It took some sweat to turn that lamp on and off

July 6, 2017 Rich Nass, Embedded Computing Brand Director

You’ve all heard the concept of engineers getting excited by blinking an LED. I get that, because I’ve been on both ends—pulling my hair out trying to get the stupid LED to blink and rejoicing when it actually does. I’m pleased to report that I’ve taken the case up one level. I got the table lamp on the other side of the room to turn on and off from my laptop through a Z-Wave connection, admittedly with an assist from the tech support folks at Sigma Designs.

If you’re not familiar with Z-Wave, it’s one of the competing standards for home-automation products. To be honest, when I looked into it a little, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of available products and the ease with which I could connect them. The plethora of products on the market includes home safety and security, energy, hospitality, and even some light commercial applications. Z-Wave is managed by the Z-Wave Alliance, and supported by more than 450 companies.

My trial began with a Raspberry Pi board, a bridge controller, and a Z-Wave-compliant switch, into which I plugged my table lamp. It also included step-by-step instructions that were cursed with the dreaded “any engineer worth his salt can follow these directions.” Of course, that’s where my troubles began.

I got through the first few steps with no problems. That basically consisted of downloading an image and loading that image onto an SD Card. Connecting the Pi to the various peripherals was a snap as well. Unfortunately, my programming days were far enough behind me that I needed a little refresher. It’s funny—in a good way—how stuff comes back to you after you get reminded of the basics.

With a little bit of pain mixed in with a modicum of tech support, and I was able to get through all the necessary steps to get that light to turn on and off. Success!

Now, I’m on to Phase 2 of the project, which means connecting other devices to that same network. I’m sure that with my new-found experience and my trusty Sigma Designs tech support at my side, it’ll be a piece of cake.

The long and short of it is, if you’re considering a home-automation product, Z-Wave should be on your short list of potential wireless choices.

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