Power and control

An easy-to-install home automation system to allow lights and electrical appliances to be controlled via the ring main from anywhere in the house has been launched in the US by Black and Decker.

An easy-to-install home automation system to allow lights and electrical appliances to be controlled via the ring main from anywhere in the house – or even the car – has been launched in the US.

Black & Decker’s Freewire system went on limited sale in December prior to a full launch planned for April. It will, for example, allow users to turn on indoor and outdoor lighting, or start boiling the kettle in the kitchen before getting up.

Aimed at a similar market to that envisaged for Bluetooth, but without the need to have products designed to be compatible, the system uses B&D’s Power Line Control (PLC) system to send signals along the house’s electric ring main to relay commands.Each appliance the householder wants to automate is plugged into an ‘appliance receiver’, which then plugs into the mains. Commands from an RF remote control are picked up by a ‘messenger hub’, also plugged into the mains, which relays the signals via the power lines to the appliance receiver.

Each appliance is given an identification code within one of six zones within the house to allow it to be operated by the remote.

‘It’s a simple DIY home automation system which consumers can buy from a DIY store and install easily,’ said B&D senior product manager Jessica Wolma.

Black & Decker Europe is considering whether to develop a 220V version of Freewire for Europe, but no decision has yet been made.

Meanwhile, tier one automotive supplier Johnson Controls, which specialises in car interior systems, has announced a partnership deal with B&D through which Freewire has been made compatible with its HomeLink system, which means any Freewire function can also be controlled from the car.

HomeLink is an RF remote system, which allows a range of products such as garage doors, security gates, or lighting to be operated from within the car. HomeLink can be ‘synched’ or programmed by the remote control for a compatible product, to learn how to mimic the remote, including generating rolling security codes.

Johnson Controls says HomeLink has been fitted to 24 million vehicles in the US and elsewhere since its launch.

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