CES 2005 Exclusive Update


Note: Here is an exclusive update on CES 2005 held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Information provided was per notes taken (very quickly) during interviews with the various representatives. Information was "thrown out" at a tremendous pace, thus trying to interpret notes afterward may provide some information that is incomplete or inaccurate. Please keep in mind that the intent of these updates is to introduce our members to new technology displayed at CES and not to provide a "detailed" review of the products themselves.

Also please note that any "ill" posts regarding pricing will be deleted (this thread will relate to technical/product discussions only).

Homeseer Technologies Booth

My second stop was to visit our friends at Homeseer Technologies.

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

Click Here to Read more (or just scroll down below):
I spoke with Rich Helmke, one of their main product developers and asked him what was new with Homeseer. He showed me their new "Pro100" controller box (shown with a touch pad display) which runs an embedded version of Windows XP and has no fans or hard drives.

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

This product line as well as a "professional" version of Homeseer 2.0 is geared towards the professional installer market.

There will also be an "in-wall" version which will be an improved "Zanware" type of controller as well.

He also stated that the new version of Homeseer (Homeseer 2.0) should be out for public beta in a couple of weeks (more on this below).

They are also partnering with "Stack 9" for providing a new media center PC which runs Homeseer (using the Media Center Plugin).

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

Some interesting facts Mr. Helmke also mentioned was:
  • The number one selling plugin is the Media Center Plugin
  • The number two selling plugin is the Main Lobby Plugin (MLHSPlugin)
  • There are over 8,000 Homeseer Users
I then spoke with Rick Tinker, another one of Homeseer's main developers and he showed me the workings of their new Homeseer 2.0 software.

Some basic changes include a very nice user interface via a web page. Basically all functionality of the software is now controlled via this new web interface. The refresh of this interface is much improved as it just updates the events that have changed state and not the entire web page (you don't get that "whole page flash" as it updates like the older version).

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

All the devices are now saved in a database so it is easy to import and export. You can also easily view any "references" for a device as well as enter any special notes for each device.

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

One really cool feature is the new "event action" and "event trigger" setup interfaces. You can have multiple tasks as well as setup the order of these tasks in an event through an easy interface.

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

For instance you can have multiple speak commands easily inserted and sort where you would like to place them in your event order without any scripting involved. Other features include wait, play wave file, and send speech to client statements as well (look at the drop down dialog box in the above picture).

One nice feature of Homeseer 2.0 is the ability to have multiple threaded tasks. So your wait statement will not affect other events or scripts. You can also cancel an event with an action item.

Homeseer added an SSL certificate to their web page. You can also run your own VB.net or ASP.net applications. They should also run pretty efficiently as they will only have to "compile" during their first run execution.

You can also sent a spoken text to a client PC. You can also receive voice commands from a client PC as well. The clients only have to run a special client application for this feature.

You can also view all threads that are presently executing in Homeseer via the web interface.

Another great feature is the ability to add custom graphics for your device values via a very nice web interface as shown below.

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

On the hardware sensor front Mr. Tinker showed me a new Z-Wave motion sensor that operated on batteries (very cool, no wires at all required). This unit will also act as a temperature and light sensor and should be available next month. High wattage lighting switches will also be out soon as well.

(Click on Picture for Full Sized Image)

I would like to thank Mr. Helmke and Mr. Tinker for graciously spending so much time with me during this very busy event! All the informaton on their great product lines is very much appreciated by the Cocoontech Staff!
Awesome Reporting.... Makes me feel like I was actually there ;)

What exactly is a Embeded Windows XP? Since its Embeded does that mean that its impossible for it to become currupt? I understand the plus side about not having any moving parts but the pro100 hardware seems very limited. It doesnt look like it has nearly enough inputs and outputs. Seemd like alot of USB to Serial Adapters would be needed.

