Initial investigation revealed that a common set-up was to choose a lighting control mechanism (e.g. C-bus), link it into a sophisticated alarm to provide movement/presence detection (e.g. Comfort) and then add higher level functions via a computer-based controller (e.g. HomeVision). If appliance control was needed it was typically X10 based. This seemed about as standard as it got, but the complexity of the overall architecture shocked me as my experience with big telco systems is that the grief exists in the interfaces between systems, and here there were plenty of interfaces! Although I was keen to have a smart home I knew that to win any kind of acceptance (WAF ) it had to “just work” and while I looked forward to the challenge of building it, I didn’t want to constantly have to tinker to maintain the status quo. Then David Gumbrell suggested I take a look at Idratek and his excellent blog.
What immediately struck me was that the product philosophy had a much wider outlook than others. It wasn’t just a bunch of industrial relays and dimmers for the enthusiast or installer to cobble the logic around, home automation was at its very core from the network protocol (CAN-bus inspired + audio) through the master-less hardware with built in “Reflex” actions to the sophisticated control programme, “Cortex”. I am not a software expert but I was blown away by the “obvious when you think about it” use of an Object Oriented approach to the controls. For example, a relay is a relay, it can be used to control a light, an appliance, a TV, a fan or anything. Cortex has a prebuilt representation of a light with links to room occupancy, time of day, light level etc. To control a relay as a light you simply assign it as a light object in a room and it works out which presence state, light meter etc. to link to – fantastic! About this time I had a long chat with a robotics lecturer friend and this emphasised the message from Idratek that for good control good sensor input is needed, and so as Idratek do not directly support wireless, I really was going to have to put all those wires in!
So while the product looked good on paper, did it work well? I was greatly assured by David G’s blog and by numerous conversations with Dr Karam Karam, founder and CEO of Idratek. Karam convinced me that the system was capable of doing just about everything I wanted and significantly more; David’s experiences gave me confidence it was capable of some pretty clever stuff and that it did just work when left alone.