Home automation refers to the use of computer and information technology to control home appliances and features (such as security, audio power, airconditoner or lighting). Systems can range from simple remote control of lighting through to complex computer/micro-controller based networks with varying degrees of intelligence and automation. Home automation is adopted for reasons of ease, security and energy efficiency.
Most homes have been wired for electrical power, telephones, TV outlets (cable or antenna), and a doorbell. Many household tasks were automated by the development of specialized appliances. For instance, automatic washing machines were developed to reduce the manual labor of cleaning clothes.
As the number of controllable devices in the home rises, interconnection and communication becomes a useful and desirable feature. Rooms will become “intelligent” and will send signals to the controller when someone enters. If no one is supposed to be home and the alarm system is set, the system could call the owner, or the neighbours, or an emergency number.
In simple installations, it may be as straightforward as turning on the lights when a person enters the room. In advanced installations, rooms can sense not only the presence of a person inside but know who that person is and perhaps set appropriate lighting, temperature, music levels or television channels, taking into account the day of the week, the time of day, and other factors.
Other automated tasks may include setting the HVAC to an energy saving setting when the house is unoccupied, and restoring the normal setting when an occupant is about to return. More sophisticated systems can maintain an inventory of products, recording their usage through bar codes, or an RFID tag, and prepare a shopping list or even automatically order replacements.
Home automation can also provide a remote interface to home appliances or the automation system itself, via telephone line, wireless transmission or the internet, to provide control and monitoring via a smartphone or web browser.
An example of remote monitoring in home automation could be triggered when a smoke detector detects a fire or smoke condition, causing sirens and lights to alert any occupants of the house to the possible emergency. If the house is equipped with a home theater, a home automation system can shut down all audio and video components to avoid distractions, or make an audible announcement. The system could also call the home owner on their mobile phone to alert them, or call the fire department or alarm monitoring company.
In terms of lighting control, it is possible to save energy when installing various products. Simple functions such as motion sensors and detectors integrated into a relatively simple home automation system can save hours of wasted energy in both residential and commercial applications. For example imagine an auto on/off at night time in all major city office buildings, say after 10pm. When no motion is detected, lights shut down, and the owner could save kilowatts of wasted overnight energy. Similar controls on HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning )in buildings could save even more energy.