Chat Transcript 11/17/2005


Staff member
<UPBseer> I am Brad Cone, the Customer Service Manager here at Simply Automated
<UPBseer> We design and build UPB switches and plug-in devices.
<UPBseer> Our focus is on the residential market
<UPBseer> Our switches can be used with or without a home automation system.
<UPBseer> I have been with the company for 8 months and have learned a ton about home automation.
<Steve> How do you see yourselves fit in against other PLC protocols, like say Insteon
<UPBseer> My previous experience was in Industrial Automation
<Steve> please continue b4 answering ?...
<Steve> Millard, While Brad is typing would you like to introduce yourself?
<electron> Guys, if you are experiencing any technical problems, don't hesitate to let me know.
<MillardS> Sure, Brad and I actually go way back to our Industrial control days of the late 80's and early 90's. I also did a few years in security at Sensormatic's Digital Video Product's Division.
<MillardS> Regarding the question about our fit against other PLC protocols, I'd simply say we are an alternative.
<electron> Does your company plan on selling the UPB hardware through retail outlets such as Home Depot?
<Steve> It seems a lot of pros use UPB but diy'ers are opting for Insteon, do you see that?
<UPBseer> So far our channel has been one used more by pros
<Steve> Do you have any plans to match up better price wise against your competitors?
<MillardS> Simply Automated products are designed for Pro installers. I don't expect they will be found in Home Depot.
<MillardS> To which competitors do you refer?
<Steve> Like Smarthome/Insteon - or do you not see yourselves competing against them
<Steve> Speaking for the crowd...
<Squintz> Do you consider us pro's?
<Steve> I think a lot of people are on the fence in deciding between UPB, Insteon and Zwave
<Steve> And UPB seems to be losing out to others
<Steve> on a few points
<hotwire> Any plans for a plug in IR to UPB type device?
<MillardS> I do not know, are you Squintz?
<Steve> one is price compared to say Insteon
<UPBseer> Which points besides price vs. Insteon?
<Squintz> Well I would consider my self more professional then the average home owner.
<UPBseer> IR... yes. There are some installers who have figured out how to do it now
<Steve> Well, the main issues I've seen is price, especially for a diy person, other things
<Squintz> I am actually trying to start a small installation business
<Steve> I've seen are the 'delay' in the switches waiting on taps
<UPBseer> One guy I spoke to at EHX last week figured it out... from reading a website on how someone set up their home
<Squintz> What I meant by that question though was... Are we(cocooners) your target market?
<Steve> To clarify, there is a mix of pros and diy, heavy on diy here at CT
<electron> Brad: are you talking about the Elk/UPB/Ocelot combination?
<UPBseer> Partially.. I know he used an Ocelot and HAL... and there were devices in between
<UPBseer> It sounded convoluted
<UPBseer> But it works
<UPBseer> I speak to both pros and diy'ers daily.
<electron> ah, I have the Ocelot which does IR, directly connected to the Elk M1, so UPB & IR could be interfaced if I had the UPB hardware. I also have the W800RF hooked up, allowing me to use the RF motion sensors and remote controls to control my EZ8, this could also be used in combination with the UPB interface
<Steve> It was a difficult choice for me to choose UPB, wrestled against Insteon
<MillardS> Regarding the price question relative to Insteon, I have seen price for their product vary dramtically. I'm not sure that our full featured products will be as low as I've seen Insteon product's reducuced.
<Steve> and honestly, if Insteon had an equivalent of UPStart, they might have won
<Steve> and I see alot of people sitting on the same fence
<UPBseer> Pros don't seem to be upset with our pricing, in fact there were pros at the EHX who wished our prices were higher
<UPBseer> Takes all kinds
<Steve> many others being more patient
<Steve> and my concern is that Insteon does not erode or steal the market from UPB
<UPBseer> I think people will see strenghs and weaknesses in any PLC
<Steve> I guess it depends on you target
<UPBseer> It is just like shopping for a car. People make decision based on many different factors.
