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Home Automation: Are We Ready?


This proposal is the preliminary part of a conceived research assignment on the theme of home automation systems. As a subset of building automation, the concept of smart homes has recently caught media imagination in Australia through its numerous innovations which enable the home-owner to have a user-friendly experience with different aspects of the house: light and climate control, remote-controlled access to doors and windows, multimedia home entertainment systems, etc. This paper seeks to address the current issues involved in this field discussing whether or not we’re ready to fully embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

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Statement of Purpose

In this proposal, the author aims to present an overview of research requirements in understanding various study parameters connected with the home automation industry. The growth of home automation sector promises to create new job opportunities in various levels of project management, therefore, pursuing a full-scale research project in this subject would enable the author to advance his career opportunities in a new, exciting industry. The long-term goals of a research project would be to assess our preparedness in handling issues arising due to massive-scale growth in home automation systems in the near future.

Research Gaps/Problems

There are a number of helpful magazines consisting of specific descriptions on various attributes of home automation systems, some of which will be used in the Literature Review. For example, Caudron (1996) discusses the importance of video-entry systems and computer interfaces as an affordable means to enhance the security of automated home systems. Another article discusses the procedure followed by home-owners in making a standard home compliant with state of the art innovative technologies to control various household functions (Ince, 2006). Cetron (1997) discusses the roadmap towards a digitised future consisting of smart home applications such as smart toasters, media butlers and touch-interface utilities.

In a similar manner, there are plenty of newspaper articles/ezines/website links which explore endless aspects of home automation systems applied to mundane situations in life for example, iris door scanners, custom installation packages (King, 2006). While there has been a lot of research on different constituents of smart home features, none of the above studies provide a mention of conflicts arising due to massive-scale introduction of home automation systems in a real-world scenario. In fact, the author learnt details about these unique issues only through user-edited online articles of Wikipedia and Internet Forums (Easy Gates). A cursory glance into technology publications and research journals will indicate a clear shortage of ideas needed to overcome the major hurdles in installing home automation systems for an average house. Clearly, this research proposal seeks to address relevant problems through a Project roadmap.

Search Strategy

There was a three-fold benefit to developing a search strategy for this assignment: 1) saving time 2) diversity in information sources 3) helping to find a large amount of useful info (Monash University Library MUL, 2008). A reasonable number of books, journals, magazines, newspapers and online links were searched to develop the main focus of research and its associated concepts (MUL, 2008). These newly-learned concepts have been discussed in detail in the Literature Review. The main Boolean operators used in search engines (Google,, etc.) were OR and AND. Care was taken to ensure results could be duplicated using a combination of search terms for example: synonyms, spelling variations, plural/singular forms, acronyms etc. (MUL, 2008). In order to ensure only latest and up-to-date information is accessed, the following sources were considered for preliminary research:

  1. Wikipedia: Gave a summary analysis of major issues connected with home automation systems. Since, wikipedia deals with user-edited development of its articles, it isn’t possible to consider the website for detailed referencing (Miller, 2007). However, the website led to several interesting links including the one below. Also, the terms used in Wikipedia articles could be independently used on a random Google search for more insightful links.
  2. Questia Online Library: Contains detailed library archives comprising of books, journals, magazines and newspaper articles on the subject of smart homes. The search terms “home automation” or “smart homes” provides several interesting links for any future research assignment on this subject.
  3. Internet forums (Easy Gates): Easy Gates is an online home automation support committee and contains several interesting threads on relevant issues connected with our research gaps. The website forum also has an internal search engine which allows users to research current trends in this field. There are also Australia-specific home automation forums still at a nascent stage. Despite the fact Internet forums cannot be used to corroborate information for a proper application research, the wealth of information derived from experienced people connected with this profession cannot be ignored.
  4. Conference Proceedings: A few conference discussion papers, manuals and brochures have been referred for greater insights into issues connected with the home automation sector.

Research Methodology

The major questions to be answered in a well-designed research methodology as relevant to our discussions are as follows (Miner, 2003).

