Here’s a link to Richard Osbornes superb Home Automation website.
I’ve been interested in home automation for a while. The concept of an intelligent house, where devices could be controlled remotely, and would be automated for both comfort and energy efficiency was very appealing. I initially followed developments of some aspects of both the future looking developments from places such as BT Labs, and MIT’s Media Lab and their Things that think programme and Project Oxygen, and thought that if I wanted the level of home control that some of their futuristic looking projects provided, I’d be slaving over a soldering iron to build things myself. Two things happened to change this.
Firstly, I was involved professionally in a project to investigate the use of active badges for medical applications – this involved embedded microcontrollers, RF and IR communications, and some rudimentary health sensors. It also allowed concepts such as doors being opened remotely, and device control to be examined. Secondly, as part of the research for this, I stumbled across home automation and X-10 – I was fascinated by this, and saw that it could offer major benefits within a house, and would save the use of a soldering iron, and hooking up the parallel port for device control, when I could put it to better use for reading inputs from various sensors.