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Why I Still Like My Stargate Better Than Homeseer, Elk M1, or Anything Else

upstatemike

Senior Member
Working on a simple project this week where I need to control 16 relays to follow the state of 16 wired inputs. I was going to do this in my Elk M1 but found I only had 8 relays left. I don't have physical space to add another relay board to the Elk easily so I decided I would use 8 relays and 8 Stargate relays for my project. It was in the process of setting this up that I was reminded how much easier it is to accomplish things in Stargate than in any modern automation system.
 
In Stargate I set up a simple event for each relay:
 
If Input1 is ON
Then Relay1 ON
Else Relay1 OFF
 
That is it, nothing else required. By contrast for the Elk relays I had to use two events for each relay:
 
Whenever Input1 becomes not secure
Then turn Relay1 ON
 
Whenever Input1 becomes secure
Then Relay1 OFF
 
Then I had some situations where I needed 2 inputs to control 1 relay... again simple in Stargate:
 
If Input1 is ON
OR Input2 is ON
Then Relay1 ON
Else Relay1 OFF
 
But In Elk I have to now use three events:
 
Whenever Input1 becomes not secure
OR Input2 becomes not secure
Then turn Relay1 ON
 
Whenever Input1 becomes secure
AND Input2 is secure
Then Relay1 OFF
 
Whenever Input2 becomes secure
AND Input1 is secure
Then Relay1 OFF
 
As things get more complex the gap between clean Stargate logic and messy "trigger based" logic just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I have some events in Stargate that evalute nested logic 4 or 5 layers deep. I can't even imagine how many individual trigger based events would be required to replicate those!
 
The other thing I was reminded of is just how fast a Stargate is. According to the statistics page it is currently taking 2 milliseconds for each Stargate cycle. That means every 2 milliseconds it checks the state of all 80 inputs and all 40 outputs and evaluates all the logic in every event and fires off any resulting actions. I never worry that the system will miss a transition since it will recheck all of the inputs a hundred or more times and correct itself before I could even begin to percieve a delay. 
 
Unfortunately the inputs and outputs on my Stargate are now maxed out so I can't move more stuff onto it. Maybe I'll start hunting for a used unit and run 2 Stargates instead of wasting time on the modern but much lower performance alternatives being offered these days.
 

Mark S.

Active Member
Sighs.  I decommissioned my Stargate several years ago when I switched to ELK - but I kept everything just in case.  I too was spoiled by the nested logic and the rock-solid performance of Stargate.  I still can't understand why ELK and Homeseer have not seen the wisdom of nesting.  That said, I have found other ways of doing what Stargate did - it's just gotten more complicated.  Even after all these years, I still feel like home automation took a step backward when JDS Tech quit Stargate.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
So here is another question:
 
What is the cheapest way bring a large number (say 80-100) of dry contact inputs into a home automation system these days? Assuming I had to start over I am faced with the following realities:
 
1 Stargate is gone and even if I keep my old one going nothing really talks to it anymore.
 
2 Elk is pretty expensive and has a lot of overhead I really don't need for just monotoring dry contacts. They are also less friendly to DIY folks than they used to be.
 
3 Other alarm panels like DSC don't appear to have a zone type for non-alarm applications and want to tie everything to the "armed or disarmed" state of the panel. I would never use it for security so it would never be armed.
 
4 Hobby style GPIO boards based on RasPi or whatever are not really set up fo wall mounting and screw terminals etc. and don't look like they would scale into the range I'm talking about.
 
5 Dry contact inputs for wireless protocols like Z-Wave or Zigbee are just crazy stupid expensive. I could pay $30 per input compared to the average $4-$5 per input with a 16 zone alarm  board. Also they don't generally come in multiple input configurations so you are talking a messy installation footprint.
 
So what is the answer for hard wired inputs these days without relying on old and fading platforms?
 

Mark S.

