news

13.05.2011

The NBN and why we need it.

First of all let’s define what we are talking about. The NBN or National Broadband Network is a major overhaul to our current copper communications infrastructure built to deliver telephony to our homes. The overhaul is needed to cope with the next 25 years of communications technology.

The NBN has had a lot of publicity over the last 18 months or so. In fact, it was one of the deciding issues in the last federal election. Since then everyone with a microphone has bashed it around saying its too expensive, not good enough, or not as important as other things now. The biggest problem is that the advocates have done a terrible job of telling us why it’s essential.

It was a little over 10 years ago when only around half the country was on a dial-up internet plan. The internet was in its infancy and the speed of dial-up was sufficient for the small size of web pages. Downloading movies, music, and software was barely even thought of. Essentially we had the right technology at the right time and there was no extra investment needed from our government because we already had a world class telephony infrastructure in place to nearly every home.

Fast forward to now and the internet is a very different beast. Web pages are designed for much faster connections and contain a lot more media. In fact it would be a real laugh if you could fire up your old 56k modem, dial in, and then surf to a modern website such as the Foxtel site, or a media heavy site such as bigpond etc. Suffice to say that it would be an unbearable experience as the pipeline of ten years ago couldn’t dream of delivering what the modern internet offers us. So now we have exhausted the technology of the telephony infrastructure we’ve had for decades.

Here’s where the differences in opinion begin to take shape. Those in the corner of not needing the NBN are of the belief that current speeds are sufficient for internet use and that surplus speeds are overkill. Here in lies the problem. Other countries are investing in new infrastructure so in ten years the internet will be a different beast again. It will be capable of so much more than today, driven by those countries that are investing in communications infrastructure.

Therefore the bottom line is if we don’t build the NBN we won’t notice a lot of difference over the next few years, but in ten years, trying to use the internet that the rest of the world are using will be tragic. Like the example before of the current internet on 10 year old technology. This will not only affect end users in their homes, but Australian businesses that can’t compete with international businesses because they can’t deliver media in the same way.

The question is really not can we afford the NBN? Or are there better things we can spend the money on? But does Australia want to be a resident in the community of advanced nations in ten years’ time? Many other countries will be and some that appear to be way behind us right now. If we are not, the ramifications to corporate Australia will be devastating in ways not yet fathomable.

I guess it’s safe to say that I’m of the opinion we absolutely need the NBN to be built.

Allan Phillips

 

15.02.2011

The iPad and Home Automation

When the iPad was first released few would have expected it to create waves in the Home Automation Industry. Now everyone in the know says it will be the cornerstone of the industry and kill the proprietary ‘touchpanel’ made by all Control System manufacturers. I suspect the truth will be somewhere in between.

Let’s first look at why people are saying it will revolutionise the Home Automation industry: Per square inch, the iPad is significantly cheaper than a proprietary touch screen.  A 9 or 10 inch touch panel can range from $4,500 to $12,000.  An iPad is 9” and starts from $500. So the main advantage is price.  An iPad is also multi-functional, that is it can be used to do many different things, not just control your house.  So all of a sudden your remote for your TV and lights also does your email, phone calls, is a newspaper, games machine, and countless other functions dreamed up by those who write the apps.

Here are the reasons why an iPad may not be the last chapter in Home Automation Control; An iPad is multi-functional.  Hang on, that was a reason for why it will, I hear you ask.  This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.  Although it can do many things, it also means it’s not always ready to do what you want it to.  When you pick up a TV remote to turn down the volume or change channel, you don’t have to wait for it, you just press buttons and things happen.  If you pick  up your iPad, you have to wait a few seconds for it to connect to wifi, you may have to wait for the current app to load then close it, find the Home Control app, wait for it to start, authenticate, and connect before you are ready to change the channel.  Once you have done that and put it down, picking it up 20 seconds later you still have to go through about half of that.

Therefore in some ways the experience of having an iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch can be less than what we are used to.  The younger generation may adapt and accept this small shortcoming, but others may not.

The new ‘Android’ based devices may reduce some of this wait by being ‘locked’ down to an application, however the trade off is that it’s no longer multi-functional.  It doesn’t appear Apple will ever allow their devices to be locked to an app.

It’s my belief that Apple devices will be a very good ‘secondary’ controller to supplement proprietary ‘primary’ controllers.  For example, a system design previously may have allowed for 3 company in-wall touch panels, and 4 smaller hand held remotes.  An equivalent system now and in the future may have 1 company touch panel, 2 remotes, and 6 floating Apple devices.  I believe we still need a dedicated control screen to go to in case the Apple device has run out of battery, is being used by someone else for another purpose, or the wifi network has failed.

The good news is most of the Control System manufacturers have seen the writing on the wall for the last few years and restructured their business to be less reliant on the profit of touch panel sales.  They have instead invested resources in to developing the software tools and interface between their system and these Apple devices.  The balance for them is that although they sell less touch panels, they gain sales in Control Centres and other devices as the overall entry price to their system is lower and therefore available to a wider market.  The two companies that have embraced the concept of Apple or other third party controls the most, have increased sales in the last 18 months.  The few companies who are slower to come to the realisation that change is happening, are losing market share.

So although I don’t believe it’s the end of the world for the proprietary touch panel, it is an exciting prospect brought forward by Apple and Android devices that allow for low-cost high-level Home Automation Control.

 

Allan Phillips

 

05.06.2010

Home Automation Explained kicks off

This is the day that business names and domain names were made official.  Prior to this date everything you see here was simply an idea 

This first day kicked off what’s been a long but enjoyable journey of writing, researching, and coding.  The early vision is to have a site brimming with information, news, and resources for anybody wishing to learn about Home Automation or one of the many services that fall within its boundaries.  For those that seek more than summary information and present news, there will be inexpensive eBooks available that will be an exhaustive and comprehensive source of information.

I expect it will take 6 – 12 months to get the site and first eBook up and running but then hopefully after that, more content and further eBooks will be added quickly.

If you are reading this I thank you for your support so far and hope the site lives up to the idea that turned into reality on this date.

Allan Phillips