Brainstorming a smart house

Sat 05 October 2013

As I am about to sign my first lease on a house, I am going to have the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for a long time: create a smart home (technically, I'm more interested in home automation projects, but that term isn't as sexy as smart home).

One of my housemates and I have been talking a little bit about building a budget roomba, a.k.a. a dust-buster on wheels, but that will probably take a while and I want this house to be smart right away god-damnit!

So, writing this post is a way for me to brainstorm quick ideas for my new home. My first thoughts go to the ever dependable inventables website, and all of the fun materials and sensors they have available there. What comes to mind right away are conductive foam sensors, lovely things that let you close circuits by doing things such as sitting down in a chair or stepping on a mat.

The other question is what do I want to automate? Well, I would love to create a house that is responsive to my sleep schedule. So here's an idea, given conductive foam and sleep as criteria:

  • Place the foam sensor under a mattress, and hook it up to a microprocessor that controls a lamp dimmer or LED array and has a good clock. Easy slow-wake alarm clock. A step up from conductive foam would be to embed an accelerometer in the bed. There is an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle that uses the built-in accelerometer to estimate where you are in a REM cycle, and hasten or delay an alarm accordingly. I would love to copy this idea but have the sensing trigger a lamp rather than an alarm, especially one that wouldn't require me to have my iPhone on the corner of my bed all night long.

Non-utilitarian ideas

Granted, these are easier to come up with and are more fun:

  • It would be really cool to have a glowing orb in the living room that coordinates it's color and brightness to house-wide internet bandwidth usage.
  • I would be amused if each cupboard in the kitchen played a different song when you opened it. The spice cabinet could play spice girls, and the pasta cabinet could play Pavarotti.

I think this is a good start. Updates to come...