Home Automation Protocols Compete

The stalwart X10 PowerLine Carrier protocol, created in the late 1970s, "continues to be the de facto industry standard for home remote control of lights and appliances," according to its creator, X10 Wireless Technology Inc. But the proprietary protocol is not the only option suitable for wireless home automation, as the extensive list at www.hometoys.com/standards.htm proves. And the competition is increasing. (www.x10.com)

To encourage OEMs to support its Insteon home control technology, SmartLabs Inc. has developed modem chips. Insteon uses a dual-mesh (wireline and radio frequency) technology to link core systems—such as lighting, security, comfort control, home sensors, consumer electronics, and appliances—for remote monitoring and control. The wireline chips begin shipping this quarter ($1.60 with no minimum quantity); the RF chip will be available in Q2 2006.

According to SmartLabs, the Insteon chips are half the price of competitive offerings—and the technology is more versatile, reliable, and simpler to use. "Our development partners can pass the cost savings along to consumers, ensuring a broader market for their products," the company says. (www.smartlabsinc.com)

Hawking Technologies' new HomeRemote System uses Freescale's ZigBee technology to communicate with devices installed throughout the home. (ZigBee-enabled on-chip features and enhancements reduce external components and total bill of materials, the company says, while providing battery lifetimes of up to several years.) Using a Web interface, consumers can keep tabs on their homes, securing their property and controlling appliances.

Hawking offers two gateways, one a complete package for home Internet access, and the other an access point that plugs into a broadband-connected router for homes thus equipped. The company says that "a slew of wireless sensors and devices" are on its product roadmap; these products are available now: door/window sensor, power outlet, power strip, and signal extender. (www.hawkingtech.com, www.freescale.com/zigbee)