Domotics or the art called House Automation is increasingly getting more and more popular, driven by energy efficiency, security and comfort needs. Most of these systems have their own set of remote controls, ranging from ugly plastic remotes to high cost programmable LCD screens.
We did set ourselves the goal of integrating our home automation with an iPhone to eliminate again another device at home. The project consists of three main building blocks.
Building Block 1 - An Infrared controlled Domotics System
The system we used is called AlfaStar from the Belgian company called AlfaSprint.
It consists of a number of different modules that will be expanded in the future. It’s design and concept was kept very easy and simple to get a very reliable system which is easy to install. There are four main modules: the AlfaStar controller, one or more optical input module(s), one or more output module(s) and the octal D/A converter.
The hart of the system is a new switchboard, where many hours of proper cabling have been applied. But before we had to remove the existing cables and select/label all the wires.
On the next picture you can see the new switchboard with on the lower row the 300 mA DIV and fuses for the non-switched outlets and appliances. The second row contains the 30 mA DIV and fuses for switched/dimmed outlets, lights and other devices. The 3rd row contains a power supply, the AlfaStar modules with relays, and the top row has all the light dimmer modules and some extra relays.
The second picture shows the switchboard inside. Proper cabling work is required as many meters and lots of connections are in there.
Proper cabling and grounding
The picture below shows the optional NetConnect module from AlfaStar. This module allows you to setup and control the AlfaStar Domotics System from your Windows PC over Wifi instead of using the included RS232 cable.
Building Block 2 - The IRTrans Module
This module is needed to link the iPhone over Wifi to the AlfaStar infrared receiver unit.
The German company IRTrans has recently developed an IRTrans module featuring a WLAN interface.
You can configure the module with IRTrans Windows/Linux software and by the iRed software on the Mac. Device configuration is currently only supported using a Windows PC. The unit is the size of a package of cigarettes and is in our setup mounted inside the switchboard, to signal the received codes to the AlfaStar infrared receiver.
Building Block 3 - The iRedTouch App
iRedTouch is the app that can control the IRTrans module, or other Infrared LAN modules. The nice thing here is that you can set your own background and define your own buttons over it.
The background we use is drawn in the low cost application called Architect3D. The first step is the drawing of the 2D layout of the apartment, the second consists of the creation of 3D model, un-rendered and rendered with shadows!
During the creation we did add also furniture and textures.
3D view un-rendered
3D view rendered
After exporting the rendered picture and transfer to the iPhone photoroll, the next step is to make buttons in the layout editor of iRedTouch, over the 3D rendered image, for all the automated functions of the apartment.
For our system 10 buttons have been defined.
1. Entering the entrance hall. When pressing this button, some lights in the halls and apartment are switched on, so there is a nice light ambiance welcoming you home. Also the shutters will be automatically opened (during the day). If no other action follows within 10 minutes all the lights will be switched off again.
2. The open kitchen. When pressing this field, the lights in the kitchen will go to full power and the outlets on the desk will be switched on.
3. The dinner table area lights the dining table, soft lights in the open kitchen and discrete accents on paintings on the walls.
4. The piano zone lights the dimmed Pallucco lamp in the corner behind the piano and puts some discrete accents on paintings on the walls.
5. The multimedia corner creates soft light behind the TV and around the place where to sit down while watching a movie.
6. The bathroom field lights the hall towards the bathroom and soft relax lights in the bathroom. Another push will power up the lights for shaving or make up. Also the hot sanitary water return pump will be activated for 15 minutes.
7. The dressing room provides light for 5 minutes, automatically switched off.
8. The bedroom button lights the hall towards it and the reading lights in the bedroom.
9. The office zone lights the desk, activates the outlets and provides light in the hall towards it.
10. The balcony field opens and closes the shutters to be able to enter the balcony and for security reasons.
After adding the buttons, the infrared codes have to be added to the buttons. And voila, the remote of the Domotics System is now on the iPhone. When you select it, you only see the 3D image of the apartment and once you click on an area where a button has been defined, you just see the yellow circle barely lighting up, this to visually confirm that you pressed it.
And then the show begins: tap on the screen and the lights go dim!
• AlfaStar Domotics System 1400 Euro
• Additional switchboard components 100 Euro
• NetConnect Wifi module 160 Euro
• IRTrans Wifi module 190 Euro
• iTouchRed 25 Euro
• Recabling of the switchboard 25 hours
• Programming of the modules 12 hours
• Drawing, 2D and 3D rendering 5 hours
• Adding all in iTouchRed 2 hours
Remark: it should be noted that any other infrared controlled Domotics System can be used with the IRTrans module and iTtouchRed software.