Android, Android, Everywhere: Home Automation & Beyond

January 20, 2011
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In the near future, Android will make its way into every single aspect of your life. There is no doubt that we are headed towards a revolution in home and lifestyle automation. The beauty of such a thing is that it will offer us unprecedented freedom, and, ideally, more time to do what we truly want. Home automation specialists have some exciting developments for you in store, and are going to be speaking to you through Android.

Android has found a new market for adoption: cars, home appliances, home utilities, and your multimedia system. While some will say this is nothing new, the companies, developers, and people rallying behind it are. According to a report on Forbes, a wave of touch-screen devices are set to be unleashed on the market later this year. They will be capable of everything from controlling your lights to managing your stereo remotely. Oh, and all of these devices are going to run on the open-source Android platform.

Android’s “Touch Revolution”

Touch Revolution, a company that builds the touch screens and provides the Android features for these types of devices, makes the assertion that well-known companies are coming out with home management tools this year that will run on the Android OS. In fact, the company divides them into three categories:

1. Home Phones: What Touch Revolution calls “smart phones for the home”

2. Home control devices: These will be touchscreen platforms that can activate and manage security, control the house lights, or switch off the A/C

3. Media control devices: More adept remote control over things like DVRs and stereos

Android, Repurposed

While we can see the utility in these types of devices, you may be wondering why they would pick Google Android for this sort of thing. The Forbes article touches on that too:

“Why use Android at all? Brown says its partners liked the operating system’s ease of use, openness and touch-centric features. They also regarded it as a bargain since Google is distributing it for free.”

Android was originally built for touch-screen phones, and thus a modified Android OS for touch screen tablets and devices seems only logical. Google Chrome OS, on the other hand, will focus on web applications and load speeds.

Shortly, the home automation community will have twice the opportunity to grab the attention of consumers, thanks to Google Android which already has a rabid fan base among Droid phone users.

Like Apple’s iOS, Android has an app store with an active development community, an enthusiastic user base, and a growing number of compatible devices. Unlike Apple, Android is an open-source platform offered to software and hardware developers alike. For that reason, we will probably see many more Android-enabled devices than those employing iOS.

Custom electronics professionals can’t wait.

“I have been asked seriously 30 times about this [Android-enabled home control] and when it is coming out, mainly by other integrators, but also by architects and designers,” says Johnny Mota, principal, Vsys Automation. Currently, Mota is beta testing an Android app for Crestron home automation, under development by CommandFusion, was one of the first developers of iOS apps for automation.

David Haddad, president of Chicago-based Vidacom, is another integrator who is “very excited about the potential of integrating Android tablets with our home automation systems.”

He says, “It looks as though the Android OS will allow us to address many of the limitations that the Apple OS has imposed on us. We will now have the ability to design the devices home screen, wake the touchscreen when someone is at the door, and so on. I can’t see this additional competition between Apple and Google as having anything but a positive benefit on the industry, giving us more choices and options.”

Crestron home automation app

Blake Krikorian, founder of Sling Media, is so enamored of Android that he built an app for his own Crestron automation system. That app will be running on a few Samsung Galaxy Tabs and Dell Streaks during CEDIA.

Recently, we asked home control vendors what they think about Android. Here’s what some of them had to say.

HomeSeer, Mark Colegrove

Android OS support is going to be huge for us, since a LOT of hardware seems to be heading that way. There’s already a lot of buzz about it in our user channel. Couple things:

1) Android phone sales have overtaken iPhone sales already (disputable, but likely true)
2) Android tablets are starting to hit now too, with over 50 million to be sold this year alone.
3) The retail push is on also.

Our HSTouch Android client is slated for release next month and will work with all HomeSeer systems (HS2, HSPRO, HomeTroller and PRO-100).

Our HomeTroller PRO S3 ($1,300 retail) includes HSTouch at no extra cost and that’s where the Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Mobile support comes from.

Cinemar, Mario Cascio

The days of single-task expensive devices are rapidly going away. With Android quickly dominating the intelligent phone market it is only natural to see its range extended to multi-purpose intelligent devices competing directly in the iPad space.

The Android Tegra 2-based tablets will be great contenders for Apple if they can match the performance, battery life, price, weight and form factor of the iPad. Throw in a docking cradle and we’ve got a real winner.

Cinemar is working on a version of MainLobby that will run on Android Tegra 2-based devices. Because of their native support for Flash, it’s a much easier transition for Cinemar. We’re excited about the buzz and the ability to put our user interface onto sub-$500 devices throughout the home.

Home Automation Inc. (HAI), Jay McLellan

We believe Android will be a very popular operating system for mobile devices and smart TVs.

HAI is developing a version of Snap Link Mobile for Android. Comparing the platforms, we are excited to see the wide variety of Android devices that can act as user interfaces. This is appealing to manufacturers and users, and I expect to see incredible innovation in hardware and software for Android.