The choice of one methodology over another : In any future research assignment, the task would be to gather both quantitative and qualitative data for data collection tools used in understanding different aspects of the problem statement (SOP). This is done to have both direct and evidential confirmation of issues discussed in literature review (Miner, 2003). The quantitative data can be based on estimated project benefits derived from successful implementation of real-world home automation in sample case studies. The data is further subject to statistical manipulation using charts and graphs to allow creative visualisation (Miner, 2006) and thus, allows for more incisive understanding of the issues at hand.

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Describing the major activities for reaching research objectives: This would basically consist of a detailed description of various case study parameters associated with the research (Miner, 2006). For example, if the assignment is undertaken in an actual company dealing with home automation systems, the infrastructure, systems etc. should be explained in detail.

Indicating the key project personnel associated with each and every activity: For this particular topic, the author alone has the authority in dealing with project aims/goals especially when applied to different tasks at hand. It has to be mentioned that successful deployment of home automation systems depends on planning ability to sub-routine the tasks according to criticality and core functions (Miner, 2006).

Showing the interrelationship among different project activities: The aims/objectives in current research is to understand the interrelationship between theory and practical aims with the long-term intention of consolidating the organised body of knowledge (Miner, 2006). In all its due probability, the interrelationship between different variables allows us to investigate the problem in-depth and find solutions to the same.

Identifying project data in achieving relevant outcomes.

Justification of Methods

The method of choice in future assignment study will comprise of a double-blind study which will eliminate any effects of uncertain variables on project outcome (Miner, 2006). This experimental design will consist of surveys, focus group discussions and secondary data from dependable sources.

Project Timeline

Any project on home automation systems in a major industrial unit will be done according to the following schedule:

  1. Day 1: Understanding core concepts of home automation as available in the given unit.
  2. Day 2: Preparing interviews, questionnaires, controlled observations, surveys, personal diaries or logs. Seeking archival information is as important (Miner, 2006).
  3. Day 3: Developing an approach using relevant activities and sub-routines to collect necessary information to be analysed later (Miner, 2006).
  4. Day 4: Reviewing the body of knowledge at hand.

Literature Review

Gerhart (1999) defines home automation as a collection of devices, systems and subsystems which have the “ability to interact with each other” or “function independently”. This allows home-owners to control almost any appliance in the house using individual/automatic scheduling methods (Gerhart, 1999). Black & Decker, Lemmer (2001) defines the term by characteristics of a house which makes it “smarter”. It basically integrates a home’s communication, computer, audio-visual, security, lighting, utility and environmental issues so that the home-owner can maximise his benefits from all aspects of his home system (Black & Decker, Lemmer, 2001). Both definitions indicate a close-variable relationship between the system, software and human interfaces through the use of sophisticated technology. No home automation is complete without the mandatory inclusion of elaborate circuitry consisting of electric wiring, automation cables and wireless systems (Black & Decker, Lemmer, 2001). In order to ensure such systems achieve maximum stability under conditions of rough use, the key component of their success has been defined by authors in their conceptual designing (Black & Decker, Lemmer, 2001, Gerhart, 1999). In order to understand the major issues connected with home automation systems, the following topics and sub-topics can be identified for understanding the core issues/challenges in home automation:

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Home automation circuitry: It consists of power line carrier controls, relay, timer controls, computer controls and wireless remote controls (Gerhart, 1999). The basic principle and challenge of successful automation depends on the skills/ability of the contractor to design necessary wiring before the house is constructed (Gerhart, 1999).

Control standards: The power circuitry has to be controlled using various standards and bridges the most common industry and open standard communication device being X10 which is popularly known as Domotics (Gerhart, 1999). The protocol works using various domestic signals drawing its energy from three-phase power supplies. The biggest issue and challenge therefore, lies in any weakening or attenuation of input signal which can only be overcome through the use of latest innovative designs. Apart from X10, many other companies also manufacture control standard devices e.g. Konnex, Lonworks and USB. The task of the home automation designer would be to select the most compatible communication device specific to home needs (Gerhart, 1999, Easy Gates Online Forum, 2008). This is achieved through various means such as understanding wiring, earthing, signals disruption etc.

