Single-board micro-controller like Arduino or ZWorld Rabbit, or a mini-computer like Raspberry are reliable, cheap, easily available everywhere. They are able to communicate with the network via an ethernet connection and to communicate with the external world through digital and analogic I/O . With these boards it is possible to create innovative, particular and cost effective solutions.
I have used it for some special projects and I have acquired a basic knowledge and experience.
Feel you free to contact me, I might help you to integrate these devices in your solutions.