Do We Really Need a Home Automation Standard?

Home control pundits have said for two decades that an automation standard is required for mass adoption, but who needs them when protocol bridges abound?

Julie Jacobson · February 1, 2010

For years, the common thinking was that home automation would never take off until we had standards.

And in 20 years – the modern era of home automation – we have failed to deliver a widely accepted protocol that would allow interoperability of thermostats, dimmers, motorized devices and other products that comprise a home control ecosystem.

Despite efforts (and some success) with X10, CEBus, LonWorks (prevalent in Europe), OSGi, Home API (HAPI), Simple Control Protocol (SCP) and most recently HomePlug Command & Control (CC), ZigBee and Z-Wave, we don’t appear to be nearing a real standard – that is, a standard like Ethernet that unquestionably spawned ubiquitous networking.

So the question is: Does it matter?

I think not.

Security Does Just Fine, Thank You

The residential security business has thrived over the years, even though alarm manufacturers use their own proprietary wireless protocols. When they want their panels to communicate with third-party systems, they do so through relays and bridges. Most popular security panels, for example, accommodate X10 devices, and some manufacturers are beginning to incorporate the wireless Z-Wave protocol into their products.

The problem with home automation standards is that various subsystems have their own needs that may or may not mesh with the needs of other devices on the home-control network.

Back to security: Homes may have dozens of wireless sensors, and those devices need to be as efficient as possible, in order to maximize battery life.

Most dimmers, on the other hand, need not be concerned about battery life since they are powered over the home’s A/C wiring.

Some products are large enough that the size of a radio or processor doesn’t matter. Others need to squeeze technology into a tiny space.

  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

News · Control4 · Home Automation · Smart Energy · Z-Wave · ZigBee · All Topics
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