Home Automation Prototype – Expectations

Lets try and chalk down the expectations from a typical home automation system. The system in consideration is a prototype that should be able to work seamlessly in a local home environment. Connectivity to/from the outside world or cloud would be the next logical step to this type of system.

Scale & Architecture

One ring to rule them allIt is a lot easier to have a local server-client architecture which can allow for centralized control, access and monitoring. A typical home automation network would consist of multiple control nodes, devices and one server to rule them all. However, the devices that control our very lives have been proliferating and hence the architecture of the system should be a able to scale easily.

Minimal Invasion

Most of the houses in developing nations aren’t home automation enabled. Lets face it, the switch boards are designed only in one way, the locks are supposed to lock manually, the kitchen has electrical sockets all over the place. The job of automating now becomes “retrofitting”. The new system has to seamlessly work with the old one. All this with minimum physical damage to the existing house. Retrofitting should thus, be minimal invasive to the home. The type of technology chosen and its architecture play a key role in deciding this.


No one wants this to happen to their homes.

When there are systems available to ease our lives, they should not come at a cost of security and privacy. This is more of the technology related problem. Security should be inherent and privacy should be well understood when the underlying technology is chosen. Please note that more of security doesn’t mean less of usability.

User Access

The system should be accessible through any well accepted user interfaces like mobile or laptop. The interface should also be able to address each device at home and control them.

The new interface shouldn’t completely do away with traditional controls. The latter still might be needed as a default go to way of controlling devices.

System Stability and Safety

Devices should be able to behave the way they are designed for. When operating vital devices like Gas Sensors and Alarms,, there is no scope for a software bug. Also, the system should be able to checks its own health to figure out an error device or node.

Pneumatic_sirenA unique problem with developing countries is the amount of power fluctuations. While the rest of the world thinks of power that is always available, in developing world frequent power cuts pose a design challenge to the automation system. The system just cannot assume that somehow backup power will be available. This has to be taken into consideration during design. For example, if one of the resource challenged nodes driving your lights uses Linux, then you might as well get up turn on the light yourself then wait for Linux to boot after every power loss. One cannot ignore and design a system which is slow to react to such changes.


coinsWhile a commercial home automation systems can cost more than $2500 for a small apartment, a project like this aims to bring down the cost and make it cheap. Adoption of open source projects is one of the key motivations here. This project, however, doesn’t aim to inter-operate with any existing home automation devices.

Energy Monitoring

Wouldn’t it be great to find a detailed report of each of your devices so that you can take a better decision about your energy usage?  This is like reading your assorted credit card bill. A chart of on/off times of a each device in your home will an interesting tale onto itself.






6 thoughts on “Home Automation Prototype – Expectations

  1. I like your down to earth view of how to tackle home automation and I agree 100% that it must be scalable, it must fit into the existing home as is, with out major alterations, power availability is not always guaranteed (maybe a manual override must be considered). And then the cost. Not everybody has unlimited money to spend on a Smart home.

    I’m very interested in your Home automation/OpenHub project and will follow it closely. Good luck!


  2. Hey Johannes,

    Nice we are on the same page!

    Over here in India, there are a lot of homes which are quite posh looking but cannot be automated. Its very unlike US and European homes. A automation solution for countries like this should retrofit, else its not good enough. I am more of a software guy, but one of my goals is to look for solutions so that I can retrofit my apartment.

    Thanks for the wishes, I hope to get going again with my Raspberry over the weekend, so a LED blink is a few days away!


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Johannes,

    Well the homes in India can be technically automated but they require a lot of retrofitting. Just to quote a few problems, all the homes are solidly built. The sockets are deep into the walls and have no aesthetic sense whatsoever. Compare this with home in say, US, where a wiring diagram exists for a home usually built with wood. Here, I have no clue where am getting the power lines from. The builder doesnt know it either.

    Another example is the kitchen. In my home, there are wall sockets at every square feet. Mind you, my home was built a couple of years ago 😦 These are some of the problems.

    There is a big market awaiting, atleast that is what i think, if a retrofitting solution can be arrived at.

    Its great to get a RaspberryPI to start off. Luckily, this might help you, I was successful in getting OpenHAB to blink an LED over Raspberry PI. Here is my post and quite fresh too https://devicediscovery.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/openhab-on-raspberrypi/

    Would like to hear more on how you are doing with it?



  4. Hi Sachin

    I can see that retrofitting can be a problem.

    I just saw your post on how you have done it with OpenHAB. I think I’m going to follow your instructions and try it with mine.

    Will let you know how I proceed.


    Liked by 1 person

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