This blog is dedicated to documenting my personal technology projects. My interests vary, but mostly center around the themes of home automation and robotics.
Many people find my projects a bit unusual, but I truly see them as a glimpse into the near future. I envision a time when many new houses will be built with similar features and functions, or at least pre-wired to allow future expansion. I think this adoption will be similar to the level of automation that we’ve seen in the automobile industry. High end cars have the ability to automatically activate headlights and windshield wipers. Some now have voice recognition capabilities, navigation systems and climate control. Even low-end cars today have automation features such as activating the dome light when the door opens and remote control security features. So, why should a home be any different?
Commercial property is adopting this technology rapidly, but residential home-automation is currently in its infancy. There are many products available that allow homeowners to retro-fit key features into homes, but they have limited functionality and reliability, and are still far too expensive. Also, the structured wiring required for the required level of reliability is uncommon, and retrofits are very expensive and invasive. I predict, in the near future, the required structured wiring for integrated automated features will become standard in homes, allow developers to make features integrated, ubiquitous, and highly reliable, and have a dramatic impact on resale value of homes. I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to have my last 2 houses custom-built, giving me the opportunity to deploy my own structured wiring. With a lot of pre-planning, this has allowed me to deploy features cleanly with no visible wires. I’ve evolved the system to have a personality and we now consider it a “her” and a member of the family.
Automation is an important part of many of my projects. My definition of automation involves the computer taking action based on sensor inputs without human intervention. In the early incarnations of my home system, I enabled only remote control capabilities. Despite my efforts to make things “push-button” simple, I found I was the only one in my household pushing the button! So, I have evolved the home system to take the next proactive step and actually trigger the action based on sensor inputs and a set of rules. I still use the remote control capabilities to over-ride automated states when needed (which is rare), but the majority of the time, the home system anticipates my needs. This has resulted in many benefits including a significant reduction in home power consumption and improved security.
A few years ago, it occurred to me that the sense and response technology I’ve been developing for home automation products is very similar to the logic used in robotics. I taught myself to use micro-controllers which opened a whole new set of capabilities for home-automation that diminished the need for dedicating PCs. I also learned to use the various inexpensive sensors commonly used in robotics and integrated them into my home-automation projects to allow a greater level of human-computer interaction. As with my home system, my primary interest in robotics is to build platforms with true autonomy. I’ve found success in building robots that have earned competition awards and patents.