Engineering Dissertation Chapter Assignment Paper on Home Automation

Home Automation


Home automation is defined as the use of one or more computers to manage essential home features and functions. This can be done either remotely or automatically. It can also be referred to as smart home. It can be used to turn lights on and off, program appliances in a home, and program timers for diverse devices. Besides, home automation can be used as a luxury convenience system.  Nonetheless, it is very expensive to install the system as a result of their relative distinctiveness in the current market. The technology puts more emphasis in the application of automation techniques for the comfort and security of its residents. Even if a number of techniques that are used in building automation such as security and surveillance, light and climate control, and windows shutters are used in home automation, there must be extra functions in the system. These functions can be pet feeding, automatic plant watering, control of multiple home entertainment systems, and automatic scenes for parties and dinners. The elusive goal of integration in the intrusion industry has began to gain realistic momentum with the growing trend to combine home security systems and home automation on a single platform.

(Lindsay 4).

When home automation is installed during construction of new homes, control wires are added prior to installing interior walls. The control wires are connected to a controller that monitors the entire environment. Interestingly, home automation allows vital home functions to be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world by use of computers connected to the internet. The remote controls can be extended to fax machines, telephone and answering machines, amateur radios, and home robots like automatic vacuum cleaners. The critical features of a stylish home automation system comprises of computers with apt programming, intersecting  cable links, numerous systems and devices to be controlled, emergency backing power source, high-speed internet connections, and indispensable home systems. Home automation is expansive and has abundant uses. Some uses are very crucial and can help to enhance the quality of life for individuals. On the other hand, some features of the system can be used for convenience purposes rather than as an indispensable component of day-to-day life. Sensors and cameras can be connected to HA system can be used for monitoring and recording activity around houses or buildings. They also ensure that remote monitoring is much easier. More to the point, HA can be used by people with impaired physical mobility and the elderly. Automated systems can easily be linked to switches and motors in order to perform tasks that may require physical movement. This is possible because of simple control panels in the system (Lindsay 6).

Initially, a number of distributed audio system in a house were made up of large wired remote controls that were used to control central CD players or radio.  The systems proved to be ineffective because there was only one audio source for several rooms. Each room cannot be in a position to listen to a different CD concomitantly; it is for this reason that a number of the modern systems are computerized. The perception of home automation has developed for quite some time; however, it is reasonably slow when it is compared with the progress of other technologies such as television. This technology is still quite an expensive and exclusive concept for many people. The paper will look into what Home Automation is, current technologies, how these technologies are currently implemented, and the groups that can use technologies. In addition, the paper will look at the use of HA as a disability aid and a luxury within a home.

Literature Review

Walko (2006) asserts that home automation is not a new concept because has been around many decades. Early commercial systems put more focus on control of security, lighting, climate, and appliances in buildings or homes. The author asserts that adoption rates of the technology have not set the world alight at the rate that was anticipated. The networks are quite sophisticated and very expensive. The adoption of X-10 format power-line based technology is cheap and simple but hobbyists only embrace it. It is therefore yet to crack wider markets. The author believes that the space between such extremes represent a huge emerging opportunity that caught the attention of semiconductor manufacturers and end-user product professionals. They have been forming impressive industry alliances in order to offer interpretable standardized networks. Most people in the mainstream market are not aware of home automation  technology, what the technology does for them, and how the technology can be implemented.

Walko (2006) argues further that as the industry is becoming smarter and aware of wireless technologies, it is apparent that those at the cliff are facing products and application challenges. The author illuminates the manner in which home automation technologies operate. Walko believes that the technology operates under a mesh network where each device can find nearest paths that it can send data. These networks are considered as self-healing and can function as a router. When devices run to a closed path, they automatically seek out the nearest open nodes and communicate through them. A zig-zig data path is created that is quite similar to the way bees normally communicate the location of latest buffet to bees that are still in the hive thus the name ZigBee.

Li, Hong, and Fang (2011) believe that the use of wireless sensor network in home automation becoming popular as each day passes by. The system offers mutual interoperability between diverse devices in homes. It can also be used as interactive interface for realizing distributed control over lighting, air conditioning, ventilation, and overheating. The fact that the basic attraction of HA systems is the promise of energy saved means that the demand has increased. Optimized energy consumption and smart environment represents that next evolutionary development in HA systems. The low power sensors are promising technology; they play an essential role in evolutionary process of the home automation systems. Generally, wireless sensor networks comprises of small, embedded, and low power sensor nodes that contain wireless communication and data processing capabilities. The sensor nodes have a battery life of less than two years and they are affordable. The use of these nodes in the home automation system provides attractive benefits but it comes with numerous technological challenges.