Command pathways: Power line wires, video cables, low voltage wiring, fibre optics and wireless protocols are the important command pathways which dictate the flow of signals for optimum advantage to the home-owner (Gerhart, 1999). The biggest challenges lie in ensuring the circuit is laid out properly and there is minimal risk due to short-circuiting, voltage fluctuations, empty conduits, conflicts due to attics, ceilings, outside walls etc. (Gerhart, 1999). Keeping wires uncluttered and easily available for inspection is described as another important criteria (Gerhart, 1999). Clearly, a smart home-owner would ensure these conflicts are resolved even before the home unit is set in place. According to the first IEEE international conference on home automation, the resolution of command pathways is integral to developing successful independent homes (IEEE Conference Proceedings, 2003).

HVAC Systems: HVAC is a very important constituent of successful home automation systems and will be extensively used by the author in further research assignment discussions. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Solutions (climate control) and is used for various functions in the smart home unit for example, temperature and humidity control. The biggest challenges associated with proper HVAC systems are: zoning control, thermostats and humidistats according to homeowner needs, application of sensors and temperature control devices, electronic duct dampers, duct boosters, air circulation devices such as attic ventilators, whole-house fans; windows, skylights and doors (Gerhart, 1999). These devices constitute a complex assembly of individual components and require efficient and skilful designs (Gerhart, 1999). Clearly, the biggest challenge for home automation designer would be to introduce these systems into the home without causing problems later.

Plumbing: Since, a smart home consists of luxurious features such as central heating, cooling, automatic faucets etc., good plumbing methods are of serious importance (Gerhart, 1999). According to JCL Automation Demo House project videos (source: website), a large number of conflicts/issues arise due to insufficient plumbing infrastructure which need to be fixed in advance (JCL Automation, 2008). Clearly, from the point of view of our research proposal, it’s an important challenge to be overcome.

Communications: This encompasses various modes of communication devices that exist in a home (Gerhart, 1999). Telephone lines, topology, wiring for additional telephone lines, cable wiring, fibre optics and Ethernet constitute the communications infrastructure of a smart home (Gerhart, 1999). These overlapping technologies face extensive problems due to placement issues and this constitutes an important challenge to be overcome.

Entertainment systems: Smart homes come equipped with automated entertainment systems which require a high degree of comfort level in order to operate successfully. Examples of challenges including home theatre systems which need to be tested for acoustics, floor and ceiling arrangements and wall resonance (Gerhart, 1999). Audio systems with arrangements to make DOLBY compatible are also important (Gerhart, 1999). The video components consist of problems such as direct view sets, rear projection sets, flat-panel plasma displays and cathode ray tubes (Gerhart, 1999). Many smart homes also have in-built graphic projectors especially for theatre like experience (Gerhart, 1999). The common problems associated with entertainment systems include screen gain, aspect ratio, noise interference, audio-video distribution, RF Signal integrity, RF Signal loss or gain, interfacing and control issues (Gerhart, 1999).

Home Security: One of the most important constituents of a well-equipped smart home, home security systems comprise of core security policies which are based on deterrence or prevention of thefts (lighting, sensor etc.), closed circuit televisions and their interoperability, fire, smoke and heat detectors, door and window installation, automatic dialers and other electronic components (Gerhart, 1999). The biggest challenge associated with home security systems is the system response time which can be awfully slow in the event of emergency and should be taken into consideration in our research analysis (Gerhart, 1999). Home security systems should be designed fool-proof and carry advanced features for preventing crime.

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Lighting: Successful home automation systems are well-equipped with lighting modules which form a core constituent of overall smart homes design (Gerhart, 1999). The lights may vary between incandescent, fluorescent, tungsten-halogen and low voltage tungsten-halogen systems (Gerhart, 1999). The biggest challenge in operating diverse lightings comes from fixtures with the following issues: recessed lighting, track lighting, wall lighting and working with fibre optic cable (Gerhart, 1999).

