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Home Automation Archives
Another iPad mount? Really? Well, one can hardly fault companies for cashing in on the iPad's market saturation. When it comes to Home Automation, the iPad's low price, high build quality, and ever-expanding App Store make it ideal for the industry. The problem, however, is how to turn what is a traditional tablet into a cost-effective, yet powerful, dedicated touchscreen controller; this is where the mount becomes essential. Recently VidaBox announced their own iPad wall mount, hoping to satistfy the needs of both Home Automation professionals and enthusiasts alike. Have they succeeded in this task? Check past the break for a full hands-on review.
One of my personal issues with UPB has been the lack of an Ethernet compatible programming interface. PCS recently released the NDS-1111-PW, a pretty impressive piece of hardware which allows you to do exactly this and more, and Web Mountain just released their own product, the Web Mountain Remote UPB Controller (RUC), allowing you to interface your UPB network via IP. Web Mountain was kind enough to send me a unit, which will go on sale (and ship) next week, October 22. Keep on reading for the rest of the review.
EXCLUSIVE: CocoonTech Members can buy this unit for $209.95 ($90 off MSRP) when using coupon RUC001. Offer expires 12/15/2010, dealers can request a discount as well!
Over the last five or six months I have been testing some SUPerB™ (UPB™) hardware which may have not even been considered by some CocoonTech members.
This hardware is made by SmartHome Ltd., located in Israel. They make both 50 and 60 Hz versions, which can support 120VAC or 230VAC. Based on the product which I received and the feedback I assume their market was initially intended for 230 VAC/50 Hz as they only have the European style plugs on the Powerline interface, but I was told they would be getting in US style hardware “soon”. In my case I used an adapter.
Their product line currently consists of:
Over the last few months I have been testing some SUPerB™ (UPB™) hardware which may have not even been considered by some Cocoontech members.
This hardware is made by SmartHome Ltd.in Israel (http://www.shlhitech.com). They make both 50 and 60 Hz versions, which can support 120VAC or 230VAC. Based on the product which I received and the feedback I assume their market was initially intended for 230 VAC/50 Hz as they only have the European style plugs on the Powerline interface, but I was told they would be getting in US style hardware “soon”. In my case I used an adapter.
Their product line currently consists of
SHLM1 – Lamp Module, Available models: B, I, D *
SHLM2 – Lamp Module – dual, Available models: B, D *
SHAM1 – Appliance Module, Available models: B, I, D *
SHAM2 – Appliance Module – dual, Available models: B, D *
SHATM – Astronomical Time Module, Available models: B, I, D*
SHOCM – Output Control Module, Available models: B, I, D *
SHOLT – Controlled Outlet
SHMCM – Motor Control Module, Available models: B, I, D*
SHICM – Input Control Module, Available models: B, I, D *
SHRWS – Remote Wall Switch
SHWS1D-R Wall Switch Dimmer
SHWMC8 – Wall Mount Controller
SHPIM – Powerline Interface Module, Available models: RS232, USB
SHPPM – Powerline Plug Module
* The ( is a box module that can be fixed on-the-wall.
* The (I) is an insert (plug-in) module.
* The (D) is a DIN Rail module.
The SUPerB™ product line implements GEN II UPB™ technology.
My evaluation consisted in testing the following units in the 120VAC 60Hz configuration
SHPIM Model R
SHOCM Model D
SHLM1 Model D
Because the SHOCM and the SHLM1 units I received were DIN rail mount units they had screw terminals for both power and output connections. I found, these easy to work with and a short “inside use” extension cord cut in half worked good for making my power and output connections.
