In the SmartThings Is Over thread, some statements were made that home automation is dead, or has no adoption, or that Google and Apple have or will have won. That’s not fully on-topic for the thread, so onto a new thread…
I started with home automation as a young teen in the late 1970s, using the BSR X10 system from Radio Shack. It was pretty common and actually not all that much weaker than SmartThings. By the mid-1980s, you could use timers, ladder-logic (cascading conditions) and sensors to do things like, If my door sensor goes off, If sunset has passed, If it’s before midnight, Turn on the porch light.
Okay, a bit geeky, but reasonably popular. Both Radio Shack and Sears, two huge retailers back then, carried them prominently.
The Clapper was heavily advertised around 1998 or so, and ExtendaSwitch remotes (a remote wall mounted or handheld lightswitch and a plug-in module) have been common in hardware stores for over 20 years. Those too are home automation.
Most of us aren’t the sweet spot. I used to write for a long-gone Home Automation magazine, and I wrote a complex plug-in for HomeSeer many years ago. So I can look at SmartThings and say, there’s nothing new here, and what there is, isn’t reliable. And the lack of reliability is a real problem. But what’s new with SmartThings (and Wink, etc., relative to the past) is that for $100, you get:
- The processing hub. You don’t need to dedicate a home PC to it
- Multiple radios. Each interface (Z-Wave, UPB, Insteon, X10, Zigbee,…) used to come separately and require an additional plug-in if allowed at all.
- Phone interface. We carry the phones with us all the time; being able to monitor and control the system via smart phone is a change, and was still an expensive complicated add-on just three years ago to HomeSeer, the most expensive and powerful system on the common market.
Just three years ago, this level of functionality would have run you over $500 from HomeSeer, as you’d need the base program, the PC or their box, multiple modules, the plug-ins (HomeSeer only gave you Z-Wave; you’d pay for Zigbee) and the update to the web building app; no phone app existed (and still doesn’t, I suspect.)
I’m not defending SmartThings here. The reliability has been disastrous for me, as has their odd developer support approach of simply deleting approval requests, but I’m betting many of us have speech control, in via Amazon Echo, and out via my own LANNouncer Speech Engine (website here) or other mechanisms, done in spare hobby time rather than requiring a huge time investment (well, except for me writing LANNouncer, of course.)
Microsoft brought a “Smart Home” demo to CES in 1999. The big guys have been hopping on the bandwagon for a long time.But I’m not seeing that the HA market has stalled or that Google / Apple owning it. Most of us probably have our Echo (Alexa) integrated into our systems, and yet none of us would say Amazon is part of our home automation. Many of us have the SmartThings app running on our Android or iPad/iPhone, and yet again we don’t think of Google or Apple as being involved in that.
The change starts with us, the early adopters and enthusiasts.