Domotab: noun – Open source, multi-protocol home automation central unit.
The DomoTab project started in 2010 after we realised there wasn’t any hardware platform open enough to create a complete smart home (domotic) installation.
While the term domotics primarily describes domestic robotics, its use can be extended to any smart home or home automation technology. A very useful definition is found on French Wikipedia (Translation based on the November 12th 2012 version of the article): “Domotics is the sum of techniques in electronics, building, automation, informatics and telecoms used in buildings and allowing the centralized control of various appliances in the house (heating, blinds, garage door, gate, sockets…). Domotics adds functions of comfort safety and communication to the house.”
Let’s break this down and analyse it:
- The first part of the definition (sum of techniques) is quite exhaustive
- The second part (centralizing) is key, without it, the goal of improved comfort cannot be reached, a smart home needs a brain
- The third part (sundry appliances) is accurate but short and very limited
- The last part (goal) isn’t really part of the definition but is useful in answering “what’s it for?”
Let’s get back to the third point. domotics isn’t limited to the few listed examples but applies to all appliances. Pretty much any electrical device could be controlled by a domotic central unit and a number of non electrical appliances can be modified and form part of a complete smart home installation.
A smart home installation is composed of an array of sensors, appliances and communication devices, all linked to a central control station.
An ambitious project
DomoTab has been initiated in order to create an open-source hardware platform allowing anyone to take part in the creation of the software and hardware necessary to the creation of a complete smart home platform, and do this for a reasonable or low cost.
To accomplish this, this new platform needs to be multi-protocol, meaning it must be able to communicate with every element of the smart home installation.
The initial goal was to group everything in a single system with interface enabling it to communicate with any existing smart appliance. The study of existing smart appliances showed that there was two main categories of appliances: those using proprietary, closed communications protocols and those using free and/or open ones. Creating a system allowing both categories to work together wasn’t realistic. The first step was to ignore protocols and appliances from the first category, allowing the community to develop and use free technologies. But even this isn’t very realistic since while it would offer openness this this system would be much too expensive.
A modular solution
The solution was to go for a modular control station.
The systems core puts together generic communication interfaces as can be found on a computer: storage, network, audio, video, user interface.
Modules are then connected to this core, each granting access to a communication technique used in smart homes and allowing communication with a set of equipment.
This offers a number of advantages. It lowers the cost for the final user who only needs to purchase the modules he needs. It’s evolutive, allowing the user to modify his network to follow changes in his installation or to adapt to future developments. The openness goal is doubly reached since not only sources for the core unit are free but the user can also freely create his own modules. It is even possible to envision modules for proprietary protocols if their developers allow it or a third party develops them.
An open design
DomoTab (the central control unit) DTPlug (the bridge to wired networks) and certain modules we create are under Creative Commons: CC-BY-NC-SA: Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike License.
This means anyone can create their own system, or a related system as long as they don’t commercialize it. You can still contact us to discuss commercialization options or resell our products with or without modifications.
Our other products are under Creative Commons: CC BY-SA: Attribution ShareAlike License. Anyone can produce and commercialize those systems or derivatives.
What about software?
DomoTab’s goal is the creation of a hardware platform.
In the first phase, we’ll only provide a development platform, allowing anyone to create their own solution. And the second phase? We are eager defenders of free software and we know that community developed software is better than what we could create in house. There are already quite a few more or less successful smart home software solutions We will contribute to those that suit us and that we consider adapted to our needs, but the system will remain open, even if we manage to transition from development platform to finished product.
We also have to admit that our financial situation currently doesn’t give us any other option.
But what will be installed on an ‘out of the box’ DomoTab? First, a simple GNU/Linux system. Then, android should work perfectly on this system, opening up possibilities for more applications and another ecosystem. Anyone interested can suggest or implement other solutions.
We hope this solution will suit the most people and allow people to create their own smart home installation.