iPhone Life magazine

Home Security & Automation Application

Home PageWe travel a  lot and since we live in Michigan, the weather extremes can be severe.  Thus I always wanted to be able to monitor house and freezer temperatures while we were gone.  We once returned home to find a freezer had failed and the resulting aroma and mess was so substantial we had to haul the freezer out of the house and to the dump!

Similarly we have had multiple instances where our security system tripped and the Sherriff had to come out and break-in to check things.  That always results in a lot of broken glass and a mess in general (not to mention the large opening thus created in the house that allows frigid air to enter until repaired!).
While at it, I decided that it would be nice to monitor and control home lighting too. Indeed a bonus of this is that using the iPhone I can control and dim almost any light in the house not only while away, but also while home sitting in my chair.
I dedicated a spare computer to the task of home automation. It is directly connected to my broadband service for bi-directional access. It has two main pieces of software installed on it. . . one from webcamXP (www.webcamxp.com) which provides motion sensing for our  two home video cameras (one on the rooftop and one in the living room) and PowerHome (www.myx10.com) which interacts with the Insteon light switches (from www.smarthome.com)  throughout the house.
Both of these programs have built-in web servers, but I use the PowerHome server as my main source, and have it grab info as needed from the webcamXP server.
The result is a compact homepage that gives me real-time video feeds from inside the house and from the roof top looking out our driveway. Both of these cameras are monitored by webcamXP for motion and can trigger alerts to the iPhone via either SMS messaging or via an email with attached picture from the camera with motion.
The page also includes a weather summary with the local temp as well as key environmental temperatures for the house and freezers.
The five options down the left frame open up pages that give me almost complete household control, reviews of the security alert information, and an animated weather map I created via an animated GIF as I couldn’t find it anywhere and find that this presentation gives me the most information in the most compact way.
Control Center
Briefly these Options are:
“CC” – opens up the Control Center where I can turn SMS and/or email alerts on and off for the cameras. As shown here, all alerts are off except for the Driveway camera eMail alert.
Also the housed temps are all controlled either to exact set points (most common temp settings while traveling), but they can be tweaked with the up/down Set buttons which change colors from reb/blue/gray for heat/cool/offconditions.  As displayed here in red, it indicates the furnace is set to "heat."
House lights are controlled with button taps that toggle the state of the lights and reflect immediately the actions taken. If a light is dimmable, it shows activation, as the last button tapped, with a blue ring around the button (the Room lite in the DWN room area).
The blue ringed lite is then dimmable with the setting buttons on the right.
“MAIN” – opens a PowerHome software control center where macros can be executed, variable states checked, etc. Largely this is used for maintenance access when away from home.
“TRIG” – open a window that is a FIFO compilation of the last triggering events. If motion is detected both cameras are sampled and their images are pushed onto the stack (a VB application I wrote that is called from the camera software). Two minutes later another snapshot is captured. If no more motion is detected then just the two sequences are captured, but if motion is detected 6 minutes after the first trigger, another sequence is started. Thus gives samples every two minutes when there are activities. 
The top two images are static and changed camera by camera to reflect the last motion that camera saw. Thus one can determine which camera most recently actually had motion detection. In this example the top left outside image shows a time stamp of 3:13:07PM but the right image is stamped at 2:28:37PM, thus looking down the sequence we can determine that the outside camera in the bottom row of the Event 1 sequence was the triggering instance.
“HIST” – opens a window that displays a pair of camera images taken every 2 minutes regardless of any motion activity or not. This is an hour long FIFI sequence of 30 image pairs.
“WTHR” – is a an animated weather GIF I create with a short VB program. I find this map from The Weather Channel to be very informative as it shows radar, pressure centers, isobars, and weather fronts all on one map, but have never found anything like it that is animated.... so I did it because when it is animated (6 one hour spaced images) it REALLY becomes extremely informative.
Weather Map
All in all, I have found the iPhone to be uniquely suited to this home monitoring application. 
The Safari browser supports everything I have thrown at it including live video feeds, window sizing, data updating, and more.
 Camera Magnification
Best of all, the weather map and camera images are fairly small in order to get things all on one web page, but they are sent out full sized and reduced in the <IMG> tag of my HTML page to a smaller size. 
But using the iPhone’s unique finger stretch I can easily zoom into an image and get full sized detail, as desired.
For this application, the iPhone gets a rating from me of 30 on a scale of 1 to 10!!!
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