Getting back into automation after a 4 year hiatus, help me catch up...


Active Member
After several years away from automation, largely due to a new child and frustrations getting my hodgepodge system (Elk, CQC, Aprilaire, ViziaRF, et al) to work, I'm dipping my toes back in the water once again as we're building a new house and starting over.

I'm fine on the wiring side of things, and our only real "must have" is our existing Sonos system, but I think I'll leave that separate from the automation to start. I enjoy DIY, but the Elk was too much for me on the DIY front. Nothing ever worked 100% (lights are a crapshoot at best), and CQC was amazingly powerful, but it was a blank slate and I'm no Picasso.

Our LV guy did a Control4 demo, and I liked the consistent UI between TV, touchscreen, and iDevice, but I don't want to call their "engineer" every time I want to change some tiny aspect of a program, so I'm leaning towards basing the system around an HAI Omni. I'll likely buy their UPB-based switches for lighting, and their thermos so I know everything works and talks to each other after my bad experience with Elk and "best of breed". I also don't want three different boxes and computer-based software to get systems to talk to each other or have multiple vendors blaming each other when things don't work. Any flaws in this thinking?

Security and lighting are probably my first two goals, after that, is it possible to integrate Sonos with HAI (so we can do rules/macros/programs that turn on music when a lighting scene is activated)? Is this "out of the box" or would we need an additional layer?

Where I'm troubled with HAI is their touch screens look pretty lame compared with C4, and ultimately I can't see paying a few grand for touchscreens and controllers when there are commodity iPads and Androids in the market. I've seen some of the HAI/iPad integration options, but get confused here; what's the "state of the art?" Again, I ideally want prebuilt screens that already have the hard work and graphic design done rather than "blank slate."

On a side note, did anything every happen with Google's Android@Home? Best I can tell it's stillborn.

Thanks for your help, and I'm looking forward to having some fun, and hopefully a better success rate this time around!
Well, I just scanned through your posts from when you were active in here before, and it seems like your issues were with Z-Wave & Elk together mostly? And the thermostat issues.

My first thought is that, as far as complexity goes, I believe the HAI and Elk are pretty similar. Granted, HAI does have their own thermostats and UPB and touch screens that are a little easier to integrate out of the box, but you can get all the same stuff with either. It's up to you which way you go, but if you already have an investment in Elk, you could save some money and keep it (maybe replace bare minimum with an EZ8 to keep the security system in the current house and remove all the other automation).

I use Elk for lighting, sprinklers, HVAC, garage doors, and security - all very reliably. The only thing I can really fault the Elk for is lousy status tracking of Scenes on UPB; HAI's HLC seems to do a better job.

For touchscreens, if you don't want to build your own or just customize a template, then maybe an iPad with Haiku or eKeypad?

With the right components, this stuff should be pretty easy
Hi pgray007:

I have HAI and CQC, and I can say, in the last four years there is much progress on both. CQC now can be controlled pretty easily with an iPad or iPhone, and HAI has added many good items. I won't get into the ELK vs. HAI argument, but they are quite different companies with much different products for somewhat different audiences. I've seen Control4 as well, and that is yet another product, that is much different than the others. Also, not that you can now create your own HAI touchscreen screens, so you don't have to have the old boring screens. And CQC is working on a new template editor that will allow you to build screens much easier than before, but honestly, its probably a six months away from being complete.

So lots of good choices, but it all demends on those two big factors, time and money.
Hi all,

Thanks for the comments. You're right that my issues were mostly light and thermos, but aside from security those were the areas I tacked so I was batting .333. OK for the major leagues I guess but not the performance I was expecting. Our current house is sold and they're getting the Elk panel and associated accoutrements so I'm starting from a clean slate. I realize lots of people here use and love Elk, and from a security standpoint it was great, but it just seemed like every 5 hour project I embarked on turned into a 3 month, $1500 fiasco that never worked right (and I was using the supposedly "top shelf" aprilaire and Vizia stuff), so that has me leaning towards HAI and more of a one stop shopping approach.

Part of me just wants to write the big Control 4 check and be done with it, but I think I'd be unhappy in the long-term without any access to the guts of the system. I'm hoping the tablet stuff catches up quickly, and becomes a bit less kludgy in the coming months.
The new stuff we are working on isn't a new template editor per se, but an 'auto-generation' capability, to spit out a lot of fully functional user interface stuff for you. It's not going to create a fully customized solution. No one can do that automatically. But, the biggest thing people struggle with, as you said, is that they are not Picassos. This gives you a fully formed aesthetic and nagivation system, and a lot of complete functionality as well. You can then pick it up from there and move forward with your specific needs.

