How to Automate Any House with Twitter

thatched cottage photo

Image: Flickr, Between a Rock
Twitter House aka Twitter Cottage
Prepare for a case of job-title envy. Engineer Andy Stanford-Clark works on the kind of projects that usually appear first in advertisements that anecdotally demonstrate a company's forward thinking. He is a "Master Inventor" for IBM. But IBM is not tooting its own horn: news of Andy's recent project is picking up speed in media and the blogosphere after being highlighted by BBC.

One of Andy's current projects aims to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of an automated house. And it is no modern pre-fab structure: Andy works on his own thatched cottage on the Isle of Wight, much like the one pictured above. Caution, may be addictive: You can follow Andy's house on Twitter to receive tweets like those excerpted below:


Image: Twitter, GreenAnswer's Account

Example Tweets from Andy_house

The advantages of an automated home are many. Access to real time monitoring and data mining promote more efficient living. Phantom power losses can be minimized simply by watching the power baseline and reducing any contributions to that base of wasted power. Actual power and water use for different activities can be seen -- and what gets measured, gets action. With a little data mining, your entire environmental footprint can be seen.

Your house can also tweet you in case a water line breaks, the dog wants in, or even if a houseplant needs watering. Request to follow the Andy_House on Twitter, and you can see the messages the automated house sends out.

Do It Yourself the AndySC Way
If you really want a look into the mind of Andy Stanford-Clark, so you can D-I-Y your own home, Automated Home has a video of a conference talk he gave. AndySC discusses the complications, such as developing an automated way to label graphical representations of the information feed from the smart house. He also addresses the need for security of the information: one can data mine the water and energy use to see which days the owner gets up, has a shower then a cup of coffee, and is gone for the day. Mind you, he notes, the homeowner is probably on vacation twittering "having a great time here!" so the thieves need not go so far as to analyze the house's data!

How far can you take your automation? AndySC notes that it is "incrementally easy" to add more functions. In fact, you might have seen the clip on ABC news showing the Twitter message when a mouse is caught in the trap. It doesn't stop there. Andy reports that his son, concerned that a mouse might get the cheese without triggering the trap, worked out a method to get tweeted in case the cheese is stolen. The method relies on the resistivity between two electrodes inserted into the cheese. An unintended benefit: you can plot the drying curve of the cheese, so you know when to replace a hardened chunk if you still hope to lure a mouse. On behalf of PETA, we will say it here: Andy, get a live-catch trap!

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