Home automation has grown in popularity a lot in the past few years, but it’s far from a new technology. In fact, wireless home automation was invented back in 1975 by a company in Scotland called Pico Electronics. They were the company that invented the first single chip calculator, but after the chips prices started to fall the company decided to start making consumer electronics.
After creating an electronic turntable that could be controlled with an ultrasound remote control, they had the idea to create remote control lighting and appliances around the house. In 1975 the project was officially launched, called the x10 project because it was their tenth project. By 1978 you could find their wireless appliance technology in RadioShack and Sears all over the nation.
Despite newer and higher bandwidth wireless control solutions coming out each year, x10 remains a very popular choice due to its large product line and its low cost.
How x10 Works
Like so many other home automation technologies, x10 uses your home’s existing power routing to communicate between devices around your home. At the most basic level, you’re going to need at least two devices. You’ll need both a controller and a module. The module is the device which actually communicates with your electronics and turns them on or off. These devices are then controlled via a remote control that uses RF frequencies. These days however, technologies like ZigBee and Z-Wave that communicate with each other using wireless communication over your home’s network have become a much more popular option.
What Can I Do With x10?
Theoretically, you can control your entire house using x10. That’s one of the upsides to having this technology. Since you aren’t relying on wireless technology, you can hard wire your entire house to different modules and you won’t be tied down by a bandwidth limitation. Also note that you don’t actually have to do any hard wiring to get started with x10. They have modules that plug into an outlet that you can plug a lamp into. They also have separate x10 light switches and lamp modules, but if you’re trying to control lighting that is built into your house, you will probably need to dig into the houses electrical system.
There are also ways to control the protocol using computer automation. But since it’s an older technology, it’s not exactly going to be a plug and play experience. Typically you’re going to need an adapter for your computer for a serial port and some serious technical knowledge. So unless you’re planning on automating with x10 out of curiosity, it’s probably in your best interest to get something a little or a lot more modern.
Drawbacks to x10
Despite this technology being very inexpensive, it has a lot of drawbacks that make it not worth the effort. To fully automate your house with this technology, you would have to invest a ton of time. And since it’s just controlled with radio frequencies, anyone can hack in and control your system with very basic technical knowledge. So obviously you wouldn’t want something like a garage door or a door lock controlled with this technology. X10 can also be unreliable, causing appliances or lights to switch on and off unexpectedly.
Alternatives to x10
If you’re looking for a lower cost home automation solution that won’t rely too heavily on your network, you might want to consider Insteon. They are backwards compatible with x10 and use both wireless mesh networking and use your home’s power lines to communicate. There is also an Insteon starter kit at a pretty fair price to get you started. It’s a little pricier than x10, but a lot more powerful. It’s also super easy to set up compared to x10.
You also might want to consider a fully wireless option. Z-Wave is by far the easiest protocol to set up and has a lot of powerful features. It’s also compatible with most of the latest smart home technology. Z-Wave is a huge reason home automation is becoming so popular. Not only is it super easy to set up, but it can also be controlled with your phone. Tying your smart appliances to mobile applications are a great way to turn features on and off depending on if you need them or not and can save a lot of electricity usage over time. Doing it this way, you can look at it as an investment. Sure it might be a little pricey to get started, but in the long run it will pay for itself!
Consider tying your home automation with your home security. Smart home security is helping a lot of people and keeps your home safe. Features like remotely unlocking your house for someone when you’re not home or capturing video of a home invasion can have a huge impact on your life. You can get started with smart home security by getting a free quote with Protect America today.