Book review – Programming your home by Mike Riley ..


As you know from reading the OpenGardens blog, I have been interested in Arduino

Recently, I chaired a successful event in Amsterdam called Apps for Smart cities – bringing the ideas of Open source hardware to a smart cities context.

So, when O Reilly offered to send me a review copy of Mike Riley ’s book – Programming your home – I was happy to accept it

The book is about ‘hacking the home’ i.e. home automation and Mike Riley is ‘excited about the broader possibilities for home automation and wants to instil the confidence to build upon these and your own ideas’

In this context, ‘Home automation’ is defined as a ‘product or service that brings an action or message to the home environment’

The book starts with first principles and then discusses incrementally complex examples from water level monitors to the relatively complex ‘android door lock’

The android examples are interesting since I expect that it’s a direction where apps will evolve – and was reflected in the Apps for smart cities manifesto . Android apps for home automation based on the sparkfun IOIO boards and android open accessory development kit –  and practical accessories like Xbee radios  are discussed in detail building up from simple initial ideas

I follow the idea of hacking the home (for that matter – hacking the city) with great interest especially through Arduino. The fundamentals of any arduino program are the same:

- #include statements import code libraries.

- The setup() routine is used to reference physical wiring connection points(arduiono pins)

- After variable assignment and setup the program enters an infinite loop waiting for an event

Any device (ex smoke alarm monitors) can be made ‘intelligent’ – but the significance lies in using simple, open technology.  An ‘event’ may be generated from any action in the home or city. Thus the idea of ‘the home is the computer’ – a play on the word John Gage’s famous phrase  – The network is the computer  - is a powerful concept.

Hence, my interest in the book because it leads to two ideas I have been speaking of recently:   The city is the computer (or more specifically – Smart cities should mirror the Internet – the city should be a platform) and the idea from Clay shirky that – ‘lower the barriers to a technology and the crowds pour in’.

Here in the UK, we see the Raspberry Pi – also contributing to the grassroots effort

My final thought on the significance of this book comes from a vintage interview by Steve jobs  and the Steve Jobs quote – “Man is a toolmaker, has the ability to make a tool to amplify the amount of inherent ability that he has…”

Hence I recommend this book i.e. the ability to be tool makers / hack the home/ make the home as a computer


  1. Really good thoughts on home automation….In current time i have seem many homes where doors are automatically open and close as per programming. And in the case of Android, it gradually becomes everywhere entity. Thanks for amazing share.

  2. I think home automation is incredibly powerful. It can make our lives so much more comfortable and secure. At the same time, making our household “smart” does have potential drawbacks. The thought of hackers trying to hack our homes is just too scary.

  3. sofyan says:

    The programming your home book gives me inspiration to make automation my home, because only by using a device like android, we can control our own homes easily either inside or outside the home.