Home automation has become increasing in popularity among tech savvy home owners; however you don’t have to be tech savvy to be able to make your home smarter and more energy efficient. I had the pleasure of talking with Steve Harris, an inventor who is currently in the process of crowdfunding his project, the Luminode. Imagine that all your light switches could talk to each other and remember how you like your lights setup during different times of the day. This is exactly what the Luminode does, without requiring any extra wiring! Check out the interview below to learn more about the Luminode and other future products from Think Automatic that can add substantial value to your home.
HomeAlarmSystems.com: How long have you been working on home automation projects?
Steve Harris (Think Automatic): I’ve been interested in home automation for many years. I installed X10 devices in my home and started playing with systems back in 1995, but I first got professionally involved with home automation when I joined Microsoft Research in 1998. I was in the computer vision group where I wrote vision code for trinocular cameras (think early version of Kinect), but I also wrote code to do sensor fusion. Multiple sensors including cameras, floor sensors, thumbprint scanners, and pointing devices (including trackpads on laptops) could report events and other status information to a central computer that would combine that information into a cohesive representation of the physical world that other applications could make use of without needing direct knowledge of the sensors involved.
HAS: Energy saving has been a growing interest among home owners, in what ways can the Luminode decrease their bills?
Steve: The Luminode has a built in current sensor which allows for immediate energy auditing. But more importantly, with the Luminode integrated into the back end learning system it has a sense of what devices and spaces have activity and it can automatically turn off lights and other devices when not in use.
In addition we hope to enter into relationships with power companies to help manage energy demand at peak times, but in a less intrusive way than existing smart grid initiatives some of which that allow power companies to restrict major appliance function. By having an intelligent layer between the appliances and the power company we believe we can reduce annoyances by allowing the home owner to select particular trade-offs, rather than solely the power companies, to save energy at peak times.
HAS: Can the Luminode smart switch help improve a home’s security by controlling lights at night if no one is home?
Steve: Indeed! In fact, since the learning algorithm is implemented in a SQL database it remembers your normal activity and can simulate your normal activity when you’re not home.
HAS: Luminode already integrates with several home security panels, which ones will be supported next?
Steve: That is up for debate and suggestion! Bear in mind that the Luminode doesn’t need to directly integrate with a security or automation panel, although it may be directly integrate-able with some. Instead the Luminode integrates with our back end through an XML based protocol which is designed to be easily integrated with a variety of other systems and panels. All that needs to happen to integrate a new panel or device is to create a simple Ruby Gem that can translate the particular panel or device’s protocol back and forth between XML and into our back end, and thus integrate with everything else that is connected to it.
HAS: Are you planning on adding motion sensors or person detectors to the Luminode?
Steve: We already have those features, just not directly on the Luminode. Instead, since the back end integrates with panels (so far GE’s NetworX security panel, and the Stargate automation panel) it makes use of motion and other sensors that way instead of directly. In this way a wide variety of devices, not just the Luminode, can make use of your sensor network.
HAS: Do you have an interesting home automation setup at your home that you could share with us?
Steve: Some years ago I did develop a compelling 6 button remote control setup for my home, which I plan to develop into a future product to integrate with the Think Automatic learning system. The way it worked is that I took a basic, inexpensive, generic IR TV remote called the “TV Buddy Remote” (which by the way has a built in cork screw and bottle opener!) and hooked an IR receiver to a small PC that I put in my AV cabinet. That PC also talked out IR, S-Link, and X10. Then I’d use the TV Buddy to navigate a voice menu that the PC would speak back to you. In that way you could select different modes that the PC understood such as “music”, “Tivo”, “DVD”, “Lights” and once in that mode the PC would take care of re-mapping the buttons on the TV Buddy to control what mode was selected. It worked really quite well! But what I plan to do is create a new simple 6 or 8 button two-way RF remote with a LCD screen to display the mode instead of it being spoken from a separate machine. In that way the remote becomes tightly integrated to the back end enabling it to control many devices.
Please take a look at Think Automatic’s Kickstarter project, help them out and you’ll get something amazing in return 35 people have already backed the project, as of 07/12/2012!