<UPBseer> What's important to you?
<Steve> If it is pro, then i guess you will have majority of that market while Insteon takes the diy market
<electron> One strategy which could work would be to create a Pro line of switches
<UPBseer> Because of price or functionality
<UPBseer> Or product line
<Steve> To me, UPB was about equal to Insteon but more mature
<Steve> Insteon cost is significantly less, perhaps marketing ploy?
<UPBseer> e: you mean switches that are higher priced and have more functionality than our current offering?
<Steve> But I see people responding to that
<electron> higher priced yes (to please the installer market), and maybe offer some of the advanced features in the pro line only
<UPBseer> Steve: Perhaps... low pricing... many companies slash to get into a market.
<MillardS> So what UPB products are needed that are not available?
<Squintz> Why should we chose UPB for our lighting solutions?
<MillardS> UPB is very relaible and has many options.
<UPBseer> Very versatile
<Steve> Millard, I think a big one is a single gang, dual switch - to control 2 loads (like with dual vertical rocker) but fit in 1 spot
<MillardS> I'm happy to say it is on the list, but no date yet.
<Steve> Can you share what products are in the pipeline?
<electron> what about fan control (without humming)
<hotwire> better looking backlit multi-button keypads are needed
<UPBseer> All are on our list.
<MillardS> Steve, that's dangerous ground. To be honest we are in a bit of a catch up mode right now. Next on the list is a scheduler and keyfob.
<UPBseer> The backlit buttons are sought after
<electron> one feature which is making me hesitate to give UPB a shot is the delay when turning on the switch locally, because of the double tap feature
<Steve> Paul, bfisher - any questions based on your experiences?
<electron> is there any way of disabling the double tap feature?
<UPBseer> You know we introduced the Pocket Programmer and a Pocket PC database/installer software.
<UPBseer> Not yet.
<UPBseer> The double tap... is not the only tap.
<WayneW> I heard that the double tap dealy was kind of a requirement because it also let you get into setup modes.. How are buttonless fixture modules put into setup mode?
<UPBseer> We have the 5 tap for set up mode and the 10 tap for factory resets
<UPBseer> The delay is to wait for the next tap...
<UPBseer> The switch needs to be sure of the user's intention
<Steve> Don't 'rich woman' in expensive homes after having pro install complain about that?
<UPBseer> We are considering methods to get around the "wait for the next tap"
<UPBseer> I have not heard any... personally.
<Steve> They are usually pretty demanding and impatient :)
<UPBseer> Of course I am not living in any of those homes
<electron> I wouldn't mind if it takes a second for the light to turn off (thus only look for the # of taps when the switches is turned off), but turning on should be instantly imo
<UPBseer> You don't like rich women?
<UPBseer> I digress...
<Steve> That's another chat...
<Steve> What about Wayne's ? re: fixture module and setup?
<UPBseer> Yes... I like the switches to turn on faster too.
<UPBseer> They have a recessed button near the LED
<hotwire> how about a heavy duty 240 volt, 30 amp relay module?
<UPBseer> That is on the list too.
<Steve> How much influence to you guys have on engineering? The tap seems like a big issue...
<UPBseer> You should see our list, huge
<Steve> Are you hiring :)
<UPBseer> You guys have influence on our priorities. We are transitioning from Engineering drive to Market drive
<Steve> Have you heard the delay thing much from others?
<UPBseer> We have already made many changes based on user input.
<UPBseer> Keep it coming
<Steve> I think that and price and you will take big part of Insteons market IMHO
<MillardS> What UPBseer says is true... we a small group with lots to do and learn.
<WayneW> so fixture modules are NOT buttonless? any way to hide thatr setup button on a switch module? like under the switchplate? or would everybody hate that?
<UPBseer> Steve: Not much noise about the delay.
<Steve> Heres an idea...
<MillardS> WayneW, good call. We're considering that one too.
<Steve> change the airgap to be switch activated like pcs...
