View Full Version : Introduction

11-05-2007, 11:43 AM
This is my first of most likely many post on this site. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Ron, and being recently retired, (What ever thats suppose to mean...LOL) I have started a new project to keep me busy. My goal is to design and build a completely Solar powered / Green powered home with a totally autonomous control system. The over all goal is to be completely off the grid with the exception of an Internet connection.

Anyway, I know this isn't robotics so to speak, but the functions and control systems are basically the same, so that being said, I look forward to talking to all here, as I'm new to robotics this will be a challenge for me, but I have some basic programming skills, plus I have worked with electronics for over fifteen years.

As of right now this project is in the R & D stage as I want to build the control system from scratch for later production and sales of the systems. So for those interested in working on this project, let me know.

Anyway, after reading post here there is obviously allot of good information here, so I look forward to talking to all you folks. Also if I can help anyone here, I will do my best to pass on information that I may have.

Ron :cool:

11-05-2007, 03:39 PM
Right on, man. We have some serious home automation nuts on this forum, so I'm sure you'll find our community helpful. Keep us updated on your project, and we'll help out however we can.

11-05-2007, 05:38 PM
I always thought an PLC would be good for a home automation project.

11-05-2007, 10:37 PM
Thanks Dave for the welcome. Actually I just retired from fifteen years of owning my own home A/V and automation company, so anyone needs help there I'll be happy to help. But after a hip replacement, and turning fifty, I couldn't get up the ladders anymore.

Now retired I want to do my part for green. However, the one thing that the home automation industry hasn't done is give the system autonomous function. I mean, it's one thing to push a button and a set of macros run, but to actually get the system to think for itself. Now that's the ticket.

Anyway, thanks for the welcome.


11-06-2007, 06:26 AM
Welcome Ron
I too am new to this site and have found it very helpful with my robot project. I have a full automated home the is controled by voice commands, heat, lights, internet, the whole ball of wax that the robot will control as well as I by voice commands. I have had my home running on automation for several years and totaly enjoy it. It's always great to find someone that wants to share ideas, it makes it fun.

Good Luck

11-06-2007, 07:39 AM
Thank you Tymtravler:
Let me know how your project goes. I'm very interested to see what you come up with for a robot that works with an automation system. I am also curious though. What system did you use for your home, or did you build it for yourself?


11-06-2007, 08:39 AM
The system I have is the HAL 2000 by Home automated Living in Burtonsville Md. PC based using X10 units through out the house. The thing that made me select this one was the fact that anyone can talk to it without training the software to recognize your voice.


11-06-2007, 09:01 AM
Ron here is the web site for the HAL 2000, if your interested.


11-06-2007, 08:21 PM
HAL is nice. There are a lot of nice products out there like CQC, HomeSeer, etc. Those systems can be expensive though and you don't have much control of development if they don't do what you want.

I am running a HA community project called The Virtual Crib. It is based on MySQL so any app can interface to the database and use it and any of the other apps developed for it. The project is still very young, but it runs a couple homes now and just got 2 more developers join the community.

Please check it out at www.vcrib.com (http://www.vcrib.com) or watch some videos at www.youtube.com/ver0776 (http://www.youtube.com/ver0776).

We are currently moving most of the code to stored procedures in the DB so interfacing will be easier than ever. It is free and welcomes development projects based around it, etc.

I grew up with AI & NLP dreams and this whole home automation project was just to be the base for my AI projects. So although there is not much in the ways of intelligence in vCrib now, it is the direction we are going too, so this may help you focus on AI and not have to worry about the low level infrastructure. Something to think about...

Anyways, welcome to the TR Forums.


11-07-2007, 01:12 AM
Thanks guys for the heads up. As far as the HAL 2000 Ive used it before, and it is a great interface for limited conditional control it works great. Don't get me wrong, it a great interface, and I am in no way slamming your system, but for true autonomy it could only be used as a voice interface and control, and it does that well.

Why is this, you ask? You wouldn't get the feedback from the system that you would need for the system to actually learn. Perhaps your robot can give it that. Something to chew on, so to speak. This has been the problem with all the Home Automation Software out there, its a one way system. True Autonomous systems need feedback via a artificial Nero net built into the system or home, and being the home is a limited controlled environment I feel it can be done.

I watched a show the other day where they were working with a arm band that measured your pulse rate, body temp, your perspiration level. Not to mention it also told the system where you were in the home. Then the building adjusted the lighting, and temperature, and humidly level of the location where the arm band was.

Now build that into a wrist watch, and theres the ticket. Now, not only does the system track where you are in the house, but how you are reacting to your environment as well. Using that and sensors that monitors inside and outside the home measuring temperature, humidly, etc. it gives the system data that it needs to learn, and adjust itself to your habits. This obviously isn't the system for someone worried about big brother, but that dog hasn't hunt for years. Privacy has been gone for twenty years now.

The closest Ive seen to this in the industry thus far is Crestron, and thats still doesn't have the learning factor. More a feedback type of control, but it doesn't learn. It's still a series of macros being run. So in essence, all systems on the market today are only working with the end result of a autonomous system.

I'll look into your project, as it sounds like you guys are on the right track. I am not a programmer, so I don't know how much help I might be, however as far as the interface and control aspects of the system I'll be happy to help. Of course that hold true to anyone here.

