I made an interesting discovery when I was in B&Q the other day. I stumbled across a massive Siemens lighting/electrical control display (with an annoying video playing on a loop). It seemed to consist of light switches, sockets and various plug-in modules. I had a bit of a poke around, and then headed home. It certainly looked intriguing.
A quick google search, and a few clicks later and I found that Siemens have basically just licensed a technology called LightwaveRF. It allows wireless control over the different modules, either from a handheld or wall mounted remote. Or from a computer or other controller.
One of the most interesting sites I found was www.vesternet.com They stock LightwaveRF and another wireless electrical control system called Z-Wave. They both seem to offer very similar functionality, with the major difference being that Z-Wave modules are almost all 2-way radio devices. Which means that they transmit data as well as receive it. To my mind this has the advantage that a switch can send out data when it is operated. That way you could have other modules set up so that they also responded (say a table lamp switching on when you switch on the ceiling light).
This was interesting to me, as I’d really like to get the new house remoted up using just such a technology. Being able to control the lights and selected appliances remotely has a load of potential advantages. For instance, I really want to have the intruder alarm connected to the same system, so that when you return home in the evening, the living area lights switch on as you disarm the alarm. Indeed I did find some interesting sites that seemed to suggest it was pretty easy to get some alarm panels connected up to the same control system as Z-Wave (the control system tailored specifically for Z-Wave is called Vera), there is also a very intriguing, open-source suite called DomotiGa.
I’m going to have to wait until I can have a poke around with the wiring in the new house. The Z-Wave modules tend to be dimmer or switch units that are installed behind the existing light switches. Whereas LightwaveRF devices tend to replace the switch itself. If I can fit the Z Wave modules in or around the back-boxes, I think I’d rather get them. Indeed, if that was the case I could get some of the stunning momentary push switches from these people, Forbes & Lomax. But if not, LightwaveRF certainly looks like it could be very promising.