Active Member
I hear you, and I considered all the options you've listed.  But for me, the 16 zone boards for ELK are not expensive compared to other options.  More importantly, I really wanted to link my inputs to Homeseer and the ELK plugin was the answer.  The onboard ELK schedule does about half my events for digital inputs.   Homeseer does the other half.  The advantage of Homeseer is that I can do some nested logic via scripts.  I don't think ELK is dead..... yet - not as good as Stargate, but the best option I found.
 

picta

Active Member
upstatemike said:
So what is the answer for hard wired inputs these days without relying on old and fading platforms?
Everything is "wireless" these days, so the hard wired is a thing of the past and is best addressed by the "old and fading platforms" like Elk or HAI. For a lot of inputs those were and remain the most economical options. I would stock up on the still available boards, they would serve you for a long time, just like Stargate that has been working for me for over 20 years.
 

BraveSirRobbin

Moderator
I went with an Arduino Mega and a HomeSeer plugin, but I don't have the massive amount of inputs like you do.  You can go with multiple units.
 
The only problem I have is on a power failure I have to manually reset the Arduino even though the plugin is supposed to automatically reset the connection upon powerup.
 
I believe I have a post somewhere here where I show pics of the screw terminal shield I used as well.
 

pete_c

Guru
Here still have a couple of ADI Ocelots which I tinkered with for a bit before going to the OmniPro 2 panel.  Looks like ADI still sells the Ocelot. 
 
There are 16 zone input modules which you can use with it or 8/8 input/output modules for it and there is a HS 3 plugin for it.
 
Just looking on Ebay see a tiny USB 30 channel board there for $35 USD.  ==> USB 30 Channel Input/Output Expander PCB Board for Windows, Linux
 
I do prefer wired sensors for my OmniPro 2 panel.  (use contact sensors and now updated PIR / Microwave sensors).
 
I am now testing wireless sensors with the Ring alarm system in house #2.  They work OK.  I am using a Ring to MQTT plugin to manage it which is my preference versus the mobile application for it. Thinking the sensors are ZWave.  It has a built in SIM card for failover over.  I mounted the hub in a hallway and have it connected and powered via a POE cable which goes to a managed POE switch.  The MQTT plugin does mention radio signals and battery condition from the Ring devices and now the Ring to MQTT plugin includes video for the Ring doorbell.  It still though talks to the cloud via ISP or cellular connection.
 
Monitoring is reasonably priced by the year.  I am managing it with both Homeseer mcsMQTT and Home Assistant MQTT.  
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
picta said:
Everything is "wireless" these days, so the hard wired is a thing of the past and is best addressed by the "old and fading platforms" like Elk or HAI. For a lot of inputs those were and remain the most economical options. I would stock up on the still available boards, they would serve you for a long time, just like Stargate that has been working for me for over 20 years.
 
Two problems with wireless:
 
1 Cost per input is too high
 
2 Batteries. In other words maintenance as you scale it out. 
 
I know the industry imagines a customer base that buys 4 door contacts 3 smart switches and 2 smart bulbs and quits but the real world doesn't look like that.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
picta said:
Everything is "wireless" these days, so the hard wired is a thing of the past and is best addressed by the "old and fading platforms" like Elk or HAI. For a lot of inputs those were and remain the most economical options. I would stock up on the still available boards, they would serve you for a long time, just like Stargate that has been working for me for over 20 years.
 
Two peoblems with wireless:
 
1 Cost per input is too high
 
2 Batteries. In other words maintenance as you scale it out. 
 
I know the industry imagines a customer base that buys 4 door contacts 3 smart switches and 2 smart bulbs and quits but the real world doesn't look like that.
 
BraveSirRobbin said:
I went with an Arduino Mega and a HomeSeer plugin, but I don't have the massive amount of inputs like you do.  You can go with multiple units.
 
The only problem I have is on a power failure I have to manually reset the Arduino even though the plugin is supposed to automatically reset the connection upon powerup.
 
I believe I have a post somewhere here where I show pics of the screw terminal shield I used as well.
 
Cool. I'll look around for that post.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
picta said:
Everything is "wireless" these days, so the hard wired is a thing of the past and is best addressed by the "old and fading platforms" like Elk or HAI. For a lot of inputs those were and remain the most economical options. I would stock up on the still available boards, they would serve you for a long time, just like Stargate that has been working for me for over 20 years.
 
Two problems with wireless:
 
1 Cost per input is too high
 
2 Batteries. In other words maintenance as you scale it out. 
 
I know the industry imagines a customer base that buys 4 door contacts 3 smart switches and 2 smart bulbs and quits but the real world doesn't look like that.
 
