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Thread: xAP support in Cortex

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    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    Default xAP support in Cortex

    Well, with the new support for xAP within Cortex I step into the Idranet arena :-) My first hardware should arrive tomorrow , just in time to play over the weekend but I've been playing with Cortex for a short while. So there may be some silly 'newbie' questions posted here.

    My existing home automation has been very much built around using xAP as the common communication between many disparate systems and I have many sensors (temp, light utility pulses) as well as my heating, lighting, audio, video and alarm system all interlinked via xAP.

    Some of these are other standalone systems eg my lighting is mainly C-Bus with a splattering of DMX, my AV is Tag with Sonos/Escient along with UPnP, Slimserver and XBMC and my sensors are typically 1-wire. I have some Crestron and AMX stuff too. Having the common xAP layer allows these all to interlink and I hope the same will now be true with Idranet via Cortex. That's my goal , integrating Idranet seamlessly alongside my existing system.

    I'm playing with touchscreen control too and have aspirations of Idranet being fully integrated with that - displaying realtime data and control buttons. sliders etc.

    xAP is I believe a useful addition as it allows Idranet to be integrated alongside other 'legacy' systems and also for it to be augmented with devices for which no native hardware exists. The fact Idranet devices are attractively priced I hope will make it a great choice when initially choosing or expanding a (my) system. It also makes it potentially possible to introduce custom data sources into Cortex either from a software application or a hardware device for those with more demanding applications eg an announcement or reminder when your favourite TV program is about to start.

    From what I've seen Cortex has some very clever features that I hope will add smarts to my existing implementations - particularly in areas like occupancy management and smart/fuzzy heating control which is something I intend to tackle. Quite how this will all work I'm not sure yet - as I have no real experience with Cortex yet - and I've got to get to grips with the 'intelligence' layered on top of some apparently simple connections between objects .

    Is anyone already using the existing xPL support in Cortex ? - would like to hear your experience so far.

    cheers Kevin

  2. #2
    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    'not used xAP or xPL, have delved into the web-sites & asked a few questions ... but still not clear what they can add, for us ... not alone in this, I'm sure, and no doubt the penny will drop if I pesist !!

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    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    I'm a great advocate of the 'does exactly what its says on the tin' type approach - and in HA I want something that just works. Hence I've opted for a standalone lighting system that is there 24/7 and I simply supplement this behaviour with xAP. Same with my heating and my security systems. This paradigm is what attracted me about IDRANet - it has a 'Reflex' abilty to work standalone 24/7 and an extra layering of smarts added by Cortex. HA should just work transparently or the non technical users lose confidence.

    At some stage however you generally want more interaction between these systems, otherwise they are islands and that's where xAP comes in. It offers a way of sharing (networking) devices or information between systems in a simple way.

    I guess the main purpose for xAP in the Idratek context is that it allows many other external devices to be integrated into the Cortex world - ranging from say simple sensors that might not have IDRANet equivalents ( 1-wire, barometric pressure, wind speed , weather stations, etc) up to fairly rich data like Caller ID, TV Listings, Weather forecasts, Stock prices, news stories etc. Quite how (and if) this more complex data might be handled within Cortex I've yet to familiarise myself with.

    This integration might also apply to other complete network systems like for example C-Bus in my case.... and standalone complex devices like my alarm or AV/mp3 system Squeeeboxes, Escient, Sonos and Roku/Pinnacle. The ability to control transport, source / zone selection and volume of these is a really useful feature. You could also perhaps send display messages to these devices from Cortex - eg Caller ID popup with name, picture and location on your PC's , Tivo or MCE machine.

    I have found the IDRANet hardware offerings to be good quality, feature rich and attractively priced. They also react quickly and have the Reflex fallback feature so they should obviously be the I/O modules of choice for people here. Heck - I'm even supplementing my C-Bus lighting with some Idratek dimmers .

    There's another aspect too ... xAP allows a whole realtime PC based Touchscreen frontend to be implemented. As Cortex exposes it's devices via xAP this means you can create really high end graphic screens that react/control in realtime your IDRANet devices - lighting with sliders etc... Here's a screenshot of a screen that controls my Sonos system - it's not using Cortex - but it could be - and will be for lighting and heating as I get a little further into this.

    http://www.ukusa.demon.co.uk/HouseBotSonos.jpg

    Kevin
    Last edited by Kevin; 15th March 2008 at 02:20 PM.

