Help Needed: Survey of home automation needs and desires


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jul 28, 2010 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

A while ago I wrote a blog entry about Project Cauã, a project that could create millions of new, high-tech businesses in Latin American and other countries with dense, urban areas.

I also blogged a short time ago about the vertical markets that Project Cauã will be penetrating and asking people if there were any additional target markets that we should consider.

We have more or less settled on two target markets for the first two pilots:


  • Hospitality (small hotels, restaurants, etc.)
  • Home Automation


In this blog entry I will be asking your help to design a survey that will determine the requirements for home automation that Project Cauã should deliver in V1.0.

From reading many years of various home improvement and scientific magazines over the years since I was twelve I fully expected by the age of 60 (August 7th) that my house would simply bend to my every whim. Lights would go on and off as I went from room to room, music would be everyplace and energy savings would be rampant since the heat would turn down when I left and start to come back to a comfortable temperature as I returned home. Life would be sweet.

Unfortunately this life never happened. Sure, there were home automation systems, but they usually cost a lot of money and were fairly hard to install and set up. As time went on I did not feel I really had the time to try and install a fully functional “house of the future”.

Several years ago I saw the MythTV project which allowed people to turn a couple of “cheap PC”s into a client/server TV recorder, and after that (or perhaps before) came “Misterhouse”, LinuxMCE (which also handled music, photos, security and lights) and other projects. Time pressures kept me from really experimenting with them, although I did put together a MythTV system.

As Project Cauã unfolded with a goal to bring high-speed, easy-to-use computing to the masses, it occurred to me that most people would love to have an “automated home”, but had neither the time nor expertise to implement it. Many did not have the money to simply buy the equipment outright. Yet they spent lots of money on discrete devices over time that did a portion of what the automated home could provide, but in non-connected, non-integrated way. What if Project Cauã could supply this?

In any customer situation there is the question of “what do you get” and “how much does it cost”. From that the customer derives the answer to the question “should I buy it”. The goal of Project Cauã should be to deliver the best services for the best price, and hopefully have prices lower than what the customer would pay for similar services bought individually. Adding to that the ability to pay for the bulk of the hardware over time might mean that people could afford a sophisticated system that they could change, since it was made with Free Software. To determine what services Project Cauã should offer and how much they should cost at a maximum, it is useful to know what services people have today, how much they pay for them, and if the services were improved would they pay more?

What type of services are we discussing? What types of discrete devices would this set of services replace? Imagine that instead of having a separate telephone, alarm clock, wall calendar, radio, TV and wireless outer, that all of these things were combined into one tiny, fan-less, disk-less, completely quiet box that was concealed behind a nice large LCD panel on the wall. Imagine that as you walked from room to room in your house the television show or movie that you were watching on that LCD panel followed you, that the lights adjusted themselves, and that the temperature was to your liking. If the telephone rang, the TV program or music video playing on the LCD panel would pause, allowing you to answer the phone, or have the phone message go to an answering machine, then the program on the LCD panel would continue from where it left off. Imagine that your files were accessible to you everyplace in your house (or around the world), so if you were cooking in the kitchen you could get your favorite recipes up on the LCD screen in the kitchen. The system could keep an inventory of what was in your cupboards and refrigerator so you would know what you could fix that night. And it would be a security system that would know when people had broken into your apartment or home and would notify you. All of this was done with a minimum of connecting cables (mostly power cables for the LCD panel) and all of it with very low-power consumption electronics.

You could have various peripherals of a computer system in your residence, such as an ink-jet printer, but if you wanted to use a better printer or a scanner, these would be available to you locally.

Specifically, what the system might do is be a:

Internet service at the rate of 300 Mbits/second peak

General purpose computer with keyboard, mouse and drawing pad

IpTV including recording capabilities



Alarm Clock

Security controls for cameras, sensors

Controls for light and heating

Wireless router

Therefore we are going to create a survey for Project Cauã, and ask that people print the form out, fill it out, scan it into a PDF file and email the PDF file to

The form will be filled out with information from your own household (how easy can this be?), trying to be as complete as possible and as accurate as possible. Most of the questions should be “Yes/No” answers or a single number (such as either a monthly or yearly cost of a service).

REMINDER: At this stage we are designing the survey. With the above information as background, please look at the survey below and suggest any other questions or areas that we should be seeking data on. After we pull all of the information together, we will finalize the survey, translate it into Portuguese and Spanish, and put it up on the web site for people to fill out.


Street Address:




Postal Code

Telephone number (including country code):

Monetary Units used in Survey (Reais-BRL, Great Britain Pounds-GBP, United States Dollars-USD):

How many people live in your residence (including you)?

Do you live in an apartment or a single-family house?

If you live in an apartment, how many apartments are in your apartment house?

How many rooms in your residence?

How many bedrooms are in your residence?

Do you have Internet service in your home today?

If you have Internet service, is it Cable, DSL or Satellite?

If you have Internet service, what speed for downloading do you have?

If you have Internet service, what speed for upload to you have?

If you have Internet service, how much do you pay for it each month?

How many computers do you have in your residence?

Approximately how much do you pay for computer equipment every year in total?

Do you or anyone living with you have computers serviced by a technician? This includes software services such as wiping viruses or installing new software.

If you or anyone living with you have computers serviced by a technician, how much do you spend on a yearly basis?

Do you rent movies?

If you rent movies, how much money (estimated) do you spend on movie rentals each year?

Do you buy DVDs?

If you buy DVDs how much money (estimated) do you spend on DVD purchases each year?

Do you buy music?

If you buy music how much money (estimated) do you spend on music purchases each year?

Do you have a security service for your residence presently? If so, how much do you spend on that security service every year (say “none” if you do not have presently have a security service)?

How many music centers do you have in your residence?

If you have a music center, how many channels is it (stereo being “two” and surround sound being 5.1 or 7.1)?

Do you have an 802.11 wireless router in your residence?

If you have a router is it a, b or g?

How many telephones and cell phones do you have in your house?

How much do you pay for local telephone service?

How much do you pay for long distance telephone service?

Remember, we are not looking for answers to the survey at this time, but ideas for additional questions or comments on the survey as it currently exists. Please send all input to “” with the subject line “Input on Home Automation Survey”.

Thank you for your help.

Carpe Diem!

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