Let's say....


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....that I'm an engineer working on a home automation interface for a well established company looking to expand into the HA market.
This interface is basically an on-screen(TV screen that is..) menu capable of communication with any third-party devices via (so-far) IR, RS232, UDP, TCP, and ZWave. User configuration allows any button (on-screen or on-remote) to perform any desired function or series of functions. On screen menus can be totally user-customized, as all backgrounds and button images are .png images.
The plan with this product is to make it as universally compatible with third-party devices as possible, while also allowing complete customization of the interface. I'm posting this to find out what features/functionality are most important to you guys, the end-user. I come from a Home-Automation/Integration background myself, so I've used many of the products this will compete with. I can tell you, that I've never used anything as flexible and powerful as this at the projected price-point. Think mid- to high-end universal remote pricing with 10 times the power and flexibility.

I'm the guy who'll be adding support for new protocols, functionality, etc. So give me the wish list. Lighting control? Distributed Audio? Security? IP cameras? Give me products, functionality you need, etc. Anything you think a good interface should have. I'm going to be relying on user input to determine functionality priorities, so let me have it.

Thanks in advance......

*edit: I'm also on the lookout for beta testers, though we're probably a couple of months away from beta.
mbuster, I might be interested in being a beta tester, or at least finding out more about the product that you mentioned.

I do not have any Zwave products but have standardized on Insteon primarily and X10 for a few modules. I have always felt that using a TV is a great output device and a universal remote to control the HA devices is ideal. I know that some users have used other products that interface with Homeseer and the like, however a product such as the one you mentioned may be able to provide other options for the HA market.

Sounds like a fun project.

I do not have an actual security system and my needs are fairly simple.

A camera interface would be nice, I would prefer wired, but WiFi would work. The only 'security' system I have is a 0 lux wired camera. I have it upload to my web site so even if everything in the house gets stolen, I still have pictures. ;)

Lighting control would be a must, I my case via Z-Wave.

Distributed Audio? It would be really slick to be able to have a tie in to my Desktop PC's MP3s at my computer via WiFi or something. Any more I use my iPod instead of my CD player. A TV menu interface would make that work well (and would not need the iPod).

On the TV menu, wide screen? I bought a HDTV over a year ago and everything in (sub)standard 4:3 format is starting to look rather poor to my eyes.

I cannot think of anything else right now. Good luck!

Thanks guys for the input.
KenM- Right now for a wired security camera interface, I would probably use the control unit's IR or RS232 interface to control the DVR or multiplexor and treat the cameras as another video input to the TV, like a DVD or cable box. As for an IP camera, we're probably going to have the option to show a streamed video source from the interface. We're already supporting ZWave lighting control, and will undoubtedly provide provisions for others. I'm curious to know what the balance is between UPB and Insteon users....
Regarding streaming MP3's, I'm planning to provide support for the Barix Exstreamer, which would pull streams from a PC. The system remote would be able to send commands to the exstreamer via TCP or UDP. Pretty slick. So far that's the only one on the priority list (because I have one on my bench waiting for me) but I'd be delighted to hear about similar devices guys would like to interface with. Standalone iPod docks with IR or Serial input wouldn't be a problem either. Widescreen is do-able. Matter of fact, It's been running on a Widescreen interface on my bench for quite some time, so no prob there. The beauty is that the interface can consist of user (or factory)-supplied .pngs.

dwalder- I think you're gonna dig this.
mbuster said:
Regarding streaming MP3's, I'm planning to provide support for the Barix Exstreamer, which would pull streams from a PC. The system remote would be able to send commands to the exstreamer via TCP or UDP. Pretty slick. So far that's the only one on the priority list (because I have one on my bench waiting for me) but I'd be delighted to hear about similar devices guys would like to interface with. Standalone iPod docks with IR or Serial input wouldn't be a problem either.
I just have to ask, Will we pay extra $$ for all of this? Your response seems like a marketing thing, sorry.

My next question is... How much will the extra 'thingys' cost.

I am willing to pay $200 for a super remote. I am not willing to pay another $200 in fees for plug-ins to make this work.

okay, you have peaked my interest. I would like to move more to the TV as an interface. I have started looking at mControl and other software. I have X10 (Lightolier compose switches) and ADI hardware, but I looking to move to newer Z-Wave, UPB, or Insteon. Still looking.