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    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    >xAP, in the Idratek context ...

    interesting ... sounds like you're going to do well with this !

    >high-end graphics screens ...

    thinking of touch-screens, how about using an iPod Touch ... less expensive, and would be available wherever you were, in & about the house ... the public SDK is expected out in June :

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected...dlclaud115.xml

    and might allow some good possibilities (hopefully the very-tight controls aspect will apply just to software people wish to sell) ...

    or sign-on to Developer Connection & get access now :

    http://developer.apple.com/

    'sounds to me you could be just the guy to have a go at this !!

    I know Paul has thought of bringing the iPod Touch into his HA set-up, and must say it would be great to be able to intereact anywhere in & about the house - 'could be in the garden when the door-bell goes, might want to play a DVD when at the kitchen table, etc, etc ...
    Last edited by chris_j_hunter; 16th March 2008 at 09:53 AM. Reason: afterthought ...

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    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    The touch screen software we use can run any PC so you can now get very affordable solutions..

    Re the iPod Touch - I'm very tempted to get one of these - and I'm just waiting for the IPhone to go 3G and I might even jump in there. Currently I use the Nokia 770 devices as touchscreens.

    I'm an Apple Developer Centre Member so I do already have the SDK.. One thing I have a lot of is "todo's" and not a lot of is "time". It's good to be in a position now though where things are mostly do-able - ie the products are all there.

    Kevin

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    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    another thought ... how about an iPOD Touch & a WiFi camera, for a front-door video connection ... linked into Idratek front-door object (s) ??

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    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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    <todos ... time ...

    'know the feeling ... we're busy laying pipes & conduits, experimenting with plaster, and silicone ... the bits for an Idratek PC-server are in a box downstairs, all I have to do is assemble them - some hope !

    OTOH, our desktop's monitor has gone dark, and last night the portable's optical disc drive was being very choosy ablout what it would spin ... both are PowerPC G4 ... so maybe we're about to update ... am thinking of a 24" iMac plus a MacBook (or maybe a 'Pro plus a 'Pro - I tend to the latter, updating infrequently, but SWMBO says go low-end & update more-often), and a Time Machine, and maybe an iPod Touch ... hence the renewed interest in using the 'Touch with the HA !

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    Automated Home Guru JonS's Avatar
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    Kevin
    Very interesting thoughts and great to have someone with such a rich HA background in the Idratek camp(and many others)!

    I guess the point of XPL/XAP in Cortex rather than the API is that with the pre-built interface it is more turn-key than having to write an API for each device. Hence Idratek now have support for C-bus via your XAP controller without having to explicitly interface with it as they have for Rako.

    I do not know the history of XAP and XPL but gather there was a fork, but could you summarise the key differences between the protocols?

    I've had a look at Z-wave and Zigbee recently and these seem to cover very similar ground to XAP/XPL only being wireless & encrypted. Are there other salient differences between these wireless protocols and the XAP/XPL protocols.

    I like the look of the touch-screen but I am with Chris questioning why you would want to walk up to a wall panel if that functionality could be delivered to a hand-held device like an iTouch / N800? I am afraid that I am less optimistic than Chris about Apple opening anything up on their devices as their exclusion of Java seems designed to prevent people from legitimately being able to add non-Apple controlled apps to their devices. Having played with an iTouch and N800 recently If the Touch had blue tooth (so it could be extended with GPS, linked to a phone when no wifi etc) I think it would be the killer hand-held device. I am not convinced that the form-factors of browsing/viewing (ie mainly looking at the device) and calling (mainly holding it next to your ear) are compatible. Phones became small for a reason and small works for calls and text. But using a small-screened smart phone as a browser is a poor experience cf the Touch/N800 experience. Combined devices are seriously flawed ergonomically and also in battery life. You want your phone on all the time but you don't need a browser interface / wifi etc etc on all the time. Flatten the battery on your music player / browser and its a pain, loose your use of phone and its a major problem if out on business (e.g .a train) with no chance to recharge.

    Drifted a bit off from XAP - sorry!

