Master in your own home
TECH TALK: Control every device from your phone says David Behrens.
OT too long ago, the best you could hope for in the way of home automation was a piece of cord that opened and closed the curtains when you pulled it. Today, you can draw your drapes and much else using your wi-fi network. A few strategically placed switches dotted around your home and you can impress your guests with robotic feats previously seen only in James Bond movies.
But there is more to automation than simply showing-off, especially if used as part of a home security system. Remotely controlling a few lamps can create the illusion that your house is occupied more effectively than a plug-in timer.
The wireless technology that facilitates this is known as Z-Wave, a protocol which allows lighting, entertainment systems and other appliances to communicate with each other via a central controller, which in turn is operated from an app on your phone or iPad.
It’s possible that you may already have a suitable controller, because some of the new home security cameras are Z-Wave compatible. The Piper NV unit, which I tested the other week, can control multiple switches on the same network – which in practice means turning them on and off to a schedule, which can vary according to whether you’re at home or out and away.
The simplest Z-Wave switch is an adapter that plugs into a mains socket and into which you plug the appliance you want to control. Your app sends it a signal that turns the power on or off.
But, depending on your controller, you can also connect wireless door sensors, wall light switches and thermostats. Z-Wave conforms to an industry-wide standard, so you’re not tied to proprietary controllers.
Setting up a Z-Wave simply involves plugging it in and pressing a button, which makes it visible to your controller app. If you’ve ever used a Homeplug to hook up a device to your network, you’ll be familiar with the concept. Prices start at just under £30 for a plug-in switch but less if you buy in bulk allowing you to turn off all your lights, fans, televisions, computers and just about anything else with a single click before you go out. A solenoid switch on your garden hose could irrigate your lawn while you’re on holiday, and a hooked-up smoke alarm could alert you remotely. Expect Z-Wave enabled bulbs, switches and even fridge freezers at your local Currys soon.
REMOTE CHANCE: This Piper home security camera can remotely control other appliances.