Optical beam sensors are reliable and can cover a long-distance such as across a garage or aisle-way. When they include multiple-beams they have good false-trigger rejection. Typically they run on a 12v power supply and connect into an alarm panel.
Initially I had a single-beam optical sensor across our barn aisle but the IR sender seemed to atrract moths at night and they were capable of triggering the beam. A dual-beam sensor (separated about 20cm apart vertically) provides a much more reliable sensor and the only false alarm I get now is from a large crow that sometimes flies through the barn.
They are suitable for indoor, exposed or outdoor applications but are too ugly for most indoor applications.
I've been working on home automation for over 15 years and I'm close to achieving my goal which is a house that understands where everyone is at all times, can predict where you are going next and can control lighting, heating and other systems without you having to do or say anything. That's a true "smart home".
My year long Bluetooth project that won the $20,000 HCI and Microsoft competition during lockdown has continued to grow and now reliably tracks how many people are in the house and outside and can locate any device down to room level.
Digital Twin are an online representation of a real world object, a copy of its properties in the digital world and a way to send updated and commands to it. In effect I've been making them for years but now they have a trendy name.
An overview of the many sensors I've experimented with for home automation including my favorite under-floor strain gauge, through all the usual PIR, beam and contact sensors to some more esoteric devices like an 8x8 thermal camera.
ESP32 provides a great platform for sensors around the house but by the time you've added a USB power brick, cable and enclosure it's quite messy. I wanted a device that I could just plug in with no exposed wires and no mounting needed so I designed one in OpenSCAD.
Bluetooth sensing for home automation is a great proxy for people counting as it can detect and locate each cellphone in the house. iBeacons attached to tools, cars and pets can provide a 'find my anything' feature too.
Having at least one light sensor is critical for any home automation system that controls lightng. Lights need to be turned on when it's dark not at specific times of day, especially here in Seattle when it can be dark and cloudy at any time of day.
Microwave doppler sensors can be found in some alarm sensors but there are also available very cheaply as a separate component. They offer exceptional range but suffer from false triggers requiring a probailistic approach to people sensing.
Home automation systems need to respond to events in the real world. Sometimes it's an analog value, sometimes it's binary, rarely is it clean and not susceptible to problems. Let's discuss some of the ways to convert these inputs into actions.
An if-this-then-that style rules machine is insufficient for lighting control. This state machine accomplishes 90% of the correct behavior for a light that is controlled automatically and manually in a home automation system.