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Starting From Scratch

upstatemike

Senior Member
I have decided to take the advice I so often give others and create a "starting Point" document on what I really want out of an automation system. I am taking the attitude that I am willing to start from scratch if need be to get what I want. Everything is on the table except the phone system, Slimserver/Squeezebox system, and the fact that any touch screens or other keypad devices MUST be surface mountable. (Using Wiremold boxes is OK if the device will fit in one). Apart from those "non-negotiables" I am willing to consider any solution that is able to do what I require. My initial thoughts are either an OmniPro II + HAL or Stargate + Homeseer + MainLobby?

Anyway here are my requirements. Any advice is welcome:


Must Have

Hard wired inputs (75-100)
16 zones of security
24 zones of wireless sensors for hard to wire locations
8 zones of FA
2 Gas Sensor zones
Lighting controls (X-10 and UPB or Insteon)
Relay outputs (24)
Thermostat Control (8)
Virtual Weather Station support
Internet weather forecast feed
Voice output
Wav file output
Ability to run bat or exe files on a PC
Paging through Panasonic phone system to announce mail or doorbell
Speak through zoned speakers for alerts, reminders, and status reports
Control zoned music system (Russound or equiv.)
Control SlimServer music server
Display HA messages on Squeezebox music player displays
6 surface mount LCD touch screens
Ability to display door cameras on touch screens when triggered by doorbell
Control music zones and SlimServer from touch screens
Turn on and tune an FM tuner from touch screens
Control Security and HVAC from touch screens
Control Lighting from touch screens
Control a DVD changer in basement from touch screens
3 standard security keypads
1 access control keypad
6 cameras viewed on touch screens and a modulated TV channel
Touch Tone control though a spare line on phone system
Voice Control using a spare line on phone system speakerphones
Extensive logging options


Nice to Have

Serial connection to Panasonic phone system for call status info
Extended energy monitoring features
Table stands for some of the touch screens
Server disk space and utilization monitoring


Do Not Need/Want

Irrigation controls
Pool controls
Home Theater controls
 
Interestingly, my current system does most of what you want. I'm using an HAI OmniPro II with mostly UPB but also some X-10 lighting. I'm also using a Stargate for voice announcement through my Panasonic phone system. I have whole-house AV using a Xantech ZPR68. The software "glue" is HouseBot for which I've written a plugin that provides two-way communication to the OmniPro II via either RS-232 or network. I have to get ready for work now but I'll post a bunch more details tonight.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Spanky said:
Looks like a PC based control package connected to a hardware controller. :)
Probably, except I can't find touch screens to work with a PC based system that are both surface mount AND can be run from a single Cat5 cable. Not thrilled with the idea of running a bunch of extra PCs just to drive touch screens either but I will stay open minded on that for now.

If I go the HAI plus HAL route then the PC is just doing VR and TTS and maybe the weather stuff, while the touch screen and video switching is all handled by the panel.

Still disappointed about the RCS screens not being available. They use 2-pair for an RS-485 connection (which includes power) and 2 pair for ethernet.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
dlmorgan999 said:
Interestingly, my current system does most of what you want. I'm using an HAI OmniPro II with mostly UPB but also some X-10 lighting. I'm also using a Stargate for voice announcement through my Panasonic phone system. I have whole-house AV using a Xantech ZPR68. The software "glue" is HouseBot for which I've written a plugin that provides two-way communication to the OmniPro II via either RS-232 or network. I have to get ready for work now but I'll post a bunch more details tonight.
I have to admit I never thought of combining a Stargate with an OmniPro II. I guess since they are similiar in a lot of areas I just thought of them as either/or, not both. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more details on this this evening!!
 

DavidL

Senior Member
upstatemike,
I am not aware of a touchscreen (especially "in wall" or even less likely "on wall) that runs on ONE Cat5.
UTMA comes close, requiring One Cat 5 PLUS a 18/2 wire for 12 volts. There should be no issue (sizewize) of putting one cat5 and one 18/2 into a wiremold surface track. I suspect there wouldn't be any noise issues either, with 12 volt and signal running in parallel in the channel, but I would use a good Cat 5e wire and keep the distance to a minimum where they run in parallel.

The current 12 inch UTMA fit in a box that fits in a 2x4 cavity, so is probably 3.2 or so inches in depth. You could fashion a 4 sided box very quickly that you could surface mount the screen. With a "chop saw", and 8 miter cuts, it would take 30 minutes or so per box, plus finishing time (paint , stain, etc). You could notch one of the sides for the wiremold channel so no raw wires showing.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
DavidL said:
upstatemike,
I am not aware of a touchscreen (especially "in wall" or even less likely "on wall) that runs on ONE Cat5.
The HAI Omnitouch with video does. The RCS CommStar LTS78 Touchpanel will also (assuming it is ever released).
 

bfisher

Active Member
Have you looked at RedRadio for your touchscreens? Seems like it would help eliminate some of your issues.