Apple, already the standard to beat, will no doubt advance its own state of the art. From a development standpoint, Apple provides a consistent topology for development and sale of a product, and Apple’s tight control can be a help and a hindrance. There are many more variables with Android (screen size, device capability, sales channel, etc.) but this will allow a wider variety of new products and systems to emerge.

HAI will be demonstrating an Android app at CEDIA Expo.

AMX, Rashid Skaf

Ultimately it’s not particularly important which is the hot device at a point in time. What we see to be the real trend is users viewing all their networked devices as service portals through which they increasingly expect to be able to reach all their services, home control being just one. So a home control system won’t be defined or limited by the interface device brand any more than your e-mail is. In fact, home owners will want and expect to be able to control their home through all their devices including their favorite mobile phone, home computer, dedicated control panels and remotes, and televisions.

Control4, Eric Smith

We see Android being very important to our industry on many fronts. In the mobile phone industry it appears that Android will be the leading platform. Android cellphone shipments surpassed iPhone a couple of months ago. At Control4 we are working hard to deliver an Android cell phone application.

Android is also becoming very important in the new Google TV platform. Just like in the cell phone industry it is difficult for manufacturers to ignore the platform that will Internet-enable their TVs. Clearly, Google knows what it is doing.

If you could imagine your life several years from now, what would you want to see? Chances are Android Developers and Consumer Electronics Specialists are working on it. All of the major players have announced their intentions – and it’s likely we will see significant strides made in the area of home automation in the very near future. Plus, with Android being an open O/S, it will be possible for these devices to integrate with your new superphone, tablet, and every other Android powered device you might happen to own.

Here’s a list of some of the best apps for home automation available currently. Remember though, in many cases you need to have the existing hardware installed in your home before you can make use of any of them. Check them out.

Exciting times!

As we all know, The Android platform is rapidly gaining momentum. Apps for your home, car, and multimedia setup are appearing everywhere. To make matters even more appealing, developers are actively beginning to collaborate with home designers, home builders, and other Consumer Electronics Professionals (CE). Being that Android is an open O/S means that there is almost limitless potential.

Here are a few of the best Android Apps for your Home:

  • DroidSeer X10 Home Automation (£7.50) by SPVSOFTA remote control for the popular HomeSeer software to control X10 compatible lights and devices. Requires HomeSeer v2.
  • Lightswitch ($10) by Melloware
    The client for Lightswitch-enabled servers (such as Homeplanner, JB Lightmanager Pro or Zwave Commander).
  • HCA: Home Control Assistant (Free) by Advanced Quonset Technology
    The client for HCA Server. Using HCA you can control, program, and schedule lights and appliances using X10, UPB, Insteon, as well as wireless and IR.
  • Home Buddy (Free) by Rakstar Somar
    Controls Z-Wave devices. Requires Vera Z-Wave Controller from MiCasaVerde. An quite interesting feature of this app allows to create shortcuts to certain actions (like to turn light On/Off) right on the home screen.
  • wdISY (Free) by 222 Designs
    Controls INSTEON scenes and devices. Requires ISY99i controller from Universal Devices. Supports remote SSL connections and local HTTP.
  • IPSdroid (Free) by Sascha Schmidt
    A gateway to IP-Symcon software.
  • ElkDroid Security & Automation ($99) by Williams Automation
    ElkDroid provides an easy and secure way to remotely operate and monitor Elk M1G or EZ8 system state, lighting, tasks and zones. The neat feature of this app is that it has voice recognition.
  • Crestron R2 (~$100) by Crestron
    Crestron has announced at CEDIA 2010 that it is also working on an Android version of their control application.
  • Home Watcher (?) by Samsung
    At IFA 2010 Samsung demoed a Galaxy Tab with “live widget-based control over your home’s HVAC, TV (including remote viewing), stove, oven, dryer, vacuum robot, and refrigerator with integrated grocery manager that suggests recipes based upon the food you have.”  Wow!
  • AutoHTN Vera Beta (Free) by Home Theater Network
    AutoHTN Vera works with inexpensive Mi Casa Verde’s Vera controller. Vera works with multiple home automation devices including Z-Wave, Insteon, and X10.
  • TouchSwitch ($10) by burak
    Installs directly on ISY99i home automation controller with Networking module (purchased separately, discount available) and works on Android 2.0+, iPhone, iPad and IE/Firefox/Safari browsers on the desktop. Controls INSTEON devices, scenes, programs and Network Resources (IP cameras, IP-to-RS232 gateways, etc.).
  • Conductor for Android (Free) by Conductor Automation
    A very nice and clean UI for ISY99i home automation controller. Supports INSTEON Lights/Appliances, Scenes, Programs and WeatherBug weather module if installed on your ISY (purchased separately).

Stay tuned for more here at Android Authority.com

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