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X10 protocol

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The X10 protocol is a communication methodology for home automation device control. X10 was developed in 1975 by Pico Electronics. X10 modules and the protocol represented the first general purpose product for home automation.

Primarily a wired and wireless protocol, X10 allows home automation devices to communicate through power lines. As an automation protocol X10 enables control of devices such as:

  • Light switches
  • Thermostats
  • Remote controls
  • Leak sensors
  • Pumps
  • Motion sensors
  • Alarms
  • Home Audio

X10 uses separate transceiver units that receive signals from controllers (panels and remotes) and appliance control units that the controlled device is plugged into. Appliance control modules are then plugged into the electrical receptacle (AKA outlet) or lamp socket in some cases. The home's existing electrical wiring or radio frequencies are used to carry the signals that automate home appliance operation.  An example of a home automation action that X10 might manage: When one turns on the lights in the entryway, the heating and cooling might be taken off power-saving mode.

The protocol enables advanced control through attached computers. Control applications are available for Microsoft Windows, Apple's Macintosh, Linux and FreeBSD operating systems.

X10 is one of the oldest automation protocols; as such it doesn’t have the bandwidth of others. However, it remains a working and more commonly-used protocol. Widespread availability and the fact that many don’t feel a need to upgrade an existing home automation system mean this protocol remains one of the most used in deployed home automation setups. Competing technologies include INSTEON, THREAD, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth LE.

This was last updated in November 2017

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