July 2014

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I setup a home automation system in my house and it runs from the cloud. Yup, you read that correctly. I do understand a lot of “home automation” now runs from the cloud but my definition of home automation isn’t Hue, Smarthome, Nest, or one of the other half-baked systems.¬†Mine is full-blown _everything_.

I think it’s very important to make this distinction because if the internet/cloud is down, literally the house is like a car without premium features. Just imagine getting into a car from the 1920s. No keyless entry, thermostat, airbags, or maybe even the starter. It may function, but it’s a shock when you’re used to something else.

That being said, my setup actually works very well.

A little background on my system — many home automation systems are hardware devices with custom firmware (HAI, Omni, etc). Since I’m in IT, I prefer the software ones such has OpenHAB, CQC, Misterhouse. I decided to go with a CQC. Also, even though the primary brain of my system runs from the cloud, don’t forget that sensors, etc have to be installed and powered in the house.

Here are a list of the pros and cons I came up with and I thought were relevant to the cloud decisions.

Pros:

  • Server stability – rock solid. Servers in the cloud run at data centers where the power and internet connections are more stable than your average business or home. This is actually really nice because I don’t have to worry about doing work on my house and dealing with servers powering up/down.
  • Hardware maintenance – None. No dealing with motherboards, hard drives, and other computer problems.
  • Noise – no computer fans or extra noise.
  • Heat – no added heat to rooms

Cons:

  • Internet must be up. I just checked and my residential internet connection has been down about 5 times in the past 6 months during the middle of the night for about 10 minutes. I never noticed.¬†Even though this hasn’t been an issue for me, it’s possible that my ISP could go down for a week, the CLEC (or someone else) could introduce noise into the line, etc. causing a problem.
  • Everything must run over Ethernet. This can be good or bad depending on how you view it. I like Ethernet and prefer it over serial, USB, etc. At the same time, some home automation devices require serial ports and USB. Implementing anything that doesn’t come as Ethernet takes careful consideration and planning. Solutions has to be planned to work with this requirement.
  • Local hardware still required. Even though I run as much as possible in the cloud, not everything can run there. Audio jacks, alarm sensors, etc have to be installed in the house and powered locally. The nice thing though is that these don’t require maintenance or much electricity.

Although this solution is rare and I’m currently the only person I’ve heard of doing it, I’ve been very happy with it and will try adding more cloud-ish home automation features to it in the future.

-Brendon