Add Intelligence to your Home

home_automationI hobby in home automation and love to fiddle around with my home’s system.  As such, I was recently asked to design a system for someone’s new home. New to them, but the home is considered an “existing” home since it is fully built.  This is important to remember when designing a home automation solution for someone.

The following is what I recommended to them, figured you guys would be interested in some of the decisions I’d made regarding their new HS solution:

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Wireless Internet Router:
Before I decided on a business class non-wireless router… i was looking seriously at this one:

ASUS RT-ACU Dual-Band ($192.99) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833320115

But that might be too expensive… so go with one of it’s cheaper models ($107.99): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=33-320-062%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20

Either one will set you up for wireless within the house. If you want to extend that coverage to a majority of your yard… consider going with a high-power wireless access point ($275): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833168099 This would extend your wireless coverage to a major portion of your yard.

If you’ll be adding a separate shop like your current one, you have two options for internet connections out there…

  1. Underground Wiring: http://www.platt.com/platt-electric-supply/Category-Cables-Cable-Outdoor-Rated/Honeywell-Genesis/50901008/product.aspx?zpid=611774
  2. Get a second outdoor access point to connect your house and shop together.

Reasons for connecting your shop…

  • a. you could setup a computer in the shop which is connected to a big screen TV. This could be a cheap one like the one for computer control… and it would run a program which puts the security system up on the TV.
  • b. Wireless internet would keep your cellular data usage on your phone low while you’re out there… pulling up video cameras takes a lot of bandwidth. If you’re on your cellular connection, better hope you have unlimited internet… otherwise be near a wireless access point.
  • c. If you choose not to run video surveillance wires to your shop… you can pick up wireless or wired IP cameras which will let you monitor them.

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Computer Control ~ $250
Would Need: PC, Controller, Modules — Cost: $159.94 + (each light) 38.81… plus shipping
You don’t need a super powerful system as the brain for your home. It basically does a lot of "watching" of sensors which is not particular resource intensive.

I’d go with something like this ($109.99): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883255979

To control stuff you’ll need a Z-Wave Controller ($49.95): http://store.homeseer.com/store/Aeon-Labs-Aeotec-Z-Stick-S2-Z-Wave-USB-Interface-P746C66.aspx

Appliance/Lighting modules to control desk lamps and such…

Other Z-Wave Recommendations

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Security ~ $250
Need: Alarm System Kit, Door/window sensors and Wire… Costs: $221 + (each door/window) $1.57 + (each motion) $15.55 + $40… + shipping

The security system comes in a kit with almost everything for the core system: http://store.homeseer.com/store/DSC-KIT32-219CP01NT-Hybrid-Wireless-Security-System-Kit-P1154C236.aspx (you’ll need the kit $213.50 + AC Power Transformer $7.50 + IT-100 Integration Interface $59.94 [get the it-100 interface if you’re doing the computer control])

Just because you pick and install the security system yourself doesn’t mean you can’t get professional security monitoring ($8.95/month): http://www.smarthome.com/alarm.html

SENSORS:
I’d also recommend wiring it yourself… it’s a hell of a lot cheaper, and I believe it is more reliable.

You’ll also need 4-conductor wire, for wiring the keypad to the box and computer if you wanted that.

Wireless sensors are a lot more expensive but saves a lot in labor
If you go wireless, you’ll require a wireless signal receiver ($55.18): http://store.homeseer.com/store/DSC-RF5132-433-PowerSeries-Wireless-Receiver-P1159C235.aspx

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Video Surveillance

You have two main options for video…

  1. Use a DVR which is a single purpose device and records connected computer for upwards of 1-2 weeks with the started 4-cameras. This option includes an iPhone app but it too is single purpose and can only view cameras, a separate app is required to for home control and remote security. This option can be WAY cheaper than option 2…
  2. Use wired or wireless IP cameras. This option is more expensive because each camera is a self-contained mini computer which connects to your wireless router or wired in using cat5 cable.

OPTION 1 – self contained DVR.
Need: DVR 4-camera Kit… Costs: $249 + $79… + shipping
I’d recommend you go with a DVR; this one is 8-channel with 4 cameras and wire included: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16881192198

It doesn’t have a hard drive, so you’ll want to pick one up… 1Tb Hard Drive ($79): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136776 (avoid Seagate since they can get really hot)

This DVR has 8 channels… so you can add 4 more cameras, includes wire, for only ($109): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=81-339-014&ParentOnly=1

The DVR supports up to (2) 1Tb hard drives… Each camera will provide 30gigs of video every 24 hours. So with this 4 camera system… a 1Tb hard drive will support a week’s worth of video. If you add the additional 4 cameras, that’ll cut it to only 3.5 days, so get a second 1Tb hard drive to keep it at a week.

