After showing off such novelties as Android-controlled light bulbs at Google I/O 2012, many of us have been waiting for the day that we could automate our homes through a smartphone interface. That day is getting closer, but it is not so much thanks to Android@Home. Instead it comes in the form of a DIY open source project called Android Thermostat, which allows you to repurpose any old Android device into a fully functional means of home climate control.
The project isn’t nearly as advanced as the likes of the Nest thermostat — a device that could be given credit for single-handidly making the thermostat hip again (if it was ever hip in the first place) — but as an open source project there is plenty of room for tinkering. And you will need to have some tinkering skills if you plan on tackling the Android Thermostat project. The app is a free download, but building the thermostat interface requires some basic knowledge of electronics, circuit building, and soldering. The necessary parts, including an Android-specific IOIO board, run around $100 (not including the smartphone or tablet necessary to run the show).
Once installed, the Android Thermostat can be used to adjust temperatures in your home, set up a schedule for automated heating and cooling, as well as provide reports on usage when linked to other free resources. This is all a mere shade of Nest, which can adapt and learn new heating and cooling programs based on the habits of homeowners, but the possibilities are nearly endless if a strong open source community develops around the innovative idea.
Which brings us back to Android@Home. It certainly was an innovative concept, but since its debut in 2011 Google has done very little to move the initiative forward. The most we got was the promise of retail versions of their Android-controlled LED bulbs, which still have not launched, opening up the opportunity for another third party to capitalize on the concept with the LIFX bulb Kickstarter project. We see the potential of Android@Home in projects such as Android Thermostat and LIFX, but Google isn’t the company behind it. We’re not sure if that’s a good thing or bad in the grander scheme of home automation.
Ultimately, Android@Home is admittedly a bit ahead of its time. With all the advances in mobile and home computing, the idea of trusting our comfort and security to such technology has been catching on bit by bit, as evidenced by the emergence of new smart thermostat technologies. Android@Home is a means of certifying that certain hardware (lights, security systems, thermostats, etc.) will play nice with the Android ecosystem, but if Google would rather spend their time developing overpriced media orbs, then the Android community (and third party vendors) will have to take things into their own hands.
If you, too, are tired of waiting for Android@Home and want to have a go at the Android Thermostat, full instructions can be found at the project’s homesite.