Putting it all together - suggestions?



I'm glad I finally found an active forum for HA. There is a weath of info here!

I need some help from the more experienced users. I am in the planning stages for my HA system. This will be installed in new construction. Being a SW engineer, I want to write my own control system in LabVIEW. Here are a few things I want to be able to do:

System: PC based custom software for overall system control.

Security: Want a stand alone system that can send signals to PC (via hard wire or X10 or ?) alterting it to system status. Would be nice to be able to get detailed info (like which door/window opened, etc). Should be battery backed. Would be great if PC could also control unit. Like being able to send arming/disarming codes to unit. This would allow remote control and the use of LCD keypads for security system.

Monitored smoke detectors. (X-10? Hardwired?) Should be battery backed.

Thermostat that the PC can monitor and control. (X-10? Insteon?)

Lighting control. Thinking Insteon at this point. Want to have PC control lights and need a PC interface and ActiveX/COM software interface to talk to.

Audio. Plan to control Rotel unit via PC serial port. I have the spec. Need to write a driver. Anyone already write a COM API for this?

Audio routing. Need some kind of PC controllable unit to route audio signals around house to at least 3 different L/R pairs. Source will be Rotel second room output.

Video. Want to have several cameras that the PC can monitor and capture. Want to do motion detection with these. Also need PC interface that supports COM/ActiveX/.NET so my software can control them. Hardwire is ok. What kind of wiring? Cat5? RG6?

Video routing. Want to be able to route video from multi sources (PC, TiVo, DVD, etc) to several rooms. Needs to be PC controllable.

System control. Want to use LCD touch panels for controlling system. Looking hard at Red Radio's Rad I/O. Would need dedicated PC to run interface. Also will need a bigger LCD in some areas, like bedroom and main entryway.

The main PC will serve up web interface to any PC in the house or via internet for remote control and monitoring. Also, might add bluetooth PDA interface for use of PDA as remote control for system.

Please give me your thoughts on what hardware can accomplish all this control. Specifically the security, cameras and thermostat.

I many not have all this up and running from day one, but I want to have the wires in the walls for the future.



ps. Feel free to tell me I'm nuts. :angry:

Whew… that’s a lot of questions.

Many would recommend looking at the ELK M1G for security. It will cover many of your requirements including monitored smoke detectors, doors/windows, thermostat, etc. It also supports X10, UPB, PC control like arm/disarm, and programming (serial, Ethernet).

Automated Outlet has a great price on these…


INSTEON is promising but it isn’t really available today. I’ve been testing the Lighting Starter Kit for a while now but it’s the only hardware other than the SDK that’s out. The wall switches should be out next month some time. Currently, the major HA software doesn’t support INSTEON. The upshot is that INSTEON is backwards compatible with X10, so you can start using it right away in X10 mode. You won’t get the INSTEON benefits until the big companies start developing for it. Unless you intend to write your own HA interface.

You may want to look into UPB as well. I haven’t tested this hardware yet but I’ve heard good things.

As for audio, the CAV6.6 tends to be popular with the HA crowd. It will handle audio and video and can be easily controlled via RS232.

As for touch screens, I’ve been using a 3M M150 15†running MainLobby in my kitchen for some time now. It’s a big hit with guests and really sent the WAF through the roof.

There is an endless array of products to choose from and I’m sure others will chime in soon. Search these and other HA forums, you will find a wealth of usefull information.

X10 Technical Resource and Forums
Thanks for the feedback. I do plan to write my own software, so the fact that Insteon appears to offer an API into thier PC interface is a plus. I have yet to find a UDP interface with a documented API. I did find one fore the CM15 but I'm a bit leery of that unit.

The Elk does look like a good choice. I will have to research the CAV6.6 you mentioned.

This should be a fun project. I want to write my own software because I want to be albe to upgrade the system as my needs change. Also, I am thinking of doing this as a side business and want to use my house as a showcase.

Since I am several months away from needing to do the install (just digging holes at this point) I feel I can wait and see on Insteon a bit.

I think you will really like the INSTEON products. I've had no issues with the lighting starter kit, it works as described. I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the INSTEON switches. They should arrive some time in July and I’ll post a follow-up once they’re installed.

ps. Feel free to tell me I'm nuts."

