Home automation can play a defining role in the modern home, but it’s essential for the technology in different rooms to communicate effectively.
X10 is one method of getting electronic devices, whether it’s appliances or lighting, to talk to each other. It’s a communications protocol or ‘language’ that allows compatible products to send signals over electrical wiring in the home or office. This technology is an international and open industry standard for communication among electronic devices in home automation.
Smarthome.com.au, a wholesale supplier of home automation technology, actively promotes X10 as the driving force behind much of the new surveillance technology on the market.
X10 uses powerline wiring for signalling and control, where the signals involve brief radio frequency bursts representing digital information, but it can also work through a wireless network. This in turn facilitates remote parenting situations as it allows monitoring to occur over the phone, via the Internet and through SMS notification. Parents have more freedom in what they do, but can still maintain supervision of their children or elderly relatives at the same time.
Smarthome.com.au business developer Daniel Dykes says X10 is a reliable technology that has stood the test of time. It was first developed by Pico Electronics in Scotland in 1975.
“It’s a bit of an old technology now,” he says. “The company that produced it basically sat down, did experiments that took their fancy and this was their tenth experiment, hence the name X10.
“They were looking for a way to get things to communicate. Back then there was no wireless technology, so they came up with a way to communicate over powerlines. It has developed progressively since then, and now there are more devices and appliances that you can control, that simply didn’t exist in people’s houses in the 1970s.”
X10 was the first general purpose domotic network technology and still remains the most widely available. It is estimated that X10-compatible products feature in over 15 million homes throughout the world and control over 200 different lights and appliances. It boasts many advantages over other types of remote control products and systems: installation is simple and no costly rewiring is necessary, because communications signals are sent over existing electrical cabling.
Daniel says X10 is a “forwards-looking” solution that is able to communicate with a number of higher bandwidth alternatives, including KNX, INSTEON, BACnet and LonWorks.
“Technology is always changing and improving, and we are looking at a number of these for the future. As you can see with things like wireless Internet, technology has changed a lot and is still redeveloping.”
Smarthome.com.au sells between 10 and 20 starter kits every week, and Daniel believes this is a strong reflection of the rapid number of Australians choosing to install X10 in their house.
“All the new technologies coming out can communicate with it. One of the important things is that people buy a system that won’t become obsolete, so no matter what the future technology is, there will be a bridge between the two systems.”
Daniel says one of the advantages of X10 is its ability to be a retrofit solution, and simple installation means home owners can set it up themselves without having to call an electrician.
“For the middle market, someone who might want to automate one room but doesn’t want to go ripping apart the whole house, the communication link can still be established without having to lay down cables.
“Ninety-nine per cent of what we sell is ‘plug and play’ so you can literally plug X10 into a wall of the house. It’s really well-suited to the older style houses that you might be reluctant to change.
“It is able to give you the DIY plug-and-play; semi-professional installation that allows for the effective communication between appliances, but without having to lay down wires and rip out existing walls.”
One of Smarthome.com.au’s most recent developments revolves around using X10 through an iPhone, and they are currently developing an alarm system interface with a security camera. This new concept can detect motion in a particular area and then stream the video straight to your iPhone.
“Suddenly, you can have a professional security system, but only for a few thousand dollars. A few years ago, something like this was prohibitively expensive.
“Now you can use your iPhone to control anything in your home, from anywhere in the world. You can be on the road, overseas, and still be able to communicate with your house.”
According to Smarthome.com.au, X10 is mainly a solutions-focussed product that can be used from the lowest to the highest extreme in a home.
“A small amount of money can result in a small solution in your house. People can install it to control the mood settings in a home theatre, for example,” Daniel says.
“At the push of a button, the projector screen comes down, lights dim and the technology automatically turns on. It can also go up to more high-tech situations, where X10 is installed to help a person who is quadriplegic control almost everything in their house.”
But this technology isn’t just suited to home automation enthusiasts who like to keep up with the latest gadgets and technologies. In times of climate change and the increased need for energy conservation, X10 can also become a useful tool to control the lighting in different rooms. The use of motion sensors can cut down on the energy chewed up by rooms that aren’t used often.
“Motion sensors that are placed inside the different rooms makes the lights turn on when you walk through and turn off again when you leave. It particularly takes the fancy of parents so the kids don’t leave lights on everywhere. Or a customer can choose to have automated curtains, or windows that open and close depending on the temperature outside.”
Daniel says X10 can also be integrated to communicate with computers and the Internet, which opens up an avenue that provides informative feedback to a homeowner.
“It creates many different technology layers, so you can grab information from the Bureau of Meteorology website, like weather forecasts. Then if you turn on the washing machine and a light comes on it means it’s going to rain, so you know to use the dryer.
“Basically what you want to achieve, can be achieved with X10. It’s an exceedingly cost-effective solution to communication in home automation.”