California’s Energy Commission recently updated its Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards to require photo-sensors, occupancy sensors and multi-level lighting controls (indoors and outdoors). Some of the base technologies include:
- Passive infrared (PIR) for motion detection of occupancy.
- Ultrasonic sensors.
- Optical sensors.
- Door contact sensors.
- Thermal cameras.
However, taken a step further is so called “GreenChip” which uses an IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless microcontroller access at a current below 17 milliamps. This is also known as low-rate wireless personal networks (LR-WPANs).
Phillips released its Hue brand of LED lighting which allows lights to change power, color and intensity from a smart phone which is currently available from the Apple Store for $59.95. MIT Technology Review reported today of a Wi-Fi LED bulb funded by Kickstarter. While consumers are unlikely to replace every bulb in their home with a $60 smart-light, wide scale adoption may lead to some security issues.
Is your Lighting Secure?
At least under the IEEE standard, security may be handled on the MAC sublayer while higher layer processes may specify keys to perform symmetric cryptography and access lists. However, if the standard is embedded into the GreenChip what able security holes? Image a hacker turning off all the lights in a hospital at night. It is unlikely that heavy-weight security measures will be enforced early on as they tend to create configuration headaches for consumers.
Outlet or Device?
Home automation has generally been agnostic about the device and simply turned the power on or off. At the second level of control came dimmer switches. Probably the most advanced home automation is currently a thermostat (for state-of-the-art see Nest.com).
How about some new inventions in this field?
- Water heater: GreenChip controller sets an “away” mode to lower temperature and pre-heats before the morning shower.
- Pool pumps: tap NOAA web services to forecast hotter weather (that may require longer run times).
- Irons, ovens and stoves: occupancy sensors turn off long-running fire hazards or at least ping the user with a warning.
- Faucets: occupancy sensors limit water running to X number of gallons if no movement present and/or tracking water use.