I installed several x10 light switches, cameras and modules a few years back with the goal of automating several tasks. The cameras are terrible, but the rest of the system worked pretty well; I was able to program my porch lights to turn on at dusk/off at dawn, flood lights on at dusk, off at 12:00am, etc.
x10 is a protocol that is used for controlling various devices over power wiring or radio frequency. A x10 transmitter is plugged into a wall outlet, allowing it to transmit commands into the home’s wiring. The transmitter is controlled by connecting it to a PC (either serial or USB connection) and running software that can send x10 commands via the transmitter.
For my home, I have the X10 CM15A USB computer interface.
The software that I initially purchased is the x10 ActiveHome Pro; this software is compete crap and is rarely updated/improved. I believe it has been updated once since I started using it in July 2007. There are security, camera, macros, remote access and other such add-ons- but the software is reminiscent of a mid 1990s website made in FrontPage.
I later found x10 commander which also has an iPhone app that would allow me to remotely toggle lights; this was useful as well- especially for the lights at Christmas time.
x10 commander has a free ‘server’ application that is installed on a system connected to the x10 transmitter. The iPhone app for x10 Commander runs $9.99 in the app store.
This combination of hardware/software has suited my needs for the past few years.
HomeSeer is more advanced than either x10 ActiveHome Pro or x10 Commander- and it supports both power line x10 adapters and z-wave control system.
z-wave is a wireless (900mhz) mesh network that has similar home automation controls to the x10 system- but has additional items such as thermostats and door locks (both of which are planned future additions to my home).
HomeSeer is setup and controlled via a web interface:
Many additional modules are available that will allow connectivity to IP webcams, DSC alarm panels, iTunes and similar.
One interesting module is the HSTouch module which allows for remote control via iPhone/iPod Touch. There is also an Interface design module that can be used to design custom screens for remote control- i.e. if you have specific functions you want to use and don’t want to be bothered with navigating through the menus.
I have been evaluating the software and find it to be very well written and very in-depth. There are so many options that I doubt I will ever use 1/4 of them.
I will need to purchase a z-wave controller (the Aeon Lab Z-Stick V2 as it works with the Schlage locks) and a z-wave thermostat to see exactly what this system can do.