We have apps to check our aquarium controllers, turn off lights and signal us when the temperature gets too high but what if we were able to get everything controlled under one protocol — from aquarium lights, to the TV, to opening the front door for your maintenance guy. That day is getting even closer with Google announcing Android@Home, a promising new home automation technology to connect your Android devices to other appliances and electronic items in your home.
Before you get up in arms about whether or not home automation technolgies are new — they aren’t — what is unique about this is the backing of Google’s mobile operating system to power and control appliances in your home. The growth of Android as both a smartphone and now a tablet OS makes sense to be a key cog in the future of home automation.
So what is Android@Home? Through the protocol, anything plugged into an Android@Home receiver will work with Android’s automation APIs (application programming interface) to perform whatever function that device does and is controlled by any Android device. Google plans of realeasing APIs and open source libraries for development shortly.
Imagine you forget to give instructions to your friend who is watching your aquarium for you while you are on vacation. Well he calls you from the front door and you could verify through a security camera the person is there and with a push of a button, open the door to let him in. They can’t find the light switch for the fish room? Snap! You turn it on for them.
Although there are open source products like the Reef Angel controller on the Arduino system, Android apps that control controllers and Vertex Aquaristik’s Cerebra using Android as its operating system, they are limited to those proprietary devices. In other words sure you can program the Reef Angel to use 35 pH probes but it can’t turn off your home’s AC.
There are competing standards and while many aquarists tapped into the X10 system and we’ve even used devices like the Actiontec MegaPlug to network our aquarium controllers, as home automation comes closer to reality these standards are a start but it may be the sheer strength of Google that makes Android@Home the major player.
According to an article in PC Magazine the Android@Home network is similar to that used by ZigBee, a low-power wireless network used for short-range home automation. The A@H the network will be more robust to allow for enough bandwidth to transfer video but will not consume much power on top of what you are running already.
A big problem facing bringing a complete home automation device to market before was the investment in a central controller and being able to get a hold of useful devices that would work. The prospect of Android@Home being able to unite and control anything from an aquarium heater to your entire home’s HVAC is invigorating.