Build a home of the future : Part 1 – the basics

A selected few would want to delve into this. No, this post is not about how the houses of the future would be. For that you may visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7348940.stm

This post is about how you, as a Linux enthusiast, can take a combination of all wonderful applications available, and leverage them to create something which defines what you are. This is no howto, and I just skim the surface as I myself am trying to figure out how to work out all this.

Following is where I am coming from : You wake up in the morning, ask for the time and weather outside. The system responds back. You give voice commands to take backups of the system, check your e-mails, record voice messages, play music, make phone calls, and watch your favorite TV channels. Then you leave for office. The home is now under surveillance mode. Any activity which happens behind your back is emailed to you instantly as a video. The primary power fails and the system switches to the secondary power. There are solar cells on top of your building which are charging the batteries. You come back with some friends of yours. You put the system in silent mode and record all activity that happens. Its night time now and you go to bed. The infra-red cameras keep a watch on the house.

Next day is a weekend, and you plan a trip outside. You get ready your stuff and take out the mini-computer which is connected with your base station wirelessly. The mini computer has GPS inbuilt which keeps a track of where you are and communicates it back to the base station. Your backpack has solar cells which keep charging the mini-computer. You are continuously updated of what’s happening back at home.

All of this is possible, though with some expenditure on the hardware front. Here’s what I think you would need

Hardware

  1. Base Station : A laptop/battery powered device for the base station. A desktop would also do but power consumption may be a concern. A wifi router, UPS, a set of speakers and a good microphone and internet connection would be necessary.
  2. Power Generation : Solar Cells, and a battery system which they can charge
  3. Electrical Devices Control : I’ve heard about X10 and http://www.smarthome.com – am not sure as none of them is available here (in India).
  4. Mini-Computer : A Gumstix motherboard with USB, Flash Memory, Wifi, GPS and LCD screen.
  5. Monitoring : A infra-red webcam. A wireless one would be better, but USB one would also do.
  6. Internet Connection : A USB based internet connection device which allows you to connect from anywhere. Shall be compatible with Linux & wvdial.

Software

  1. Speech Recognition : HTK, Julius/Julian
  2. Text to Speech : Festival, with MBROLA
  3. Motion Detection : motion
  4. Scripting Language : PHP and bash – this will help in defining and acting upon commands
  5. Home Automation : Mister House
  6. Others : wvdial for net connection, audacity for audio recording, mail tools for sending out e-mails, Apache for providing a connectivity to base station

The intention is to create a home of the future, today. I would keep on adding stuff here as and when I find time; the first one probably would be about Speech Recognition. I personally believe that the technology is available, and if used effectively, it can be really exciting.

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