Designing a Multi Layered Home Automation System

As I have been looking online for information related to a particular Home Automation, I stumbled upon this PDF which detailed a multi layered Home Automation / Smart Home system. I am unable to contact this guy nor do I have anyway of providing him the edit. Of course I am going to be requesting you you guys to help me if you find out some


The progress technology has made over past years is amazing. Computerization completely changed the work of billions of people in less than 20 years. But it did not affect their living as much. Why are we still so far away from the vision of ordinary households being as smart as the current technology and imagination allows? I believe it is the lack of good software and solutions optimized for home use. Many of the current smart home installations have roots in the industry and some people believe that what can successfully control a whole factory should control a household with ease. The requirements are actually completely different. In industry, we usually need extremely high performance with high speed and stability. On the other hand, the simplicity of user interface and cost are amongst the main drivers for smart homes. The market of a billion households is undoubtedly big enough to get a specialized solution, tailored to its specific needs. Still most of the current specialized smart home software is either not intuitive for the end user or too limiting to advanced functions. In order to launch mass installations and reach the economics of scale, we should consider different approach than has been used for individual installations in luxurious villas. The system must be cheap, reliable and easy to run and maintain by the user himself. Not before then will home automation become a standard, rather than a luxury or half functional do-it-yourself experiment implemented by techies.

From users to layers

A traditional control system consists of two layers: a rather sophisticated bottom layer with control algorithms and a simple top layer visualization with end-user interface. Whilst suitable for industry, it does not fit the users of home automation as can be seen on a simple example. Let’s suppose an ordinary user bought a new wireless switch for the bedroom and wants to configure it so that it would turn off other lights in the apartment, set temperature ideal for sleeping and slowly dim the bedroom light within next 15 minutes. The top layer visualization is too simple to accommodate such a request, so the user would have to go into the bottom layer, which is often too complicated and not safe to modify by someone without good knowledge of scripting and all dependencies of the control system. So an average user cannot, but opt out to call an expensive integrator to set it up. This works in a few individual installations, but what if a million users decide to add a switch?

Simplifying the bottom layer for end user brings many compromises and limitations in functionality in many current specialized home automation installations. On the other hand, a complex top layer SCADA scares off inexperienced users. As a solution, I suggest to add one more layer to the control system, so that bottom layer stays a complex control system for critical algorithms that only an expert can modify (such as HVAC), middle layer allows common maintenance to advanced end-user and the top layer serves as a very easy to use interface for computer-unskilled users such as children and elderly people.

Middle Layer

The proposed middle layer is an application running parallel to the bottom layer, which can be accessed remotely from any computer. It is designed for the growing number of advanced users, who are able to use a computer on the level of creating a PowerPoint presentation, but have no knowledge of control systems. Middle layer is connected to selected data points from the bottom layer and those can be assigned contextual information and used in a simplified logic to create rules. This logic implements basic lighting and switch logic in a visual way, which is more intuitive than common textual IF..THEN programming. Concerning HVAC, we use the middle layer solely for setting the target temperature according to button press or time schedules, but all the algorithms connected with achieving this goal are kept in the bottom layer. For example, a grandma living alone could call her grandson that she feels cold in the kitchen when she wakes up at 5 am and has to increase the temperature manually every time. He connects to her middle layer application remotely from a PC at his dorm to see that the optimized heating was set to safe energy by decreasing the heating between 11 pm and 6 am. With a couple clicks he can increase the early morning temperature for her. Grandma actually likes her smart home, because she has no complicated controls or computer screens there and everything works even easier than before the smart installation. Grandchildren can easily help her to do any change, but they cannot make any big damage to the system, because they cannot access the bottom-layer function they don’t understand. Furthermore, middle layer is technology-independent, so that it can integrate multiple bottom layer systems under unified interface (for example simple X10 / Insteon network with HVAC control).

