Home Automation Obsession: Introduction

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in the midst of an ever escalating home automation kick. It started with one repair, and spiraled into a massive upgrade.

But, I feel the need to document it. Partly because of what happened last time. Years ago, I had X10 home automation devices in my home. I had a control mechanism hooked up to a computer.

And then I ripped it out and didn’t look back. But why did I do that? Let’s see.

  1. The computer control mechanism was serial and no one was using serial ports anymore. The newer USB controllers happened to be less than compatible with my operating system, Linux.
  2. X10 used power line signaling as its primary source of control. This meant that any noise on your electric lines…including your washer/dryer, would disrupt signals. Noise could be interpreted as instructions to turn things on and off.
  3. The protocol dates from the 70s and isn’t as robust as it could be.


A lot of the stuff I’ve switched to now is Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. I assume most people know what Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is, so let’s cover the other two.

Z-Wave dates from 2001, Zigbee from 1998. Z-Wave has greater range than Zigbee, both are mesh networking protocols, offer encryption, and require pairing with a radio in order to function.

The Wink hub, which I use, has both Zigbee and Z-Wave radios. The new Amazon Echo Plus announced this week has a Zigbee radio. Increasingly, people are looking to add these radios into routers, voice assistants, etc, to give those devices the ability to control smart devices.

Being as I am afraid of being left behind if a company or standard bites the dust…remembering X10, I’ve connected my Wink setup to a computer based setup and equipped that computer with a bluetooth, z-wave, and zigbee radio of its own. This means I could transfer devices over to it if Wink shuts down, and I can build a Frankenstein-like network of devices that the computer can connect, even if their manufacturers are not interested in doing so.

So, for the last few weeks, I’ve been adding integration after integration…before I actually set up any sort of automation. Lowes has been running a clearance sale on Sylvania smart bulbs(I went to three different Lowes and bought what I wanted) and I’ve added more controlled lights.

Amazon boxes have been coming every day bringing new pieces to extend this system, and I’ve been connecting up other connected devices, such as my weather station, weather forecasts, Google traffic data, etc so I can use it to have decisions made.

Even my personal website could theoretically send a signal when something occurs…Imagine my lights flashing when I have a comment or something.

So, a lot to cover.

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