Google looks to bring Home Automation to the masses with its Android@Home Framework

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Over the years, technology magazines and technorati have continued to make a lot of noise about the wonderful benefits of Home Automation, ever since the Jetsons, we have been aware of the potential of automating and computerising / remote-controlling various aspects of domestic life. Over the years a number of consumer brands have dabbled, including Sony and Nokia; but it has become almost exclusively the preserve of the rich and famous, with Home Automation specialists Zensys, Sigma Designs, Express Controls, AMX Corp, Control 4, Echelon and Jung - all being relatively expensive.

As is Google’s way, it is now looking to bring all the benefits of Home Automation into the hands of the everyman. There are 2 core components to this project - the actual android protocol / control system - which utilises Android-based tablets and smartphones in this case ’Android@Home Framework’; and then there is ’Project Tungsten’ which is a wireless base-station protocol / wifi control box, which will allow Android devices to communicate with a variety of domestic utilities and appliances. Typically toasters are dumb technology, but a ’tungsten’ enabled toaster will allow you to control it from your Android phone. A toaster is possibly a bad analogy - you might say ’why would you bother to automate this?’, but far more clever automations are possible, such as fridge supplies control - with an automated shopping list, as well as in-fridge camera and live updated fridge inventory!

In the above diagram, Google outlines 5 control areas; some of which were demoed at the recent I/O conference:

  • Audio / Entertainment - Google’s equivalent of Apple Airplay, with a major difference in that music is streamed directly from the Cloud (I believe Cloud storage will become more and more like a virtual ’Attic’ (for ’overflow’ storage) with a real need for media servers on ground level to ensure smooth and uninterrupted service)
  • Heating - Control your house’s thermostat / central heating remotely
  • Lights - Get an overview and manage your domestic lighting arrangements from afar
  • Utilities / Appliances - Control a variety of domestic appliances and utilities from your smartphone or tablet - think you left the cooker on? Switch it off remotely, or even get alarms if cooker is unattended for more than a set interval
  • Timers / Alarms - Co-ordinate the house’s key functional activities to coincide with your wake-up, mealtime and bedtime routines

I’ve also hinted in the visual at several other areas that Android@Home will be involved in:

  • Security / Video Surveillance - A key concern for most people is being able to keep tabs on their home when they are away
  • Locks - With this kind of Home Automation, we are going to see more and more keyless entry systems. I am one of those who always worries that I might not have locked all the doors when I left - here you can check and re-affirm if you need to - wherever in the world you are (at airport!)
  • Power Management - If you control all appliances and utilities via Android, you are in a position to review power usage, and regulate consumption - which will lead to more efficiencies
  • Supplies Management - I mention fridge inventory control above, but there are several more areas of domestic supplies / inventory control that can be covered by this - toiletries and cleaning products and various household spares, all managed via a centralised application

I for one am really looking forward to the fruition of all of this, it will mean more safety / security, efficiency and convenience for all, at a price that all can afford...

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