This project's funding goal was not reached on February 24, 2013.
About this project
We love home automation. We think the best features should be available to everyone without buying expensive proprietary black boxes from the big names in the industry. Why should we spend thousands of dollars to get these features, and be stuck having to buy the rest of our system from these companies?
That's why we created Epiphany. It's the first full featured home automation server software. It offers all the features of a proprietary home automation controller, but runs on the hardware you choose.
Here's a quick look at the current state of the software.
Device Control Demo
User Interface Demo
Setup Application Demo
Choose Your Own Hardware
For years the home automation market has been dominated by expensive proprietary “black box” systems. Costing $600 to $1,500 and upwards, these underpowered processors are capable of running just a few rooms and lock a user into buying all of their system from one specific brand.
Epiphany changes the playing field. We set out to build a ubiquitous software platform that can run on the hardware you choose. From a small mini computer in a living room, to a server running a mansion, you select the hardware that makes sense. Innovation in computer hardware always outpaces home automation hardware, so you get the latest, fastest technology for a lower price. In fact, for the same price as a proprietary controller, you will often get ten times the processing and graphics power.
Lets not forget the touchscreen. While traditional systems sell their own touchscreens for thousands of dollars, and offer mobile apps as an after-thought, Epiphany was designed from the ground up to take advantage of tablets and mobile devices as the user interface. With these devices now costing just a few hundred dollars, you can build a system at a fraction of the price. Not everyone wants to surf channels from an iPad though, so we built that same user interface on the television. Every Epiphany controller can be connected to the TV and you can control it with a basic handheld remote.
Epiphany completely re-thinks how a home automation system works. Not constrained by using any specific hardware, we took as step back and asked, “What is the best way to make this device talk to all of those devices?”
The biggest challenge for any system is reliable communication between devices and the user. If that central piece stops working, the whole system fails. Understanding this, we turned to a technology that runs some of the world’s biggest messaging systems and has a proven track record of reliability, the message queue. Able to handle millions of messages per second, its more powerful than any home would ever need. It doesn’t care what the message is; it just gets them there as reliably and efficiently as possible. Think of all your electronics in a giant chat room in your house.
Once we had a reliable way of moving messages around the home, the next challenge was to make devices such as security systems, lights, thermostats, and home theater equipment know who to talk to it. We needed to build something that would translate device-specific commands and send them to the message queue. We call them servers. They can talk to simple devices, like sending a play command to a DVD player, or control complex devices like your security system. They even talk to other software, like controlling your iTunes library remotely. With these powerful little servers, all your home technology is now connected to the message queue, ready to talk.
Finally, we needed a way for you to press buttons. The choice for modern devices was simple – beautiful HTML5 menus. Connected to the message queue, these menus allow you to control all the devices in your home. It resizes to fit on your smart phone, looks great on a tablet, and looks fantastic in 1080p on your television. With a fully customizable theming engine behind it, we are excited to see the stunning designs people will come up with – but to get you started, Epiphany comes with two themes out of the box.
The great thing about how Epiphany is put together, is how easily it can be taken apart. The message queue, all of the servers, and the HTML menu can all be run in a single little computer sitting next to your TV in the living room. However, when your system needs to grow, it can be broken apart and run on lots of inexpensive devices spread around the home. This allows you to keep growing your system without throwing away your investment in old components.
Open and Documented
Epiphany works right out of the box, but we know there are a lot of you big kids out there that still play with Legos and want more. We have built the most customizable home automation system ever. You don’t have to hack it; we’ve documented the entire API for you and allow you to customize it however you want.
Epiphany can be customized in many ways. At the most basic level, we allow you to create your own drivers, IR or one-way serial, for devices that are not in our database. So that ancient VCR doesn’t have to live in a box in the basement.
Next, we give you full access to build your own servers. We’ll build a lot of them too, but we know one of you will have that Italian hot tub that you absolutely need to turn on during your drive home. If it can talk, you can build a server to talk to it. A full node.js API is provided to help you connect a device to Epiphany, and it’s easy to use any of the other 20+ languages the message queue supports.
Sometimes writing a server or a driver isn’t enough. You’ve written a server and your Italian hot tub is turning on and off at your command, but you want more. You want complete control of the experience, and that’s where plugins come in. Plugins are our way of letting you take over the user interface for a certain device, so when you click on that hot tub button, your custom design of Italian marble controls popups instead of the normal on and off buttons.
We know the creative types wont stop there. They want to customize the entire user interface, and our theming engine wont hold them back. Using the powerful Sencha Touch framework, a theme gets complete control over what is on the screen. Not just colors and graphics, but moving things around, changing their shape, and modifying what they do. The possibilities are endless, and we can’t wait to see what you do with it.
Of course, you will want to share all these wonderful creations with the rest of us, right? We’re building an online community for just that – a place for ideas to be exchanged, questions to be answered, and customizations to be shared and admired by all. This is going to be fun.
So, what is Epiphany?
A Universal Remote
Control all your home theater equipment from a single remote or app on your smartphone / tablet.
An Automation System
Setup scheduled and triggered events to turn on lights, music, or whatever else you can think of.
A Lighting Control System
Create lighting scenes to automatically set the mood.
A Security Console
Control your alarm system, view your cameras, and lock and unlock doors.
