Reading this month's REFRESH! article on INSTEON Technology got me thinking about my own home automation exploits. Not much to talk about though— there's only one case. Every year in early December, we put candle lights in all of our windows and a set of icicle lights on the front of the house. This comprises five windows on two floors and the outdoor area. What better way to turn on the lights all at once than with an X10 system? I purchased one of these from Radio Shack, with a standalone controller, about 10 years ago.
Does the system work? Yes, of course, but not without causing way too many problems, like X10 modules not responding or crapping out altogether. As I recall, I finally gave up on incorporating the outside lights into the system this past year. The INSTEON technology is supposed to be a much more robust system, but excuse me for being skeptical.
Do we really need home automation? No and yes. I certainly play around with enough electrical/electronic devices in my home, such as the thermostat, alarm system, outdoor thermometers and all the lights, but none are connected to a central controller.
But I can see how a central controller might not only help out, but also move you along the path of increased automation. I'm thinking of a flat panel display hung on a wall that you can poke at to do a bunch of different things. Before going to bed, for example, you set the alarm, turn off all the lights, check that all electrical appliances have been turned off and so forth. But who wants to hang a flat panel display on the wall? Maybe if the user interface is replaced by a family photo after 30 seconds of inactivity.
Possibly a better option for a central controller is the new flat panel TV in the family room. If it has a touch screen, you could stand in front of it and poke away to your heart's content. Or is this really just a figment of my imagination?
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