<Steve> and change your airgap LED to a setup button like insteon...
<hotwire> Is there any difference in functionality between the PIM module made by SAI and the one made by PCS?
<UPBseer> Wayne: That was one of the ideas we were thinking about... put the set up switch under the faceplate but it makes it tougher to interface with the switch
<WayneW> as a non customer... how often would I need to get into setup after initial install?
<UPBseer> Now, if you want to make a change, it is easy... maybe it should not be so easy?
<electron> I like it the method Lightolier used for their X10 switches
<UPBseer> Our CIM and the PCS PIM are very similar. Same firmware... the difference is the layout and one or two components
<WayneW> I got the impression that most/all of the setup was done with UPstart (which should have been UPBstart)
<MillardS> Great question Wayne, probably never / once every year or two.
<UPBseer> Wayne: 5 tap the rocker... or button and the LED flashes greeen
<WayneW> so takingoff a cover plate every year or two isn't so bad
<UPBseer> Once the switch is in set up mode it is added to UPStart and configured.
<UPBseer> Take off the cover plate... depending on which wall plate you have... and then pull off the faceplate. It would make me be certain to do it right the first time
<UPBseer> But, wives always want changes
<MillardS> The issue we see with the setup button uner the face plate is if you want to change the dimming setpoint.
<WayneW> dimming cannot be changed with UPstart?
<MillardS> Some people may change the dimming set point frequently others never, this is what we felt it would be best to just enable it with Upstart.
<UPBseer> The versitility in the US2-40 allows a user to change faceplates to add or remove functionality from a particular position in the house
<UPBseer> Dimming can be changed in UPStart
<Steve> Wouldn't a setup button like Insteon solve the problem?
<MillardS> Mom doesn't like up start and wants to change Pa's dimming level.
<UPBseer> Where is their button?
<electron> that's where Lightolier hides their button (open in a new browser window or you will lose the chat window)
<bfisher> I apologize - I had to step away for a bit... (sorry for commenting out of order) as a UPB user, my biggest issue is the delay. first time users at our house always get confused by the delay
<bfisher> I would gladly give up the double click function on most of my switches if it would make for a faster on
<Steve> This is Insteon - setup button at bottom - but Lightoliers is nicer
<bfisher> 75% of my switches are never touched (automation system controls them), but the others cause confusion
<Steve> That is one good looking switch!
<Steve> ooops -
<Squintz> I like those also Steve
<bfisher> as for a product I would like to see... how about a motion activated outdoor light?
<Steve> Just an example of setup button placement
<Squintz> I saw them installed at the a User Group meeting and really like the LEDs on the side
<UPBseer> Ah... the air gap and set up button are one.
<WayneW> yes, a good replacement to the X-10 Pr-501 outdoor motion would be nice
<UPBseer> Looks like a Maestro switch
<Steve> You can go anything with air gap - lever like HAI, tap like PCS
<WayneW> technically, what causes the buzz on transmit?
<Steve> Use multiple taps for airgap
<Steve> keeps PCS switch clean looking
<UPBseer> The buzz is a capacitor discharging very quickly
<UPBseer> We have the motion detector... indoor and outdoor on the list
<UPBseer> Along with other "sensors"
<electron> I agree, a good PR-501 replacement would make me switch to UPB instantly
<MillardS> This is good stuff guys, the outdoor motion light is on the list too.
<hotwire> How about a can that can hold 10 or more upb switches, I know PCS makes one, but it's expensive.
<hotwire> how about a upb photo cell?
<UPBseer> Someone at the show told me about an inexpensive "can" they use for all their installations. It was not meant for use as a "can" but worked very well.
<MillardS> Yes we've had the CAN request before, but I'm sorry to say it is low on the list.
<Steve> UPB Thermostat? Or are you leaving that to RCS and Aprilaire...
<UPBseer> We are working with RCS
<hotwire> do you know who makes the box?