BraveSirRobbin said:
I went with an Arduino Mega and a HomeSeer plugin, but I don't have the massive amount of inputs like you do.  You can go with multiple units.
 
The only problem I have is on a power failure I have to manually reset the Arduino even though the plugin is supposed to automatically reset the connection upon powerup.
 
I believe I have a post somewhere here where I show pics of the screw terminal shield I used as well.
 
Cool. I'll look around for that post.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
pete_c said:
Here still have a couple of ADI Ocelots which I tinkered with for a bit before going to the OmniPro 2 panel.  Looks like ADI still sells the Ocelot. 
 
There are 16 zone input modules which you can use with it or 8/8 input/output modules for it and there is a HS 3 plugin for it.
 
Just looking on Ebay see a tiny USB 30 channel board there for $35 USD.  ==> USB 30 Channel Input/Output Expander PCB Board for Windows, Linux
 
I do prefer wired sensors for my OmniPro 2 panel.  (use contact sensors and now updated PIR / Microwave sensors).
 
I am now testing wireless sensors with the Ring alarm system in house #2.  They work OK.  I am using a Ring to MQTT plugin to manage it which is my preference versus the mobile application for it. Thinking the sensors are ZWave.  It has a built in SIM card for failover over.  I mounted the hub in a hallway and have it connected and powered via a POE cable which goes to a managed POE switch.  The MQTT plugin does mention radio signals and battery condition from the Ring devices and now the Ring to MQTT plugin includes video for the Ring doorbell.  It still though talks to the cloud via ISP or cellular connection.
 
Monitoring is reasonably priced by the year.  I am managing it with both Homeseer mcsMQTT and Home Assistant MQTT.  
 
Didn't Homeseer used to sell an OEM input board made by ADI? At least it looked a lot like a miniature Ocelot except orange.
 
That Ebay board looks ideal. I wonder how hard it would be to pull status from it into Homeseer or Home Assistant?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/USB-30-Channel-Input-Output-Expander-PCB-Board-for-Windows-Linux/174650229375?hash=item28a9f7027f:g:l2gAAOSwB1RgNUqd for anybody else who wants to look at it.
 

pete_c

Guru
Didn't Homeseer used to sell an OEM input board made by ADI? At least it looked a lot like a miniature Ocelot except orange.
 
yes.
 
There are still some Homeseer users using the Ocelot today.
 
Personally here have a little collection then inherited more from a Homeseer user that lived near by and passed away.  (Jim Doolittle).
 
I helped his wife remove all of the automation in his house before she sold it and she gave it to me.  She liked the automation but was not IT centric at all.  It was difficult for her when Jim passed away.
 
I was checking up and visiting her for a while after he died.  Well then it was like having two wives for a bit and it was low on the WAF here.
She was totally dependant on Jim for everything (literally).  
 
It was around Easter and he went out to buy milk and got hit by a semitruck.
 
 
Ocelot, UPB, 1-Wire temperature stuff et al.
 
I was helping him with his plugins way long time ago.
 
Jim Doolittle
 

pete_c

Guru
I went nuts with the old house putting contact sensors on most of the interior doors...mostly because it was easy with a large attic and unfinished basement...IE: laundry room door, bathroom doors, bedroom doors, et al...that and wall mounted plus ceiling mounted PIRs all over the place.  Well also like turning on Touchscreens when you entered a room type stuff...
 
I was doing a bunch of follow me automation around the house which actually was low on the WAF ; but she let me do it then told me to shut off the follow me automation...
 

pete_c

Guru
I did similiar for a commercial project which was expanding and securing a server room way underground and was able to do it for around 1.2 million which went under budget way long time ago...I had fun with it remotely managing / automating that room and the next door UPS room et al...
 

picta

Active Member
upstatemike said:
 
Didn't Homeseer used to sell an OEM input board made by ADI? At least it looked a lot like a miniature Ocelot except orange.
 
That Ebay board looks ideal. I wonder how hard it would be to pull status from it into Homeseer or Home Assistant?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/USB-30-Channel-Input-Output-Expander-PCB-Board-for-Windows-Linux/174650229375?hash=item28a9f7027f:g:l2gAAOSwB1RgNUqd for anybody else who wants to look at it.
Hmm, it looks like you have to query the status of each port based on the list of commands in the description, it does not mention any status reporting.
 
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