I kicked off my latest series of posts with a rather benign one about the genius of paper tabs on outlet covers, but am excited to start sharing the details of my latest round of home improvements. (Some who have visited my place in the last couple months would call it “demolition” given the amount of drywall dust everywhere). I’ve talked about another home command center I’ve built in the kitchen with an iPad (replacing an old intercom system), and have wall-mounted a photo frame using the same intercom system low-voltage power lines. But today’s post is about something bigger and more prominent: a giant touch-screen command center in the front foyer of the house using my custom web-based home automation app, IntelliHome.
For this project, I had a wall facing the front door with a closet right behind it. My challenge was to provide a touch-screen interface to IntelliHome when you walk in the front door, but there was no power outlet available for the screen and I wasn’t sure exactly which look I was going for (small iPad interface or big wall-mounted monitor). The solution to the first problem was to install an electric outlet high in the closet on the other side of the wall, tapping into the light switch on the front of the wall. Of course, I used an Insteon OutletLinc for this because a) why not install an outlet you can control remotely, and b) I wanted to be able to power down the screen at specific times to save power.
My screen choice was more complicated than I expected. First of all, huge props to Amazon for their liberal return policy; I went through three monitors before deciding on a setup. The initial idea was to get a touch-screen monitor with Android already built in, since all I would need was a web browser to access IntelliHome. I started with this somewhat awesome-looking ViewSonic 22-Inch “Smart Display”, but it was horribly under-performant for even the basic web stuff I wanted. After returning that, I got the 24-inch All-in-one with a faster CPU, but even that one lagged a bit and I wasn’t happy with the responsiveness. Fortunately, I had a spare first-generation Microsoft Surface Tablet lying around, so I decided to put it to use – not for the screen but for the computing power. The MS Surface sits on a shelf in the closet, and I ended up with this HP Pavilion 23-inch Touchscreen Monitor mounted on the wall with a common VESA bracket, plugged into an Insteon OutletLinc and connected with an HDMI Cable and USB cable (for the touch screen) through the wall:
Not wanting this setup to be too geeky, I updated Intellihome to include a slide show feature, so most of the time when the monitor is on it’s just displaying fun pictures – but it’s always a swipe away from powering on the lights, controlling the thermostat, or (at some point in the future) controlling the music in the house:
Hey. Why have the big monitor on the wall instead of just hanging the Surface itself on there? Seems like it would be about the right size for the task. I’m thinking of doing that is why I ask.
A good question. I’ve actually used an iPad in a different room (http://homeautomationguru.com/build-a-home-command-center-for-your-smart-home/), which would likely be even cheaper than the Surface – but for this application I went with the bigger screen so that it would be more visible from a distance, especially since I use it as a digital picture frame when it’s not controlling anything.
How about step-by-step details to build a program to add speech. I have the Network Module module, but getting it to work seems impossible. So write a project to interface and have it play tada.wav or something. mp3.
Yes, that would be easy to do, either using a speech synthesizer to speak generic phrases (like “Welcome home, Matt. It will be cold and rainy tonight, so I’ll keep the heat turned up.”) or play pre-recorded sounds (like a doorbell noise when the doorbell button is pressed).
I’ve also pre-ordered an Amazon Echo and have considered using SiriProxy to get voice recognition going the other way, so you can use voice commands to interact back and forth.