In early 2000, home automation was still being kicked around and the most common non-intrusive protocol at that time was X10. This allowed devices to be plugged into the power line and transmit signals within the power line.
From an experimental point of view, came JHome, an open source project that bridged taking JAVA language based system and user interface and linking it with the X10 protocal through a serial port interface. (Yes today we don’t have serial ports any more).
Automation Light Interface Control Environment aka A.L.I.C.E. is written as a 100% Java application using both Swing and Comm API packages, all of which are extensions to the Java core libraries. Alice will allow you to control your X10 enabled light and appliance modules by using the CM11A, CM12U, or CM17A interface. These interfaces connect between your computer’s serial port and a standard wall outlet. The information from ALICE is sent through the computer’s serial port and converted into the X10 protocol by an API package created by Jesse Peterson.
The intent of ALICE was to design a top level/GUI and web interface for home automation users. No fussing with properties or .ini type files! ALICE will create all of the necessary information when it first starts. The application comes complete in a single jar file, which automatically starts with
java -jar alice.jar. The program will load the last file saved, and can run all events that have been programed into it. This makes it nice for CM17A (aka firecracker) users, since the CM17A interface has no storage capabilities or software to run events. The CM17A costs about 20 and allows for a very low entry into home automation. All events can be programmed to run on various days and times, which the user specifies.
For CM11A and CM12U users, Alice provides ability to load macros into these serial interfaces so Alice does not have to run all the time. Another added benefit is that these interfaces allow Alice to monitor X10 events occuring in the house and can launch applications, speek a user defined phrase, or send out an email notice.
X10 is a protocol created for the purpose of using your existing home wiring to send signals or pulses, which are represented as a form of data information that is interpreted and executed as commands by the various modules. These modules control either appliances or lights. The light controlling modules have added features such as dimming and brightening the light to varying degrees. The appliance modules can handle simple on and off and higher loads that appliances demand.
Start off in home automation and build your own “Smart house of the future”. These inexpensive kits are available at either a local Radio Shack, Frey’s Electronics, IBM, or get the ActiveHome kit from X10.com. This kit includes a remote control, one appliance module, one light module, the CM11A interface, and a Windows 9x cdrom software. This was my purchase for a great starter kit. If you feel you want to experiment first with the idea of home automation this is one of the many great starter kits available for about 40. The CM17A also known as FireCracker is available at X10.com for less than 20.