Outdoor watering systems: Many home automation systems come equipped with outdoor watering systems for nursery plants. The biggest challenges arise due to installing a full-yard watering system, fabricating wires and splices, increasing trench depth, flushing the system and installing automatic sprinklers (Gerhart, 1999).

Above challenges in the constituents of home automation system allow a reasonable degree of flexibility in choosing design criteria specific to problems/challenges identified in the paper. The source used for locating these problems/challenges can be confirmed through alternate literature evidence (Briere & Hurley, 2007; Augusto & Nugent, 2006). This nearly validates our research design parameters which solely focus on problems/challenges faced in automation and developing solutions to overcome them. The confirmation of major issues as mentioned in Statement of Purpose (SOP) allow smart home designers to build successful home automation systems equipped with necessary features and beyond. A well-designed smart home therefore, would fulfil the following aims and objectives as identified in research:

  1. Close relationship between input and output variables in design: For example, if a lighting system collapses due to burning of core filament, the “life” of the filament has to be taken into account in advance (Briere & Hurley, 2007).
  2. Interdependence between various constituents: It is inconceivable to have the lighting system dissociate from the remaining circuitry and command pathways present in the system (Briere & Hurley, 2007). The overall system should be robust and resilient enough to withstand shock from uncertain parameters.
  3. System design should be based on latest technologies in all connected fields (Briere & Hurley, 2007).

Results and Evaluation

In this proposal, the author presented elementary literature evidence corresponding to development and installation of home automation systems. Having studied in-depth the points above, the following conclusions can be made about our assessment of preparedness in handling issues arising due to massive-scale growth in home automation systems in the near future (SOP).

The core issues and challenges connected with different home automation system constitutents as discussed in literature review. The purpose of studying a wide variety of constituents was to achieve a realistic picture of home automation systems when applied to real-world conditions.

Future research assignment will consist of testing and implementing learning lessons from here into a real industrial unit dealing with home automation systems. This consists of the following core activities as mentioned earlier in methodology:

  • Day 1: Understanding core concepts of home automation as available in the given unit.
  • Day 2: Preparing interviews, questionnaires, controlled observations, surveys, personal diaries or logs. Seeking archival information is as important (Miner, 2006).
  • Day 3: Developing an approach using relevant activities and sub-routines to collect necessary information to be analysed later (Miner, 2006).
  • Day 4: Reviewing the body of knowledge at hand.

Study Limitations

  1. Lack of sufficient sources (especially peer-reviewed journals) on the subject of home automation.
  2. Lack of a Plan of Action (P.O.A.) for future research. This is due to author’s unfamiliarity with real-world home automation system attributes.


Augusto, J.C. & Nugent, C.D., 2006, Designing Smart Homes, Univ. of Michigan.

Cauldron, S., 1996, “Home, Safe and Sound: Automation Improves Home Office Security and Temperature Control”, Black Enterprise, Vol.26..

Black & Decker, Lemmer, T.G., 2001, The Complete Guide to Home Wiring, Creative Publishing International.

Briere, D. & Hurley, P., 2007, Smart Homes for Dummies, For Dummies Publications.

Cetron, O.D., 1997, “Get Ready for a Digitized Future: Smart Toasters, Media Butlers and More”, The Futurist.

Gerhart, J., 1999, Home Automation and Wiring, Mc-Graw Hill Professional.

Electronics CA, 2008, “Home Automation Market to Witness Robust Growth and Reach $2.4 billion by 2010”, Web.

IEEE Conference Proceedings, 2003, “Location Aware Resource Management in Smart Homes”, 481-488.

Ince, C., 2006, “Master of Your Domain: Affordable and Reliable Automation Systems Offer Complete Control of Your Office and Home”, Black Enterprise, Vol.35.

JCL Automation, 2008, “Smart Home Demo House: Plumbing”, Web.

Miller, N., 2007, “Wikipedia Revisited”, A Review of General Semantics, Vol.64.

Miner, L.E., 2003, Proposal Planning and Writing, Greenwood Press.

Monash University Library, 2008, “How to Develop a Search Strategy”, Web.

King, G., 2006, “A House Which Will Welcome You Home”, The Journal (Newspaper).

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