Submission by Craig – This article discusses the RFXCOM Visonic receiver available from www.rfxcom.com, and how it can easily be used to integrate a Visonic or BT VP1000 Home Monitor Alarm system with Homeseer. The VP1000 alarm from BT has been monitoring my home for sometime.
The next step was to integrate the alarm with my HA system, running Homeseer 2.0. I wanted to enable the HA system to be more aware of what was happening inside and outside the house. My master plan is to have multiple house ‘states’ where devices can be powered off when the house is in ‘sleep’ mode or ‘away’ mode. For example, if the house knows we are sleeping or away it can power down devices that do not need to be on, eg amps, sonos zone players, laser printers, freeview receivers, etc. I also would like the system to know the state of the household cars, eg parked outside, locked/armed, etc.
I knew the VP1000 was really a Visonic, and I found it was possible to configure the control panel to send X10 via an XM10U. The VP1000 was configured to send X10 signals which where in turn filtered/processed by Homeseer, and if required, X10 sent via the CM10. This solution worked, but I was not happy with the fact that X10 protocol was being used from the alarm panel to Homeseer. I wanted to reduce the number of devices used for the integration, and hopefully the latency.
RFXCOM – In my search for an alternative solution, I found the www.rfxcom.com site. RFXCOM have a range of products that enable RF devices to integrate with common HA software, including Homeseer, Misterhouse etc. The core product is a USB interface that allows upto 2 daughter modules to be installed.
Different modules are available for different protocols/frequencies, eg X10, Ikea Koppla, Visonic, etc. See www.rfxcom.com for full details.
The RFXCOM receiver looked especially interesting to me, my only concern was it is a USB device, so must be located near the HA PC. The Alarm panel is located at one end of the the house, and the PC in almost the opposite corner of the house on a different floor. Although the Alarm panel has excellent Visonic reception from all devices, I didn’t know if the PC/RFXCOM receiver location would. I took the plunge and decided to purchase the RFXCOM with a Visonic receiver module.
The RFXCOM receiver and Visonic module arrived with a software/drivers/documentation CD. Before installing any new drivers/software on my HA system, I always like to test on a test PC first. This has ensured that the HA system remains reliable, and is not subject to beta/test configurations. A USB driver is supplied on the CD, however I found a newer version is available at www.ftdichip.com. I installed the new version, and plugged the RFXCOM Visonic Receiver into the PC, new hardware detected on the PC, great! A small problem though, the hardware detected was a ‘Microsoft Serial Ballpoint Mouse’, ooops!! A quick google, and I found this is a common problem, especially with devices such as USB GPS modules. If Windows detects a ‘M’ in the serial data, ‘Plug & Play’ assumes its a serial mouse. The solution is to disable serial enumeration in the USB device from the system device manager in control panel. This disables the ‘plug and play’ on the serial side of the USB chip, and it then functions correctly.
It turns out if I had of installed the specific version of the driver supplied on the CD I wouldn’t have had the issue.
Now I had RFXCOM installed, I wanted to check the range. On the CD is a tiny utility, ‘RFreceiver’, this can be used to check connectivity with the RFXCOM, and decode the RF output. I walked around the house, and confirmed the RFXCOM located in the corner of the house could pick up RF from all the BT/Visonic PIRs, and from keyfobs outside the front door. Next step was to test with Homeseer.
ACRF – As the RFXCOM is described as being fully compatible with the AutomationCraft RF processor is a Homeseer plugin available from the Homeseer update page, I thought I would try the application on the 30day evaluation licence. The ACRF does need some initial configuration, and this can only be done if Homeseer is running in interactive mode (not running as a service), but this is only an initial configuration to get the Visonic IDs mapped to the Virtual devices. Its a simple one time operation of triggering a PIR, opening a door, pressing a key on keyfob, then looking at the log file to see the Visonic ID, and mapping this ID to a Homeseer device. Once the devices have been setup, Homeseer can be restarted as a service.
Now the software has been installed on my HA PC, the ‘house’ now knows when we are home, away, sleeping, etc. I am in the process of writing events that can power off devices when they are not required
Verdict – RFXCOM has now been connected to my HA server and the ACRF software has been installed for about a week now. Before purchasing I was sceptical about the USB interface and RF range, but since using the solution, I am extremely happy with the results. The Visonic protocol and RFXCOM Visonic receiver range and error checking has exceeded my expectations.
The ‘house’ now knows when we are home, away, sleeping, etc. I am in the process of writing events that can power down devices when they are not required, and hopefully save some pennies off electricity bill that I can use for future HA purchases.
The future – I have found out the BT Home Monitor/Visonic sensors have a secondary contact available, so each sensor can monitor 2 ‘zones’.I plan to use extra zones for an integrated door bell/entry system.
I also plan to attempt to fit a Visonic sensor to the household cars and use the sensor to monitor if the cars are on the drive and in a locked/unlocked state.