The main reason I'm here is because I lack the programming skills. I have the knowledge base, and the design and control experience, I just fell asleep in my C++ classes... LOL

Anyway, I'm starting to ramble. So back to the books... Have a wonderful day Everyone.

Ron :cool:

11-07-2007, 10:59 AM
There is a house running completely off of neural nets (http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~mozer/nnh/index.html) and every piece of automation is learned, not coded. However, it makes SOooo many mistakes, but it is still cool. That site has a link to other research papers on using neural nets in HA here: http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~mozer/papers/index.html

The limitations of home autonomy are not so much in the software or even automation hardware, but like in what you described, Occupany Tracking. Until tracking devices can inform the house of the location and identity of every occupant, there is simply no way to achieve any substantial logic.

Neural networks are not even needed. functions in a house are limited enough that code based weighted algorithms can analyse patterns and trends well enough and suggest changes and apply the results of them. Although a nerual net would be awesome to be able to pop some data into. Have you done research on PC based neural nets? There were several available last time I looked, but I was not happy with the price or power of them. They were great for dog tracks and stuff when you only need to anaylse 10-20 stats, but for HA logic, it better be able to factor hundreds of variables. Anyways, if you have links to any of the newer NN offerings, I would love to look at them again.

You are welcome to try my software and only request code changes =) The app requires no coding or scripting. But you could access any of the data in the tables and use them for reports, or feed the data into a neural net. Can you query Crestron data? If not, no matter how nice the system is, you will have a difficult time integrating it with a NN.

I would also like a link to that tracking device. Because it is the missing piece in the HA logic puzzle, I would be on the waiting list for a device like that. I would love to utilize that tech before it becomes umbigous.

So can you describe what you are looking to design? You said you wanted to make an entire system from scratch, but not code. the Automation hardware is all available too. So are you just focusing on integrating a NN with an existing HA system?

check out this site ( http://www.homeautomationonline.com/ ), I think it is a lot of hot air as they don't show much to backup the claimed goals, but it sounds like what we are talking about.... I wrote them already and they confirmed they are not looking for attention as they are far from having anything available. But as far as reseach of a product, they define their goals in this area, etc.


11-07-2007, 03:34 PM
Well the short version is a HA system with autonomous behavior.

Your Shift gets changed. So you are coming and going at different hours. The system notices this and sets the HVAC to come on a half hour before you get home without you having to reset the HVAC controls. So it has your house at 72 degrees because it knows you like that temperature. The temp is selected because that is the temp that you have told the system you like the most. After that it senses the inside and outside conditions and sets it accordingly. In other words the system is learning how to use its resources from your habits so you don't have to be redundant with the commands.

Thats a simple function of what I'm looking for. But I think you get the general idea. These types of functions are the first steps in the design.


11-08-2007, 07:56 AM
I don't know what ver. you used when you tried HAL 2000 but you can set the HVAC to change automaticly, like lets say you work M-F 9-5 and your home on the week ends. HAL can be programmed to set the HVAC from 65 to 70 at 4:30 M-F so when you get home your house is now at the temp you like, and will keep it at 70 S-Sun. Don't forget you can always call your house on the phone and tell it to change the temp to what ever you want. HAL has come a long way since I got it many years ago. One of my favs is the fact that I dont have all those remotes for my entertainment system, I sit down and tell it LETS WATCH A MOVIE, HAL turns on the TV, turns it to CH3, turns the DVD, surround sound on and all I do is pop a DVD in the player, I love it. The only thing I am still looking for is a mic system that I can put in all the rooms that all I have to do is say Computer and I can hear HAL in that room and give it a command, like Star Trek.

Best regards
Joe (Tymtravler)

11-08-2007, 12:31 PM
you can set the HVAC to change automatically, like lets say you work M-F 9-5 and your home on the week ends. HAL can be programmed to set the HVAC from 65 to 70 at 4:30 M-F so when you get home your house is now at the temp you like, and will keep it at 70 S-Sun. (Tymtravler)

The key phrase there is "You can set". What if HAL automatically noticed that your not home M-F 9_5, and "Set" the system accordingly. Then If your hours got changed, lets say M-F 3-Midnight then the system would notice this and change automatically. See where I'm going here? The system would adjust around your habits becoming Autonomous.

This is something I haven't seen in the current HA systems out there. And thats not just HAL, that goes for all HA systems out there. Hence the reason for my project. The main goal is getting future homes off the grid and more self reliant by not using public utilities that are destroying our environment. But also making it a smart system so to speak.

Ron :cool:

PS: Did you find the stock you were looking for?

11-08-2007, 01:09 PM
Yes I did it is called 80-20 stock thanks to a fellow member.

Good luck on your project.
Joe (Tymtravler) :D

11-13-2007, 05:24 PM
Hi Datahead
I recently picked up (but haven't used yet) a PCI-IO board from www.futurlec.com (http://www.futurlec.com) that sounds like it is just what you're looking for. Just resurrect an old PC (with a PCI slot open) and put it to use in home automation! I'm dying to try this one out. It comes with a CD with drivers and some sample code.
I think they also have an IO board that is ISA, if you have a REAL old PC.