Home automation might sound like an unrealistic, science-fiction dream. As a matter of fact, it is commonplace and fairly uncomplicated to get started, particularly with Linux. Smart control of common, household appliances and utilities starts at the low end with power line modules, relays and plug-and-play RF (radio frequency) that can very easily interface with a home server. A home automation system, at the high end might include home security systems, environment controls, and other add-ons that are important concerns for residential customers.
General Home Automation Targets
The usual home automation targets include light and environment control, such as air conditioning, heating, air filters, etc… This doesn’t require expensive equipment either. For example, I hacked an air filter from http://airfilterbuy.com/ to set it up for home automation with a Raspberry Pi. More expensive custom made systems are available and these can also be adapted for control with Linux. The modern versions of the mentioned systems can be activated in accordance with a fixed schedule. They can be programmed to operate in virtually any way you can imagine.
Common security systems, like window/door triggers, lights that respond to motion sensors, surveillance cameras, can also be associated with home automation systems. It is now possible to activate alarms if a break-in is detected, besides calling the police and other usual security responses.
Behind every home-automation system is a communication standard that is responsible for replaying messages between components. The industry has several standards, some open and some proprietary, some implemented by a number of manufacturers and some controlled by one equipment vendor. The oldest, most common communication standards used power-line signal transmission. However, the modern version of these systems use radio frequency exclusively or a blend of both.
Elementary Linux Applications
Support for any home automation system start with receiving and sending messages through an appropriate standard. Since X10 is the most widely known communication standard, its support is broad. There are a number of X10 control devices available that can be connected to a Linux computer. Heyu is one of the most regularly maintained X10 packages for Linux. The best thing about it is that it supports quite a few generations of X10 devices.
Like any major project, home automation requires a time investment, regardless of how you do it. Linux-based systems are very affordable and offer you an ultimate liberty to customize.