automation can be an expensive business, especially if you want to go the whole hog and have things like touchscreen panels to control your lighting.

Home automation used to be thought of as something to save time and labour – open the curtains when you’re still in bed, for example. But as many of us become more conscious of issues from home security to energy usage – you don’t have to be a paid up member of the Greens to be horrified by your electricity bills – there are perhaps other ways in which HA tech can be useful.

Nest Labs' The Nest

Nest Labs' Nest thermostat can calculate your most efficient energy use pattern

Smart thermostats like Nest Labs' Nest can learn about your routine, or sensors around the home can ensure lighting turns off when it’s no longer needed.

Automatic monitoring – I’ll skip the connected fridge; check out my feature WTF are… connected appliances – can keep an eye on oil tanks and place orders, while security systems can let you know that the kids are safely home from school, all while you’re still at work.

They can you to movement caught on a camera. If you have a Synology nas box, for instance, then you already have surveillance software - it's just waiting for you to attach an IP camera.

Roll your own

If you’re of a more technical bent, it’s not too difficult to come up with your own automation and control projects, even without investing in dedicated controllers.

For example, the Topfield TF5800 PVR is a Freeview recorder with a published API which includes a way to set timers. A few years ago, I created a service to allow timers to be set via SMS, so a user could send a text like ‘TOPPY RECORD BUFFY / BBC1 AT 1900 to a shortcode. The SMS provider, iTagg, then delivered it to a URL where it was stored in a database. A script on a PC then polled the website, and transferred a control file to the recorder via USB if there were new timers to set.

Heatmiser PRS-TS WiFi RF Thermostat

Take greater control of your energy use with a Wi-Fi thermostat, like the Heatmiser

Or take a device like the HeatMiser WiFi thermostat recently reviewed here. The protocol has been published, and there’s open source code to talk to it. By using the LocationOf.com app on a Symbian phone, I can work out when I’m more than a certain distance away from home, and ensure the heating is turned off.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Samsung Gear S: Quick, LAUNCH IT – before Apple straps on iWatch
Full specs for wrist-mounted device here ... but who'll buy it?
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Now that's FIRE WIRE: HP recalls 6 MILLION burn-risk laptop cables
Right in the middle of Burning Mains Man week
Reg man looks through a Glass, darkly: Google's toy ploy or killer tech specs?
Tip: Put the shades on and you'll look less of a spanner
HUGE iPAD? Maybe. HUGE ADVERTS? That's for SURE
Noo! Hand not big enough! Don't look at meee!
AMD unveils 'single purpose' graphics card for PC gamers and NO ONE else
Chip maker claims the Radeon R9 285 is 'best in its class'
Tim Cook in Applerexia fears: New MacBook THINNER THAN EVER
'Supply chain sources' give up the goss on new iLappy
Just in case? Unverified 'supersize me' iPhone 6 pics in sneak leak peek
Is bigger necessarily better for the fruity firm's flagship phone?
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.