This page lists some very general information that I found when I wanted to get started with home automation, domatica in Dutch. Since I live in the Netherlands, this equipment mentioned on this page is what is available in the Netherlands.
One of the first choices I had to make was what type of controller I wanted. I considered applications areas, well-known brands and support protocols. Of course price was also a concern.
Home automation can be used for the following purposes:
- Lightning control.
- Appliance/Power control, e.g. garage door, curtains.
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) control
- Energy (electricity, gas) management and monitoring, including solar panels power monitoring.
- Security systems, including sensors and IPTV.
I've found that most controllers focus on one of these areas, and that there is little communication between them.
- 2-way communication over power lines (X10 power line) or 433 MHz radio (310 MHz in the USA) (X10 RF). X10 was developed in the 1970's and is one of the older protocols for home automation.
- A high-end standard used for more professional installations. Not very common for regular homes.
- Universal powerline bus (UPB)
- A standard for communication over power lines over short ranges, based on X10. Not very common, and power-line only.
- IEC 61334
- The industrial variant of UPB. Not very suited for home automation.
The simple ones
These protocols both use radio at 433.92 MHz, and are one-way protocols. They are cheap. The downside is that the distance is limited (max. 20 meter indoors), and there is no retransmission if the packets haven't arrived.
- Created by a UK-company JSJS Design in 2011. Also supported by Siemens.
- ClickOnClickOff (COCO) or KlikAanKlikUit (KAKU) is a popular Dutch brand. There are two protocol variants; both use 433 MHz radio. The first protocol was a simplified version of X10, and had limited addresses. The newer protocol has a long unique device ID.
Due to its simplicity both protocols are readily supported by a wide range of open source projects.
Mesh Network Protocols
These protocols all feature 2-way communication, which means that each command is acknowledged by a device. Also, devices can act as routers, and forward commands to devices which would otherwise be unreachable for a controller. Another advantage is that in particular Z-wave and Zigbee only use little power. The longer reach and higher reliability come at a draw-back: a higher price.
- INSTEON supports both radio-frequency and powerline transmission, and is backward compatible with X10. It is popular in the USA.
- Z-Wave uses radio at 868.42 MHz (908.42 MHz in the USA) and was developed by Zen-sys/Sigma Designs. It is a proprietary protocol, although the MAC/PHY layer is now a standardised as ITU-T G.9959. There are many available products, in particular in Europe.
- ZIgbee is an open standard, whose MAC/PHY layer is standardised as IEEE 802.15.4. It operates on the same frequencies as Z-Wave (868.42 MHz in Europe, 908.42 MHz in the USA). Despite the standardisation of the MAC/PHY layer, the applications are often not compatible due to differences higher in the protocol stack.
The Modern Ones
There are efforts to use existing technologies to control home devices.
- Bluetooth Low Power
- Most smart phones and tablets support Blue Tooth Low Energy (also marketed as Blue Tooth Smart), and slowly some home automation systems appear that can be controlled by BlueTooth. At the moment, the disadvantage is that there is no permanent controller: once out of reach, a smart phone can no longer control the device. It is expected that controllers that bridge Bluetooth LE with the network will emerge.
- Since wireless Internet is so ubiquitous, it is naturally to connect home devices to the network directly. Unfortunately, wifi requires a high amount of power, and is not suitable for most home automation devices.
- IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN) overcomes the wifi power obstacle by specifying IPv6 transmission over IEEE 802.15.4, the same protocol as ZigBee.
My protocol of choice would be Z-Wave, mostly because of it's reliability and long range, partly because of the mesh-network functionality. Z-Wave seems to have better compatibility compared to ZigBee, and is supported by a large group of vendors.
If you're looking into cheap devices, and care less about distance or reliability, X10 variants such as KAKU are easily supported with a wide range of 433 MHz transmitters, and likely work well for most homes.
My love for IPv6 makes me interested in 6LoWPAN. The technology seems solid, and I hope that low-power wifi chipset will be produced for these products. However, the technology still needs to gain more momentum. The push is certainly there by the the Thread group. I'm a bit worried that these vendor will mostly use it to connect home automation devices to the cloud. Net Labs, founding father of the Thread Group was purchased by Google for 3.2 billion dollars.
- Eneco Toon uses Z-Wave
- Home Wizard uses KAKU/COCO
- Philips Hue lamps use Zigbee
- Belkin Wemo uses regular wifi
- Apple Homekit uses Bluetooth LE. At the moment of writing, Homekit has very limited functionality. The HomeKit APIs can only be used when an app is active or open in the foreground; there is no such thing (currently) as an app using HomeKit that works in the background without user interaction.
- Google Nest uses 6LoWPAN/Thread
- Control4 uses Zigbee
Wifi <-> radio.
Z-Wave Gateway VERA lite http://www.rfxcom.com/
http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/zigbee-vs-zwave-vs-insteon-home-automation-protocols-explained/ http://www.vesternet.com/resources/feature-comparison http://www.liveautomatic.com/reviews/insteon-vs-x10-zigbee-and-zwave