Touchscreens and Pre-Wire


Active Member
I'm working on the touchscreen portion of my pre-wire plan and am trying to figure out what to wire without having to lock myself into a given solution yet.

The core components in this house will be an Elk M1, HomeSeer 2.0, and Windows MCE with extenders throughout the house.

The most flexible (and most expenseive) touchscreen solution would seem to be full-fledge computers tied to each touchscreen location so they could hit MCE, run a MainLobby/CQC/HomeSeer interface, hit ElkRM, etc. But I'm also looking at mControl now that I know it will have an Elk interface soon. Touchscreens tied to an MCE extender would be very slick and relatively inexpensive compared to a full PC. But will theis be too limiting?

As you can see, I'm looking at a lot of options for touchscreens. Which leads to the point, what should I pre-wire for these suckers. Just Cat5, Cat5 + local AC power? Multiple Cat5? Full blown connections for PC (though possibly a Cat5 KVM solution mihgt handle that).

What have others done? Do I need to decide on my TS solution now?

I just finished the pre-wire on my house. It is funny that you mentioned using a combination of the ELK m1, mce, cqc, homeseer, etc. That is exactly what I am planning on doing.

For the touchscreen locations I ran 2 cat5e. This covers me if I use a dedicated pc option (1 for network, 1 for balun vga), or if I decide to go with a RedRadio solution that only uses 1. However, with a dedicated pc type touchscreen, you need power. I did not run power as I had an outlet under each location that I could tap into. If you can run dedicated power, thats even better.
I agree with Toymaster - 2)Cat5 plus 18/2 for power should do it.
BTW, you can run MainLobby on a Centeral PC (not at the touchscreen) and use UTMA touchscreens (1 cat5 plus 18/2) or Cat5 to VGA/Serial baluns (1 Cat5 direct to PC - not LAN plus 18/2), a lower powered panel PC like the ELK TS via RDP to the Server, Ful PC behind the wall with dumb touchscreen (VGA cable plus 18/2), Full Panel PC (1 cat5 plus 18/2 for power).

You could even run 802.11g PanelPC wireless with just 18/2 for power for difficult install (not likely for new construction).
A couple of future considerations:

1. Ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) - these PCs have just been released and I expect the prices to come down and functionality/performance to improve. I believe that UMPCs will be essential components of future homes and should be taken into consideration. (The upcoming release of mControl, due in June supports UMPC screen sizes.)

2. New extenders - while Microsoft has not specifically announced any new extenders, I am hopeful that new extenders, perhaps even touchscreen based extenders or UMPC-based extenders may soon be announced.

3. Take Vista and HD into consideration - ensure that if you're going to use touchscreens/monitors distributed in the house, they can be adapted/swapped out to support streaming HD.

Excellent points Ted. I still hold out hope for SoftSled ... if not in Vista, maybe later. This is precisely why I want to keep my options open in terms of what I prewire for. Any input on that in terms of UMPC or Extender based solutions?
Two points:

1. I have no insight or inside info on the status of SoftSled (software MCX) or alternate hardware MCXs - but I have to think that Microsoft and other companies have seen this hole and will fill it shortly.

2. Also, there is another (related?) technology called SideShow ( which could allow for very compact (switchbox-sized?) interfaces.
The UMPC is really nothing new other than possibly a nice size package at a nice price point. I have used various tablets over the years that are similar, but they were more expensive (new). I have been running MainLobby on this sized package for years. Nothing new there either. The difference is mHome you have to wait for the company to design the screens for a UMPC. With MainLobby, you click and drag and Save. No prob.

From a prewire perspective, the UMPC just puts choice on how many in walls you prewire for. You may decide to use wireless handheld in the majority of rooms, and in Wall for only high traffic areas like a Foyer or Kitchen. But, my recommendation is to prewire anyway and just zigzag and staple the extra wire stud to stud and cover with drywall for a creative day.

Don't forget to prewire for wireless access points.
A touchscreen sized extender with connection to in-wal speakers with local amp (Lyriq style) would be excellent for whole house audio. Not to mention the HA uses.
You can also do power over ethernet, which will run over the extra pair in a Cat5 along with data. The Elk touchscreen will support this according to an earlier thread, and so would many other devices. You just put a balun on each end one of which plugs in at the opposite side. Some more expensive network switches even support this natively, so you don't need separate baluns at one end.

The elk touchscreen is supposed to be able to run the CQC .NET client. That is the direction I am considering.

So concievably you could do all of it with a single Cat5. Of course extra wire now is always a good idea. You might even consider just running speedpull 2 Cat5 and coax to each drop.