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Preface > How X10 Works

How X10 Works

X10 is a protocol for sending data over standard, household electrical wiring. Not many people think of their home electrical system as a network, and it certainly has an unusual topology, but it surely is a network. Everything on a circuit is wired to other endpoints on the circuit—switches and outlets—and each circuit (most homes have several) is connected at the circuit breaker panel. X10 simply exploits this existing network of wire by using it to send data signals, carefully mixed in with the electrical current it already carries, to all points in your home.

The technical details of how X10 signals are interjected on the power line are really quite impressive. They involve a lot of critical timing and exact frequencies to encode data so that the signals can be slipped into the power line without getting mangled or lost. Also, the data that has to be sent can be somewhat complex. Each X10-capable device is constantly listening to the power line for a signal telling it that an X10 command is about to be sent. Then, the device listens to see if the command is intended for it, based on its delivery address [Hack #1] . If it is, the device keeps listening to learn what it should do, such as turn on or off.


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