The HA system offers a number of entry points that adversaries can use to attack home technologies. Electronically, devices on home networks can be compromised easily by direct attack from devices that are external to the home networks by infected devices. When home devices are connected to infected networks, the networks may become infected too. This might lead to security failure in the system. A security failure may result in diverse harms to the users. The users may be harm financially and more time is wasted in repairing the system. These attacks are normally aimed at specific people by attackers who know the flaws in the hardware and software. Attacks that are directed to specific people need technology configuration.

According to Munson (2013), the future of home automation is getting clearer as each time passes. The connected home is a dream that man has dreamt off for a long time. The emerging connected home segment highlights that there is a tremendous upshot. In order to show how the growth is, the author believes that home automation will grow to $35.6 billion in 2016 from $16.8 billion in 2011 (Munson 6). Nonetheless, the author posits that as connectivity creeps into more of the facets and features of convectional homes, controlling such devices has proved to be risky and more fragmented experience. In similar view, Santo (2013) asserts that home services such as home security, monitoring, and automation have the potential to rival other elements that are found within the residential bundle in terms of revenue. The initial indications are quite encouraging. The author claims that subscribers are passionate with homes that have the ability to unlock automatically upon some commands. For instance, a home that can unlock for a schoolchild who may have forgotten his or her key upon a turn down of a thermostat.

Santo (2013) goes ahead to assert that the allure of home services for service providers is quite clear. Even for companies that have been in the business for decades, there is a huge potential for growth. Broadband-based service providers are expanding the market each day. The author posits that the basis of home security is customer experience seen through sales, installation, and outgoing support. He argues that home controls platforms need to take the complexity of controlling numerous devices and this is done based on personalized rules as well as intelligent automation that can help to magnify the end-user experience. According to Brown (2013), installing home systems have proved to be a hard task. It requires services of certified installers who are quite few and very expensive. The author uses an example of a bridge. The ability of a bridge to run on battery power ensures that enrolling devices such as door locks are much easier to operate. It is possible because each device is connected to the bridge.

The technology of home automation began with turning lighting on and off, then locking and unlocking doors. With time, the technology has evolved and added thermostat. As time went by, there has been a key element of energy management service. Nevertheless, home automation technology is rather challenging. Munson (2013) argues that locking doors, turning on lights in the house, and adjusting temperatures calls for customized applications. This turns home automation management to a boring game of flipping through various operations. The author believes that the technology of home services is manifested in wireless connectivity options. Some home devices operate in Wi-Fi and others on Zigbee. The emergence of cloud virtualization in the automation industry is a blessing for home services owners. It is defined as an essential development because of the fact that it is in a position to solve up to three problems that have become a real problem for consumer products.  The technology guarantees the lowest-cost hardware possible since device complexity can be pushed to cloud and to smartphones in as well. More to the point, virtualization makes sure that interoperability amongst devices that use diverse LAN technologies become a reality. Besides, virtualization enables devices to connect different application owners such as security companies, retailers, or home energy management.

Santo (2013) goes ahead to argue that home automation can in include home services such energy optimization, biometrics, garage door openers, water consumption, irrigation control, pool control, and video verification. The author claims that healthcare is an attractive area for home automation technologies. The utilization of this technology can inform or older to remain at home for a longer time to monitor services for healthcare professionals or families members. The existing technologies in the medical monitoring devices can be hooked to home network. Telephony is a lifeline services that has helped people access emergency medical services. However, lack of guidelines has rendered the technology ineffective. The author has reservations with medical monitoring technologies by arguing that if clear guidelines are not established, it might head to way of telephony technology.

Denning, Kohno, and Henry (2013), computation is deeply ingrained in various homes in different parts of the world. Some devices such as laptops, desktops, televisions, wireless routers, and gaming consoles have seen the success of automation industry. Increasingly, computational capabilities such as children toys, healthcare devices, and home infrastructures are being felt in the same industry. The devices are integrating actuators new sensors, and network capabilities. The most integrated devices are lock of front door by use of cell phone, a Barbie with a video camera, and bathroom scale that reports readings in wireless networks. However, the authors claims that a number of human assets whether they are physical, electronic, or non-tangible items of value to all end users. This can be accessed or influenced from computing devices in various. However, these assets are potentially attractive to adversaries.