You know I am going to throw in my 2 cents :)...
HVPro + NetworX (Caddx) + PC (running HomevisionXL (included with HVPro) would accomplish much (if not all) of what you are looking for. I don't know about all the I/O - you would need some expansion boards (I don't know what the max limit is).

HomevisionXL is the programming software but also contains a very flexible control interface (which you would display and use on your touchscreens (that's what I'm doing)).

Another issue might be serial ports (HVPro is limited to 4). However, if you have a PC attached (in my opinion - it's the best way) - you can overcome that issue.
 

DavidL

Senior Member
mike,
yes, you are right. I am just "so far beyond" the OEM "touchpanels" that I don't even consider them any more :) Now, that is not to say they won't work for you, I just don't think they are a player for my install, and of course don't work with Cinemar software (or any other HA software) so don't recommend them to others that are trying to create advanced implementations that I fully expect yours will end up.

I remember pictures of your wiring closet(s). You are not timid about these things :)
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
I haven't been able to picture how door cameras would display using redradio touch screens.

HVPro is certainly an option but I would need to see how the phone and VR stuff would integrate. Also which of my features do I accomplish with HVPro that I can't get with my existing Stargate? Still, I am open to any combination as long as the net result covers my requirements list.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
DavidL said:
I remember pictures of your wiring closet(s). You are not timid about these things :)
The surface mount requirement and 1-wire feed do not come from a fear of wiring. It is the nature of the 110 year old construction combined with the fact that space gets re-allocated from time to time and I want to be able to move screens without leaving major holes in the walls from removing a flush mount device with a giant wiring harness.

The OEM screens are made that way for a reason and I guess I fall into their target market.
 

bfisher

Active Member
upstatemike said:
I haven't been able to picture how door cameras would display using redradio touch screens.
My understanding is RedRadio displays whatever is being shown on the PC. You would just simply display the camera feed and the RedRadio would display what is showing...
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
bfisher said:
upstatemike said:
I haven't been able to picture how door cameras would display using redradio touch screens.
My understanding is RedRadio displays whatever is being shown on the PC. You would just simply display the camera feed and the RedRadio would display what is showing...
I think they display 1/8 of what is displayed on the PC screen and you have to control what is in each octant so it looks right on each touch screen. Or did I misunderstand the way it works?
 

DavidL

Senior Member
bfisher is correct.
UTMA does a great job with typical cameras.
It will not do a "great" job with DVD or HD resolution content. So, watching a movie via a UTMA screen is not a great solution. You will see it, but it will be grainy (compared to the source content capability).

If I can find my digital camera battery charger (searched this AM since my wife's due date was yesterday) I will take a pic of my UTMA with a multi camera scene view in Mainlobby and post for u.

The Rad I/O (not UTMA) does display 1/8 VGA on each mini screen. Pretty small to show even a camera view, but not impossible. But for secondary rooms (a bedroom, etc) they make a nice "surface mountable" (with some wood work) option for limited control (not as limited as a static OEM display).
 
upstatemike said:
I have to admit I never thought of combining a Stargate with an OmniPro II. I guess since they are similiar in a lot of areas I just thought of them as either/or, not both. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more details on this this evening!!
Ok so here are more details on my configuration. I've been in my current house for almost 15 years so a lot of this has been around for a while. I'm currently building a new house so *some* of what I talk about is what I will be doing in my new house.

I currently have an HAI OmniPro II with 30 active security sensors (48 configured zones but capable of up to 192, I think). Wireless zones are also supported but I'm not using any.

I don't currently have my smoke detectors connected but I plan to do so in my new house. I also don't have any CO or gas detectors but I plan to have those in the new house as well.

I have 18 UPB switches and two UPB in-wall controllers (all HAI). I also have maybe six or so X-10 switches.

I have five HAI RC-80B thermostats (new house will have six) all connected to the OmniPro II.

My current system has 32 relay outputs but I'm not using any of them (I had a previous HAI controller and the expansion cabinets came with relay outputs). I will likely be using a few relay outputs in the new house but I may just use what's on the Stargate.

I have a Davis Weather Monitor II (currently connected via RS-232) and I'm running VWS. I have VWS generating a series of graphs every five minutes. These are used both for my home intranet page and also to update a dynamic image in HouseBot. I also have VWS writing out a CSV file which I parse and use to update properties in HouseBot. These properties can easily be displayed on any HouseBot panel (more about HouseBot to follow).

I have no internet weather forecast feed, but I think others have written them for HouseBot. If not, it should be easy to add.

I am using the Stargate primarily as a voice announcement solution. I have a two-way RS-232 interface between the Stargate and HouseBot (I could also do one to the OmniPro II but I haven't found the need for one). Since the OmniPro II is already talking to HouseBot I have annoucements triggered when the security mode changes.