The Mockup

From the time there have been engineers and architects there has always been an issue in trying to get solution that is acceptable to both the architects and the engineers. I am in the wonderful world of construction, management in particular and as an engineer it is always a loosing battle. Although the client wants to have a high tech facility, the requirement of the facility is nothing as compared to the aesthetics of what he requires.

A client may be trying to build a small shack or even an airport, the requirements are always aesthetics. But being an engineer I would disagree to that school of thought cos, although the aesthetic factor plays a part of first impression, the experience of being in the facility is delivered only by the services in there. Like the Air conditioning, the mood lighting, the plush interiors of the washrooms, Wi Fi Connectivity, High Speed Internet, ample Mobile Coverage etc.

The ultimate battle ground for the engineers vs architects battle is always a client mockup. The engineers trying to prove their point and the architects trying to destroy everything the engineers stand for. For example, CAT 6 cables (data wiring) are definitely the latest, and to work as one of the best wiring systems they need to follow certain guidelines. Some of them being strict segregation between Data and Power lines. But aesthetically the structure housing both the Data and Power lines, like for example a pole holding a IPCCTV camera, would need to be big enough for the data cables, the power cables, the segregation, the maintenance, the operational requirements etc. And since slim is in, all of it trying to be housed inside a very thin pole could be the fuel to the flame of the eternal battle of the architects vs engineers.

I do not think there would be a solution for the war, except if people crossover into each others territories. Like engineers turned to architects who understand the complexities of systems and services like wise more architects turned to engineers to define the aesthetic side of engineering. Until that day comes, daily battles will continue to rage in the battlefield of Mockups !!

The Busy Devil’s Advocates, race for the fastest Saint in History is On !!

As far back as i can remember or have looked up on, the record for the fastest sainthood declaration for anyone in the history of mankind has been 27 years, a feat achieved by Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, who was canonized in 2002. The saint who looks most likely to break the record seems to be the popolarissima Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who currently stands as the fastest to attain beatification (the last step before sainthood), just six years after her 1997 death.

The crowds who are now chanting “Santo Subito!” (Saint Immediately!) in John Paul’s name in St. Peter’s Square and the countless individuals praying to his soul, are counting on him reaching those two respective thresholds beatification and canonization faster than either Mother Teresa or Escriva. A more credible hint that the wait will be relatively short was Benedict’s declaration Monday that “in the communion of saints, it seems we can hear the living voice of our beloved John Paul II, who from the house of his father, we are sure, continues to accompany the Church.” In other words, for the current Pope, John Paul is already among the chosen few.

Canonization causes do often begin with popular movements, and are brought forth from the diocesan level of the Church hierarchy to the Holy See for consideration. John Paul’s cause is being presented by the dioceses of both Rome and Krakow, where he was Archbishop. This week they presented mounds of evidence of his virtues, and at least one miracle said to be credited to his intercession, to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Officials will study the case of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a 46-year-old French nun diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease — the same illness that afflicted the late Pope — that inexplicably disappeared two months after John Paul had died. The typical procedure to verify a person’s saintliness includes the equivalent of a trial, which includes a lawyer arguing against the cause (who gave name to the expression the “Devil’s Advocate”), and doctors testifying to the proof that purported miracles have no scientific explanation. A post-mortem miracle must be verified to reach beatification, and a second for canonization.

John Paul signed off on more beatifications (1,340) and canonizations (482) than all his modern predecessors combined. Benedict may be slowing down the process. While John Paul’s, Mother Teresa’s and other cases march forward in the dark offices of the Vatican, it is in the light of day that we see a subtle shift on sainthood policy in this papacy. Yes, most of the valid causes already under way are moving forward, but Benedict has decided to no longer preside over the beatification ceremonies in St. Peter’s as John Paul had done. Later this month, in three separate Italian cities — Turin, Castellammare di Stabia and Rimini — local bishops will beatify three respective local figures, without the presence of the Pope. The faithful can be assured, however, that there is at least one likely beatification ceremony on the horizon that Benedict won’t want to miss.