New Series Connects Engineers with Automation

Grant Imahara hosts new Mouser series on the latest in home and factory automation technology.

Celebrity engineer Grant Imahara, best known for his role on Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, is teaming up with Mouser once again to release a new series on home and factory automation. The series will showcase the latest ideas and products in automation technologies that were once only seen in science fiction movies and TV shows like The Jetsons.

The series of video interviews, articles and engineering blogs will discuss specific topics ranging from AI automation systems in the home, to the latest in smart factory automation.

“With new devices coming out like the Apple Watch and the Nest Learning Thermostat, this connected technology and Home and Factory Automation Series couldn’t be timelier,” said Grant Imahara. “Our society has such a huge dependence on smartphones, tablets, computers, and similar technologies to make their lives easier that this move to the connected home and factory makes perfect sense.”

In the first interview of the series already online, Imahara speaks with Joe Dada, CEO of Insteon, makers of smart components for home automation. Inside their “smart apartment” engineering lab, Imahara is introduced to a handheld remote control and plug-in module able to pair with virtually an entire apartment.

Dada describes the system as operated peer-to-peer. “Even without a central controller, I can press and hold a set button to pair devices just like Bluetooth… No central controller, no routers, no networking, really, really simple.”

Dada describes how scaling is an issue in home automation, however. One home can contain hundreds of smart devices and so Insteon “put all the smarts in the responders,” installing receivers in any and every home appliance that could benefit from smart tech.

Demonstrating with a dimmable table lamp, Dada displays the flexibility of commands one can have with the simple demo remote. When paired with the light at 30 percent brightness, the device recorded the level as the default setting when turned on. Using the remote, Dada could increase and decrease the brightness – all very simple tricks, but it is how many devices the remote can pair with that is significant. “We can do the same thing with other lights, appliances, with shades, with thermostats, garage door openers – just anything that you can imagine. Because all of the knowledge is distributed in the end points, it just scales naturally. This little device can control over 400 paired devices,” says Dada.

The system works by a signal travelling from the remote to the nearest smart appliance. This appliance then communicates the signal to all nearby appliances and they in turn do the same. One command is communicated between the entire network, making it possible for multiple appliances to act on a single command.

The remainder of the video takes Imahara from the kitchen to the lounge area, where everything from the TV to the shades can be controlled from a single remote. Light fixtures in the walls can also be removed and carried for ease of use.

Dada demonstrates what he calls “TV Time,” pressing a single button and changing the entire atmosphere of the living room. Some lights dim as others shut off and the TV turns on. When finished, one click of the remote turns off the TV, its receiver, the lights and opens nearby blinds, revealing the balcony and sunlight.

Imahara, expressing his wish to be Iron Man, asks, “What about JARVIS a type system, where you have voice control and everything is integrated that way?”

Dada replies, “We were the first to use Cortana from Microsoft and now we work with Siri and Apple. It’s coming, but word to the wise, automation and voice control need some work to make to make them work every time in a way that you want them to work.”

Other articles and videos on the series webpage, touch on AI automation systems, the future of smart factories, security technology and more. To check out the series for yourself, visit