Home automation is one of those sic-fi fantasies that despite our best efforts remains just beyond our reach.

In the last few years we have seen some progress, but they remain prohibitively expensive. The Mi Casa VeraLite wireless home automation kit is $180 + the cost of every wifi-enabled outlet and light-switch, which cost around $40 bucks each.  At this price point home automation will never achieve widespread adoption, and like Washlets and heated bathroom floors, remain as eye-candy in home decor show rooms.

Why is it so expensive? because every single outlet, lightbulb, or switch has it’s own wifi card. Even with Moore’s law it’s going to be a few years before wifi-enabling everything can compete with the $.50 per unit price of the dumb alternative.

But there is another way. Instead of using wifi, we should take advantage of existing wiring in the home. Powerline based communication has been around for decades, but never really took off for home networking. It’s slower than ethernet/wifi and prone to interference (imagine your connection speed dropping every time you open the refrigerator).

For home automation bandwidth shouldn’t be an issue, if all you are doing is telling a power outlet to turn on or off. More importantly, it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than using wifi. You’d still need a central router, but instead of a wifi card you’d only need some very basic components.

There are of course other hurdles that need to be overcome: distribution*, the software layer, etc, but by removing the wifi-card you remove 80% of the cost.

Thoughts? My knowledge of electrical engineering is limited, but it seems like this is very doable. I’d try myself, but I don’t want to electrocuting myself….again.

*Another barrier to home automation could be that the economy sucks and everyone who would be an early adopter of the tech is stuck renting without an incentive to upgrade their apartments.

How to reduce the cost of Home Automation by an order of magnitude