June 28th in Home Automation, Gadgets by .

Home Automation in UK with Z-Wave

Want to control your lights from your iPhone / iPad / Android device? Want email alerts if someone enters your house/room? Want your lights to come on automatically when you’re pulling up on the driveway? Check out our new series on Home Automation.

We recently decided it was time for some serious new tech at TodaysTopTech HQ, so after much deliberation we decided to plump for full on geeky ‘Home Automation’! There’s a tonne of products our there now for this kind of stuff, some old and established, some bleeding edge, and others somewhere in between.

Our ‘wish list’ was something along these lines…

1. Highly configurable and adaptable home automation
2. Completely reliable
3. Easily expandable and upgradable
4. Affordable

 

Z-Wave

Several weeks of reading and researching lead us to rule out technologies which didn’t live up to the ‘completely reliable’ mark, such as LightwaveRF and X10 devices (these don’t support auto acknowledgement and re-sends to ensure the command was received and actioned by the end device, which can result in unreliable performance). In the end we selected Z-Wave technology. Z-wave has several advantages over many other home automation technologies, but we like it because it is super reliable, easy to set up, and not too expensive.

There are hundreds of Z-wave devices out there on the market, and whilst the UK is still lagging behind in terms of product availability, it’s improving fast. There are enough products on the UK market however to at least get us going and start testing home automation using Z-wave.

One great place we found to buy Z-Wave (and other) home automation equipment in the UK was Vesternet. They have a great selection of kit, and their website contains heaps of advice and help to get you started. We dealt with a guy called Dave, who was super helpful, ensuring we got the right products. Their prices are probably some of the cheapest in the UK, and we tested out their next day service – everything arrived on time and in great condition! We couldn’t recommend them more, so do check them out if you’re going to get into Home Automation in the UK. www.vesternet.com

Controller

Once you’ve plumped for a technology, such as Z-wave, you then need to consider how you’re going to control the devices, ie. what will be used as the ‘brains’ of the system. If you imagine you’re going to have perhaps a sensor on the external doors to alert when they’re open, and a motion sensor in the room, plus maybe a couple of lights which can receive instruction wirelessly to be turned on and off…. then you’re going to need a brain, or controller, to store the configuration of how all these sensors and devices will react and interact with each other. A command centre.

There are many off-the-shelf pieces of hardware that will do this for you, but we decided we wanted absolute maximum configurability. We didn’t want to get half way down the line with a product, then realise that one of our configuration ideas wasn’t possible because of a limitation with the controller hardware or firmware etc. So, we ended up using a Mac Mini!

It’s no secret we love Mac’s here at TodaysTopTech, so making use of a reliable, low power, energy efficient, low noise Mac Mini 2012 seemed a good choice. In addition to the Mac, we’d need a USB device to connect from the Mac mini to the Z-wave home network, plus some software.

Software

The software we’re testing right now is widely thought of as the best Mac software for Home Automation – Indigo, by Perceptive Automation. It’s not cheap, but it has a large user base and active, helpful forums and it’s completely configurable! We’re hoping it’s going to perform like a dream in practice because so far, it’s looking great in theory.

So, that’s how far we’ve progressed so far. In the coming blog posts we’ll be showing you the kit in more detail, reviewing it, and offering tips and advice if you’re going to set up some home automation in the UK.

Feel free to ask us questions, or follow the journey on Twitter (@TodaysTopTech).

Stay tuned….

Self-confessed tech and gadget geek. Love all kinds of tech, but especially that which helps me work more effectively, and looks / feels good to use.

VIsit Jon Smith's website

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