Digital Home

Other considerations


Alarm and surveillance systems have long been available for X10 installations, allowing remote control of cameras, door locks and the like. More recently, though, software compatible with a wide range of camera types has made video surveillance more accessible to home users. Web cams, IP/Ethernet cameras and analog video capture cards can all provide real-time video signal that can be monitored from a PC. Once the domain of expensive specialised hardware, advanced features like motion-triggered capture and time-lapse recording are cheaply available via software. Computer-based security systems can also be configured to send notifications via SMS, email or voice over the telephone. When integrated with X10 security devices, intruder detection can also be used to trigger alarms and locks as well as disabling lights and communications systems for lock-down situations.

Cabling vs. Wireless

The benefit of dedicated network cabling around the home is simple. It ensures high bandwidth with minimal interference. Conversely, power line and X10 networking is subject to interference from various appliances on the same circuit and in some cases from other homes on the same power cabling. Wireless Ethernet is subject to interference from cordless devices around the home, and has the additional potential threat of being hacked from outside. Yet running network cabling around the home can be an expensive project. In most cases a combination of the two presents the most appropriate solution. For example, wired Ethernet might be used between two or more PCs, and a wireless router installed to provide Internet connection sharing as well as Wi-Fi laptop connectivity. Add a wireless DMA or entertainment PC and roaming PDA, and that's your TV, LAN and media sharing covered too. This leaves your power circuits untapped for installing X10 should you want to experiment with lighting and appliance automation. All that's missing is a great piece of software to manage it all, and that is possibly something that should be well road-tested before launching on a full-scale digital home project.

Home Management Software

It's a bit of a catch-22, on the one hand the choice of software can dictate what technologies are applicable for your home, but you can't test it without investing in a bit of hardware. If you are only interested in X10, however, you are bound to find something that suits your needs. There are a lot of applications to choose from, for Mac OS, Windows and Linux; many of which are free. For a combination of UPnP and X10, however, you are limited to a handful of commercial applications, including Premise Home Control 2.0 ($US199) and HomeSeer 1.7 ($US149.95). While Home Control has native support for both X10 and UPnP, HomeSeer has plugins for xAP and Z-wave, the latter of which supports UPnP. Both applications have a wide range of compatible hardware and a long list of features, including programmable extensibility. It is worth evaluating the demos as best you can before deciding which way to go. Note that both of these programs are for Windows and, although there is a UPnP Linux SDK available, there are currently no existing applications on that platform that support it. The most likely candidate for the future is the appropriately named Linux Home Automation project, which currently only supports a limited number of X10 and weather station controllers.

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