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Week 3: Paul’s Smart home diary

Shit got real this week. Sorry for kicking off this week’s diary with a swear word but, if you saw the state of the new house right now, you’d be swearing too. A lot. Take a look at the image above. I can neither confirm or deny that Stig of the Dump is living in our garden.

But this mess is good, my builder reliably informs me, and the ‘hardcore’ will come in handy when building the new kitchen. Yep, hardcore. No sniggering at the back.

Firstly, an apology. If you tuned in to Wareable last week for Week 3 of my diary, sorry. I was sunning it up in Barcelona, treading the trade show floors of MWC. I had an eye out for some new smart home kit but, to be honest, there wasn’t anything all that exciting. So the super cool list of tech I want in my smart house remains the same. But putting that list into practice is still a long way off.

You’ll remember, from Week 2, that I was attempting to get up to speed with home networking. Before I even think about what media servers, connected light bulbs and intuitive appliances I want installed, I need the house wired up and ready for some smart action.

You’ll remember that I sought advice from Sean at Neet Cables and Jon at Aerial Services in order to work out exactly what I should do.

After speaking to Jon, I was convinced that a multimedia hub in the cupboard under the stairs, complete with a HDBaseT matrix system was what I needed. That way, I could put the Xbox, Sky box, Apple TV and whatever else in there, and have it all piped around the house to whichever room’s TV I wanted. I could also have wired internet to all the rooms too, so as I didn’t have to rely on Wi-Fi for operating my smart devices.

If you’ve not heard of HDBaseT, allow me to get you up to speed. It’s the “consumer electronic and commercial connectivity standard for transmission of uncompressed high-definition video, audio, power, home networking, Ethernet, USB, and some control signals, over a common category.” Thanks Wikipedia. In simple terms, it means that you can run pretty much anything over Ethernet nowadays. Cat6 Ethernet, at least.

In theory, you don’t need to rely on co-axial cable to get your satellite or digital TV around the house, you can do it all on the same wires that carry the web connection, using a dedicated matrix box to handle all the signals.

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room.

However, HDBaseT matrix systems are not cheap. You’re looking at north of £2k for a decent one that would be 4k future-proof. This put a big dampener on my plans. I can’t be forking out that sort of money for a glorified switch-box when we’ve got a whole house to decorate and furnish. Have you seen the price of (the ridiculously ornate) tiles my wife wants?

So I’ve ended up compromising for my setup and I’m planning a bit of a DIY job, using an array of cables and adapters from Neet Cables. Sean helped me with designing a system and, while I haven’t quite got the ultimate setup, I’ve got a decent, affordable, one that will pipe media and internet around the house, with no ugly wires on show.

At least I will have once the electrician has completed his ‘first-stage’ wiring. He’s completely re-wiring the house and so he may as well bury a few cables while he’s at it. This time next week, it will be done. And I can tell you exactly what’s what and what wires and ports went where.

Then I’ll stop talking about wires and networks. I promise. And I’ll focus on the key smart home ingredients. Like what smart door bell I’ll be installing, and what IFTTT recipes I’ll be setting up to make sure I’ve got hot coffee ready on cold mornings…


Week 1: Planning the ultimate smart home

Week 2: Getting started with home networking

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