I'd say the only "nutty" part is writing your own HA software from scratch. There are several excellent versions around now that each have many years of development. I think it would be very difficult for a one man show (true?) to compete with the head start that your competitors have now.

I would suggest that you extend one of the existing with your own enhancements and if you are doing this as a business, sell as a plugin. You'll go batty or broke before you have a competitive product that will bring in revenue. JMHO of course.

I fully expect at some time Microsoft will get into HA software and I sumise they will buy a company, integrate into their own software suite and extend. Who knows - maybe it will be yours and we will then call you Sir John! :angry:
I agree with DavidL. There's a lot of really good software out there already and its not expensive either. I use HCA and their standard version is $80. That's not a lot when you consider the fact that writing your own is at least an 80hour project. I say save the $1/hour and exercise your programming skills by programming lighting macros instead. Those can be pretty complex, believe me! My daughter's bedroom lightswitch has a macro that took quite a bit of work. She has an overhead light and a fishtank. The overhead light is sensor controlled. When its her bedtime, tapping off extinguishes the overhead light and deactivates her sensor but leaves the fishtank on. Now the switch behavior changes: tapping off now toggles the state of the fishtank light. Tapping on re-activates the sensor (if its nighttime) and de-activates the fishtank toggle (otherwise the next time "off" was pressed, the fishtank would also deactivate). We use the fishtank macro primarily for turning off her "nightlight" after she goes to sleep. However, we occasionally turn it on again when we check up on her.

Now think about your homebrew system: as the above example demonstrates, you'll also need to create a programming language to handle lighting macros. Add another 200 hours to your 80 hour project...
Check out this URL to see a complete list of free and commercial home automation software. Most of them have a 30day trial.
Thanks for the suggestions. There are many good home automation packages out there to choose from.
My reason for wanting to make my own, however, is to do some things that are not easy or possible with the available products. I want to use those small touch panels from red radio around the house to control the system. I also want to have web control and bluetooth PDA control in the house and web remote control. Some packages can do some of this, but not all. I want to be able to use the small LCD touch screens to do everything from arm/disarm the security system to turn on music or view the image on a camera or open a small web browser to check the traffic or weather reports or turn on/off lights. I also want the system to monitor cameras, do motion detection and capture buffered video to the HD on the system's PC. And I want all of this to be controlled by one homogenous software, not a bunch of separate systems that don't talk to each other.
Also, I want to be able to extend the system as new technologies and options become available.
Plus, it will be fun! :lol:

Now, as for selling the software, my goal would not be to compete with existing products. Rather, I would sell my services as a custom integrator for high end homes where I would design the application to fit the specific needs of the customer. This would be more of a contract type of job rather than trying to sell shareware for $29.95 on the web.
Anyways, it is just a dream at this point. First I have to get my system up and running.

Why not use the software products suggested above, get your system going, THEN write your software?

One way of knowing what your software should include or features it should incorporate is by first seeing how "not" to do it, or how it has been done in the past. You really wouldn't be out any big dollars either, considering how much money you are planning to put into the home with the HA goodies you described. You may even want to purchase an Insteon and UPB products to sample them for their pros and cons as related to your needs.

Another thing to consider is how much you want to rely on the computer to do all of these things. For instance I use the Ocelot with digtal input and output modules, plus a Caddx system for home security. I use these systems for features I deem "critical" in case the PC goes down. Using a Russound Cav6.6 with keypads in each room would be another example of a stand alone system.

Consider using a PC for just the "goodies" such as video, voice announcements, Web Stuff, etc...

I would really consider the Elk M1 Gold as was suggested above as it would incororate a lot (though not all) of the HA stuff in one package.

I know you want one piece of software to incorporate all of these features, but maybe consider having separate systems running "on their own" yet have the ability to communicate via a PC interface. You may want to use systems that interface via a TCP/IP ethernet connection also (vs the traditional serial port).

Just some suggestions to help with your quest for the "Holy Grail"! :lol:

jlokanis said:
Also, I want to be able to extend the system as new technologies and options become available.
Plus, it will be fun! :lol:
John, why not go with one of the software packages that have a plug-in architecture? You can write as much custom code as you want, but still have an infrastructure to start from.

Otherwise, if you really want to roll your own, I would start with the operating system. That could be fun! :p
As far as the Inteaon switches go (I have some here since we're on the beta team), they really show a lot of promise. I would expect to see them released pretty soon.