In addition, the authors claim that the capabilities of new electronics and their presences in homes facilitate convectional crimes and new forms of attacks. Technology savvy burglars can use the technology to identify that have expensive and easily resold items. The adversaries can use their capabilities to target technologies with the aim of accessing audio and video feeds. Home technology space takes new challenges and combines them to generate a new problem space. The adoption of home automation has created an extremely personal asset filled environment where there is no enthusiastic and professional administrator that can maintain heterogeneous collection of consumer technologies that are becoming cyber-physical and sensor-rich. The combination of the above mentioned challenges have led to an array of attacks. Moreover, it complicates the design of defense for home devices. From a technical perspective, homes are filled with diverse range of technologies that have varying levels of security and hybrid communication structures. From human perspectives, homes contain private and semi-private spaces that can be shared by parents, children, elderly, roommates, siblings, and guests. It is apparent that interpersonal dynamics, the varying levels of expertise, and diverse social and technical preferences that contribute to the complication of home technology security landscape.

According to Griffith (2012), changing television channel required individuals to actually get over from their couches and walk over to the set in order to turn knobs or press buttons. Currently, home automation has improved the capabilities to control home lights, garage, windows, music, and thermostat with simple push of a button. However, the cost of acquiring the technology is quite expensive. What’s more, the amount of work that is needed for the installation of home systems is an obstacle. Various home-automation technologies are yet to be implemented. The success of the automation technologies depends on how they are handled. Buyers should understand technologies that come into play when purchasing the products. A number of communication protocols that home devices use exist. Some of these protocols are wired, others are wireless, and they are those that combine the two. When purchasing the devices, consumers are advised to stick to one protocol.

The author has discussed numerous protocols for home automation. X10  protocol dates back to 1975. It is regarded as the first technology and has undergone through various evolution process. First, it was power line; today it is based on wireless. The devices of this protocol are not known for great communication or robust speed between units on the network. X10 is used regulate other X10 connected devices by use of electrical system to transmit signals. Lights are plugged to X10 modules. Modules are the interface that link device and power lines. It enables power lines to receive commands that originate from the main control device. There is a remote control that can be used to deliver X10  commands to the necessary modules run by the computer. For instance, in X10 controller software, graphical user interface is used to control commands that are issued when the computer is switched on but users are not logged on. The only concern with this protocol is that it has to be on windows as other operating systems like Mac and Linux cannot run the program. Computer controlled X10 controllers are more adopted to home needs than pre-programmed controllers.

The theory of transmitting commands to X10 devices comprises of transmitting byte codes alongside power lines. In order to connect devices to computers, a two-way interface known as CM12U. This device is connected to the computer before it is connected to the power line.  Alternating current, a current that changes direction over time is used. It forms a sine wave where there are oscillations that deviate from the zero mark upwards and downwards. Commands are usually sent through the power lines. In the process, transmissions are synchronized to the zero mark of the power line. X10 transmissions pass through the zero crossing point of the alternating current sine wave. In addition, the X10 protocol provides the facility to extend protocols and make it possible for data to be sent. The entire process ensures that there is proper coordination of the system thus making it possible for users to conduct a series of operations at the click of button. Movement from one place to another is also limited.

Moreover, the author mentions ZigBee protocol. It is made up of vendors that ensure that its products are working. This protocol creates a mesh network that devices in the automation system are able to communicate equally. Besides, this protocol uses very little power. Walko (2006) agrees with Griffith (2012) in the manner in which the technology operates. He asserts that ZigBee has a motion detector that can be activated remotely to all the networked devices that are found in the path, say from one room to the other. A thermostat in one room can wirelessly control networked heaters or coolers in houses that are separated by vast amount of space. Walko posits that ZigBee based mesh networks handles u to 65,500 devices.

Universal Powerline Bus (UPB) uses power lines for home automation. The author goes ahead to mention Wi-Fi. He believes that this protocol is support internet sharing amongst game consoles and laptops. It is super-fast and is ever-present. Some vendors make home automation that can take advantage of it. Wi-Fi can be used to turn a lamp on and off.

Insteon protocol combines a wired power line-based protocol with wireless. The two work as mesh whereby all nodes on the home automation system can communicate with peers within its proximity. When one protocol does not function, the remaining one can take over the functions. Each module acts as receiver and transmitter; this means that there is no need for dedicated transmitter modules. By adding more devices to the  protocol, the network becomes more stable because each acts as a transmitter. The more the devices are, the more links are created. If there is a specific device failure, the existence of big network will do the work ensuring that there is uninterrupted flow of functions. Furthermore, this device is a backward compatible with X10 device. Individuals with the X10 technology can use it in the Insteon network without replacing them.

