I’ve been playing around with Home Automation and trying to get my audio/video around the house without honey-combing the walls for the last few years with varying degrees of luck and in this time I’ve looked at a number of solutions including proprietary hardware (too expensive!!), Microsoft Windows Media Centre Edition (expensive and it runs on Windows…) and MythTV/Music Player Daemon (free, but not always the easiest to get it working!

Two years ago, I found Pluto Home – a commercial solution that had an open-source base and ran on Debian.  I played with it for a bit as the feature set was amazing (TV, Video, Audio and CCTV anywhere in the house as well as integrated VoIP telephony and some really cool stuff) but I ran out of spare time to explore it further.  I’ve started to look into Home Automation and Media again and this time, instead of using Pluto Home, I’ve decided to settle for LinuxMCE. It’s based on pluto home and Ubuntu and there’s been a lot of development since I was using Pluto…

The featureset for LinuxMCE reads as follows:

Smart Home
• Home Automation: Control lighting, climate, security, camera surveillance, and more
• Communication: Phone system with auto-attendant, voice mail, call forwarding/routing for VOIP and POTS lines
• Security: Uses your existing home alarm, surveillance cameras, lights, phones and tv’s to notify you on your mobile phone of any security alerts with the option of reseting the alarm or broadcasting your voice in the house over the tv’s

Media & Entertainment
• 3D alpha-blended GUI optimized for displaying on a TV and using a remote control
• Media browser presenting all content on all devices in the home on a 3D rotating cube
• Plug-and-play detection and aggregation of network storage and DMA’s
• Built-in NAS providing centralized backup and whole-house media server
• “Follow Me” Media, each family member’s media follows him/her through the house
• Automatically controls all existing av devices, like TV’s, Stereo’s, etc.)
• Many control options: mobile phone, webpad, pda, phone

The latest version (8.10) also allows you to use a Java-based phone to control the system from any room where there’s a Bluetooth dongle in the back of the Media director…but I’m getting ahead of myself.  How does this all work?

The system is based around a core. This core is a server that is kept out of the way (in my case in the garage) and stores all the media such as Audio/Video/TV Streams and also acts as a CCTV Server, VoIP PBX and general file-sharing system.

In each room that you require media to be delivered to, you install a Media Director (MD) and this boots over the network and loads an interface that allows you to select what you want to control/view.

Coming up next, how do you run this system in rented accomodation when you can’t run cabling through the walls?