Setup and Configuration:
Once I got the hardware wired for testing I proceeded to open the UPStart version I had from SAI, I figured UPB is UPB right? Wrong. I could see the hardware but not control the device, and the only tabs visible, was the basic programming information and the communication test tab. After talking with SmartHome Ltd. They informed me I needed to use their “SUPerBuilder” software which is downloadable from their website. So I proceeded to download and install it. I performed an export from UPStart, and imported it into SUPerBuilder. My devices showed up programmed as expected. Basically SUPerBuilder is a complete rewrite of UPStart by SmartHome Ltd.’s programmers. To make it easier to translate to other languages and a few other reasons. Once the devices are programmed they are like any other UPB device and you communicate with Device ID’s and Link numbers.
Because the SHPIM I received required an adapter, I only performed limited testing on this unit. I was able to send and receive UPB commands with all devices on my network. In my network I have hardware from other UPB manufactures (SAI and HAL) I was originally concerned with interoperability. Once I connected the PIM to my computer and loaded their software (see more information below), and imported my UPB export file from UPSTART I was able to communicate with all devices.
The SHOCM device is a dual channel Output Control Module. I used this device to perform resets on my wireless router and firewall during recent internet problems I have had. Basically the SHOCM has two relays which are controlled by the UPB signals. So I connected these in series with the power wires connecting to the two devices I was having problems with and could turn them on and off with a simple UPB command. This next year I think I will test these with my Halloween decorations, and pop-up’s.
The Third Device which I tested was a single channel lamp module, this device did not get extensive testing, but was connected for a few weeks in place of my normal HAL plug in module I use to control my outside Christmas lightning. There was no missed ON or OFF, commands and it performed flawlessly until it was time to put away the decorations until next year.
The Programming button on these devices are not recessed and is easier to press then most UPB devices. With the DIN mount and Box style units I can see users placing them into plastic electrical box and for multiple purposes ex. Irrigation control (SHOCM), outdoor lighting control of multiple branches(SHLM), and other holiday decoration.) There is no “derating” information provided for multiple devices ganged in one box, but the SHLM1 is a 1000 W unit and the SHLM2 can also only control a combined 1000 W between the two channels.
The only down side(s) I see to these devices is that they are not compatible with UPStart versions which we may already be using for our other devices, but I was told a new version of SUPerBuilder is n the works that can be used to program all UPB devices, and would be much more user friendly. And that they did not have US style devices, and I needed to use an adapter for the PIM, I believe this would also be the case of any of the plug-in style devices, on both the plug and receptacle. But when I received my unit I was told that the US 110 VAC style would be available soon.
The HomeTroller Series 2 is the new version of the original HomeTroller. The new HomeTroller looks great, it looks like a real appliance, compared with the 'desktop' look of the previous version. It's so small, it could actually be mounted into a typical structured wiring enclosure. It is also touted to be more energy efficient than the previous platform, consuming about 12 Watts of power (nominal). Dimenions have changed as well, the old HomeTroller measured 11.5" W x 2.5" H x 10.5" D, while the new unit measures 9.25" W x 2" H x 7" D.
The unit arrived in a small box, protected well by styrofoam type material. The following items were in the box:
- 1 HomeTroller Series 2 Controller
- 1 External power supply (Input: 120-240v, 50/60 Hz, Output: 12VDC - 5A MAX)
- 1 Getting Started guide
I was surprised that there was no Ethernet cable included, since it is a network based appliance after all. I was also hoping to see some sort of recovery disk, allowing you to restore the unit in case of major trouble, but it looks like this isn't the case. They do sell a $39.95 System Restore flash drive, which is bootable. The flash drive will reformat the Disk-On-Module drive and reinstall the operating system + software to get you back up and running. I highly recommend you take a snapshot of the system using something like Acronis True Image, and a bootable CD/DVD-ROM drive, before you start configuring the system, and another backup once you have everything up and running.
Simply Automated has recently released their popular US2-40 switch in a dual output version. The model # for this new version is US22-40.
Dwayne Domi of RedRadio (now TouchTronix) demoed his new 12.1 inch LCD touch monitor product called RelayTouch-UTMA which is scheduled to debut on RedRadios web site soon.