<Steve> Cool
<UPBseer> They are nearby
<UPBseer> I will have to contact the guy and ask him again. He was a wealth of information
<UPBseer> A longtime pro
<hotwire> please send me a PM about it when you get a chance.
<electron> Not sure if it exists yet, but what about a small good looking table top console to control UPB devices.
<electron> something like the ControLinc
<UPBseer> I think the photo sensor is included with the motion sensor.
<MillardS> Photo cell may come with the motion detection / IR solutions.
<UPBseer> Have you seen our pedastal?
<hotwire> UCT-08?
<UPBseer> I'll have to send you a picture of that too
<UPBseer> It looks real nice, even with rockers
<electron> haven't' seen them, would love to see a pic, thanks!
<UPBseer> No
<UPBseer> not UCT... ugly.
<electron> you mentioned a keyfob earlier
<UPBseer> Part number is ZPT2
<electron> is there anything more you can tell us about the RF part of UPB
<UPBseer> yes..
<Steve> Do you see 2006 as a busy year as far as new product introduction?
<UPBseer> So far we just have prototypes that we had at the show.
<bfisher> did someone mention a fan controller? (dimmable, or in steps... not just on/off)
<electron> I asked for it yea
<Chakara> huh? UPB RF? I'm loosing it!
<UPBseer> Yes, 2006 will bring many new products
<UPBseer> RF control of UPB
<Steve> Homelink?
<electron> Do you know what frequency range you are considering for the final product?
<UPBseer> Fan controller... yes. It was on the list very early but has slipped in priority lately.
<bfisher> I don't know if you have a recommended automation hardware controller list... if you do - make sure Homevision Pro is on it. It works VERY well with UPB.
<UPBseer> I have not been involved in the RF product at all
<electron> I assume the motion sensors will be RF based as well?
<UPBseer> We have a list in our FAQs. I will make sure Homevision Pro is added if it is not there
<UPBseer> The motion sensors will likely be available in different packages
<Steve> Are there any significant planned changes to UPStart - do you influence that or just add new devices?
<UPBseer> UPStart has come a long way in recent months.
<UPBseer> The influence comes from us and other users of the program.
<UPBseer> We are always trying to make it better.
<UPBseer> And easier to use
<UPBseer> What would you suggest?
<Steve> No particular suggestions at this point, only...
<electron> I have one more RF question: since RF is being considered for future products, would SAI consider creating RF based phase couplers?
<Steve> one thing I noticed, but I will contact you offline
<Steve> re signal & noise meters
<UPBseer> What? RF based phase couplers? What do you mean?
<electron> Similar to the Insteon RF phase coupler
<electron> Where you just plug them into an outlet
<UPBseer> I will have to look at it.
<electron> It would probably help with people who live in appartments of have a complex electrical system
<electron> of = or
<UPBseer> Does the RF device really couple the phases or does it bridge signals to both phases...a repeater?
<UPBseer> Apartments are usually 3 phase. We have a 3 phase repeater coming out
<electron> you plug a RF 'coupler' into an outlet on each phase, so I guess it's a repeater
<UPBseer> We are also looking at a 240 V CIM for those applications
<UPBseer> y'all still there?
<Steve> Not that I need one, but how about a 'socket rocket' -
<electron> This is probably another strange request, but what about GFCI outlets, I would love to replace all my outlets in my bathrooms
<UPBseer> Socket rocket?
<Steve> Screws into lamp base and buldb screws into it
<UPBseer> Oh..
<hotwire> When can we expect the website to be updated with the new products announced at EHX?
<UPBseer> Not sure about that one... we do have the Lamp Module for plug in lamps
<UPBseer> Soon
<UPBseer> Sometime before the holidays... or shortly after
<Steve> On GFCI, did I read that a UPB receptable needs to be in the circuit before it?
<UPBseer> e: what would you plug into those controlled outlets in your bathroom?
<Steve> Hair dryer???
<electron> towel heater? night lights (which is what I Do right now)
<Steve> With a motion
<Steve> Walk up to it and it dry your hair :)
<UPBseer> Towel heater is a good idea...