    JonS

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    Moderator Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonS View Post
    Kevin
    Very interesting thoughts and great to have someone with such a rich HA background in the Idratek camp(and many others)!
    Thanks :-) I often feel I'm preaching or 'xAPtising' people - and I'm going to try not to do that too much here as it's an Idratek forum. It's just that xAP provides a really neat way of doing things that solves a lot of problems ... and I should also mention I have no financial interest in xAP - I do offer a gateway - but at approx cost.
    I guess the point of XPL/XAP in Cortex rather than the API is that with the pre-built interface it is more turn-key than having to write an API for each device. Hence Idratek now have support for C-bus via your XAP controller without having to explicitly interface with it as they have for Rako.
    Yes exactly - if you support xAP then you open your supported devices up to the conduits that we offer - so yes in lighting for example C-Bus , Dynalite, DMX, X10. It also works the reverse way around - if you started with say X10 controlled via xAP you could swap later to say C-Bus without changing your software - as the two appear the same via xAP. Perhaps more interesting if you had a xAP enabled Media player - a Barix Exstreamer for example and then wanted to swap it for say SlimServer or Sonos ( although we've got a lot of work still to do at our end here)
    I do not know the history of XAP and XPL but gather there was a fork, but could you summarise the key differences between the protocols?
    Let me address this in a separate post - both from the protocol difference and perhaps of more interest here - how they have been supported within Cortex. xAP is really capably integrated in Cortex both for getting xAP devices into and exposing IDRAnet objects out from Cortex. ;-) (thanks Vivian !)
    I've had a look at Z-wave and Zigbee recently and these seem to cover very similar ground to XAP/XPL only being wireless & encrypted. Are there other salient differences between these wireless protocols and the XAP/XPL protocols.
    xAP is a really simple but very powerful and expandable protocol , human readable, and well within the capabilities of hobbyist programmers - if you have an XYZ device and a bit of experience in Visual Basic or whatever then you can probably 'xAP' it yourself. You certainly couldn't do that with Z-Wave, ZigBee or UPnP writing at the protocol level.

    xAP would be a route for linking products that work on ZigBee, Z-Wave etc into other applications though... eg Cortex... You'd create a gateway application attaching to a USB, RS232 or Ethernet hardware bridge much like the C-Bus one and there you go..
    I like the look of the touch-screen but I am with Chris questioning why you would want to walk up to a wall panel if that functionality could be delivered to a hand-held device like an iTouch / N800? I am afraid that I am less optimistic than Chris about Apple opening anything up on their devices as their exclusion of Java seems designed to prevent people from legitimately being able to add non-Apple controlled apps to their devices. Having played with an iTouch and N800 recently If the Touch had blue tooth (so it could be extended with GPS, linked to a phone when no wifi etc) I think it would be the killer hand-held device. I am not convinced that the form-factors of browsing/viewing (ie mainly looking at the device) and calling (mainly holding it next to your ear) are compatible. Phones became small for a reason and small works for calls and text. But using a small-screened smart phone as a browser is a poor experience cf the Touch/N800 experience. Combined devices are seriously flawed ergonomically and also in battery life. You want your phone on all the time but you don't need a browser interface / wifi etc etc on all the time. Flatten the battery on your music player / browser and its a pain, loose your use of phone and its a major problem if out on business (e.g .a train) with no chance to recharge.

    Drifted a bit off from XAP - sorry!

    JonS
    The touchscreen application I referred to can run on any Windows based PPC platform too :-) in realtime. So you can use whatever device you wish from tiny to tablet , and from anywhere with an internet link !

    I do agree about wall based touchscreens I originally thought I wanted a lot but they are often not what you want to use at the time. However some applications work well - showing you say emails or telephone call history - weather forecast and diaries, unsetting alarm etc... but it's your personal choice. The Sonos one I used as an example would be best on a portable screen - in fact it was designed for the Nokia 770 devices.

    The startup times and limited real estate of handhelds can be an issue though as can multiple applications if you have them - eg phone or via a browser. Fingers are not fine pointing instruments and a stylus is a real pita. That's one reason that Crestron and AMX portable screens are good - instant ON , realtime response , nicely sized and dedicated purpose. One other aspect people don't like about touchscreen remotes is lack of tactile feedback...

    At least we have the choices now...

    Kevin

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    Automated Home Legend chris_j_hunter's Avatar
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