I'll be speaking about Mac-based home automation next week for the Chicago Apple User Group. The meeting is free and open to the public. Come by the Apple Store (679 N Michigan Ave) and say hello! Wednesday, Feb 4, 2009, 7-8PM.
I've written previously about Craig Conley's book Magic Words: A Dictionary. I still find myself referring to it often, it's perfect for when you just want a quick and insightful tidbit with which to distract yourself. But if you don't have a copy, you can get a little sample for yourself at Magic Words: A Dictionary - Neatorama. In the book the discussion is usually longer than in this article, but you'll definitely get a feel for the breadth of Conley's research.
A New York Times article, Gadgets for Growing Old at Home, describes new technology at CES 2009 aimed at helping the elderly stay in their homes longer, in regards to health care.
Overat MomLogic, Living With a "Project Man" provides valuable insight into why S.A.F. is so important to successful home automation.
S.A.F. is "spousal approval factor." As discussed in Smart Home Hacks, ignore it at your own peril.
In the New York Times article The Smart Home Is Still Looking for a Market, Steve Lohr argues that smart homes haven't caught on because the benefits are difficult to measure against the complexity and expense. The article posits that energy management might finally provide the compelling reason for widespread adoption.
In my experience the main driver for home automation is security, followed by convenience and then, in third place, is energy saving. I never personally advocate for the latter because energy management requires a complex home automation system and to my back-of-the-envelope figuring, the capital and cognitive investment is too high to argue that it pays off.
That said, there are many simple technological solutions, that fall short of true home automation, but can help manage your home heating and cooling costs. For more on my approaches see Convection Wall Heater, Zippi-ty Cool Desk Fan, and A Smarter, But Not The Smartest, Thermostat.