Friday, September 13, 2013

Reflections on Home Automation

It's been a little while since I've put more time into my home automation program. I've been feeling a little slowed down by the hardware available to me. My current solution for automation is an INSTEON network---a few wall switches and X10 relays with a central controller, itself driven by Belphanior. Recently, the communication between the controller and the wall switches seems to have gone out, and diagnosing the issue has been difficult.

Having worked with INSTEON for awhile now, I know a couple of features I'd be looking for in the next iteration of the hardware I used:

Diagnostic Tools: The biggest challenge with working with INSTEON is that when two devices cannot see each other, the root cause can be hard to determine. Ideally, I'd like to have a way to monitor the airwaves for the INSTEON signal to verify it is being transmitted and received correctly, but I'm unaware of any dedicated diagnostic monitoring devices for this purpose.

Status Feedback: While in principle INSTEON includes status updates to and from the devices, in practice I've found it to be spotty and not sufficiently reliable to base any sense of the house's state upon.

Security: INSTEON is protected by a longer ID than X10, but there's nothing really to prevent someone equipped with the right technology from radio-signalling the controllers, listening for their addresses in the radio chatter, etc. While I'm sure I can rely on security through obscurity in the short run, it's probably wise to lock down the signals longer-term.

I'll have to do some research; I'm not sure what other devices are available on the market to satisfy these goals (especially ones that might fit into a wall-socket form factor).