How Android @ Home Could Make Your Life Easier


When speaking about our current smartphones we take for granted the number of tasks that are automated for us. After I register my usernames and passwords and configure my Wi-Fi keys, my Android-powered phone is pretty much on autopilot. It tells me when I have new emails and texts. It tells me when someone is trying to call or chat with me. It knows where I am. It knows how fast I’m going. It knows when it’s light and when it’s not. It knows when I need to wake up (and is smart enough not to wake me up at the same time on the weekends). There’s a lot that my Android knows and automates for me.

At Google I/O 2011 we were introduced to Android @ Home, Google’s new home automation initiative and SDK for Android-powered devices.

I realize pocketnow is a smartphone website, but since I’m in the process of building a new house, let’s talk a little about home automation, then we’ll bring it back around to how your Android phone plays into the possibilities presented by Android @ Home.

In a nutshell, home automation uses various sensors, a microcomputer, and some proprietary software to automate things that happen around your house. I need hot water so the water heater automatically turns on the pilot light, heats the water in the tank, and delivers it to my faucet, but only when needed. When it’s too cold, the thermostat turns on the heater. When it’s too warm, the thermostat turns on the air conditioner. Every three days the sprinklers turn on and water the lawn, garden, and hanging baskets. It’s fairly basic stuff, and for the most part it’s all very disconnected.

Connecting all these and other separate systems into one, centrally controlled master controller enables a whole new range of possibilities. Attaching a rain sensor could tell the system to reduce the amount of water for my lawn (or skip that watering entirely). Feeding the weather forecast to the system could tell the heater to keep the temperature a few degrees lower over-night because the next day is going to be a scorcher. Having access to the sunrise/sunset times could be used to turn my lights on or off.

All of that can be done today, but even “unified” automation systems are somewhat expensive and usually very proprietary in nature — limiting their scope and reach.

Android @ Home could change all that.

With a common set of standards and a common operating system powering it all, sensors of all kinds can be developed that plug into the system. These sensors could be local or remote, physical or virtual, or even fed by data from the Internet. Playing a movie on your Google TV could automatically lower the lights in the room and turn on the surround-speakers. Apps could be written by existing developers that extend what an app can do from the device to the home.

Let’s turn our focus back to smartphones.

My family uses Google Calendar to hold our family schedule. My wife has her calendar, I have mine, and my two oldest children have their own. We all subscribe to each other’s calendars so we all know what’s going on. Imagine if your Android @ Home could also subscribe to these calendars. It would know when each person needs to get up (possibly turning on the lights and starting the music playing automatically, or reading your agenda to you). It could know when you’re going on vacation and adjust the thermostat accordingly to save energy. Perhaps it could even automate your lighting and stream some music from Google Music to make it look like you’re still at home, thereby dissuading would-be burglars.

Since your house is connected to the Internet you might even have webcams at your doors so you can see if anyone is snooping around. Your Android @ Home could monitor these cameras for motion and alert you via email, text, chat, or even a phone call if it detects something “unusual”. With a small video screen mounted into the intercom, you could even video chat with the person at the door from half-way around the world — if it’s the delivery guy you could tell him to leave the package inside the garage, which you could remotely open for him, then close again once he’s done.

Android @ Home could know when your floors are getting dirty and deploy your Roomba or Scooba cleaning robots — or automatically dispatch your lawn-mowing robot.

Android @ Home could detect when you’re getting home from school or work (regardless of your schedule, based on your location or entrance into the Wi-Fi bubble), turn on lighting, open the garage, and even unlock doors for you. It could even display incoming calls, event reminders, weather alerts, and more on your Google TV — you wouldn’t even need to pull your phone out of your pocket. Of course the possibilities are limited only by the imaginations of developers.

What else could Android @ Home automate for you because it could “talk” to your smartphone?

Let us know what you’d like to see automated by Android @ Home in the comments below!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.