I would be like to be considered as one of your Beta testers.
I am definitely interested in beta testing as well. Will this be a pass-through device, or be treated like a seperate input?
KenM- To clarify, no, this functionality is not going to be in the form of "plugins" or "add-ons". The system already has the raw capabilty to communicate with just about any device out there. In the case of the Barix units, Barix provides a set of UDP and TCP commands to control their units. My intention (for this device and others, such as the Global Cache stuff, maybe the Russound CAV/CAM, etc) is to build these commands into the configuration software so they appear as available commands to add to any macro, be it an on-screen button, or an on-remote button. I want to do this simply to make an easier "out-of-the-box" experience for the user. The whole thing we're going for is an "open" platform with regards to compatibilty. By "open", I mean that there will be provision to send any command via any protocol that the hardware supports. I'm also working on developing a method for users to create their own two-way serial "drivers", but I'd like to develop the more "In-demand" ones in-house, to make it easier for people to get up and running. Again, this is all just part of the vision for this system. It's as non-proprietary as we can make it. As an example, the internal commands used by the system can also be received via UDP or TCP. This means that any third-party PDA app, web interface, or whatever, that you guys can create, will have access to all of the control macros stored within the system.

Hopefully soon I'll be able to post more detailed information, and even some pics. I kinda started this thread without the say-so of those up the corporate ladder, and don't want to over-step just yet. But just know that I don't have a personal stake in the product, other than the desire to see it do well, and the desire for continued employment of course.

Regarding beta testing, when the time comes, I'll probably post some kind of survey to help choose some folks to help with the program, as we want to get a good cross-section of systems and users. Thanks everybody for the input. I want this to become one of those "community" type products, where guys share ways to get the most out of it, and come up with cool new tricks, etc. I get excited about it, but I definitely don't want to come off like a marketing guy, cause I'm not. I don't even know what the distribution channel is for this thing yet. I'm just trying to make it awesome.

And electron, it is not a pass-through device, it requires a separate video input.
I have been involved with z-wave for a long time now and the one thing that keeps getting on my nerves is that developers keep creating controllers that do no support all the existing devices and device classes currently available.

So my bigest wish would be to make sure you have support for all z-wave device types including MetaData for the new Sirius Satellite radios and other devices such as the Basecamp and Lantern from BulLogics. I will soon be adding a z-wave enabled window treatment to my home theater to protect the screen. So I would make sure you support those types of devices as well.

Basically I think that if you are creating a controller then it should control everything z-wave currently offers and it should be upgradable. Z-wave users are constantly shorted time and time again when they purchase a new device and find out that their controller can only add it as a node on the network but can not actually control the device.

I would want to use universal remotes such as the EUI Helix which offers z-wave support and Logitech 890 and Monsters AVL 300 for navigating the menus. The Sirius radio and the Logitech and Monster remotes all have IR blasters.

If this is going to be a media/home theater type device then I would want it to be networkable. mControl offers something similar. It uses windows MCE as its interface. I am not sure what you planed to use but it seems that if you are marketing to the end user then MCE is the way you would want to go. Otherwise just make it so I can store all my music and videos anywhere I want on any computer I want and still be able to play them from your device.
Well, I'm a UPB user and have some of the same issues as Squintz with Z-Wave. As new devices and companies come on line, their products aren't always controllable. I've had an old software package that sees devices as unknown modules. Why can't you just say, "It's a switch, it goes on and off and dims." Would make life a lot easier ;)

Also, VERY important to me is audio. I look for control of a switcher/matrix/amp device. I am currently using a Xantech ZPR68-10. But being serial control, it's easy enough to enter the necessary commands as long as the software can also get status back from the device. But the software needs to understand the logic of controlling one of these devices and multiuple sources. I use multiple outputs from ther soundcard on the PC, so the software needs to understand that.

And VERY important to me is unlimited client connections. If I want 8 devices, like touchscreen PCs or PDAs to control this, it will let me. That is assuming that it is controllable by clients :)

I haven't settled on any software package yet. The closest thing for me so far, is CQC. I like Dean and I like the way he has handled his company. The main reason I haven't pulled the trigger is that, up till now, he hasn't supported UPB. That is coming soon. And it's a bit of an investment. Not that I don't think it's worth it, just makes deciding more difficult :)

I would also consider beta testing.
Samgreco, it should be mentioned that this is not a program that runs on your PC. It is configurable from the PC, but it is a standalone hardware device.
It IS very controllable via clients, and using the UDP interface would allow as many as you wanted to participate. You could roll your own client interface, or use one we will HOPEFULLY be providing when the unit ships.
And RE: the UPB lighting, it can be done now (I've done it) by using a UPB serial interface. This is handy because it allows things like a UPB switch press to control events through our system, as well as controlling lights via the on-screen/on-remote buttons.
As far as controlling a matrix switch, that's no problem. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to allow users to create two-way serial functionality. That way, you could say, set a matrix input, and upon serial confirmation, set a system variable to hold the current state of that input, which could then be checked against when executing other commands. Very flexible. The tough part is making the Two-Way driver creation easy enough to use, yet powerful enough to be worth having.

Squintz- At this time, any ZWave devices (the vast majority) that supports the Basic Set command will be controllable via the system. It's my understanding that a device like your window coverings, while technically being part of the Basic Window Covering command class, still responds to a Basic Set, thus closing the shade would really be done no differently than turning off a light for our purposes. Easily configurable. But I do want to get my hands on some more Zwave devices, just to test everything.