Monday, December 24, 2012

Belphanior Home Automation System

I've been playing around with home automation as a hobby for quite a long time now. One thing I found frustrating was the lack of flexibility in the central controllers I've worked with. To that end, I'm pleased to introduce Belphanior, my own automation-oriented remote signalling and scripting system.

Belphanior is intended for a standard household setup (multiple computers and automaed systems behind a local intranet). Key to its design is a multi-process approach; the core of Belphanior is a communications protocol built atop HTTP and JSON, which allows a single "butler" process to coordinate and control multiple "servant" processes. This allows you to run the servants locally on the machines with the hardware that needs to be controlled. It's also designed to be self-documenting; "roles" (specific types of tasks servants can perform) are first and foremost human-readable, with the details of implementation left up to the creators of the servants. So an "output" role can be handled by a text-to-speech servant, a logger, a marquee-display controller, etc.

Belphanior's jumping-off point is at There, you'll find a "getting started" guide and a list of the currently-implemented servants. Servants and the butler are available as open source under the MIT license, so if you wish to create your own, you are free to do so (and if you'd like to provide me a link to them, I'd be happy to post them on!).

A short list of things I've used Belphanior to do:

  • Turn the main lights off in the house at the end of the day (I'm terrible about leaving basement lights on when I go to bed).
  • Control Christmas tree lights and other seasonal home decorations to save power.
  • Drive the train under the Christmas tree every two hours (see "Making the Train Run On Time").
I'll be continuing to extend Belphanior and the home automation system as I go, and I'll be updating this blog with any fun developments.

Have fun, and happy hacking!