Home automation faces 3 perpetual problems

I’ve been working with home automation deals since the 1970s when I first installed X-10 switches in my apartment – which I’m sure my landlord really appreciated when I moved in. At the time, there was only X-10, and while it was anything but secure, the fact that there was no internet pretty much kept me from being hacked.

Then in the early 2000s Insteon came out and I was an early fan. Both my last house and my current house were fully wired with Insteon switches and with a few exceptions everything worked fine.

The exceptions were that Insteon was not a common standard. Thus, security cameras, door locks and all connected devices not only used a different protocol, but were also vastly different from each other and often came from the same brand.

This lack of commonalities is still endemic. Apple, Google, and Amazon have worked to connect to these different platforms, but the results are far from reliable. Until connected home automation devices talk to each other, or we have a more reliable way to bridge standards, a true “IoT home,” our new term for automating things, is not viable.

But Insteon apparently went under, and now I eventually have to rewire the house switches again, which not only is going to be expensive, but I’m also going to invariably shock myself multiple times in the process, which means I’m going to put it back to later. effort for some time.

Let’s talk about that this week – and what I’m looking at replacing Insteon switches – as well as my product of the week, which is a set of custom spaceship switches for your car, home, or just to impress your friends.

Smart home dilemmas

There are three lingering issues with home automation. The first is common to several technology verticals, namely the lack of learning from those who came before it.

This is not true of home automation alone, but of IoT in general. Virtually every company has approached the IoT opportunity from scratch instead of buying existing companies like X-10 or Echelon. X-10 was a leader in home automation, Echelon was a leader in business automation, and both teams learned a lot over the decades of running their businesses making lots of mistakes and getting some successes.

If either company had been used as the basis for the next generation of products, the acquiring companies would have started and not have to relearn what works and what doesn’t.

The second problem is that automated switches will need to be replaced as technology advances, security issues arise, and wearable parts wear out. If the house is not properly shielded, even an electrical spike can knock out switches, so making them easy for the user to replace is essential. But most switches require you to wire them up every time.

Only one company seemed to realize this was a critical issue and that was Noon Smart Lighting. He has developed a switch docking station which, when wired up, forms a socket for a new switch allowing you to easily upgrade your switches when they become obsolete or fail.

This would have been my first choice for switch replacement. Unfortunately, while the website remains active, all efforts I have made to try to contact them have failed. So I have my doubts whether they are still operating in the US, although they may still be active in Europe.

The third problem is the lack of a set of interoperability standards common to all home automation products. As mentioned, although there are certain ‘standards’ they are not universally used and you generally need to get something that works with whatever you want to use as a hub.

So if you’re using Apple, you start with things that work with Apple, risking Apple and that company going their separate ways. Same with Google or Amazon. This makes it difficult to ensure that your investment not only lasts for years, but initially performs as advertised.

My Insteon switches worked with Amazon Alexa intermittently and usually only with on/off commands, not individual switches. Ideally appliances, switches and home entertainment products would all use the same set of standards, so they would interoperate, but this is far from the case, pushing the true automated home further into the future. .


Home automation remains largely for those who focus on a few small things – like your locks, security cameras and sometimes your connected devices – but it’s not yet to a point where you can really automate your home yourself. or have an installer automate it for you in a way that will be complete.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find individual solutions that work. For example, I started replacing my Insteon switches with Lutron Caseta switches. I’ve installed two wall switches, six outdoor on-off controllers, and the Caseta hub, and everything seems to work fine from my Microsoft Duo Android phone.

I doubt Lutron will go anywhere considering they make a lot of other products and are one of the biggest players in electronic control hardware. Yet even with their switches, albeit one of the most affordable, they fall short of the easy swap capability which I think is class essential and apart from the pluggable exterior switch you still have to wire the solution a bit like Insteon.

So, after more than 50 years of working to find the perfect home automation solution, I still look forward to the day when the industry finally realizes that interoperability and ease of maintenance are essential for this class.

Until it does, it’s hard to recommend having it in your home, unless you’re willing to risk it not interacting well, having to be painfully replaced at a moment and that something ideal will come out in a few moments. short years rendering your deployment obsolete.

I’m willing to take those risks, but I live on the edge.

Concord Jewish Space Laser Switch

What drew me to Concord Aerospace was not only that they make switches for spacecraft, but that they make a switch called the Jewish Space Laser Switch (it’s a real set of switches) that I thought was fun to install on something.

But then I found out that the company customizes a set of switches for anything your heart desires for not a lot of money. So I ordered several switches for fun; one for my own project car, and also one for the car I would like to build, a replica of the Aston Martin DB5 driven by James Bond. I can’t afford to build this car, but I can afford to buy the switch and pretend.

Sometimes it’s fun to have something that makes you smile, and Concord Aerospace switches allow me to do just that.

Concord Aerospace Jewish Space Customizable Laser Panels

Customizable Jewish space laser sign. (Concord Aerospace)

The switches are industrial grade. Many are replicas of what’s been put in real spaceships, and I still think it would be fun to build a switchboard behind my head with categories like Arm Missiles and Ejector Seat that would grab people’s attention when I’m on a Zoom call.

I don’t think we have that much to smile about these days, so I’m constantly on the lookout for things that aren’t expensive but make me smile. The Concord Jewish Space Laser Switch, weapon switches, and even the set of switches I’m thinking of using in my project car all do this, which is why Concord Aerospace’s Customizable Switches are my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.


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