Myth BOX
The home of guides for Myth TV, IPTables, and other linux based phenomena.
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Home automation

You only have to Google for 'linux home automation' to see how many solutions there are out there for automating tasks around the home. Slowly but surely we will see our society adopting home automation, one device at a time. However, the landscape for home automation is filled with many standards for communication, and some software packages may not support what you need. There is also the question of what you want to control and how you would like to control it.

The tasks that are commonly performed through home automation include:

HVAC (Heating,
Ventilation and
Air Conditioning)
This could be as complicated as controlling the cool air intake and hot air removal from a house automatically using specific criteria, or as simple as controlling the temperature of a central heating system remotely. HVAC is a complicated subject in its own right, so we will only be focusing on using a simple temperature control for the user's convenience.
Lighting This could be just turning a given light on or off remotely, doing so at a predetermined date or time, or using motion detectors to avoid wasted electricity once a room is left empty. Mood control is another facet of lighting, for instance allowing the user to dim the main lights by 50% and turning on a side lamp.

Full colour bulbs and connected bulbs takes the lighting one step further. This introduces different colour into your lighting moods which you can preset, or you can change the colour based on a particular input. For example, feed in music to give a disco lighting scene, or link to text/email alerts to flash the lights green for one second to give notification. More subtle ideas are to provide a night light for children, or a wake-up light to slowly light up a bedroom in the morning (clinically proven to make waking up more pleasant).
Shading Examples include closing curtains and blinds. This could be used for security when you are away from your home, or just linked to a mood profile so that when you turn the lights on the curtains are closed.
Audio/Video This would utilise the features of a media centre such as a Mythbox. At a basic level, this is playing music or video in specific rooms of the house, but could also be extended to make or accept Skype video calls through the TV.
Security As well as being able to view security camera footage, you can also take various sensors as input to keep your home secure. This may include motion sensors, magnetic sensors, glass break detectors. At the touch of a button, you would be able to see when a room was last visited and which rooms currently have activity. If someone approaches the front of the house, you could trigger lighting notifications to indicate you have a visitor to greet.
Energy usage montoring This could be the monitoring of energy useage throughout the home, or monitoring of energy generated from PV panels on your roof (and how much of the generated energy is being fed back into the grid).

Lighting products

There are two main products in this space, LIFX and Philps Hue. Both of these solutions provide multi-coloured output from each bulb through a wireless interface to your router. They utilise IPv6 mesh networks between each bulb to communicate wirelessly. APIs are available to change the colour and brightness of each light bulb, as well as which bulbs are turned on. This way scenes can be created with different colour profiles, and notifications can be triggered using change of colour as an indicator. As well as this, these products offer longer life and much better efficiency compared to traditional bulbs.

Other alternatives do exist such as GreenWave which offers all but the changeable colour. The Bluebulb and the Lumen Smart Bulb offer changeable colour, but only via Bluetooth in a more restrictive off-line fashion. In addition there are slightly more primitive and proprietary solutions which exist that don't offer an API.


  • Screw fit, Bayonet, and GU10 downlighter style bulbs (although the last type is far too big for a standard downlighter fitting)
  • Only bulbs are required (in a master/slave layout), no base station
  • An SDK has been promised
  • Uses 6LoWPAN avoiding vendor lock-in and licensing restrictions
  • Uses 802.11n to connect back to router removing need for a bridging device
  • Sold out after being a kickstarter project, pre-order for Q1 2014 at the earliest

Philips Hue

  • Available now in the shops today
  • Supports up to 50 bulbs
  • Lightstrips are also available
  • API is available now at
  • Requires the use of a 'wireless bridge', which is a powered device and plugs into your router
  • Currently only available as a screw fit, no Bayonet or GU10 downlighter style bulbs available
  • Uses the ZigBee standard which, although means interoperability with other compatible bulbs, is incompatible with the GPL
  • Requires an additional bridge since all communication is over 802.15.4, not just inter-bulb communication

Specifications used for the mesh networking:

  • IEEE 802.15.4 - This is a MAC and PHY layer protocol (OSI layer 1 and 2)
  • 6LoWPAN - This is an IETF working group defining a Network layer protocol (OSI layer 3) for IPv6 over 802.15.4
  • ZigBee Alliance - A group of companies defining a Network layer protocol (OSI layer 3) on top of IEEE 802.15.4. This conflicts with the GPL and other Free Software licenses, due to the fact that you need to pay a fee for the specification, so its unlikely to make it into the Linux kernel.