Insteon devices do not use device and house codes because each single device of Insteon consists of a unique number code that can be used to identify the device. Once an Insteon receives a message, it sends back a command that confirms that the signal has been received. It is evident therefore that users receive instant feedback to all signals without bothering about the device that did not function. More interestingly, it does not work or wait for time errors. Everything about this technology is instant and feedback is real-time. Insteon has the capacity to expand and bridge to other networks such as internet, the telephone network, and Wi-Fi LANs. This makes it easy for this protocol to control over pre-programmed remote controls. Insteon have standard and extended message. The standard message length is 10 bytes.

Palenchar (2005) argues that two-way Insteon technology improves reliability. It can also extend and reduce costs when it is directly compared to X10 devices. However, the author asserts that the two technologies are designed to accomplish similar goals. As much as X10 technology has existed for a long time, there are many uses that regards its technology in technical documents and user-device forums. The message signal for X10 is much smaller when compared to that of Insteon. Insteon offers broad scope for future development. In addition, the mesh technology in Insteon makes it more reliable.

According to Gentry (2009), smart phone in the disability community refers to use of electronic assistive technologies such as electronic aids to day-to-day life. They include assistive technology for cognition. They operate through wireless connectivity and other interconnected tools that offer support for people with disabilities in their homes. The author asserts that home automation is significant and it is a growing field. As individuals with disabilities agitate for self-determination and self-efficacy, smart homes offer them with the prospect of increased independence. Furthermore, the emergence of smart homes is of great help to the elderly population because increases their independence on top of reducing their needs foe care supporters.

According to Marschollek (2012) demographic change is influenced by  a number of factors and among them are the desirable rising life expectancy as a result of improved medical care and better nutrition. Smart home technologies have been identified as the potential measure that can alleviate the outcome of demographic change. Home automation supports patient empowerment and need for frequent care support. The technology ensures that medical data are readily available more than before. Physicians and care givers are able to benefit from the smart home system because they can obtain more of long-term information regarding patients. This can enable them to make decisions on the broader base of information. Additional data for healthcare providers as a result of smart home technologies generates more information thus more knowledge regarding patients. The move reduces data overload because it develops proper methods that can be used for analysis. Normally, too much unprocessed data leads to confusion. In some instances, it can disregard data thus the need to shed more light on areas of key decision-making.

Sabolcik (2010) believe that whereas a number of previous home automation systems tried to be less reliable because of the limitations of the existing communication mechanisms. The advancement of technology has achieved data rates that can stream videos and ensure that there is quality of service bandwidth. The current technology uses high-energy devices such as water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines. The current technology comprises of load shedding and as much as load shedding is not the sexiest home automation application, it is headed for the best and economic incentives for future electric utilities. Whereas load shedding provide clear benefits for utilities, a number of consumers are not fully aware of it thus the need for additional education and other incentives that can ensure that they are aware of the technology.

The author assets that the issues in the current home automation technology will fade away as become more conversant about it and adopt technologies that suits it best. He claims that lightning control has attained traction in commercial real estate. Only few commercial structure are required to include features such as occupancy sensors to turn off lights in offices and other buildings when there is no one around. He posits that this type of application will migrate to homes once consumers are aware of the technology. When this technology is fixed in homes, there will be no more reminding young children to shut off bathroom lights after they finish brushing their teeth. Occupancy sensors can be used to simply turn off the lights once they are through with their brushing.

Sangani (2006) claim that the notion that drudgery of domestic life can might be replaced by automation in future is part of the innumerable fiction films. Real automation calls for domestic appliances to communicate with each other in a way that can deliver real benefits to householders. The author claims that the only interesting development in the smart home system is the emergence of ZigBee alliance. This protocol is ideal for networking sensor nodes because it can build network nodes by making use of single chip and microcontrollers. The device contains mesh networking that separates modes from networks and discovers every device available. Messages are passed from a node to another one until they reach a point where they arrive at the intended destination. If one node fails, messages are routed near the blockage. These capabilities make it easy to design home networks that are easy to install.


Home automation has existed for a long time and its use and popularity is increasing each day. It is quite sad that many people are not aware of the technology, what it can do for them, and how to access it. This use of HA system has not moved at the rate at which home technologies such as television have progressed because of the high expensive costs and low popularity.  The smart home systems can be used for luxury and essential purposes. Moreover, the elderly populations and people with disabilities can make use of the system. Homes that integrate intelligent objects on lights, windows, and doors reduce the need for frequent physical movement in houses or buildings. The technology uses remote control and motion activated lighting. Homes that are built from these technologies are able to control technology in the anticipation of human needs. As home automation becomes cheap, many people will install in their homes. This can be made easy by the emergence of high-speed internet connections. It is a matter of time before the idea of automated homes becomes a reality.


Works Cited

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