For example I have a morning greeting that confirms the system was disarmed and reads me the outdoor temperature (picked up from the outdoor temperature sensor on the OmniPro II). I can make most any request I want from the Stargate to HouseBot (I created my own little serial command structure). After HouseBot receives the command it can transmit results out the same serial port. Then the Stargate can pick up the results and act accordingly.

I'm not currently doing any WAV file output but it would be easy to interface a sound card from the HouseBot server to a free input port on the ZPR68.

The annoucements I mentioned above are mostly done through my Panasonic phone system (thanks to advice I got here I think from UpstateMike!). For rooms that don't have a phone but *are* an AV zone I can have the annoucement go through the ZPR68 to the room amp (all needed zone switching can be done by HouseBot as I also have an RS-232 interface to the ZPR68).

The ZPR68 is my whole-house AV system. It has eight source inputs (analog audio and composite video) and up to 15 zones (mine is "fully loaded" with all zones). The ZPR68 is fully integrated with HouseBot. And since I installed a full IR infrastructure when I installed it (I was previously using a Pronto remote to control everything) it made it easy to interface with HouseBot. I just installed a USB-UIRT and coupled its output to a receiver on the ZPR68. It works quite well.

I have a number of AV components connected including a tuner, a Dish DVR942, two Sony 400-disc DVD changers, a squeezebox and a ReplayTV - all controlled from HouseBot using touchscreens or any PC in my house.

I have the analog output of my squeezebox connected to one of the inputs on the ZPR68. Right now I control it via the SlimServer web interface. I've looked at the protocol docs though and it seems like it should be fairly easy to integrate it with HouseBot - I just haven't had time yet.

The cameras are one area I don't know much about yet. I don't have any in my current house. I've wired for three in my new house but I haven't yet figured out the best way to display them. I'm doing a lot of reading on this site for more ideas.

I'm currently using ViewSonic ViewPads for user interface in some rooms. These are 10" Windows CE tablets and I've installed CF wireless cards. In the "main" rooms I'm using Dell 15" touchscreens connected to dedicated PCs. I don't really like the fact that I need dedicated PCs but I *really* like the large size and they have lots of "real estate" (1024 x 768). I've recently seen posts here about the UTMA stuff and they sound interesting. I may consider one or more of those mounted in-wall in the new house.

I have a number of screens in HouseBot that allow me to control each thermostat, run "buttons" (macros) on the OmniPro II, change security mode, etc. I also have predefined lighting "modes" in my two viewing areas - things like "Conversation" (100%), "Intermission" (about 50%) and "Viewing" (about 10%). In addition I can turn individual lights on and off and even vary the levels from a HouseBot remote (although this function currently doesn't work as well as I would like but that's due to the fact that my OmniPro II --> HouseBot interface isn't really finished yet).

I have three in-wall security keypads connected to my OmniPro II. I'm not sure what you mean by "access control keypad" but if you are referring to something like proximity detectors then I'm afraid to say that the OmniPro II doesn't support anything like that "out of the box". That's one area that I like better on the Elk M1.

The OmniPro II has a full phone interface. Right now I have it tied in *before* the phone system using an RJ-31X. I may move it to a spare CO port though in the future. You can do almost anything you want via the phone interface if needed.

I don't have any voice control capability and I've not looked into it so I'm not sure what's possible. It's something that I would like to have in the future once voice recognition is just a little bit better (although Microsoft Voice Command for the pocket PC is pretty amazing!).

HouseBot has all kinds of logging options. In fact this is probably a good time to talk a bit more about it. I've been using it for several years (since just before Meedio bought it). Even though it's not the most current technology (it's written in Visual C++ 6.0 and not .NET) it's still VERY well written. The original author (Scott Leonard) has always provided excellent support - even when Meedio owned the product. When they went belly-up he bought the product back from them and he's now working on the next upgrade.

If I didn't already have so much time invested in HouseBot I might have likely gone with CQC instead but with the recent price change I think HouseBot is a really good choice. Before Meedio bought it it was free and even now I think it's only $80 or so (no more than $100). It has no built-in media support but users have come up with their own solutions (including me - I have an Access database that I've interfaced with that works quite nicely). It supports VBscript which allows anyone with a knowledge of VB to do all kinds of things.

I am going to buy a Brand Electronics OneMeter for my new house and I plan to interface it with HouseBot (it seems like it will be quite easy to do). People have also written PC status tools that show things like disk space, uptime, etc. The user community is not as large as some of the other software solutions but there are a number of very knowledgable users out there who are very helpful.

Well I guess this post has become a small novel (it's certainly the biggest post I've ever made!) but I'm very happy with everything I've been able to configure and I'm especially happy with HouseBot (before it was around none of my systems were integrated). If you have any more questions or would like to see some HouseBot screenshots feel free to ask.

-- Dave
 
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