<UPBseer> Great! I want one now
<electron> lol
<bfisher> I apologize for going a little off-topic (from suggestions to a question)... I am interested in an 8 button controller - but I don't want them dedicated to controlling UPB devices. I want to use them to send signals to my automation controller (easy example - one button = goodnight - and my controller receives the signal and does whatever is needed). Basically replace a touchpanel in rooms that don't need full functionality. Is that
<bfisher> or is each button used to control UPB outlets/switches/links?
<UPBseer> We can do that now.
<UPBseer> Send a Link and have your controller start actions based on that event
<UPBseer> We do it now with HAL
<UPBseer> and HAI
<bfisher> OK - cool. HVPro can handle Links too. I assumed that is how it worked, but wasn't sure
<UPBseer> A Link is very powerful
<bfisher> thought I'd ask since you were here ;)
<UPBseer> Good question
<electron> would it be possible to add ####@##### to your press release mailing list? ;)
<Steve> [21:21] Steve: On GFCI, did I read that a UPB receptable needs to be in the circuit before it?
<bfisher> any chance your 8 button panels could individually light each button if the link is active? I think currently they just have the top LED
<UPBseer> e: Of course. I will have it done
<electron> thanks!
<electron> bfisher, that's a great idea, very useful!
<UPBseer> Steve: Where did you read it. I don't recall seeing it in our literature
<Steve> Not sure, but I want to put in a receptacle to control holiday lights
<UPBseer> We have GFCI and AFCI breakers in our test house
<Steve> I cuurently have a GFCI outlet there
<electron> the GFCI breakers can be rather expensive
<UPBseer> AFCI too
<electron> steve, if you have an outlet there, then any outlet past the GFCI would be protected too
<Steve> and i thought the UPB needed to go before it?
<electron> from what I understand
<electron> am planning on installing a few outdoor outlets myself this weekend, and that's what I was told
<UPBseer> Hope it goes well... not shocking
<electron> Brad: what's the largest installation you have heard of?
<Steve> ok, I just thought I read that thre might be interference downstream of a GFCI???
<UPBseer> 22,000 sq ft
<electron> any idea on the # of devices?
<UPBseer> I know of two that large
<Steve> Millards house?
<UPBseer> LOL
<electron> SmartHome's CTO hehe
<UPBseer> No... one near here belongs to a developer. 300 switches, some x10
<MillardS> Not... I'm sub 2k.
<electron> lol
<UPBseer> I was at a 10K this afternoon
<electron> are there any special precautions one has to take when installing that many switches?
<UPBseer> UPB works great there.
<Steve> Is there any progress on that test house Chris Walker did?
<UPBseer> Don't use electronic ballasts that are not FCC
<hotwire> great question Steve
<Steve> What about the 'noise' in audio systems?
<UPBseer> Yes. I was there last month.
<UPBseer> Some of the problems were not UPB problems or problems with our switches.
<UPBseer> I think the noise in the audio was caused by wiring the neutral wire to a ground wire.
<UPBseer> There was not a neutral in the box so they used the ground. It all gets connected at the main panel anyway.
<UPBseer> We don't recommend it
<Steve> I heard that was not kosher
<UPBseer> It will work, but we don't recommend it
<electron> Were there any UPB related problems which were not addressable?
<UPBseer> Noise in audio systems is usually a faulty ground
<UPBseer> Not yet.
<UPBseer> They are controlling many ELV ballasts
<UPBseer> We state on our documentation that we don't recommend using our product to dim ELV
<UPBseer> They are working fine but have one ballast that puts out a bunch of noise.
<electron> Ok, this doesn't sound as bad as Chris made it sound
<UPBseer> UPB was working right through the noise.
<Steve> What were some of the UPB problem besides faulty switches?
<UPBseer> The noisy ballast was the only UPB problem I saw.
<Steve> On that note, what is your DOA % on switches?