It may be six months (or forever) before we finally get the very last thing into the new auto-generation stuff that could be done. But what's there now is quite useful (particularly in the current betas which are very soon to become 4.2), and they could provide you with a good head start. Currently there's only one 'theme' implemented, because we want to work out the issues more before we commit to implementing others. But it's a nice looking one. Here are some samples:


It will generate weather, movie and music media support, and basic Elk/Omni based security functionality for you. And there's also another aspect of it which is the ability to spit out individual widgets that are pre-themed to your selected theme, so that makes it easier to pick it up and move forward, since you don't have to style the widgets yourself. And of course you can do a lot of cut and paste from already generated content if you want as well, to create new stuff.
Welcome back to CocoonTech and automation! I was going to agree mainly with Todd's sentiments but since you sold the house with Elk you truly can do whatever you want. While Elk and HAI both are fine products and companies, HAI is certainly ahead in the area of integration. They do have more of their own proprietary stuff, so if you don't mind using their system, it should be much easier for you to integrate. While I still support (and recommend) Elk M1 my current system is an OmniPro II. I agree wholeheartedly about using commodity iPads/Phones, etc. I still have 2 ELO touch screens in boxes that I will probably never use any more.

So, if you don't have any desire to custom build your own interface and are happy with a regular good looking feature rich interface that you can control all of your OPII with then you will probably love the OPII and Haiku combination. I also have CQC from the beginning and I am too busy and lazy to redo my circa 2005 interface and I find myself using Haiku exclusively on my iPhone and 90% on an iPad in the house. Haiku also has a product called Haiku Helper which runs on a mac (like a mac mini) and provides all kinds of extra functions. You can even build your own web based interfaces although it's all code (vs wizard GUI) based so currently its for advanced (developers) user only.

As much as I like CQC there is just not much in the interface department I need from it that I don't have with Haiku for the essentials. Of course media is where CQC shines and you can do more advanced screens for stuff like weather, irrigation, etc. but if your needs are simple/modest and its connected to your OPII then Haiku is an awesome plug n play solution. It would actually be a ton of work to reproduce some of the security and similar screens native to Haiku in CQC.

If you wanted to get into the proprietary screens, HAI has their stuff and automation studio but again, as nice as they are, you just can't beat a $500 iPad.

The one place Elk is ahead right now I think is with their new Navigator keypad/console. If you just wanted a nice native affordable touchscreen I think Navigator may trump all. But, if you have the budget for iPads and nice wall mounts at all locations, that will work great as well. And the Navigator alone may not be enough of a reason to switch back to Elk.

I don't know much about C4 but I would agree that even as busy or lazy as I may be, I still want the keys and control so I would do HAI over C4 if nothing but for that reason.

Hope that helps some, let us know if you have more questions!
Part of me just wants to write the big Control 4 check and be done with it
Given your track record, that may not be a bad idea! ;) This stuff isn't for everyone and at least that way you'd have someone to call if there's a problem, rather than struggling for 3 months!
Given your track record, that may not be a bad idea! ;) This stuff isn't for everyone and at least that way you'd have someone to call if there's a problem, rather than struggling for 3 months!

I won't take that as an insult, I think I mostly hit a run of bad luck. My aprilaire system had a defective serial controller combined with two faulty cables, so they basically had me replace everything bit by bit but there was always one faulty component in the system until we replaced everything and I found a bad solder joint in their cable. I think I got an early run of Vizia stuff, or had leftover gremlins from Elk's beta firmware, but lights worked about 40% of the time. The automation wouldn't work for 15 days, then one morning the "turn off at sunrise" program would actually work and we'd all be surprised as the lights went off or on. Even when they were "working" the "shut everything off at night" program would turn off 7/10 lights at best. I replaced the serial controller, Vizia interface, and finally bought the ControlThink stick and "rebuilt" the network to no avail, but that's all water under the bridge at this point.

While I'm no expert, after 20+ years I'm surprised home automation is in the hodgepodge state it's in and I have too many other interests to spend months on a faulty cable. I won't list my technical chops, but I certainly know which end to hold a soldering iron but at the end of the day, I want an automation hobby, not a second job.

HAI seems like a good compromise, and the Haiku stuff looks great. I can't see why anyone wouldn't (regardless of system) throw a commodity iPad on the wall rather than a $1K vendor-specific tablet. As a manufacturer I'd rather get out of the touchscreen business and sell a $100 app than support what must be pretty low-volume/high-customization touchscreens.