This unit consists of a nice 12.1 inch TFT touch screen display, but its interface is via UTMA technology from NComputing rather than requiring a stand alone unit (i.e. separate PC to operate) or a traditional imbedded thin client unit.
UTMA stands for Ultra Thin Multi Access and is the terminology describing NComputings products because they are Ultra Thin compared to traditional thin client terminals and do not require a CPU, hard-drive, or CD-ROM, yet executes as if it is an ordinary Windows PC (provides an instance of the operating system from a host computer).
Dwayne worked with NComputing to imbed an interface with their hardware/firmware so it can be used with his touch screen display! The PC board circuitry easily mounts on the back of the touch screen display. Since there are no moving parts or CPU, heat build up inside a wall or case is not an issue.
I was lucky enough to win one of these guys and here is my review of the MicroFlow 2000 automated Ceiling/Wall mount HVAC registers. Although I do not yet have this bad boy mounted in anywhere, I wanted to post what I found out in figuring out how it was going to work. Also wanted to get enough information out there for you guys to make informed decisions on the product as it may be a bit before I get it installed.
When I entered the contest it was unclear exactly what I won other than I would receive the register. Turns out Martin sent everything I would need to make this little bugger work in conjunction with my Elk M1.
1 MicroFlow 2000 Register
1 RCS Transformer (120V in, 24V 20VA AC out)
2 Elk-912 SPDT 12V DC activated relay (only 1 needed)
As part of the MicroFlow 2000 there were also 2 “interconnect” cables and a signal splitter. I’ll go into more details on these later.
I am sure that most of you by now are familiar with the X-10 Maxi Controller, a device designed to provide you with control of your X-10 based home automation equipment, and doesn't require a transceiver or RF receiver. While it did the job, the looks of the device are pretty outdated and the device is pretty big for what it does. Many of us have been hoping that someone would come out with a device which offers similar functionality, and who’s looks don't force you to hide the unit when you have guests over. It looks like SmartHome has stepped up to the plate, and have released their ControLinc Maxi X-10 controller.
They always say that the first impression is the most important one, and I am happy to report that the ControLinc Maxi generates many positive first ones. This greatly differs from the X10 Maxi Controller in that you can now control ANY X-10 house/unit code with the touch of a button, without having to get your screwdriver out and rotate a dial or having to move a slider switch.
X10 Maxi Controller
This controller has two modes of operation: Cover Closed, and Cover Open (refer to the pictures at the beginning of this article to see the difference). When the cover is open (the unit knows if the cover is closed or not, so you don't have to push any buttons to switch modes), you can access every single button; but, the device really shines when you use it in "Cover Closed" mode. This mode allows you to access 5 pairs of buttons (one pair has 1 on and 1 off button) which can be assigned to control up to 5 devices, or you can assign them (each on and off button) individually, allowing you to control up to 10 devices. Additionally, you can customize the "All lights On/Off" buttons to only send that command to certain house codes, and there is a Dim/Bright set of buttons as well.
Programming this device is probably one of the easiest things to do, since there is a button for every house & unit code. For instance, to have the first pair of buttons turn on/off device A2, you simply execute the following steps:
- Close the cover
- Push the Dim and Bright button simultaneously for 3 seconds
- Select the top button of the first button pair
- Open the cover
- Push the A button and push the 2 button
That's it! The great part is that the controller will provide audio (beeps) and visual feedback (LED) letting you know what's going on, including any potential screw ups.
The ControLinc Maxi also allows you to manage your Scenes, providing you have SmartHome switches which support this. You could also use this device to trigger events in other devices, such as the Ocelot, Elk M1, PC, and it also makes a great backup in case the RF interface goes down, and your palmpads become useless. The ControLinc also allows you to configure some of its on-board options such as the status LED, audible sounder and the 'polite mode' feature. The polite mode feature forces the ControLinc to wait until the line is clear of other X-10 traffic. Unfortunately, in certain conditions, line noise could be interpreted as X-10 traffic, and thus would cause some problems. Turning this feature off would prevent such an issue, and is strongly recommended if you have a noisy electrical system. You can use the status LED light to find out if you have this problem. If it blinks continuously, you have noise problems and should turn this feature off.
