PDA

View Full Version : Pioneers, part II (Mac Home Automation)




Aeolius
Jan 11, 2006, 03:09 PM
(cross-posted on the Indigo boards)

In my quest for a home automation solution that integrates with a Macintosh home network, I called several home automation companies in my area. Most replied with the typical "appliance salesman" response, offering an embedded Crestron + Lutron solution. Another specialized solely in HAI systems. None seemed to offer the "Think Different" approach that I was looking for.

I began to wonder how far a Mac home network would actually go, towards providing my solution. A member on the Indigo message board introduced me to the Xenarc line of touchscreen monitors, which, when coupled with a Mac Mini would provide a pretty slick interface, to the tune of $870. For comparison, an HAI OmniTouch controller with video is $900.

With a Mac, I can use Indigo and SecuritySpy. Both have widgets, are web accessible, and have intuitive interfaces. Hopefully they will seamlessly integrate with the Intel-based Macs. That's a pretty good start. With a host of touchscreen Mac Minis networked with typical Mac workstations, a shared audio solution and home intercom is achieved. A DVD/movie server like Kaleidescape would provide a shared movie solution. I wonder if iTunes will ever allow for video sharing, or if Front Row can handle a DVD server. Assuming that I begin with two network surveillance cameras, one indoor and one outdoors, then add a dozen more over time, am I going to need an Xserve or two, to handle Indigo, SecuritySpy, and a DVD server? Will I need OS X Server to manage a WiFi hotspot, such as the one provided with the D-Link DWL-2700AP?

Granted, there are plenty of pieces of the puzzle that I have no idea how to approach; HVAC, security/motion alarms, water sensors and so on. I also foresee several projects; integrating a weather station, aquarium control by coupling a Labjack with Maquarium, and automatically feeding animals by coupling a Labjack with a ProFeeder. How much structured wiring will I need? How do in integrate it all? How do I keep this project scalable, affordable, and manageable? How does the HAI approach compare against Insteon?

I also want this home to be accessible for my son, who uses a wheelchair. The placement of automatic door openers, such as those offered by Open Sesame, will be integrated into the home design. Is there any chance of utilizing OS X's native speech recognition, during the design of the home automation system?

And then there is the waiting game. The January MacWorld Expo in San Francisco did not debut a DVR solution from Apple, as was anticipated, but the new Intel-based iMacs and MacBooks were released. TiVo didn't offer tangible evidence, beyond the presence of a prototype, of their Series 3 DVR at NEC. Apple has committed to updating their entire line to Intel processors by the end of 2006. If I set up a network of Mac Minis and Xserves, will new ones be released before my home is completed?

I know I can't do all of this myself. I lack the time and the knowledge to properly wire the system, concoct appropriate AppleScript/Automator routines, devise widgets, and troubleshoot. I have had one competent response on the Indigo message-boards, albeit from someone living on the other side of the US, and one response from a company 2 hours away. I feel overwhelmed by the scope of the project, but look forward to a "MacHouse Pro" that I can showcase with pride.