Zigbee Collage
HAI believes in ZigBee with its new suite of products. Photo Courtesy of HAI

Google may aim to be the home area network when it comes to home automation. Sometimes a quote says it all. Just weeks ago, Joe Britt, head of the Android@Home team, in a Los Angeles Times interview, said, “We'd like to think of your entire home as an accessory, or better yet as a network of accessories, and think of Android as the operating system for your home.” It is expected that Android software for this application will include an entirely new communications protocol to compete against ZigBee (including RF4CE for A/V control) and Z-Wave. Uniquely it will have bandwidth to also transmit audio and video.

One sweet spot, shared by electronic systems contractors and homeowners is device communications and energy management and monitoring or REM.

Google’s interest makes sense. On the home side, it is forecast that 13 percent of U.S. households will have energy management networking by 2015, according to research firm Parks Associates. There will be greater interest by businesses.

One-third of consumers in broadband households find remote control of lights, appliances and thermostats via Web-enabled devices very appealing. Nearly 50 percent find email/text notification of smoke, fire, water or gas leaks very appealing.

Google’s rumored entry into the market isn’t all bad. It comes with the potential to flood marketing out to consumers that other companies can capitalize on.

“Companies such as ADT, Best Buy, GE, Intel and Verizon have entered the market from several different entry points; all have the marketing clout to educate consumers about the benefits of REM solutions and drive market growth," says Bill Ablondi with Parks Associates.

How would competition from a company like Google affect existing technologies like ZigBee, Z-Wave, etc? Time will tell.

For now, beyond the nibbles from Google and rumors of its new communications technology, firms such as New Orleans-based Home Automation Inc. (HAI) are showcasing existing ZigBee technology.

HAI is now shipping a wireless energy management product suite that uses the ZigBee home automation profile. ZigBee is a wireless mesh networking system where each product can repeat signals if needed for reliable two-way performance.

"HAI is focused on giving clients control over their major energy users for savings, comfort and convenience," says HAI President and chief executive officer Jay McLellan. "This technology is perfect for installing or retrofitting energy management of heat and air systems, water heaters, pool pumps and more."