<Steve> All installs I read about, it seems there is always 1 DOA?
<Steve> Was that early batches?
<UPBseer> The faulty switches that Chris had just arrived here. I took two out of the house when I was there.
<Steve> I have 7 US240s arriving tomorrow - I guess I'll find out :)
<UPBseer> Most DOAs are due to the installation.
<JohnW> hey
<Steve> Wiring hot?
<UPBseer> The air gap light pipe takes a beating from many installers
<UPBseer> Our returns are less than 1%
<Steve> Returns or DOA?
<UPBseer> 40% of the switches returned are working fine
<UPBseer> Returns
<UPBseer> I think the problem is learning curve related.
<UPBseer> A lot of first time users
<Steve> Are there UPB training classes?
<Steve> Cliff notes?
<UPBseer> Home Controls offers a RIS program
<UPBseer> They include our switches in their program
<UPBseer> Do you thing regional training classes would be a good idea?
<electron> yes
<electron> definitely
<MillardS> We expect to provide UPB training in 2006 and publish application notes.
<Steve> How long is a typical change cycle in engineering - if a 'moderate' switch change was done, how long approximately would that take - 3 months, 6 months, year, longer? - Ballpark...
<UPBseer> If we look at our history...
<UPBseer> The US2-30 came out in January... the US2-40 in June
<UPBseer> That was a significant change and incorporated a ton of new ideas and feedback
<UPBseer> Some changes happen rapidly
<UPBseer> It depends on the scope of what needs to be done
<UPBseer> We are agile
<Steve> Ok, so when do we expect the US250 with no tap delay and modified setup? :)
<UPBseer> lol
<UPBseer> June?
<electron> I guess it's time for me to start saving up for some SAI switches (I am typing this while I am suffering yet another x10 broadcast storm)
<UPBseer> I think we will see something incorporated with lighted buttons, etc
<UPBseer> March maybe...
<Steve> Martin from Automated Outlet spoke of an LED bar, are you working on that one?
<Steve> Similar to that Ligholier or Insteon
<UPBseer> We have not decided
<UPBseer> They do look nice
<Steve> hehe, September
<UPBseer> It might be on the lighted button with no delay and ...
<UPBseer> motion, temperature, time of day and ...
<Steve> Just take that Lightolier and convert it to UPB - would be sweeeet
<UPBseer> let you know if what you are wearing clashes..
<UPBseer> This has been great. We will have to do it again soon. Millard has to get home to the kids
<UPBseer> I need to have dinner.
<gordon> thanks guys, very much!
<UPBseer> After my 28 mile commute home.
<Steve> Thanks for stopping by
<electron> Great, next time, we'll have to do this on a Friday, which is when we get big crowds
<Steve> Come every Friday :)
<electron> Thanks to both of you for taking the time and answer all our questions
<Steve> Just to say hi
<UPBseer> You can always get me at [email protected]... well, M-F
<electron> and please don't be shy when it comes to posting on CocoonTech
<MillardS> Thank you for the inveitation.
<Steve> Yes, thanks - we look forward to you being regulars at CocoonTech
<UPBseer> Thx
<WayneW> thanks guys
<electron> Google News uses us as a news source, and many people lurk and learn ;)
<UPBseer> Great
<UPBseer> Good night
<bfisher> thanks - very helpful
<Steve> bye guys...
<MillardS> Good night.
<electron> Good night
Hey Brad,

I missed the chat. Here I have an idea. You could embed a magnetic switch inside the switches/dimmers that would be used to put them in setup mode. This would give you a clean look and the easy option to use a magnetic "key" to enter setup mode (or just to enable the multi-tap mode). Something like the cabinet Tot Lok safety locks. This might work even with hidden fixtures.

Please send me a few dimmers or swiches if you decide to implement this idea. I promise that I'll not charge patent fees. :)

Yeah, I'm sorry I missed that one. It was interesting reading though. I enjoyed reading more details about what Simply Automated said happened in that Chris Walker installation.