An Energy Manager
Schedule your thermostats and lights to conserve energy.
An On-Screen Interface
Control everything from a beautiful 1080p menu on your television.
A Mobile App
Access everything from your tablet or smartphone.
A Development Platform
Write your own custom servers and drivers to control just about anything that can be controlled.
A Ubuntu Live Image
Boot up on any piece of hardware you want to turn into a home automation controller.
For more details, or to ask us a question, visit our website at www.epiphanycontrol.com
We want to put Epiphany in the hands of enthusiasts first. We've developed most of it using our own resources and we need that extra little push to bring it to market. The funding raised on Kickstarter will be used for:
- Completing final development tasks.
- Large scale testing.
- First production run of our own mini-computer.
- First production run of our IR kit - including USB IR receiver and custom remote.
What's the mini-computer included in the Hardware Level?
We know that many people will want to run Epiphany on computers they build, Mini-ITX machines, Mac Minis, and even server class hardware. However, we also want to offer a pre-built, pre-tested, and pre-loaded box for those who want to just take something out of the box, plug it in, and start automating their home. So, we've worked with a manufacturing partner to produce a mini-computer that we've tested with Epiphany.
The Epiphany mini-computer includes:
- Intel Atom D2500 1.86GHz DualCore Processor
- Intel NM10 Chipset Intel HD 3600 Graphics with VGA and HDMI output
- Gigabit Ethernet
- 2GB DDR3-SO notebook memory
- 8GB SSD (Solid State Drive)
- 4 Rear + 2 Front USB 2.0 Ports
- 2.1" x 7.5 x 7.5" Mini Chassis
* Specs subject to change / upgrades.
How does Epiphany talk to devices?
Epiphany uses a variety of inexpensive, off the shelf, interfaces to talk to devices in your home:
- IR control through Global Cache GC and iTach series interfaces.
- Serial control through USB to serial cables and Global Cache GC and iTach series interfaces.
- Relay and contact inputs through Global Cache GC and iTach series interfaces.
- Ethernet and Wifi control of IP cameras, Wifi thermostats, and ethernet enabled AV equipment.
- ZWave device control through Aeon Labs ZStick USB radio.
- Zigbee device control through Telegesis USB radio.
Future interfaces can easily be added as new technologies become available.
The Epiphany software is developed in-house by our software development team. Major milestones of the project are:
- Implement messaging system for linking user interface with control servers. [Complete]
- Build core servers to manage configuration, system status, and automation. [Complete]
- Build HTML5 user interface [Complete]
- Build web based setup application [Complete]
- Construct custom Ubuntu live image to launch controller [Complete]
- Build installation mechanism for automating setup on hardware.
- Complete initial library of device drivers and preloaded servers.
- Perform large scale system tests.
- Implement web community site, driver library, and project sharing.
The mini-computer is manufactured for us by a major contract manufacturer in China and loaded with the Epiphany software / quality verified at their US facility.
The custom remote and USB IR receiver is custom built for us by a major remote OEM in China and assembled as a kit in the US.
Anticipated delivery of the hardware and software is May 2013.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge with any home automation product is building a library of devices you can control. To overcome this, we've taken a few different approaches:
1. Build the best library we can, and continue to expand it. We already have drivers for thousands of devices - and our team is constantly adding more.
2. Allow you to add your own devices. From simple IR codes (in CCF format) to integrating complex logic (written in Node.js), you can quickly add control of devices we don't support. You can even create UI plugins to customize the interface for your device.
3. Build a community that shares. When we launch, we'll open a community website where your can share your creations with each other. It will be the first true collaboration site for exchanging home automation integrations.
Our team has been in the industry for decades, and have worked with all the biggest names in the industry. We are confident we can deliver the best home automation platform available.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Technically, Epiphany is an operating system - its a Ubuntu live image - so you can load it on any dedicated hardware that supports Ubuntu (that old dell desktop in your basement? or home theater PC you built?)
If you don't want to dedicate hardware to it, no problem. Epiphany boots up nicely as a virtual machine. You can use VirtualBox on a PC (free from Oracle) or Parallels / VMWare on a Mac. Plug in your interfaces into USB and your computer is now a home automation controller in the background.
The user interface only requires IP access to the message queue. So it's pretty simple to configure most routers to enable remote access, and the message queue has built in SSL / user management to secure that connection. We'll have support docs to show you how to enable remote access on our website after we launch 1.0.
In the near future, we'll also be looking at launching a cloud service that makes this process even easier by managing a VPN connection to your Epiphany system.
What devices Epiphany controls can be broken down into two categories, simple IR drivers and servers which provide logic and two way communication.
Epiphany will ship with a pretty large library of IR codes, and its simple to learn in remotes that are not in the library.
Epiphany will also ship with a variety of servers - a list can be found at http://www.epiphanycontrol.com/…. It is also pretty straight forward to write your own for devices we haven't covered yet, and we'll encourage people to share their work with each other.
We'll also be continuing to develop servers for new devices after we release the first version. These will be free to all existing customers. If you have an idea for a server thats not on our initial list, you can suggest it at https://epiphanycontrol.zendesk.com/home by clicking on "Server requests". The community can up-vote it there to help us decide which ones to do first.
- (45 days)