I am a retired NASA engineer and I am slowly building a retirement home because money is a little tight. That tight money is making my aim to reducing energy waste and improving efficiency to help reduce global warming and oil importing much more focused as well as Social economically current.
As I design LED lighting and passive cooling and heating, I see a need for a simple, cheap network for control. This has benefits far beyond energy savings (security, safety, convenience, etc.). It occurs to me that the state of electronics allows complete computer system chips to be produced in million quantity for pennies! PIC computer system chips can be sold for less than a dollar in quantity 1. Signing birthday cards too. It costs $.50 for a wall plug. Normal commercial mark up requires multiplying by 4 any added cost. Thus a 10 cent controller adds $.40 to the cost. This is a very conservative cost estimate.
In the future many (if not all) homes will be wired for internet and phone. most internet today uses only 4 of the 8 wires in the cable. Combine them and use the 8 wires as Internet(at 100 Mbps), phone and "HomeNet" or as I like to call it, "Planet" for Personal Local Area NETwork. 2 kinds could be made and work together. Wired and Wireless ( for those situations where wires are not practical/possible). There are experiments done already with all of this but we need a government mandate to make it NOT proprietary and Standards based, so many companies can design to it.
The design needs a few minimum requirements to be successful.
1. Cheap. Less than a buck. Much less in large quantities.
2. Self contained. (part of cheap really) so few or even no other parts needed.
3. Robust. Stand alone (as needed), Self resetting, Error tolerant. Defaults.
4. Standard. Everyone must design to a give specification, which would be free.
5. Versatile. Make it general enough to work in any environment
6. Expandable. Make it open ended so additional features and speeds can be added.
The bottom line here is it would not be expensive to design this systems approach (using schools and Open Source). But it would need a central controlling organization and some seed money from the government. Considering the enormous potential to save energy, it would be a cheap investment.
I have some ideas I will be trying out on my home using the PIC chip.