my home automation story

My home automation roots started when I was 12, and I conducted my first electrical experiment. I had found a car headlight in the trash. I cut the end off of a household extension cord, hooked up the two wires to the headlight, and plugged it in. That’s when I first learned the difference between AC and DC: AC hurts more (if you don’t understand how electricity works, you won’t get that).

During those teenage years, I continued my curious adventures by wiring up speakers throughout the house and setting up secret microphones to monitor things like slumber parties (geez, don’t tell my sisters). I took a couple of electricity and electronics classes in high school, which yielded such things as a florescent desk lamp (the one right here on my desk), a car stereo power booster, and other things like that. Back in the 80s, I impressed my new girlfriend by adding phone jacks to her house and replacing light switches with dimmer switches (oooooh). Of course she married me and now she affectionately calls me the Electro-Wonder-Man (well, okay, I kind of got her to call me that).

In 1998, I heard about X-10, the technology that transmits signals over home electrical wiring. My interest piqued and I started satisfying my need to hook stuff up by installing devices all over. I used software from HomeSeer to monitor X-10 modules and turn things on and off by responding to other events. I even wrote my own program that allowed me to control home devices on the web from anywhere in the world (my computer science degree and decades of web development experience have come in handy).

I once stood in my neighbor Mike‘s living room across the street, and showed him how he can turn my outdoor Christmas lights on and off. When I got my home automation web app to finally work, I emailed my buddy Adam back in California with all the details. That proved to be a mistake, as I spent the following weeks watching and listening to lights and radios go on and off in my house all by themselves. But it was cool, after all, what good is all this stuff if you can’t brag to your buddies, right?

Over the years, I tired of X-10 and it’s lack of reliability. There were other technologies but none really caught my eye, until Belkin came out with their line of WeMo products. I applied to Belkin’s WeMo Maker Inventor Program back in August 2014. They sent a bunch of us a free WeMo Maker, and they just asked that we do something with it and share our story. That’s the genesis of this web site.

I had a site over at x10.crevier.org, which has gotten pretty stale over the years. So I decided to re-create the site here to share my current home and life automation stories, with the simple hope that it’ll help others realize that it’s pretty easy to get going. You just need to start somewhere.