TODAY I ended a war. It was a war I didn’t expect to be won for some years but, as it turned out, it was a virtually bloodless coup. It was the war for my home.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve adopted a passionate fascination with the smart home and the Internet of Things (IoT). It stems from a childhood of watching automatic doors and voice-activated computers. I’ve been striving for it ever since.
In the course of that quest, I've half-fitted two full home systems. The first, Fibaro, works on Z-Wave and Loxone and is proprietary but can interface with many existing smart home standards.
So what happened today? Today (well, last night actually but allow me some poetic licence) I removed the last retrofitted sensor from the light switches and turned off the home automation server for the last time.
The cloud has won the battle for my home. And the glancing blow? Amazon Alexa.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This had been coming for a while as more and more devices are released that 'work with Nest' or have IFTTT compatibility (and if you don’t use IFTTT yet, or haven’t been back for a while, you really should. Its power is mindblowing).
Another big plus was the opening of British Gas’s Hive platform with IFTTT, Alexa and recipe creation of its own on top of a huge number of new products such as colour changing bulbs, motion sensors and so on.
When I first dabbled with home automation, a light turning on when I walked into a room seemed like magic.
Now, after the working day is done, I can walk out of my study knowing that the monitors will switch off because I’m not there. I can walk through the corridor into the lounge and say 'Alexa, turn on Pointless.' The lights and heating will adjust and, thanks to integration with Logitech's Harmony Hub, the telly and Sky Q turn on in unison and tune to BBC1 HD.
If I can just get a robot to deliver my pipe and slippers it won't be Pointless, it’ll be the Tipping Point to Perfection. (Yes, I watch too many quiz shows.)
To make this happen using an on-premise solution would be impossible without a knowledge of how to program the hub and interface with every product’s API. And I am not a coder. I’m just a nerdy hack with a dream.
I know that there are going to be regular readers shrieking into their computers: 'Aaaaagh! But your privacy! They’ll see everything! For the love of Snowden!'
Why am I so important that anyone would want to track what I do with my house. I’m not a drugs baron. I’m watching a bit of telly and probably nodding off with drool coming out of the side of my mouth. I can live with its being in some anonymous data centre.
Plus, I have said from the outset that the only way that this IoT thing was ever going to work was if we all agreed on a format. Well, essentially we have. What I didn’t bet on was that it would happen quite this fast.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Z-Wave and ZigBee aren't dead. The latter will be in every home by 2020 as the protocol behind smart energy meters. Several companies such as D-Link and Devolo are using Z-Wave in hybrid systems that interface with themselves but use the cloud to talk to other devices.
And to be perfectly accurate, I do still have a Devolo hub running but that's fine because it integrates seamlessly with my cloud system, as does the D-Link stuff.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d go sci-fi so fast. I had expected that, without throwing thousands of pounds at the project, tying myself into one company and ripping the walls out, I would be able to have home control at the level I already do. And providing new products don’t keep 'siloing' themselves (I’m talking to you Sengled, Doorbird, Y-Cam) you can keep adding to it at your leisure.
So sure, let the NSA look. I’ve got no secrets. But I have got The Jetsons house of my dreams. µ
Plus your triple freebie app store link
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