Off-the-shelf solutions to improving your home’s IQ
Home automation has steadily trickled down from the high-end to the mass market. The kind of functionality previously limited to specialist installations using expensive custom-designed systems based on either a single ecosystem, or cobbled together from a range of products, is now available off the shelf. Adding to the speed of uptake, manufacturers are making products compatible with a particular protocol or standard, such as Z-wave. You don’t need to be an electronics tech to set-up, either: most of these require only limited Diying before you’re up and running.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. The ease of use of a one-make solution could turn into a dead end as components or software become obsolete. Mixing and matching promises more versatility, traded off against the possibility of incompatibility further down the line. Here are some of the options we’ve come across.
STAY IN CONTROL
Fully programmable, GSM Commander is capable of managing everything from opening and closing gates remotely to monitoring energy consumption. It performs its automation magic either by SMS or the cloud. And, according to its creators Polygon Technologies, it is easily programmed using its own Smart Setup Software, which is based on a point and click interface.
What you can use it to control:
• Access. Activate automated gates or doors via a simple dropped call from a cellphone. If there’s a gate position sensor, the home owner can be alerted if the gate has been forced or left open.
• Timed switching. Turn things on and off via SMS or automatically on a set date or time. For instance, switch off your geyser to save electricity, or your lights to make it look like someone’s at home.
• Heating and cooling. Floor heating can be automatically turned on or off based on outside temperature; conventional air-conditioners can be made “smart” in the same way.
• Irrigation. In addition to turning on irrigation automatically as part of a daily programme, activating Rain mode via SMS will stop the system from irrigating during showers.
• Pool management. If you’ve got a solar-heated pool, you can program the GSM Commander to pump hot water into your pool only if the roof temperature is above your chosen threshold.
• Energy monitoring. If you are using too much electricity according to preset criteria, the GSM Commander will alert you via SMS or automatically turn off high-power loads (or both). You can also track water consumption.
An additional function of the GSM Commander system can be used in conjunction with your existing alarm system at home, or can replace it entirely. It allows you to arm or disarm your home alarm via SMS, automatically if needed. Programming the unit to provide automation functionality combined with the alarm could, say, open and close access points, allowing a set time between actions, turn on specific lights, air-con and TV.
If you do actually have a burglar, detailed SMS alerts can be sent in real time via SMS (“Burglar has just entered your house via the main bedroom window on DATE at TIME”). As intruders move through the building, updated SMSS will be sent should you choose to have this
functionality enabled. Loading neighbours onto the system means that they get the alerts as well and there’s an optional pepper gas dispensing add-on.
In addition to its SMS communications, there’s a Web-based platform called Air drive ( airdrive.co.za) where you can view the live status of everything you are controlling, from lights to energy consumption, incident logs and control systems and appliances, and reprogram the device itself.
• To find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a DIY, portable stand-alone alarm system that not only alerts you to a breakin, but also fights back by spraying pepper gas; by remote control, if you want.
Simply plug it into a wall socket and your’re good to go. When the alarm goes off, four cellphone users are notified via SMS. Thanks to a listen-in microphone, the user is able to verify adjacent noise. The system can be checked, armed and disarmed via SMS. There’s also power loss and restore SMS notification.
Boxed with the device are pepper gas, one PIR motion detector, sound bomb siren, 1,2 A battery and 2-button remote (for arm/disarm and panic). An additional relay output can be used to operate a gate motor or switch a light on and off. Other functions include a walk-through test function and auto battery disconnect when battery is low.
A solar panel connector with a built-in regulator allows the unit to be used where power supply is not assured, such as a caravan, gun safe or freight containers.
A pepper gas slave unit is available that allows expansion into other rooms. The gas will either spray together with the master unit, or each slave unit can spray on its own.
From the same company comes SMS TEMPERATURE ALERT, which provides notifications for temperature-controlled areas (think fridges, freezers, server rooms). It reports to four cellphone users when temperature deviates from the range you are monitoring and has an LCD screen on which to check the temperature. It monitors power loss and issues SMS alerts accordingly; an internal 1-amp battery provides back-up power for two hours.
A water sensor can be added to notify uses to water levels fluctuating more than desired, or in case of flooding. Additional sensor and LCD screen options are available, with the possibility of monitoring up to four fridges.
OKAY, YOU CAN LOSE THE KEYS
If you’re tired of lugging around what seems like the collected keys to Fort Knox, Yale’s new Keyless Connected Smart lock could be a godsend. There’s a wide variety of RFID access accessory options, too, ranging from an access card carried in your wallet to an entry tag on a lanyard or keyring, or an admission sticker on your phone. You can program a combination of these accessories to suit your lifestyle.
Techno-savy users will be happy to know that the Smart Living lock Z-wave module, which integrates with most home automation systems, is fully available to link the Digital Door Lock to current systems for full control from anywhere in the world.