HS2.0 has a ton of nice features but i am still not crazy about the web only interface. I like the web interface but I prefer a Windows GUI simply because thats what im used to using. The plus sde about having the web interface is that i should be able to tinker with HS from work and not have to wait until i get home.
XP embedded is basically a very stripped down version of Windows XP, usually the OS has just enough system and hardware drivers to get a specific configuration up and running, so it will run much faster, more stable, and more compact. Of course, because of this, you can't just install any other software on there as the system files it depends on might not even be there.
Is XP embedded same as, say XPLite? is XPe a product directly supported by Microsoft? Or is it third party like XPLite?
Windows embedded is genuine Microsoft, but not for retail sale. It is used often in NAS (Networked attached storage) servers. These are headless (no monitor/keyboard) servers that are basically disk storage dropped on the Ethernet. They just sit there and serve files all day. But they use real hard disks.

The HST boxes use flash rather than real drives. Flash has a limited lifespan. And yes, it can get corrupt. There should be a CD that you can boot from to reformat and reconfigure the box the way it was delivered to you. Data backups are you own responsibility.

Edit: And the embedded operating systems are typically SERVER operating systems, like Windows 2000 SERVER. I don't know of any other boxes using embedded XP, but if Microsoft sells it, I am sure somebody uses it.

By imbedding the operating system in a non-mechanical drive you are increasing the reliability of the system/box.

Squintz, wait till you see the web interface. You will love it. I was very impressed with the increased menu selections and options and its very easy to follow. You will never miss the old menu style. It is well thought out.
BraveSirRobbin said:
By imbedding the operating system in a non-mechanical drive you are increasing the reliability of the system/box.
According to what I have read, flash memory is typically only guaranteed for 10,000 erase & re-write cycles. Hope you have a backup whenever any storage media fails. But, until it fails, flash should be more reliable than typical hard drives and definitely quieter. But with the the operating system and application hitting the drive/memory pretty often, I would be curious how long until you are on borrowed time.
I made a comment about this same concern on the HST boards, hopefully HST can provide us with some more details, otherwise the system looks pretty cool.
I don't know about the specifics of the HS box, but I think it's too soon to worry about flash memory write cycles.

1) The typical minimum number of write cycles quoted these days is at least 100,000 and it's probably higher.
2) Software written to run on flash devices often distributes the write operations on different parts of the memory - rather than writing in the same place over and over. I think the embedded NT stuff was set up this way. Embedded XP could be as well. In fact, I would guess that this kind of thing is a big part of the design of embedded XP.
3) There have been numerous diskless small format boxes (like the Netier XL1000 and similar which ran NT) on the market before. It's not an untried idea.
4) A lot of stuff can be done on a ramdisk.
5) A typical Windows box is writing more stuff to the drive than it absolutely needs to. I expect embedded XP is writting to minimize this.
Hey gang,

Let me see if I can clarify some of this for you.

Embedded XP allows you to pick just the modules of the operating system that you want, and create an operating system. Thus, we eliminate the Windows UI and a ton of other services installed by default with XP. The result is a slim, responsive and reliable OS. I am sure others will differ with me, but I believe that the only difference between our slimmed down Embedded XP core and Linux is the Microsoft licensing fee. ;-) We may even do without that if the Mono project continues its momentum.

The Flash memory is partitioned - thus the OS and HomeSeer code will be put on a read-only portion and then your log files and such can be written to the other partition, and yes you can arrange it so that it does not keep writing to the same spot over and over again.

We believe that the life of the Flash will be very good, but that will remain to be seen since we don't have much benchmark data yet. We have a couple of boxes running the software up on a shelf in NH just to get some idea of how well it will work, but we use hard drives in the boxes at these tradeshows due to the dynamic nature of a trade show demo setup!

If anybody reading this is in the North VA-Central MD area and wants to see HomeSeer 2.0, I am going to be bringing it to the inaugural meeting of a new MD/VA HomeSeer user's group Sunday, January 16th. You can get details at our message board (the user's group forums are at the bottom of the forum list).

It was and always is our pleasure to speak with users (I think we had a dozen or more at this show!) and BraveSirRobin was so patient and courteous as we tried to deal with visitors to the booth at the same time, that I have to thank him as well for his understanding.