Last, but not least, I have to mention how SmartHome made it easy to print out new labels. Since the label isn't rectangular, I was trying to figure out how to print a nice label instead of writing the label by hand, until I found a link to SmartHome's label software on their product page. Simply download the installer, execute it, and a shortcut will be placed on your desktop. Double click the shortcut, and the software starts up, allowing you to select the ControLinc template. The interface is very simple, and is WYSIWYG based. The software is free, and definitely a nice touch.
The only thing I didn't like about this controller is that the 5 pairs of buttons are not backlit, making it pretty hard to find them in the dark; but, I consider this a minor issue. I would definitely recommend this controller to anyone who is tired of replacing the batteries in their palmpads, or likes the idea of access to all house & unit codes (even for testing purposes) in one controller, without having to get your screwdriver out of your toolbox.
SmartHome really tried to think of everything, the controller even has an adjustable stand, and can be wall mounted with a special wall mount that SmartHome.com sells. The wall mount replaces the base of this unit, providing for a clean installation.
I would also like to note how the manual is very detailed, and easy to understand (especially if you are used to the "manual/cliff notes" which X10 provides with their products).
Product Name: SmartHome ControLinc Maxi
Price: $39.99 USD
Power: 120V AC
Where to buy: SmartHome.com, AutomatedOutlet.com
WGL Designs has a new product that will let you switch eight single pole double throw relays using X-10 power line commands! This latest product is named the Relay 8. This unit can respond to X10 ON, OFF, ALL OFF and status request commands.
Here are additional specifications of the eight relays:
- Each of the 8 independent relays is equipped with a form C contact that is brought out to two plug-in, detachable terminal strips.
- 1A @ 24 VDC Resistive Contact Rating
- 1A @ 120 VAC Resistive Contact Rating
- Relay Contacts are designed for low current applications as well as power switching.
mControl is a client-server application, part of the mHome product line, designed to provide the user with a seamless integration to Microsoft Windows Media Center and home automation hardware. It supports the more popular X10 controllers (such as the CM11A and CM17A, plus the new CM15A) and can also be entirely configured and controlled using only your MCE remote.
mControl is developed by Embedded Automation, a company founded in 1998, which has been working hard on the mHome product line and similar hardware. While Embedded Automation is probably not a familiar name , this is something that could change in the near future, since the mHome product line will be bringing home automation to the masses.
As mentioned before, the mControl software has a client component and a server component. The client component that configures mControl can be either your MCE interface or your Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser. These client options allow you to access the mControl interface on any TV or PC in your house.
By Gordon Meyer
1st Edition October 2004
400 pages, $24.95 US, $36.95 CA, £17.50 UK
When O'Reilly first contacted me about the release of this book, I was a little skeptical, mostly because of the misleading (more about that later) title. When I received my copy, and opened the first few pages to take a quick glance, I was relieved to see that this isn't just another home automation book that will sit on my shelf collecting dust. The index alone shows how interesting this book will be, as all the 'hacks' are indexed by location.
The book, written by Gordon Meyer (http://gordon.typepad.com/gordon/), a known and experienced home automation enthusiast, is 400 pages thick, will be able to answer most questions one can have about home automation, and give you some great ideas. I am not the kind of person to spend time reading books as I just don't have that much free time, but I decided to make an exception after browsing through the index to see what the book has to offer. I didn't think I would make it to the end (400 pages about home automation? Worries about the book being too technical / boring are increasing now), but now that I've finished reading the book, I have to admit I am truly impressed with the vast amount of knowledge crammed into this book.