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Aug 26 2013

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Brains of Whole House Automation

I recently discussed possible centralized controllers for household fixtures such as lights, door locks and security systems. Once you have selected what type of standard(s) you will use, the next step is to choose a controller. If you are not planing to automate a large portion of your electrical and electronic equipments, you may skip this part all together.

Dependent and Independent

There are two main routes you can take. One is choosing a LAN controller. They are usually independent of any wireless standards like x10 or Z-wave. However, they can be expensive and/or less reliable and hard to setup. The other route is the centralized controllers. I will be explaining the later in detailed because that’s what most tech geeks would use.

Still on the independent units, IP cameras such as D-Link IP Cams and switches like Belkin wemo are great products. They allow average consumer to setup a smart home system without the need for expensive controllers. All IP Cameras from D-Link, TrendNET and other manufactures have very easy and simple setup. Just follow the instructions and you will be ready to go with your WLAN or Wifi based cam. Often these companies also provide DNS (Domain Name Server) services free of charge to their customers. These DNS services will allow you to access your unit(s) from anywhere in the world. I personally found the D-Link products to be the most intuitive to average consumers (plug-n-play). Note these units actually do not have a “brain” aka a main controller.

In addition there are, what I call “independent but dependent” units. They provide simple services such as sending an email if the smoke alarm goes off with almost no other control what so ever. If all you need is that, then check out the products from SkylinkHome.

Centralized Controllers

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Some controllers can support all standards; INSTEON, Z-wave, UPB and X10. However, these units are often expensive. I found the Z-wave controller which also can handle INSTEON and X10 via a plug-in called VeraLite to be the best option for consumers. You don’t have to pay a lot since the unit sells for about $200 CAD. It is a stand along box. I would not recommended in-wall units like Evolve LCD Wall Mount for novice users.

Of course there are other options with multiple standards support. Homeseer Hometroller SE Pro supports ZWave, UPB, Insteon and X10. But the cost is about $750 CAD. If you have money to burn, I can safely say it is a very good unit. The software architecture of the unit is based on Windows XP. An added bonus for avid Windows-loving programmers.

MiCasa Vera3

This is the particular unit I use. They have two options; the Regular and the Lite. For home or small business use (even if you are a programmer), I would go with the Lite version. The only major differences I noticed between the two models is the number of devices they can control (200 units vs 50) and the built in stand along wifi system in the regular version. Personally I prefer independent wifi network. This will avoid fallout from a catastrophic network failures.

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