OPTION 2 – IP Camera, recorded on the computer
Need: IP Camera… Costs: $30 + (each camera) $100
If you want live monitoring this is great and can be fully integrated into the home control/security iPhone app and doesn’t require any additional equipment.

If you want to record it, then a cheap $30 software (http://www.blueirissoftware.com/) will turn the control computer into a DVR…just remember to get a large hard drive.

For wireless, I’d recommend getting the more expensive router or the outdoor one since video is bandwidth heavy.

Lots of wireless cameras are available here (avg $100/ea): http://store.homeseer.com/store/Netcams-C194.aspx

For wired cameras, use the Foscam wide angle ethernet cameras ($105): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1R00M31192

Foscam also has a wired/wireless version, but not wide angle ($95): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1PK0MG8083

I would highly recommend wide angle… it distorts the image but shows you more without having to push the camera further away from your target.

 

If you have recommendations, alternatives, or just want to comment, leave it below… I respond to all, but spam.

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7 Technology Must Have’s!

Ever wonder what technology you really need these days?  Check out this list:

iStock_000017044605XSmall1. The most important thing to spend your money on, far and above more important than cell phones, is your internet connection!  Drop your cable TV, you don’t need it, what you will need as a replacement is a very strong high speed internet connection.  If you live within Northwest Arkansas, I’d recommend Cox Cable over AT&T DSL, but AT&T Uverse takes the cake (if it’s available in your area).

2. Setup that wireless router for your fast internet connection!  This way when your within your home you can take advantage of the faster speeds for all your devices.  (don’t forget to encrypt it!)

3. Splurge on a 3g iPad!  Pay the $650 plus $30/month for unlimited access, you’ll have entertainment in the palms of your hands.  Reading, gaming, navigation, weather, the list of values goes on and on.  Oh, and remember to hook it up to your wireless router while at home.

iStock_DiskArray4. Buy a good computer with tons of hard drive space… and I mean terabytes worth.  This could be a Windows Home Server, or just a standard Dell computer you’ve augmented with additional hard drives.  This will give you plenty of space for your media which leads into step 5.

5. Convert all of your DVD’s to digital mp4 files which can be linked into iTunes.  This lets you sync with your iPad or other devices to watch your collection of movies anywhere.

6. Buy one of those $99 AppleTV’s!  This will give you access to your newly digitized DVD collection on your television set.  It also provides you with access to pictures and other media.  Even the internet is accessible along with NetFlix.

7. NetFlix.  This will give you access to a wide variety of movies and television shows which you do not have in your personal collection.  As an added bonus, you can access NetFlix on your iPad, AppleTV, and your computer!

These 7 things are all you need to have a technologically well rounded life, enjoy!

In-Flight Internet services

The in-flight Internet service from American Airlines is extremely nice. It is very fast for Internet and email as well as for posting to my blog. This allows for keeping in contact with anyone anytime!
The service cost me just under $15 and is keeping up with nearly everything I’m throwing at it. Some of the apps on my iPad vie been using is the word press app of course, the FlightTrack Pro as well as other Internet related applications.

If you are planing a trip in the near future, I’d recommended getting the FlightTrack Pro at it not only maps out your flight paths, but also will give you real time flight tracking. Currently the app is reporting that I am half way thru my flight just over Arizona.

If you have an iPhone, another flight app I would recommend is Flight Update Pro. I’ve been using this app to keep tabs of my flights, the gates, and their current status. I even installed this app on my wifes iPhone and regularly update it with trips I am taking. This let’s her keep track of my flights.
Whenever you want to test your internet connection speed I utilize the SpeedTest app to get the stats of my connection. This app downloads a 1 mb file from the specified source to your device. By doing this you gain information on the speed and quality of your connection. During my Dallas to San Francisco flight, I tested the connection with the following results:

Download Speed: 3.16mbps
Elapsed Time: 25.319 sec

Needless to say if your planning a flight(s) some time soon, be sure you pick up a few apps to make things go easier.